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1968 38 (ft.) Chris-Craft 38 Commander

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General Information

Listing# 145929

Gibraltar, MI, United States
Boat Type
Model Year
Express Cruiser
38 Commander
38 (ft.)
Bridge Clearance
Hull Material
Fuel Type
Engine Model
Number of Engines
Engine Type
Engine Hours

General Details

The 38' Commander Express Cruiser

In 1963, intense activity was going on at the Pompano Research and Development Center and the new Fiberglass and Tooling Activity Division in Holland, Michigan. Holland became the focal point of Chris Craft's fiberglass cruiser program. A new free standing build building was added to the north mill end of the main building. Chris Craft Senior Vice President of Manufacturing and Engineering Bill Mackerer got together with a stylist and designed a gorgeous new 38 Commander to be built entirely out of fiberglass. It was to be "Mac" Mackerer's last boat design before he retired. The 38' Commander was the culmination of Mac's nearly half century of de sign and production experience with Chris Craft.

The 38' Commander was built under strict secrecy. Holland's pattern and prototype shops were boarded off, windows were sealed, and doors were locked. The plugs, molds and ancillary tooling for the Commander were completed in 1963. This ground breaking cruiser had to have the best quality molds since they controlled the quality of the fiberglass finish on all subsequently produced hulls.

Chris Smith (Christopher Columbus Smith's grandson) saw to it that each mold was hand sanded. No machine sanders were allowed that could mar the hull's finish. He had a dozen people hand sanding the molds for a month. The Commander hull was made up from three molds: the bottom, consisting of one piece, and the two sides. The completed reinforced molds were quite huge and very heavy. Each one required a separate flat car when they were shipped down to Florida by train.

The 1964 38' Commander was built and shipped to the Chicago boat show without any of the Chris Craft dealers knowing anything about it. Likewise, this dramatic new design was unveiled at the New YorkNational Motor Boat Show in January of 1964. The all fiberglass Commander captured everyone's attention as it stood perched at the top of the escalator on a giant, castered cradle.

The first reaction of most people boarding the Commander at the New York show was one of amazement at the generous size of the cruiser and its large interior. At the time, it was one of the largest fiberglass production boats in existence. The new Commander had a rakish yet rounded bow entry reminiscent of the Constellation.

Also featured were two longitudinal planing strakes as well as an attractive, molded in, circumferential spray rail (hull side foils). The boat had a full length keel with modified deep V gullwing planing surface. It had a distinctive V transom design which was borrowed from Chris Craft's World War II landing craft. This design was intended to improve the craft's handling characteristics in a following sea.

Exhaust was vented downward through dual pipes that exited the hull below the hull side foil to help eliminate exhaust fumes. Overall, the Commander had a modern, streamlined appearance produced by the horizontal, molded, curve linear lines of the spray rail, deck, cabin top, and pilot house top. The high gloss fiberglass exterior was a buff or off-white color which required no painting. The waterline boot stripe was painted in black. Bottom antifoulant paint was of copper base and color.

Chris Craft did not want the Commander to become another Leak'N Sink model. As a result, Commander hulls were up to one inch thick and had all fiberglass stiffening and stringers. In addition, Commanders had self supporting hulls which did not rely on bulkheads or other internal supports. Chris Craft proudly claimed to have the highest fiberglass to resin ratio in the industry. A new structural reinforcer called Synkore was utilized in sandwich construction applications such as decks and cabin tops. This material provided greater strength than balsa or plywood and was not susceptible to rot. The Commander hulls were virtually bullet proof and built to withstand three times the strains and stresses of running full throttle in 6-foot seas.

As mentioned, Chris Craft spent a lot of time in mold preparation and sanding. Boughton Cobb, Jr. wrote in Yachting that it "is one of the most beautiful fiberglass moldings we have ever seen. The high gloss finish, the absolute fair form of hull and superstructure are the product of carefully built Precision molds."

The painstaking preparation of the molds and the use of high quality gel coat by Chris Craft resulted in hard, mirror-like finishes that even to this day do not need painting. The Commander hulls were not Prone to blistering as are some of today's more thin skinned boats. Chris Craft made a top quality fiberglass boat. The 38' Commander's hull alone weighed 6,000 pounds. Deck and cabin structure added another 900 pounds. Fully fitted with engines and other gear, the Commander weighed approximately 20,000 pounds. It had an overall length of 38 feet and a beam of 13 feet.

Forward freeboard was 62" aft free board was 50". It was a shallow draft vessel drawing only three feet of water. Height, including mast, was 12 feet or 13 feet with optional flying bridge. Engine op options in 1964 included twin Chris Craft 210hp V8 engines (under powered) or twin 275hp V8s. By 1966, 210 and 300hp Ford-Chris Craft engines were available along with 258hp General Motors diesels. Top speed was 33 mph with twin 300hp Chris Crafts which was quite impressive for a boat of its size. It carried 200 gallons of fuel and 75 gallons of water.

The immediate impression gained on stepping aboard the 38' Commander was one of amaze amazement at the immensity of its cock pit and interior. Head room in the main saloon was 6'4" and in the pilot house 6'7". Interior dimensions of the cockpit are 9'1" in width in side the pilot house and 10'21/2" wide further aft of the side deck entry ways. Measured down the center line, the cockpit was 15'5" in extreme depth.

The pilot house along with the entire interior were finished in sable walnut stained mahogany with a satin finish. And additionally, the Commander featured a one inch thick solid teak circumferential toe rail. The Commander was a six sleeper cruiser. Forward cabin bunks were 6'4" in length and 2'3" wide. The forward cabin was ventilated with 20" x 6" Port and star board portholes. Natural lighting was provided through forward and side cabin windows.

Located on the portside at the rear of the cabin was a hanging locker 20-1/4" wide providing a shelf for lamps, a TV, radios, and the like. Forward was a divided rope locker, a screened hatch, underbunk storage age, and a cushioned cabin seat along with shelves ranging along both sides of the berths. A sliding paneled door provided privacy from the main cabin. The starboard lavatory compartment had dual access through 20" doors both from the forward and the main cabins. The lavatory included a shower, turquoise fiberglass vanity with wash basin, electric operated head, mirror, medicine closet, and two storage areas. Hot and cold run running water was standard.

Entering the saloon from the pilot house, one encountered an L-shaped galley to port with a General Electric refrigerator and 3 burner electric range oven. Both appliances were finished in turquoise blue. The galley was completed with a sink and both over head and underneath cupboards. The galley countertop and the dinette table further forward were both finished in off-white formica. The port sliding convertible dinette was 6'3" long and 37" wide. When converted, it provided a comfort able berth for two.

To starboard was a large aft clothes locker which could be used to store bumpers and created a built-in shelf for lamps, decorations, etc. Adjacent to the locker was a day sofa that converted to two bunks, each measuring 2'38" by 6'3". A total of six additional storage drawers were located under the dinette and the day lounge. The pilot house included a downward folding helmsman seat and an optional companion seat. Both were upholstered in turquoise vinyl and could seat a total of four people.

Pilot house and cabin interior overheads were fitted with acoustical white vinyl headliners. Dinette, day lounge and forward bunks were upholstered in a teal color, rough textured linen made by Craftex Mills. Chris Craft decorators termed the upholstery color as "Regency Teal." The draperies of the saloon, forward cabin and lavatory featured a rounded, diamond collage pattern termed "Siwana Collage." Standard cabin decorating in eluded an off-white berber, looped pile carpeting made by Forrest Mills. Additionally, a beige vinyl grass cloth manufactured by B.F. Goodrich was used to finish the vertical lavatory, dinette, and galley surfaces.

Overall, the interior gave one a light and cheerful yet elegant impression. The 1964 38' Commander Express Cruiser (FXA38) was a revolutionary boat for Chris Craft. Its classic Mac Mackerer lines combined with more durable and maintenance free construction material made the new Commander a great success. A total of 262 38' Commander Express Cruisers were manufactured between 1964 and 1969. The interior decorating and upholstery remained the same from 1964 through 1967.

The earlier Commanders had an optional fixed fiberglass planing wedge available. These elevators were fiberglassed to the hull and were basically an integral part of the hull. Variation could be made depending on the various power options that were installed.

1968 Chris Craft literature touted a new "cruise control" option which consisted of built-in adjustable fiberglass trim tabs which al lowed the pilot to achieve the most efficient planing attitude for speed, fuel economy, and various water and wind conditions. These trim tabs were faired into the bottom of the hull at the stern. Our 1967 Commander has them, so cruise control was first available in 1967. It was standard on all diesel models and became standard on all models in 1969.

Beginning in 1968, Chris Craft did away with the mahogany pilot house and cabin interiors. Instead, an imitation wood grained, plastic material was used for finishing. This decision reflected the then popular demand for maintenance free interiors as well as exteriors. The decorative teak toerail was used on all Commanders from 1964 through 1969.

The 1968 and 1969 38' Commanders were also redecorated. Interiors included gold draperies and carpeting and a new gold polypro polypropylene plaid upholstery. Pilot and helmsmen benches were finished in gold vinyl.

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Stock #49338


Classic 38' Chris Craft Commander 1967. Boat that launched Chris Craft into the fiberglass era. 1968 Chris Craft Commander. The hull is planning hull. Power is provided by two 427 Chris Craft Marine Power. This vessel has been very well maintained for her age. Bilge is very clean, exterior hull is good condition. Vessel/Owner has spent countless hours of care and devotion of maintaining present condition. Many upgrades have been added. All hardware has been rechromed, raised panel mahogany doors, 5/4 mahogany toe rail, boat was painted with awlgrip paint.
Navigational Equipment
- Compass (Two (2) Danforth Fixed Mount, Cockpit Helm Station. One (1) Richie Fixed Mount, Bridge Helm) - Depth Sounder (One (1) Horizon Mounted On Bridge,) - GPS (One (1) Standard- 175C Mounted On Bridge) - Navigation Lights - Television (One (1) 13' TV Mounted In Salon Area,) - VHF (One (1) Dual Station Horizon With Remote At Lower Station,) - Windshield Wipers (Two (2) Mounted On Both Windshields)
- Carbureted - Cockpit Type (Upper & Lower Helm) - Composite Construction (Fiberglass) - Control Type (Morse Type Mechanical Cables And Linkages. Cables Are Safety Wired To Attachment Brackets And Operat) - Cooling System (External Engine Mounted Raw Water Heat Exchanger.) - Custom Exhaust (Raw Water Injected Flexible Reinforced Marine Exhaust Hose Leading Aft To The Main Exhaust Outlet, W) - Engine Alarms (Audible And Visual Signals Are Present At The Helm Station As Well As Oil Pressure And Water Tempera) - Engine Cylinders (V8 (x2)) - Engine Location (Stern, Under Deck) - Fuel Tank (2 (100 US Gal, Steel Rectangular)) - GPS (One (1) Standard- 175C Mounted On Bridge,) - Hand Rails - Heat Exchanger (Raw Type Cooling With Raw Water Cooled Wet Exhaust.) - Propulsion (Two (2) Chris Craft Marine 427 (8) Cylinders, Gas. Counter Rotation Engines,) - Steering (Hydraulic) - Stuffing Boxes (Hex Nut Type Packing Gland Stuffing Box.) - Trim Tabs (One (1) Set Of Tabs,)
Electrical Systems
- 110v AC Outlets - 12 V DC Outlets - Accessory Switches - Alternator (Alternator Located On Forward Portion Of Engine(s).) - Battery (Three (3) Marine Batteries,) - Battery Charger (One (1) 20 Amp AC Powered Marine Automatic, Located In Engine Compartment) - Battery Location (Engine Compartment) - Cockpit Lighting - Fuse Panel (Fuse Panel Is Located In The Salon Area Next To Door Way/helm.) - Generator (Onan (6.5kw), Closed Cooling) - Hour Meter (Hour Meter On The Helm) - Ship's Power (12v DC) - Shore Power (One (1) 120 Volt 30amp Receptacles.) - Stereo (One (1) Jensen Am/fm CD With Cd Changer And Marine Speakers,) - Water Heater (One (1) 6 Gallon Water Heater.)
- V-berth (Master Suite With A Bed And Door Going To Main Head.) - Cabin Lighting - Cabinets - Cabins (2) - Fridge (One (1) Norcold,) - Galley (Located Inside Along The Port Side Of The Cabin.) - Head (One (1) Head, One Is Located Towards The V-berth. With Two Doors For Access.) - Heads (Electric Flush) - Hot Water System - Icemaker (One (1) U-line, (mounted In Cockpit Area),one (1) U-line, (mounted In Cockpit Area),) - Microwave (One (1) Hotpoint,) - Shower (One (1) Shower Is Part Of Head.) - Sink (One (1) Stainless Steel Sink With Single Hot And Cold Water Tap And With Disposal. Drains Directly O) - Stove/oven (One (1) Stove & Oven, Model Princess.) - Water Pressurized - The cabin area consists of a galley, one head and seating area with storage compartment throughout. The interior is used primarily for living spaces. Showed no signs of water intrusion. Very well kept up nice and up to date. Lots of living space with staterooms.
- Bottom Paint (Awlgrip)
Deck Gear
- Anchor (One (1) Galvanized Danforth 20 Lb Anchor.) - Beverage Holders - Canvas - Full Enclosure - Non-skid Deck - Thru-bolted SS Cleats - Washdown (One (1) Mounted On Port Side In Cockpit Area,)
Safety Equipment
- Bilge Pump (Two (2) Automatic Bilge Pumps Mounted In The Shat Alley Space.) - Bright Cockpit Lighting - Carbon Monoxide Detector - Fire Extinguisher (Three (3) Class B-C,) - First Aid Kit - Fog Bell (Brass) - Fume Detector - Gas Detector - Grab Rail - Horn - Life Jackets (Six (6) Type II) - Throwable PFD (One (1) Type IV USCG Approved Throw Ring.)