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Time to get the "Continental" in the water.

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I bought the 1956 18" Chris Craft "Continental" about 5 years ago to use as a prop (no pun intended) to show with our 1956 18' Continental Mark II convertible.


This is the page from the Chris Craft ID manual. While there were quite a few of these produced, very few remain as most became one with the earth when left outside or in the water.


Since I have no pictures of this boat in the water this will have to do. I took this at the Keels and Wheels Concours in Houston, TX in 2004. The only difference I could see was the interior color and the split seat, mine has a bench seat. My boat has the very rare black interior, using the same alligator vinyl found on all the dashboards.

A black interior in a boat? Once you learn that the boat was located in northern Canada you can understand that the added heat was welcome.

I was told that this boat was purchased new by a doctor from New York. and that the boat was taken out of the water every time it was used. There is strong evidence of this as the bilge is fairly pristine, unlike boats that are stored in the water.


The original motor seized and was replaced with a Crusader V-6. It easily adapted to the boat. The only visual change is that they made the motor housing 3" taller to accept the new engine. When the motor swap was done the boat was converted from 6-volts to 12-volts.


The first thing I did was remove the 20-gallon gas tank. Getting a whiff of the fuel convinced me that the entire system needed to be purged. This would require removing the floor boards to get to the fuel lines and remove the tank.


What came out was really nasty-looking varnish-like material that had a particularly funky smell to it. The color of the fuel was very telling.


After removing the floor boards I was able to remove the fuel lines and assess the condition of the whole bilge. I was amazed at how clean it was.


I hadn't planned on removing the motor but I'd like to get to the bilge area below the engine cleaned up and repainted. It only takes the removal of eight bolts and some wiring to get it out.

I was pretty impressed with the copper exhaust system. I'm not sure if this is original or not.


These are the original flags that came with the boat. They aren't perfect but they are authentic.


More later.

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More beautiful hardware, Barry!

On those copper exhaust pipes, what's with the rubber no-hub connectors? I'd think that the exhaust would be the last place one would want rubber connectors. I suppose you need some flexibility because of the nature of a boat, but are they the proper solution? How hot does the exhaust get? Are those large round pods on the exhaust manifolds coolers of some kind or are they the actual mufflers?

I know zero about boats, but I have always admired the Chris Crafts.

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<div class="ubbcode-block"><div class="ubbcode-header">Originally Posted By: Matt Harwood</div><div class="ubbcode-body">How hot does the exhaust get? Are those large round pods on the exhaust manifolds coolers of some kind or are they the actual mufflers?</div></div>

I also don't know much about boats, but I just spent a week pulling my boys around the lake in a 20-year-old Thompson. I noticed that the temperature seemed to be stable at around 140 degrees.

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Matt, the pods are for the water cooling for the exhaust. They don't get hot enough to melt rubber. I know nothing about boats either, but I'd like that rubber hose in the bottom to be easily accessable. They've been known to split. Amazing how much outside water can come in and how fast!!????? confused.gifeek.gifwhistle.gif

Barry, there's two of those Chris Crafts in my part of the state for sale as of this past winter.


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Thanks Matt. It was quite a find.

West, I don't know. Wouldn't they be a bit larger than a V-6?

I'm led to believe that some had Corvette 283 engines. Love to find a marine version of that.

The exhaust manifolds are cooled directly by lake water. I believe the rubber collars serve a couple of functions. They would allow for a degree of expansion and contraction and they would absorb vibration and torque, which could lead to a cracked pipe below the water line.

No need for mufflers as the pipe vents below the waterline.

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Barry, are you sure the exhausts exit below the waterline? That is not normal, and if the copper springs a leak, is a good way to sink the boat. If you look at the photo of <span style="font-style: italic">Deja Vu</span> you can clearly see the exhaust is above the waterline.

Rubber hose is the norm today for inboard exhaust systems. The cooling water is mixed with the exhaust at the manifolds and keeps the hoses cool. Older boats did indeed have copper exhausts, but most rotted away (especially in salt water where I live) and have been replaced with rubber hose and fiberglass joints. Mufflers are also made of fiberglass.

I had a 1968 Chris Craft Sea Skiff that had the original Cris Craft engine. It was a Chevy 283.

When I was a marine mechanic, I had an exhaust riser clog, causing no water to flow though the exhaust, the hose then did melt and blow apart. It happened quite quickly and probably prevented the engine from overheating. Luckily, it was a twin-screw boat, and I was able to get back on the remaining engine.

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<div class="ubbcode-block"><div class="ubbcode-header">Originally Posted By: Barry Wolk</div><div class="ubbcode-body">West, I don't know. Wouldn't they be a bit larger than a V-6?


I don't think they're wider, but they're definitely a little longer. Looks like you've got plenty of room to fit a longer engine in there.

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Regardless of the power source the next step was to pull the engine. This took about 10 minutes. 4 lag bolts a couple of hoses and some wiring to disconnect and it was outta' there.


Only one slight problem. I used short chains because the boat sits up so high. I gave little thought to the fact that I wouldn't be able to lower the engine to the floor with that set-up. D'oh!


Without the engine I have full access to the inside of the hull.


Started cleaning and was amazed to find that there is absolutely no rot, whatsoever! What remained in the bilge was 52 years worth of dust that had gotten wet and caked up at the very bottom of the bilge. I started vacuuming and using a brass brush on the dirt and found that it easily came off revealing that 99.9% of the original hull primer was still intact.


IMO, the stock exhaust system is a work of art.


After viewing the videos at http://edison-marine.com I've decided to convert the boat to electric drive. Since the Crusader V-6 engine is not original I have nothing to lose.

The advantages are obvious to me. Enormous torque for a short period or cruising speed all day long. I think the fish in the lake will appreciate an electric drive, too.

By all outward appearances the boat will look the same as it did when new. I'll even be able to use the original controls. The F/R lever would control a reversing switch and the throttle would control the speed control. The charging cord would plug in under the original gas cap and the batteries would take the place of the gas tank.

Since the electric drive is much lighter than the original engine I can add batteries to increase range. I can fit 10 batteries in the back and about 10 more in the bilge. I can exactly match the weight distribution and end up with a lighter overall package.

Any feedback would be appreciated.

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Electric? Wow. I dig the idea, but I sure like the sound of an exhaust burbling through the open pipes underwater. That was the dichotmy of the Chris Crafts I liked best--they look like mild cruisers but walk and talk like musclecars.

Even though it is possible to run out of gas out on the open seas, you can usually see it coming with a gauge. And someone can always give you some spare gas if you're stranded. I think electric would be problematic from that standpoint--it's harder to figure how much you get from a charge becuse of the varying demands placed on the motor. Depending on the control system, you might be able to see it getting low, but is it enough to get home? Nobody can loan you a few extra amps if you're stranded.

Also, you'd have to get rid of that beautiful exhaust system! Maybe I'd find a vintage straight-8 of some sort and stick it in there. A 263 Buick would be a strong runner.

Either way, I'm sure you'll enjoy it!

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Barry ... if your still considering doing an electric conversion on your boat ... you may want to check out an EV site dealing with electric conversions ... most are ones that the owners have done themselves ... for cars, trucks, boats ect ...

Many do it yourself conversions at a fraction of the price ...


Theres about a dozen different conversions ... with varying sizes and components ... but especially a large wooden boat that was converted here ... "1928 Blanchard 36 Cruiser"


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Barry, I noticed in your picture of the fuel tank that you have an automatic bailer. (the "u"shaped tube on the starboard side next to the tank.)

They work fine in keeping the bilge dry, the only problem they have is that ocasionly they may sink you fine boat if the little small anti-siphone hole on the top gets plugged up with a verrrry small piece of flakeing paint or a broken leaf.

I removed mine and installed an electric pump, that if plugged up, only will drain the battery. (and then sink)

(As you can derive from what I write, I have owned many boats and have noticed the tendency for all of them to want to sink!)

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If I understand correctly, the "automatic" bailer only works while underway. A bilge pump was installed when the engine was swapped and upgraded to 12-volt.

I've contacted the Mariner's Museum to obtain the original build sheet for this boat. There's a bit of a mystery to solve before I make a decision.

The boat came with what appears to be an original dual exhaust made of copper. That would lead one to believe that it originally had a V-8 engine, which would have been a marine 283 Chevy. However, Chris Craft didn't offer a V-8, only IL 6s up until the introduction of the '58 model. The title says it's a '56.

Now, the records reflect that only 280 18' "Continentals" were made before the model change in '59. The serial number of my boat ends with #270, which would put it very near the end of production, which means it could have had a V-8, and, it's not a '56.

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<div class="ubbcode-block"><div class="ubbcode-header">Originally Posted By: West Peterson</div><div class="ubbcode-body">Barry

Is this boat nonsense getting in the way of work on the limo? </div></div>

Yes. I'm still searching for a '68 or '69 Lincoln Coupe donor car for a roof, dashboard and door skins.

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A new decision to make. I contacted the Mariner's Museum to obtain the "hull card". They have all the CC records.

The records show that the boat was originally equipped with a Chris Craft "KFL" 131-horsepower in-line 6-cylinder, not the 283 Chevy V-8 I thought it originally had. That changes things.

Now I have four choices:

1. Reinstall the Crusader Model 165 V-6 for a 34 hp increase over the original engine. Least amount of work and least expensive option.

2. Install a period-correct 283 Chevy, 185 hp V8 for a 54 horsepower increase. Sweet V8-burble and was legitimately installed in the exact same boat 2 years later.

3. Go electric. Peak 200 horsepower for 1 hour or cruise all day at 8-10 knots. Silent operation. No pollution, if you discount what it took to make the electricity. Good for someone with a short attention span, like me. Probably the most expensive option.

4. Find, rebuild, restore and install an original KFL engine. I might find someone willing to trade the low-hour Crusader engine for a re-buildable KFL. This too, could be an expensive option, however, I have found two rebuilt motors for around $5,000 ea.

This option would probably increase the value of the boat but, more importantly, would kind of restore its soul, so to speak. That has some value to me.

Except for the lower horsepower, I'm having trouble seeing a downside to taking it back to its original configuration.


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Looking for a KFL engine.

I decided to power wash the inside of the hull, and I'm glad I did. Not only did it allow me to blast off all the loose primer it taught me why most wood boats fail over time.

If you look closely at the keel plank you'll see that there are little triangles cut into all the cross-braces next to the plank. These are passageways that are supposed to allow water to flow to the lowest part of the bilge, where the drain is. These boats didn't have bilge pumps. They had Automatic Bilge Siphons. They only worked while underway utilizing negative pressure at a hole in the bottom of the boat. Bilge water would be drawn up through a tube and pulled out of the boat.

All of the drain holes were plugged so water would be trapped in-between the cross-braces until it evaporated or leaked out through the gaps in the planks.

From what I've learned you never want to put a wood boat in the water unless you have a surefire method of keeping it from sinking. Don't depend on the battery keeping up with a night's seepage. They recommended taking it off the trailer and using it, not letting it sit. Water will come in until the boards swell and the ABS will take it away. The more you use it the tighter the boards get but it will always take on water.

It's not as pristine after water-blasting off all of the loose primer and accumulated dirt. There was a lot of dirt is the board gaps and all of the drainage passages were plugged. Found one construction mistake that impeded drainage but easily corrected it.


Removed the rudder assembly. There were signs that water had seeped up through the rudder support bolts but there was no rotted wood. Had a tough time removing the rudder bushing from the hull. The original sealant didn't want to let go. I think I may leave the prop shaft support in place if the sealant' still good.


I found these pictures. They were taken 6 years ago, the last time it was in the water.



Moved the hull from the storage building to my shop.


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Barry. I had a Century and every year when I removed it from the water, I sprayed the inside of the hull with detergent and then pressure washed it.

In the spring when the wood was dry, I sprayed the insides with wood preservative, thoroughly soaking the wood.

After it soaked in real good and dried, I filled the boat with 6" of water and let it swell up weeks before putting it in the water.

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When we used to launch large wood boats, they would always leak like crazy for a day or so. I remember working on the bilge of a 40' Cris Craft Constellation, and seeing daylight through the bottom like I was looking through a venetian blind. We would leave it in the belts of the travel-lift over the weekend with large sump pumps running. By Monday she would be tight again and ready to go. Wood is amazing stuff.

IMHO, I would re-install the crusader V6. Great engine with a nice exhaust note.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I saw West the other day and he reminded me that I hadn't posed an update in a while.

A 1956 KFL engine did not fall out of the sky so I'm going to put the Crusader V-6 back in it. I can always do a swap later.

So, I've painted 2/3 of the bilge, making small repairs and tightening fasteners as I go. I found another small construction flaw and evidence of a previous repair. Other than that. it's pretty pristine.

Instead of having a lot of parts lying around I've started reassembly of of the boat. All of the brass parts had a sloppy coat of primer on them. I think the fittings are too well done to hide so I've left them bare. Every part looked new after a cleaning.


I wiped the copper exhaust with acid and it cleaned right up.


Reinstalled part of the floor and rear seat support. I have plenty of paint left so the next step will be restoring the gas tank and removing the rest of the interior planking so that I can paint the rest of the inside of the hull.


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For $9.36 I wasn't about let my boat sink over 52 year old rubber hoses. The larger diameter hose is the flexible joint between the prop shaft hole and the compression device that makes the shaft water tight. The smaller hose is for a clever device that evacuates the bilge by using suction created at a port under the boat. The motion of water over the opening creates a negative pressure, sucking water out of the rear of the bilge. There's a small fitting on top with a very small hole. I assume that this is to eliminate an air bubble from blocking the flow of water.


After painting 2/3 of the bilge I still had a ton of paint left so we removed the interior side planking, exposing the rest of the hull. Now that the majority of the bilge area is one color it doesn't look funny in person. Before I reinstalled the floor planking on either side of the engine bay I secured all cables, wiring and hoses in their proper positions. Glad I took lots of pictures.


With my able assistants, Shawn and James, we moved the boat next door to where the engine was still hanging from the lift. After consulting the pictures to see where the shims went we dropped the engine in in about 10 minutes.


As I lowered the engine Shawn guided the exhaust manifold to mate up with the rubber couplings. James used a #3 Phillips screwdriver to guide one of the mounts to its mounting hole.


Home again. I think I'm on track for a Fall color tour.


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I bought Eastwood's tank renewal kit. I'm not impressed. I followed the instructions to the letter and got very poor results because their system met its match with a layer of 52 year old varnish.

This is the bottom of the tank. What looks to be a clear spot, is not.


I took out the sending unit and it too had a coating of petrified gunk on it.


I mixed the solution that they supply and sloshed per their instructions. What came out was less than pleasant looking but what was left was even worse.


After numerous batches of muriatic acid I finally started to see some metal. More treatments tomorrow.


While in-between acid bath treatments I rebuilt the carb. It had been so long since this engine had run that the needle valve for the main fuel feed was stuck in its seat. All the fuel had evaporated leaving behind a crystalline matter that went away with the carb cleaner.



Reinstalled the carb, turned it over and it started right up with ether as its fuel source. Don't know how much good it did but I gave each cylinder a shot of Marvel's to free things up.


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The Eastwood system would work much better if they made a rinse in acetone before all other steps. It tore that varnish right up and produced a smelly gunk but some remaining residue.


After 3 further rinses it's fairly clean. The only part I can't get to is the side of the baffle. I'm thinking of sandblasting what I can see through the 5 holes and then doing a final acid treatment before sealing.


I had to relocate the battery about two feet forward so that it would end up under the seat. A battery box is required and that, aside from the bow, is the only place it would fit. Removal of the seat cushion also gives me easy access to the bilge drain and the bilge pump.


Started reinstalling the mahogany interior paneling and finished installing the floorboards.


Steering wheel and instrument cluster is next.

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Re; 9/26/08 . "There's a small fitting on top with a very small hole. I assume that this is to eliminate an air bubble from blocking the flow of water"

The small hole is to break the siphon and prevent the flow of water back into the boat if the outside flapper stays open a little. My boat sank a few times befor I removed this nice feature.

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Roger, did your hose come loose?

I treated the inside to two more acid baths before I was satisfied. I then used my gravity feed sandblaster to strip the primer off of the galvanized tank. It revealed what I had suspected, a pinhole leak. It appears that there was some damage where some metal got gouged out leaving a pretty good nick. Once the inner liner was eaten away it became apparent that the bottom of the gouge must have been paper thin. A leak in the bottom of the tank could have been disastrous.



I brazed the nick closed after removing the thick galvanized surface.


Using Eastwood's tank sealer I poured in the material and distributed it lengthwise. I slowly rolled the tank until the walls were evenly coated. I kept rolling until the material started to set up. It provided a very even coating on all surfaces. The tank has a drain plug on the bottom. I'm going to install a valve and fitting that I can hook to a suction pump so that I can drain it for storage.


I needed a gasket for the tank's sending unit. I looked around my shop and couldn't find any sheet cork. I came home and did a web search for cork gaskets. No sooner than entering "cork" into the search box when I noticed that there were two coaters on my desk, in plain sight. They were the perfect size.


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I put 5 gallons of gas in the tank and checked for leaks. Everything was dry. I primed the fuel filter canister and gave it a shot of starting fluid. It started right up and purred like a kitten. Has a real nice rumble. Probably only ran it for 30 second. The gauges showed the battery was charging and there was 30 lbs of oil pressure.

Got the navigation lights and dashboard lights working. Started polishing chrome. Restored the steering wheel and got the rim horn operational. Much to still do.


A little glass bead blasting restored the step pads.


The fuel gauge doesn't work very well. It goes up only slightly with 5 gallons of fuel in a 20 gallon tank. Is there a difference between a 6-volt sending unit and a 12-volt sending unit? There seems to be a variable resistor in-line to the gauge.

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I decided to paint the deck boards white as the rubber grip matting that goes on top is also white. I thought it might look better than seeing pink through the seams.



I've also taken the advice of several people on different sites that have recommended that I remove the Automatic Siphon device, located in the stern. The story about a paint chip blocking the tiny vent hole made me seriously reconsider its use. Since I have a reliable bilge pump I decided to blank up the opening in the pipe using a bilge drain left over from a 9-foot hydroplane project that I built in an 8' x 10' spare bedroom of an second floor apartment we occupied 35 years ago. But that's a story for another day.


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barry i have owned small boats for the last 20-30 years for recreational fishing and have never had any problems with the self draining system , as long a you have a regular cleaning and safety checks in place(as you should have with small boats) there should be no problems , but i will say that i have been at sea fishing when i have needed my bilge pump, only to find that it wouldn't work because it was blocked by a small peice of flotsam, or fish scales in the bottom of the boat, thank goodness that on those occassions it wasn't life threatining , hence regular cleaning and safety checks .

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I'm told that some insurance companies won't insure boats with automatic siphon devices. It's not so much that they won't work when needed, its a problem that involves them working the opposite way, siphoning water into the boat while docked. I'm told that a big wake can cause the boat to bob up and down setting off the siphoning in the wrong direction.

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