Restoration ahead of the appreciation curve

As we all endure more birthdays, what’s cool to own and collect is getting newer. Of course, you car people have seen it happening for many years, but it’s a relatively new phenomenon for us boaters. We’re starting to see Donzis, Boston Whalers, Century Coronados and Resorters, Ski Nautiques and the Glastron boats from the James Bond movie, as well as all manner of finned classics from the 1950s and ‘60s showing up at vintage boat shows across the country.

It makes sense, as collecting is largely driven by what we grew up around. What did the cool guy on the lake have when we were growing up? What did your uncle have? What did you want when you were a kid, but couldn’t convince your dad to buy?

The emotional attachment to our individual past can lead to what I call “restoration ahead of the curve.” The value of the aspirational ownership experience can easily outweigh the investment required to realize the dream, particularly when the boat in question may not quite be “collectible” yet. Often, that just means you’re the first one to restore a particular boat.

When the restoration is performed to a high standard, you have to admire both the commitment and result.

Here’s a great example: a 1966 27-foot Chris-Craft Sportfish Commander. This Commander has been meticulously, and I mean meticulously, restored by a very knowledgeable owner, who’s also a marine industry manufacturer and supplier based in the twin cities (Minn.). He knows what he’s doing, and has a very good eye for where to update and where to restore original.

Everything has been addressed. Note the restored original binnacle in the lower helm station, and the updated instruments on the fly bridge. Upholstery has been updated with current Chris-Craft materials, a very nice touch. Wonderful, detailed canvas work, realized in modern materials.

The original Chrysler 318-cid V-8s have been rebuilt, with re-ground camshafts, hardened valve seats, new exhaust manifolds, electronic ignitions, rebuilt Velvet Drive transmissions, Lasdrop shaft seals, new shafts, cutlass bearings, two sets of props, Sea Star hydraulic steering, Tech Marine electronic shift and throttle, Lenco Auto Glide electric trim tab system with dual station actuation, Fireboy Halon Fire System, new single 110 gallon aluminum fuel tank with dual fuel fills and on and on.

Similar attention has been lavished upon its on-board systems.

Not only is this Sportfish Commander as perfect an example as you’ll likely find, but it has also been thoughtfully updated with the best modern fitments where appropriate. It’s a “best of both worlds” situation, providing the vintage look, along with the expectation of modern reliability, very similar to an automotive resto-mod.

At what cost, however? We have her listed at $150,000, which is less than the restoration investment. The value proposition is up to the next purchaser to validate. If you love it, and must have one, you’d have to invest just as much to duplicate the result.

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

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