TWILIGHT OF AN ERA.
The Industry Shakes Out
By 1960, many of the venerable names in traditional wooden boats were gone: Hacker-Craft, Dodge, Gar Wood, Ventnor. Hundreds of smaller wood boat builders saw orders dry up as new players, schooled in the new disciplines of FRP (ﬁberglass reinforced plastic) and aluminum construction, brought their products to market. Chris Craft continued building wood boats into the 1960s. The 21 foot Continental shown here was introduced in 1960 with gull wing hatches on a unique ﬁberglass hard top that ﬂipped for easy boarding and were removable for open-air cruising. Chris Craft did tool up to produce in ﬁberglass in 1964—the Commander. They had already acquired Roamer, and Chris Craft Roamers of steel were all over the country.
The luxury Italian builder Riva showed ﬁberglass hulls alongside wood in the boat shows of late sixties and early seventies. Their current hull models still utilize copious amounts of wood in the trim, one of the few who survived to the present with a super-luxury branding. They started in 1842.
Motor ReﬁnementsThe 1959 introduction of Charlie Strang’s AVC (Apacianata Von Climax) drive, now known as the inboard/outboard, stern drive, or just ‘outdrive’, changed the proﬁle of pleasure boat propulsion forever. Another innovation was the change of ignition systems over to ‘capacitor discharge’ or CD ignitions, sometimes just referred to as ‘electronic ignition’. Overnight, the annual spring ‘tune-up’ (or your motor did not run) became a memory. It was the dawn of a bright new day and motor reliability soared, no matter if it was one’s boat, one’s car, or one’s lawnmower!
PresentThe material for building boats has evolved over the past 3 centuries from mostly wood, to wood, ﬁberglass reinforced plastic, aluminum, steel, carbon ﬁber, Kevlar, polyethylene, polypropylene, even ferrocement. Now only a very small percentage of boats and yachts are wood, often hybrids which incorporate the beauty of wood grain coupled with the ease of maintenance and strength of the other materials.
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