SI Vault
William Shelton
December 14, 1959
That is the genesis of the most fascinating new craft on the production line of the world's No. 1 pleasure-boat builder
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December 14, 1959

By Artistry Out Of Mass Production

That is the genesis of the most fascinating new craft on the production line of the world's No. 1 pleasure-boat builder

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Like all Chris-Crafts, she is cut out initially as a complete kit of numbered parts. An elaborate routing system then schedules each number to meet the embryo boat on the assembly line at a precise time. The Detroit influence also shows up in personnel policy. Chris-Craft hasn't hired a boatbuilder of the traditional type in years, but instead hires or trains specialists who perform a given function at a specific station in the line. However, there is still plenty of room for fine workmanship. Master Craftsman Victor Intihar, for example, is probably the nearest thing to the proud, painstaking oldtime boat-builder that a company could have and still operate on a production basis.

"I work on shaper forms, layouts, patterns and templates," says Intihar. "I can see the things I build on the boats that come off the end of the line, things like the keel shape and the basic lines of the hull. It is good work. And when the boat comes out, you feel good. It really looks like something." These thoughts are echoed by 28-year-old carpenter Roger Bratt, another typical Chris-Craft worker, who has the specific job of assembling frames and transoms. Bratt recently swept his arm down the long assembly line and said simply, "I built all those boats."

The 33-footer, however, has come a long way before it gets to Bratt, and has even farther to go before it emerges onto the shipping platform. It starts at the railroad end of the long Pompano Beach plant, where red and white mahogany from the Philippines, teak from Thailand, clear fir from the state of Washington and white oak from Indiana are unloaded and stored in a shed or kiln-dried until the proper moisture content of all the wood is reached. Then the production schedule assigns a series of swift carving operations to the mill. So efficient is the mill that, according to Plant Manager Jim Pocklington, "our only byproduct is sawdust"—plus a few scraps that go to high school manual-training classes or serve as aromatic fuel in Pocklington's fireplace.

As another timesaver, the ribs, traditionally bent on the boat, are steam-pressurized and bent on templates; actually they are overbent by a fraction so they will assume their correct position without strain. Meanwhile, paired lumber is pulled out of nearby storage bins and, through the use of jigs and forms, is turned into keels and transoms.

From this point, the keel, stringers and frames are bolted together, and thousands of screws are whirled home by electric screwdrivers to fasten the�-inch side planking. Soon after, the raw hull is sanded and painted. And the moment the paint dries, an underwater-equipment specialist moves in to install shafts, struts and rudders.

Then larger units which have been under construction at other parts of the plant arrive at the line for installation. The cabin, the galley unit and the flying bridge and its molded fiberglass top are quickly set in place, as the 33-footer gradually assumes her final shape. At one magic moment near the end of the line she even acquires a voice when an electrician connects a wire and sounds a test blast of her chromium trumpets.


Finally, she passes the plant manager's last inspection and rides out into the sunshine, complete with anchor, side curtains, fire extinguishers, medicine cabinet, alcohol stove and even a plug for the sink—a symphony of mahogany and gleaming metal, ready to hunt for fish.

What Bill MacKerer, Jim Pocklington and approximately 150 craftsmen have designed, bolted, screwed, welded and glued into shape is a testament to the company's ability to provide the best specialized equipment at the least cost to the sportsman. To the average Chris-Craft customer, the other models, such as the 25-foot Cavalier cruiser, $5,245, currently the hottest item in the sales line, are no less remarkable in their own way. But to salt-water anglers, who tend to regard a boat primarily as a piece of fishing equipment, the particular combination of ingredients that make up the 33-foot sport fisherman is one of the greatest things that has happened since the gas engine first let a man run out into deep water where the big fish lie.

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