Eighteen feet long, with 6 foot 3 inch beam, Hull Number R-18-865, 131 HP Hercules KBL six-cylinder engine with three 1-bbl down-draft carburetors. Chris-Craft built 1,210 18-foot Rivieras from 1950 through 1954. Purchased from her original owner. Other than two tiny “Dutchman” repairs and a new gas tank, every bit of her wood inside and out, including her bottom is original. Her gauges, upholstery, ceilings, hardware, windshield and engine are original. Snake Mountain Boatworks LLC executed her comprehensive mechanical and cosmetic preservation beginning in early 2014, and finishing in early August, 2015. Her new owners are enjoying her in Ohio and North Carolina.
Putting her on the market was truly a difficult decision for Shirley, my wife, and me. We fully intended to make her ours for decades to come, and my entire approach to her preservation was framed in that expectation.
Were the market is attracted to wood boats with no-soak, leak-proof True 5200 bottoms, “our” RIV would keep what is her original bottom and thereby require some soaking before she is completely watertight.
Why? For one we are preservationists, and two, her bottom, both her inner and outer planking, presented itself as in just remarkably fresh condition. Yes, we released a replaced a few fasteners, and tightened others. Yes, we stripped the bottom planking to bare wood and sealed it with three coats of CPES, followed by treating her seams with Interlux Seam Compound designed for below the waterline. Five coats of Interlux Interprotect barrier coat were applied, followed by four coats of Pettit Hard Racing Bronze bottom paint.
The hardware, windshield brackets, wheel, gauges were all preserved as we have detailed in our library of ’52 RIV videos, but not a single component was replaced or added because it was missing.
As is our custom, the few dings and one slightly soft spot we found were repaired with Dutchmen, rather than replacing planks. She remains 99% original as far as her wood is concerned.
Her gas tank was beyond saving so we asked RAYCO to fabricate a new one for us.
The path we followed to bring her cosmetics from as-found to Bristol is chronicled in our earlier videos.
Finally, a huge shout-out to Michael Forshaw and Antique Boat America, who, over a period of about four weeks produced several interested parties and finally what would turn out to be her new owners. I cannot thank Michael and his team enough for how they executed this process.
You see her entombed in her transport cover in the clip, but that is only for this evening, as we have rain in the forecast and I want her hooked to my truck and ready to leave at first light tomorrow. (The cover will be removed before we pull out.)
Yes, it is with slightly heavy hearts that Shirley and I bid the RIV adieu.
Why did we do it? Well, all of you share the addiction to varying degrees. One boat seems perfect, but then some other vessel that is rarer, older, sexier, more powerful appears on the horizon. We are chasing a couple such boats and will share what we find, and our next adventure with you when I tow her or them home.
Today we harvest two long years of painstaking preservation of the almost completely original 1952 Chris-Craft Riviera 18 Runabout. Save for several tiny Dutchman patches, her wood is entirely original, as are her upholstery, hardware, gauges, Iva Lite, windshield, steering wheel, and on and on.
We did have RAYCO fabricate a new tank. The burgee is after-market and stern flag is period, but not original. That’s it.
Her Chris-Craft Hercules KBL power plant’s 131 HP should push her along quite satisfactorily.
Pearl Craft of Perth, Australia preserved her steering wheel. Richard Sligh made the Iva Lite new again, as did New England Plating for all the hardware. George Beer and his team at American Metal Polishing transformed the stainless into jewelry.
Tomorrow she will debut at the Lake Champlain ACBS Chapter’s 30th Annual Antique and Classic Boat Show at the Community Boathouse in Burlington, VT.
We purchased this 1952 Chris-Craft 18-foot Riviera in the late autumn 2014. I could not believe, no matter how disheveled at the moment, how original she was.
In the intervening months, we have executed a comprehensive preservation. Aside from two small Dutchman repairs, nary a single piece of wood has been replaced. Even though she will live on a dry dock railroad system between romps on Lake Champlain, I made the call, “Other than refastening the planks, we will leave her original, traditional bottom intact.” Yes, she will leak, but the 2,000 gallon/hr. bilge pump will deal with that.
I open this clip full of bravado, which was then tempered by the challenge of dialing in a Chris-Craft KBL’s triple carbs. John La Fountain once again brought is decades of experience building racing engines to the fore, and roar she did and does.
Next we will install the few remaining components, and RJ will detail her to a standard that amazes me every day.
We will launch her for sea trials early next week. Yes, the HD Flip video camera will be with us.
Following that romp, she will be debuted next Saturday, August 8, 2015, at the Lake Champlain ACBS chapter show in Burlington, VT. The show, our 30th annual, will celebrate Chris-Craft’s incredible array of vessels with at least 20 quite different models on display.
Please join us at the Community Boathouse in Burlington, VT!
Thank you for your interest and the “helpful” shots across my bow for trying to show my ’52 RIV off while she was stuffed between two other boats and inside our showroom.
So … her she is in her glory outdoors and with a bit of sun shining.
As one of my guys loves to say, “She’s coming into it now.” The 1952 Riviera runabout’s seams will be Sikaflexed by this evening, painted by Thursday and begin wearing her hardware next week.
We use white Sikaflex 295 UV, followed by high-gloss Total Boat Wet Edge topside paint. As RJ is Mr. Varnish, John is the guru of filling seams. Not surprisingly, as is the case with most everything else in delivering finishes to die for, it is all about preparation. It took John most of an afternoon to tape the aft deck and covering boards, and all morning today to tape off the foredeck.
Why so long? Every edge must follow the seam’s shoulder precisely. Using a utility knife blade and incredible patience, John slices slivers of tape away so that all arcs are perfect and all straight lines are exactly straight.
He will be doing the ’46 Gar Wood Ensign once we apply the final coat of Pettit Hi-Build gloss varnish.
In response to several requests to see how John does it, here is a follow-up clip on Sikaflexing the seams of our 1952 Chris-Craft Riviera Runabout showing how John removes “all that blue tape and Sikaflex residue without getting it all over the varnish and him.”
It truly is tedious, painstaking work, as he must tease a corner of the tape free and then pull it up and off and towards the seam he is freeing. Pulling it laterally away from the seam risks raising little tails of Sikaflex that can flop over onto the varnish.
We begin removing the tape the moment the last seam is filled lest the Sikaflex begins setting. (We always do the same thing when painting or varnishing. Letting either cure prior to releasing the masking tape risks producing a ragged line, or worse.)
As, save for the pint room which we keep between 65 and 70, the shop stays at about only 60 F in the winter, which slows cure times, so the Riviera will sit until next Monday when RJ will apply white paint to the seams using his pin striping wheel applicator.
RJ has reached the finish line on “his” Chris-Craft Riviera Runabout. The weeks of hard work delivering varnish to die for is behind him.
He has pivoted to cleaning decades of gunk from the bilge, and he and I will shortly be applying two coats of Sandusky Chris Craft Red Bilge paint to all surfaces, including the undersides of the decks and covering boards.
I will also be scrubbing all of the original upholstery, so it can be installed as the reconstruction process moves forward.
All of the hardware is back from chrome and ready to be installed with all fasteners bedded in Dolfinite.
It is 42 degrees today and the snow back is retreating, but getting into the water before May is unlikely.
I am like a child on Christmas Eve, hoping “Santa” is bringing me a new red bike … waiting is hell.
RJ and John rolled and tipped coat number 14 of Pettit High-Build onto the decks and gunwales of the 18’, 1952 Riviera Runabout, and the results seemed to check all the boxes, but not for RJ, “Allow me to see what I can do with my sanding/buffing system, and you will know why what is good now will be great on the other side.”
And he did. I will just let RJ and his body of work tell the story, save for adding some materials details.
Dry sanding with 1500 grit came first. Yes, yet another snow field, but this one was different as a definite luster showed through the haze. Wet sanding with ever-finer grits followed. Having other customer-related things that required my attention, I left. That was Thursday afternoon.
When I arrived this morning, the hatch cover immediately commanded my attention, “BUFFED” said the paper tag taped to its leading edge. What I beheld literally stopped me in my tracks. The gloss is truly 10 miles deep and completely without blemishes. Walking into the shop where the Riviera sits immediately told me the “rest of the story.”
RJ had to have worked into the night. By this afternoon he had “finished the initial stages.” He’d dry and wet-sanded the entire surface, and had begun applying our Ultra Buffing System from Presta to the project. “All that remains are the next two steps, buffing with Ultra Crème Light and then Ultra Polishing Crème, followed by washing, and then she will be just like the hatch cover.”
I cannot wait ……
No, the 1952 Chris-Craft Riviera Runabout has not evaporated. She’s received a couple more coats of Pettit High-Build varnish, and been lightly sanded once between coats 12 and 13.
After initially setting 20 as a goal, RJ now says, “Enough already. One more sanding, this time with 800 grit, and one more coat, which will be number 14, and we will have reached our goal of a varnish result that is to die for.”
So once again a glossy finish is reduced to a snow field, just like the one we have outdoors. Then it will be time for the 14th coat, and depending on the result in terms of dust in the finish, we will either have reached our goal, or RJ will begin buffing, starting out with 1,000 and working up to 2500 grit, and then finishing off with a wool cutting pad and 3000 grit buffing crème.
It will be RJ’s call. We will be back to you with his assessment.