6 April 2017

The Yellow Coronado

When you find a classic boat with 68 original hours, you buy it. Never mind the color. Among our favorite experiences over 40 years of vintage boating are those hunting, finding, and buying interesting boats. Years later, we recall most with a smile, some with a chuckle, very few with a frown. The Yellow Coronado’s story is particularly close to my heart.

My father and I decided that a fiberglass Coronado would be next in a long line of “perfect boats” for our home in northern Wisconsin. I was on the hunt. As a confirmed Century geek, I’m always searching for interesting, rare, and special Century boats. Part of the hunt, the old-school component, is to rip open the Century Club Newsletter the moment it arrives in the mail, and scour the classifieds.

Back in January 2004, after tearing into a freshly-delivered Newsletter, I discovered an ad for a 1973 Century Coronado listed as, “all original, many options, low hours.” The cynic in me immediately translated: All original meant ratty, many options equaled ugly bolt-ons, and low hours. For a taxi cab. I called anyway.

For once, it was the real deal. A restaurant owner in Colorado bought it new, drove to Manistee, Mich., to pick it up and bring it home. Hardtop, Crusader 454, trim tabs, mufflers, air horn on the deck, docking lights, Iva-lite spotlight, factory aft curtain of automotive convertible top material, eight-track tape player with four speakers, and Ray-Jeff fish finder. And it all sat on the original, factory Century tandem-axle trailer. Best of all, 68 original hours. That’s right: 68, not 680, but 68 original hours.

The restaurant owner was a lovely gentleman, and explained he really wanted a Coronado, so ordered one up special. Just the way he wanted it. All the options were listed out on the original invoice. The story, and there’s always a story, was that he bought it, kept it in a slip for two seasons, and found he was far too busy running his successful restaurant to use the boat. Still, it was something he really wanted, so he kept it in his storage building for the next thirty years. Finally, he decided to sell.

We want to be captivated by “the story.” That’s part of the magic of collecting. This seemed to be a particularly good story, and the earnest nature of the owner’s telling led to an immediate Fed-Ex-ed deposit. Only one thing turned me off: the boat’s color. But, if there was any doubt, reread this article’s first two sentences.

Century built its boats in a standard color scheme for each model each year. Coronados built in 1973 were yellow, with brown trim, “walnut” (a particularly fetching dark brown) upholstery material, which delivers a nasty burn to unsuspecting posterior parts after it’s been exposed to sunlight, gold upholstered ceilings, and brown astro-turf carpet. Everything was exactly as represented. The brown carpet was a little damaged behind the hardtop, where it was exposed to sunlight; otherwise, it was time-capsule perfect.

As time passes, what’s cool to collect gets newer. And typically, people collect something important from their past: a fantasy or memory. Fiberglass boats are becoming an increasingly important part of the collector equation. Where fiberglass boats are concerned, whatever value they will ultimately represent will be concentrated among the really original, clean, shiny-bottom, un-molested gelcoat examples. If you’re lucky enough to find one, buy it—no matter what the color!

Editor’s note: The author, David Bortner, is “captain” at Freedom Boat Service.

7 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Jack Enright California April 26, 2017 at 17:41
    Very cool. I've run across many "low hour" boats over the years with similar or unusual stories. One such boat is in our family....my girlfriend's Dad bought a Century mahogany 15-1/2-ft runabout new in 1966, used it for a couple summers at Carnelian Bay (where it was stored inside after each summer) in Lake Tahoe, then moved it to storage in his garage in Sonoma. Ten years later he sold it to my brother, who also used it for only a couple summers, then stored it in his home garage in Livermore, Ca. Two years ago, he called me and said he was buying a late model Vette and he needed to clear space for his new purchase. If I wanted the Century, it was mine. Being that it was my now-wife's family's boat when she was a kid, I (she) said yes....so home it came, and with only 123 hours on the Ford 260-V8 since new. Never refinished, excellent original upholstery, a perfect windshield, without crazing since it has been protected from the weather since 1966. Great old boat. Now I would like to refinish it (although it could get by as it is) and use it on Lake Sonoma with the grandchildren.
  • 2
    David Sister Bay, WI April 26, 2017 at 20:47
    What an awesome boat! The yellow gelcoat is perfect - there are so many white, brown or maroon boats out there this one certainly stands out. Who needs easy access to the bow to toss an anchor or fend off while docking - highly over rated. Much more fun to have the challenge of getting to the bow without falling in.......
  • 3
    Dan Dixon Suffolk, Virginia April 27, 2017 at 02:20
    The Century Corodona is a "neat" Boat. I like the earlier wood and the fiberglass models. I can remember when they were in production. The design was ahead of the time compared to other boats in the 20-30 foot size range. I can remember going to a local city park that had a boat ramp to the river seeing those boats running in that Elizabeth river. I never owned one. But always desired to own one!
  • 4
    G. Prost Rainy River, Ont. April 27, 2017 at 18:41
    Love the old fiberglass boat; especially when they still have wood trim. I have a 1973 Boston Whaler with an all mahogany center-console and seat. Best combo of easy maintenance and classic good looks. Never fails to get compliments.
  • 5
    Joe LaGrange Highlands,IL April 27, 2017 at 08:17
    Thanks for that great story, I enjoy reading things like this! It looks like a really nice boat and barely used. I bought a 1982 Glastron/Carlson C537 about 3 years ago, that's pretty rare now. I was thinking about selling it but I might just keep it now and it is in pretty much original condition. Good luck with the boat!
  • 6
    Frank Cain Toronto, ON April 27, 2017 at 09:33
    I owned a 1961 Century Coronado with a 300HP Chrysler Golden Lion V8. We kept it at Muskoka Sands Inn, Gravenhurst, and every time it got up on plane, it sounded like a float plane leaving Lake Muskoka. Beautiful! It had a brand new bottom and all it needed was replacement of the white and red vinyl for the seats. The Century people met me at Detroit with the last of this vinyl and from there, it was an real joy to use and see this boat at dock. It was one of many boats I had fun refinishing (easy stuff) except for the replacement of a stem head on a 27' Shepherd Commuter. But the Century was special to me because the girls were young then and they may just possibly have had more fun riding in that boat than their old man. When you're 83, you're content with the 'progression' to the scale model versions of the Dumas brand. The Edsel Ford Typhoon, a double ender, was the most challenging. Fair winds!
  • 7
    Joh n Taggart Bath NY April 27, 2017 at 10:54
    if your interested in the older beautiful centuries and chris crafts amongst other beautiful speed boats to row boats look u or come and attend the Hammondsport Boat Show and go to the Curtis Museum while there additionally the newly formed Finger Lakes Boat Museum in Hammondsport also. Bet you would like the whole trip plus you in wine country on the win trails of the finger lakes with over 100 wineries less than an hour and half radius from Hammondsport

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