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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Yeah I've seen a few 27's with full size motors in them. I think CC used them in a lot of there smaller boats where they needed a low profile. And likely had so much stock on hand that they made their may into the larger boats. If I remember correctly there were 283's and 350F's listed as engines from the factory on the 27's.

I don’t think Chris Craft made any small blocks besides the Q between the F and K/G so I bet there’s a few years it was the only small block option. 

Jim Frens said:

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?

Are there replacement options for the 427's in the 41" Commander?

Plenty of options 454, 8.1, any diesel you like just about. I agree with the other posts about choosing a 41 over the 35  the 41 is a much better choice for a lot of reasons 

Jim, it has been a few years since the post, I think from Jim Wick, about the Q motors.  As I remember the story was that there were so many engines, so many boats and so many Q's.  What came down the line was fitted with what engine was available to match.  Sometimes Q's were installed just because.  For instance the early 35's were 327F or 427 optioned, obviously no headroom problem.  Later models came with the Q as in Greg Gajkac's 35.  Some boats had engine room height restrictions and could only handle the Q engines.  As I remember his posts continued about the Catalina and supplies that whatever was available was what was installed whether it matched interior or not.  So many Q's so many hulls, so many engine options, so many boats.  The heyday of Chris.


I appears the 35 is a Catalina, per the year and engine description. The 35 "Salon" and 35' Express were built pre 1974. The 41' has a 14' beam and offers much more living space and comfort vs. a 35'.  It's truly a live a board.  Below deck, you have great access to working on the engines and other systems. Access to make repairs and do maintenance is a prime consideration for me.  A 13' beam makes it difficult to have the access for repairs.... been there, done that. In the 41' you have access without dismantling the interior.

The biggest challenge with either boat will be availability of engine parts.  You can run the 41' like a "trawler" 1700-1800 RPM and the fuel won't break your budget, HA HA.  Above 1800 RPM, fuel consumption jumps considerably with marginal increase in speed. Be sure to have the engines surveyed by a qualified mechanic. Take an oil sample and have it analyzed, best money you'll spend.  If they have original Mallory, dual point distributors, convert them to Electronic ignition, it will best the best decision ever made!  I've owned a 1973, 41' Commander w/closed cooled 427's for 14 years and have found them to be reliable. I'm the 3rd owner and the boat was meticulously maintained. I'd take a few years to get acquainted with a larger boat and have some fun. Save your money and graduate to something with diesel power for your future Great Loop/Bimini trips. Yes the 41' will be incrementally more expensive but, economical and boat should never be used in the same sentence, LOL!

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