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Chris Craft Boats: A Comprehensive Guide to Models and Features

Chris-Craft boats have a long and storied history, dating back to 1874 as one of America's most prominent boat builders. Known for their dedication to quality craftsmanship and timeless designs, these boats continue to attract enthusiasts and maintain their status as a symbol of luxury and classic style in the boating world.

Over the years, Chris-Craft has adapted and evolved to meet the needs of its clientele, offering a range of boat models for various purposes. Their skilled team produces stylish and innovative boats, such as the Corsair series, that cater to different tastes and budgets.

Boasting an impressive mix of traditional and modern elements in their designs, Chris-Craft boats remain a popular choice for those who appreciate attention to detail, performance, and elegance on the water.

History of Chris Craft Boats

Christopher Columbus Smith and the Smith Family

Chris-Craft Boats, an American boat manufacturer, was founded by Christopher Columbus Smith (1861-1939). Chris, along with his brother Hank, started building wooden boats in Algonac, Michigan in the late 19th century. At the young age of 13, Chris built his first boat, showcasing his natural talent for working with wood.

Over the years, the Smith brothers gained a reputation for their craftsmanship, leading them to establish the company Chris Smith & Sons Boat Company in 1922. The family-operated business continued to grow and expand, solidifying the Chris-Craft name as a leading boat manufacturer in the United States.

Chris-Craft Industries

In 1960, the Smith family sold the company to NAFI Corporation, which changed its name to Chris-Craft Industries in 1962. Chris-Craft Industries adapted to the changing market by incorporating new materials and technology into their boat designs. In the early 1950s, the company expanded its lineup to include 139 powerboat models, and by 1955, they manufactured their first fiberglass boat.

Great Depression and World War II

During the Great Depression, Chris-Craft faced financial challenges like many other businesses. However, the company used this time to strategically grow by acquiring and consolidating failing boat manufacturers. Entering World War II, Chris-Craft shifted their focus from recreational boats to producing military vessels. Their boat production facilities helped manufacture thousands of boats for the U.S. military, including patrol boats and rescue vessels.

Chris-Craft's contributions to the war effort helped solidify their reputation as a trusted boat manufacturer. After the war, the company resumed their recreational boat production and continued expanding their product lineup.

Design and Craftsmanship

Chris-Craft boats are renowned for their exceptional design and craftsmanship, which are evident in both their aesthetics and performance.

Teak and Fiberglass Construction

One of the defining features of many Chris-Craft boats is their use of teak wood accents in their design, which provide a sense of tradition and elegance. Their combination of traditional craftsmanship with modern technology and materials results in durable boats that look stunning and are easy to operate. In earlier years, Chris-Craft boats were mostly constructed using mahogany wood, with the last mahogany boat, a 57' Constellation, being built in 1971 (source). By 1953, they began constructing fiberglass boats, providing a lightweight and durable alternative to wooden boats.

Motor and Performance

Chris-Craft boats are not only known for their design but also for their impressive performance. They offer a versatile lineup of powerboats that cater to various needs and preferences. Over the years, Chris-Craft has expanded its lineup to include numerous models powered by reliable and efficient motors, ensuring a smooth and enjoyable ride for boating enthusiasts.

Notably, Chris-Craft boats have been used in various capacities throughout history, including the production of 12,000 military vessels such as patrol boats, utility launches, and rescue vessels (source). This demonstrates the brand's commitment to creating vessels that offer excellent performance and durability.

Types of Chris Craft Boats

Chris Craft boats have a long history of manufacturing and designing various types of boats for enthusiasts around the world. In this section, we will discuss two main categories of Chris Craft boats: Runabouts and Outboard Boats.


Chris Craft has been crafting runabouts for decades, focusing on timeless design, exquisite details, and authentic craftsmanship. These boats are perfect for day cruising, watersports, and freshwater fishing. Runabouts typically feature open bow areas ideal for socializing and relaxation. Some popular runabout models from Chris Craft include the Launch series, such as the 25GT, 28GT, and 31GT.

Runabout features may include:

  • Spacious seating areas
  • Swim platforms
  • Ample storage compartments

Outboard Boats

Outboard boats, also known as outboard marine corporation (OMC), are a distinct category of Chris Craft boats. These types of boats feature outboard engines, offering versatile and efficient performance for various boating activities such as saltwater fishing or overnight cruising.

The Calypso series is an example of Chris Craft's outboard boats, including models like the Calypso 24, Calypso 27, Calypso 30, Calypso 32, and Calypso 35. These boats often come with features such as livewells, sun pads, and entertainment centers. Furthermore, outboard boats may provide:

  • Easier maintenance
  • Increased fuel efficiency
  • Quieter operation

Overall, these categories underlines the versatility of Chris Craft boats and cater to the diverse interests and preferences of boat enthusiasts. From runabouts to outboard boats, Chris Craft continues to uphold its tradition of classic design, top-notch quality, and genuine craftsmanship.

Manufacturing Locations

Chris-Craft boats have a rich history in manufacturing dating back to the late 19th century. While initially based in Michigan, the company has expanded its manufacturing footprint over the years.

In 1988, Chris-Craft relocated its primary manufacturing operations to Sarasota, Florida. The warm climate and coastal location offered an ideal environment for boat manufacturing and testing. The Sarasota facility has been a key part of the company's production and continues to play an important role.

As the demand for Chris-Craft boats grew, the company sought to increase its production capabilities. In 2023, they opened a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Sarasota, which spanned over 70,000 square feet and increased the company's production capacity by 50%. This new facility allows them to handle the full build of boats from start to finish.

While their primary focus is now in Florida, Chris-Craft has also had historical ties with manufacturing facilities in other states like Michigan, Virginia, and New York. This speaks to the adaptability and growth of Chris-Craft over its prestigious history.

Chris Craft and Ford Collaboration

In the early days of their iconic luxury boats, Chris-Craft partnered with the Ford Motor Company to bring unmatched power and speed to their lineup. This collaboration helped build a reputation for exceptional performance, and the result was a series of unique and innovative boats, such as the Chris-Craft Cobra.

The Ford Motor Company supplied engines to Chris-Craft, such as the famous Interceptor V8, providing the strong performance that the brand is known for today. Ford's partnership with Chris-Craft is an important chapter in the company's history as it demonstrated their commitment to offering the best available technology to the boating community.

One notable race showcasing the power and speed of the Chris Craft-Ford collaboration took place on the St. Clair River, which stands out as a significant turn in the history of boat racing. Chris Craft, combined with their Ford partnership, developed a vessel that demonstrated outstanding power and performance in racing events.

As a result of this collaboration, Chris-Craft, with Ford's competitive edge, became a leader in luxury boating, a position they still enjoy today. These boats are still highly sought after by collectors and enthusiasts for their elegance, craftsmanship, and power. 

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