Top Ten Pre-War Chris-Crafts

It seems that lists are the in-thing on blogs these days, so here is my first attempt at a top-ten list. Here are my ten favorite pre-war Chris-Craft designs. (It should be noted that this list is highly subjective.) (It should also be noted that if your pre-war Chris-Craft did not make the list, it may be possible to influence the judging by bringing your boat to our shop for restoration. I’ve been known to fall for most of the boats I work on.)

Without further delay…

10. Chris-Craft 29′ Express Cruiser: 1939-194229-express-cruiser.jpg

Many purists will scoff at this boat making the top-ten, but they can write their own lists. Chris-Craft was ahead of it’s time with this little express cruiser, which had fairly modern looks for a pre-war boat. Painted hullsides, wood deck, navy top, open cockpit, what more could someone ask for in a little cruiser?

9. Chris-Craft Utility Cruiser: 1934

24' Chris-Craft utility cruiser

Don’t stop reading yet! I promise number 8 will be a classically styled mahogany speedboat, but I do have to confess a soft-spot for small cruisers and utilities, as you will discover from this list. This choice doesn’t really count because Chris-Craft only made 11 of these boats according to The Essential Guide. I love the work-boat styling.

8. Chris-Craft 19′ Sportsman: 1938-1939


This Chris-Craft utility has an unusual aft-facing rear seat along with two small jump-seats next to the engine box. This boat has gorgeous lines. The photo shows a beautiful example that was restored by Kirk about ten years ago. She still looks as good as the day she left the shop. We only had to get to number 8 to get away from painted hullsides, but rest assured, I’ll sneek a couple more in before we get to number 1.

7. 23′ Custom Runabout: 1941-42

The height of pre-war styling for Chris-Craft can be captured in this boat. Barrel backs were the signature design of the late 1930’s and early 1940’s, and the barrel backs get increasingly graceful as they are stretched in length from 17′ to 19′ to 23′. Chris-Craft barrel backs were not easy boats to build (and they are certainly not easy to restore) and the company was constantly tweaking the design as it evolved from the first barrel backed boat that Chris-Craft offered (the 1937-40 16′ special race boat) right up to the 23′ custom described here.

To Be Continued…

2 thoughts on “Top Ten Pre-War Chris-Crafts”

  1. I agree with your comments and selection of the 1939-1942 29′ Express Cruiser into your Top 10. I don’t recall from Jerry Conrad’s book, but wasn’t this boat also available with an
    A-120 engine option? Also, do you know if there are any of these that have survived?

  2. Dave, I don’t believe this boat was offered with the A-120 engine, but the 29′ sportsman, which shares a hull with this boat was offered with the A-120. According to Chris-Craft: The Essential Guide, by Jerry Conrad, there were 83 of the 29′ express cruisers originally produced. I saw one of these boats for sale at a boatyard somewhere in the Northeast a few years ago, although I can’t recall the name of the yard.

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