To start, I've got a fair amount of boating experience with fishing and ski boats 20' and less and I spent a summer as a tow boat deck hand. So I'm not a stranger to the water, and I've driven a few 28-30' cabin cruisers, but I've never owned a boat over 20'. I'm looking to take my first step into a larger My goal is to get an economical boat (insert your own joke here) to use for weekend cruising in my area (upper Mississippi/St Croix River) with the possibility of more adventurous destinations (Great Loop? Bimini?) in future years. Being in the Midwest, there are not a bunch of diesel powered Hatts and Bertrams laying around, not that I'm looking to spend that kind of money anyway. I've heard good things about older Chris Crafts and I've always likely their looks. There are 2 comparably priced boats in my area that I'm interested in, but I'd like some input from those with more experience. The first is a 35' Double Cabin circa 1974. Is this the same as the '71-72 35' Salon model? It has twin raw water cooled GM 350's with unknown hours. The other is a 1973 41' Commander with closed cooling Ford 427's with unknown hours. It is known to have a non-functional head (electric) and one of the engine/transmission damper plates need to be replaced. For argument's sake, lets assume that the boats are otherwise comparably equipped and in comparable condition. I assume both boats will require considerable maintenance due to their age and I do plan to get a survey before making a purchase.

Here's what I think I know:

The 35 Double Cabin should be somewhat cheaper to own in terms of fuel usage, slip rental and winter storage. The 350's have a good reputation for reliability and are more common so they should be easier to service or replace as needed. The smaller boat will be somewhat easier to handle for a relative newbie.

The 41 Commander seems to be a more common boat, which likely means that parts and help will be easier to find. The engines have closed cooling, so I wouldn't have to convert before venturing into salt water. It's just bigger and is more likely to be comfortable in the long term and will be easier to fit with creature comforts if I'm going to use it as a live aboard some time down the road.

Am I correct on my assumptions? Are either or both of these boats suitable for my purposes? Is there anything I should know about these boats specifically or older Chris Crafts generally?

Help and guidance would be greatly appreciated!

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Welcome to the club. When you say 35 Double Cabin, are you referring to a Commander 35 Salon, or maybe a Catalina 35?


Rick - I will leave the assessment of these models to those with more experience in that kind of cruising, but I will bet you an ice cold beer that 427 needs a good tuning and not a new dampener plate.  Paragons rattle when the engine is not properly tuned.

Thanks for the input on the engine tune.  I'll get that checked out before making any repairs if I wind up with that boat.

On the Double Cabin, I looked at some pictures and I'm pretty sure it's a Catalina. Thanks!

Do you have a hull number for the double cabin?  

Rick Price said:

Thanks for the input on the engine tune.  I'll get that checked out before making any repairs if I wind up with that boat.

On the Double Cabin, I'm trying to figure out exactly what it is. It's listed as a Chris Craft 35 Double Cabin.  In comparing pictures, it's not quite the same as the 35 Salon. I haven't compared it to a Catalina.

post a link to the ad? I promise not to buy it out from under you!

The 35 has the fly wheel forward 350Qs (required to lower the salon floor).  Although they were the best marine engines of the day, parts are getting harder to find.  Another problem with the 35 double cabin - although they used the Commander hull, the decks were balsa core.  You will want to check those out for soft spots.  The boat had a great layout, though.

Is a rebuild the only option for this boat or is there a replacement for the 350Q?

I had a Catalina 280. I thought the Catalina, although the same exterior, also had some differences in the hull reinforcements. The longitudinal stringer was a cardboard type mold that had reported failures. My 1968 ‘35 is built like a tank by comparison. 

Someone on this site replaced the 350Qs in a 35DC with conventional small blocks.  He used down angle transmissions to get the engine height lower - but still had to raise the salon floor by a couple of inches.

I would take the 41 commander over the 35 Catalina every time.  You can live in the engine room of the 41.

I agree with Paul. I would take the 41 Commander over the 35 Catalina any day. A really big downside is the Q engines. There is no low profile replacement for these engines and they have more special parts than any other Chris engine. Some parts are really hard to come by. If you need an intake manifold, the only thing available (when you can find one) brings ungodly prices. I've seen E-bay prices over $750 for a used manifold with no warranty. Another problem with the Q, especially in the 35 DC is the very special short shaft distributor with a crab cap. It is so close to the cabin floor, you have to live with this particular ignition arrangement, No chance of any upgrade. My advice --- If you have a choice, run for your life from Q engines. (Sorry about that Q owners, but I'll bet every one of you would gladly swap for the small block F series engines if you could) :-)

Yeah, we would run from Q motors. But they're faster than I am...

What I don't get is, I've seen 27s with Mercruisers and Crusaders in them. If those fit, why did CC use Qs?

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