By Bob Schoepe, Penn NE Harveys Lake Chapter
My stewardship began unexpectedly in 2018. Her name is August Belle. Oh my! I am the fortunate recipient of previous efforts that I knew nothing about at the time. The pictures you see here were all taken before I came along. She is hull #52535, a 1940 15.5 foot Chris Craft utility runabout. If you google 1940 15.5 foot Chris Craft, you will find her. Some may recognize her from her pics on Woody Boater when she acquired a set of original 1940 cushions. Originally from Yellowstone Lake, Wyoming, she now runs regularly during the summer months on Lake Harmony in Pennsylvania. People still flip when she shows up.
There is a crazy before photo from the Macatawa Bay Boat Works website
That’s her on the flatbed in white, as in fiberglass, uh-oh! To this point, we have spent a fair amount of time together. I tend to do things rather in depth. Haha. A few key words come to mind. Like zinc, phosphorous, ethanol, Auto-Lite, limber holes, and flame arrestor. How bout babbitt and microfarad. There are many, many more. We did her sea trial on Lake Anna in Virginia. Head torque, shaftlog drip, shift lever pressure, just to name a few. I was at the start of something really big for such a really small boat.
I am a motorcycle person generally, and it surprised me how this little boat captured my undivided attention. Most recently, I’ve learned about the little washer on the condenser mounting screw. Ok, it’s an internal tooth washer used in electrical applications. Who would know? Well, Studebaker knew in the 1920’s. Now we ALL do…again. Here’s another. Don’t turn on your ignition key until you are ready to hit the start button. That can cause damaging arcing in your distributer, points, etc. Don’t run out of gas or otherwise slow down too quickly. Most of us do not have flappers on our exhausts and the rush of water hitting the transom/exhaust can damage our engines.
Uninformed, and trying to keep her looking great, I asked the previous owner, Nate, what to wax her with. Ok, I know, I know. But now what? I use fresh water and dry with microfiber. Small finish issues usually come up great with a microfiber that has some dryish liquid polish and liquid compound on it. I’ve gotten POOR results using Murphy’s Oil Soap. She spends her down time, approximately 8 months a year, in a temperature controlled garage where various small projects have been undertaken. Like valve adjustment. Who knew tenths and thous could be so interesting? So a rabbit hole here, and a rabbit hole there.
I really have to chuckle at what goes on. Could anyone really be bothered if they were warned in advance? Truth is, I was warned, but fools rush in… August Belle is more than ready to kick it this summer, and I am already considering the topics for exploration afterwards.
See you out there.
I own a 1939 15.5 looking for pictures of other 15.5 thank you Doug
I am a Nate’s mother, and daughter to the man who brought his history of working at Chris Craft back to the family (St. Clair, MI) through August Belle (mom and dad’s middle names. Thank you, Nate and Bob for carrying this on). Your tribute to our memory of her brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for being such a good steward of her 81 year journey.
Love the origin of the name!
Wow, as you can see it’s been my pleasure.
When I was about 13 years old (1954), I was asked to drive a similar boat for a friend who wanted to ski during his lunch hour. No life jackets or spotter just a 13 year od teenager and an avid skier. Loved that boat.
I enjoyed the story. I have the identical boat, hull number 52484. I bought the boat in 1973 from Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter New Hampshire. It was used as a crew coach’s boat since being bought new early in 1940. I trailered it home and launched it on Lake Ontario. I took it for a spin and put it in my boat slip. The next morning I found it submerged albeit neatly suspended by its four mooring lines. A complete renovation was necessary and undertaken. I still have the P.E.A 40 and use it every summer on the St. Lawrence river not far from the ACBS headquarters in Clayton, N.Y.
I have the 1949 model, yours stretched to 16′ 4″, with the In-line flat head 6 95HP engine. Mine is cedar planked. Beautiful boats, had mine 38 years.
I have serial # 52343, dated on hull card 10-30-39, but advertised as a 1940 model. Her engine number is same as on hull card #4840. Currently she is undergoing a complete rebuild, boat, engine and reverse gear, after decades of being neglected. I got her free from a family member as a grey boat and am slowly turning her into a useable but not showboat.
So, as with cars, the year for your boat often is the year after it was built. I think it has to do with marketing and logistics.
Great story and pix. The 15.5′ would be perfect for the small lakes here in S.E. Wisconsin. I’m inspired to start looking for a similar boat within my limited price range.
Currently, I have a 1950 Thompson 14′ runabout with a vintage Martin 10hp outboard. It was also a gift from former owner who let her sit in backyard for 15 years. A lot of work with my father and me put her back in service.
I like your story and the boat in general. There are so many Chris Crafts, that I usually do not check them out except that it is a 1940, the year of my berth. We have both taken 81 trips around the sun and would some day like to add a 1940 to my collection. I would like something about the engine used in this boat. Must be a smaller inline engine since it only has a single exhaust. Can you give us some details? Bob Dowling from the mighty inland Delta of California.
So, just noticed your question. Haha. It’s call a B engine. Flathead 4. Good luck