David Irvine of Shelbyville, MI, owns a wooden boat built by a Chris-Craft employee in 1957. David also owns a 1954 Chris-Craft trailer. He is originally from Algonac, Michigan, home of Chris-Craft. The trailers were offered as kits in 1954, but it is unknown how many were sold or built. For anyone that has ever built a trailer, you know it is a lot of work. Even the best-made plans would likely have had some challenges and required a fair skill set to see them through from start to finish.
The sales pitch
The following encouraging sales pitch was included in the brochure: “You don’t have to be an expert carpenter or mechanic to put together your Chris-Craft Land Cruiser. Not a bit of it. If you can use a hammer, a saw, a wrench, and a screwdriver, you can do a real professional job. Ordinary household tools are all that is required.
“That’s because Chris-Craft designers and craftsmen have carefully planned the Land Cruiser Kit so that the difficult jobs, the jobs and fittings that require special skills, have been done for you at the factory. With their vast experience in the kit boat field—Chris-Craft is the world’s largest builder of kit boats—they have been able to make the Land Cruiser Kit so simple and foolproof that anyone can assemble it.
“All you need do is follow the easy, step-by-step instructions and the clear, detailed diagrams. Parts are precut and machined to fit together easily.”
“The materials used in your Chris-Craft Land Cruiser Kit are all of the highest quality. And when you assemble it yourself you know it’s well built! Your Kit includes a sturdy, all-steel chassis; topgrade, accurately precut wood parts; aluminum covering with pre-welded roof seams; aluminum ventilating windows with screens; aluminum, electrically welded, insulated, hinged door (including lock and key); level-load axle with heavy torsion springs for even load distribution.
“When your Land Cruiser arrives you simply uncrate the parts, assemble them … and before you know it you’ll be living the life of Riley in your own mobile home!”
Preserving the past
David has compiled information on 14 known Chris-Craft Land Cruiser Campers that were built from kits decades ago and still exist. David’s 8th-grade history teacher and friend, Spencer Adkins, Sr., knew David had acquired one of these unique campers and found an original 50-page instruction manual that no one knew existed. His wife Mary (Ames) Adkins had a brother who worked for the “kit” division of Chris-Craft Boats and may have been involved in the design. The manual is affectionately known as “the holy grail” with the 14 trailer owners and the Mariners Museum in Newport News, VA. David said, “It has been fun to research and meet these owners since acquiring mine a short 18 months ago.”
More info and pics on our blog here.
See the complete article in issue #50 of the Vintage Camper Trailers Magazine. This issue of the magazine focused on trailers that were offered as kits or plans.
More by Paul
- The beautiful mid-century RVs of the Tillitson Travel Coach Company
- All aboard! The Orient Express Vintage trailer is a sight to behold
- Gorgeous 1962 Streamline Countess has vintage style but modern amenities
About the Author: Paul Lacitinola and his wife, Caroline, have published the Vintage Camper Trailers Magazine for ten years. The Lacitinolas also host The Trailerfest Vintage Trailer Rallies and the VCT Boot Camp Restoration Learning Experience. They have authored two books on vintage trailering and are advocates for the hobby from coast to coast.
I helped my dad build a 14 foot boat from one of their kits in 1963. It was way not easy and involved steaming the plywood to get the bow shape. Had lots of fun skiing behind it and going fishing, too. After dad died we gave it to a nice young man in Tennessee who desparately wanted a boat for fishing.
It came with a Montgomery Ward kit trailer and an Evinrude 40 hp outboard motor. Dad had the foresight to put a layer of fiberglass on the plywood hull so it looked almost like new when we gave it away in 2006.