11 August 2016

Chris-Craft’s shift to fiberglass leads to Wynne

The details about how much or which of Jim Wynne’s partners contributed to the 1969 Chris-Craft 25-foot Lancer’s design have been lost. While it may matter to some of his team-members, Wynne was hired for his expertise as much as his name. It was synonymous with victory and translated to sales. And ultimately, Wynne is still credited, solely, by Chris-Craft as the hull’s designer.

According to the NY Times, Wynne was a designer and winning powerboat racer whose, “engineering developments in creating and perfecting deep-V hulls… proved a boon to millions of pleasure and military craft worldwide.” In addition to the Chris-Craft Lancer, he and his team also created the Formula 233 and the Donzi 16 (along with other Donzi models, such as the Donzi 28). They also conceived the boats that became the Magnum 35, Maritime’s aluminum 32-footer, and the wooden racer, Ghost Rider.

Due to Chris-Craft’s limited experience with fiberglass, they turned to freelancer Wynne to design the hull. It was a decision necessitated by the cost- and demand-driven shift from wood to fiberglass in the boating industry. Wynne conceived and fine-tuned the Lancer’s ride. The result being that she rides well in a rough chop, an integral part of the boat’s practical nature.

Beginning in ‘69, Jim Wynne’s 25’ Lancer was available in three models, with between 75-85 units of each model produced during their respective production runs. The Sportsman model pictured here was their top seller at the time.

But it wasn’t all Wynne’s work – Chris-Craft’s in-house crew styled the boat’s deck and interior. Head designer Dick Avery began working at Chris-Craft in 1962 after a three-year stint at Ford Motor Company. From the interior spaces and the deck design down to details like a toe rail (or the lack of one), Avery and his internal team were in charge.

On this 25’ 1” long by 9 ’8” beam boat you’ll find some fixed seating, but owners often add portable deck chairs and a table to get the best use of her open cockpit. The Lancer Sportsman has built-in storage lockers as well as under-gunwale storage for mops, fishing poles and personal flotation devices.

The power package on this 25’ Lancer is a single Chevy V-8 mated to a Mercury Marine Alpha inboard/outdrive. This is actually an update, using a combination for which replacement parts are readily available. Originally, Chris-Craft sold its boats with an engine and outdrive package named Transdrive. Some believe that Chris-Craft branded all of its inboard-outboard powertrain packages from all of its established manufacturers as Transdrives – power packages that included the Eaton brand, Volvo-Penta, and Mercury Marine drives. Either single or twin engines/drives were available.

The smoothness of the finish on early Chris-Craft fiberglass boats was originally, and remains, outstanding. The molds used to build their boats were really polished and buffed beyond the competition’s standards. Engaging Wynne, through the use of both his name and designs, enabled Chris-Craft to dramatically promote its shift from building wood boats to all-fiberglass construction.

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