How I got my first Merc...Vita Bella!

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How I got my first Merc...Vita Bella!

Postby JayhawkLB7 » Wed Sep 08, 2021 4:43 am

So I live in the Rocky Mountains - grew up in Central Kansas on sailboats, and have always had a thing for old woody's (*snickering welcome and indeed, expected*).  I have been looking for years and years and have simply never had the means to purchase, no less afford to restore, a Chris Craft.  As such; this venture has always been sort of a fools errand.  I would check craigslist and online forums...facebook marketplace and boat auctions in the general vicinity.  

And then one sunny morning a few months before the COVID thing happened...I found it.  I found an old wood boat up on a sort of embankment near a cliff edge off a bend in a dirt road that is only traveled (and still uncommonly) by people who live in the community.  An old community that is now encircled by the famous Garden of the Gods land monstrosity - it was unbelieve it was even there.  Even more unbelievable was that the property owner HAPPENED to be nearby when I drove back the next day to, eh-hem...trespass to go take a closer look.  He caught me on the way and as I explained to him that I wouldn't mind trying to get it out of this wedge without dropping it off the cliff or worse: dropping myself off the cliff he abruptly stated "son, I'll go get the title for that damn thing if you can come up with $1000 by weeks end.  I ain't helping you pull it out."

So low and behold: I was the proud new owner of a very old and not well-taken care of 1959 Inland Style Master.  It came with something that doesn't need to be explained to any of you...a Cloud white ('61)!  Here are a few shots of it in the shape it was when I got it home, washed off, and parked.

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Now - I am here to tell you this is a RARE vessel.  SO rare in fact that you can't find a single darn thing about them anywhere, haha!  I looked, and looked...found a couple of old ads for a 1954 iteration and a 1955 iteration, and that was that.  I was able to run down the company in Rockford, IL but the city office stated the only files they might still have around would be in the basement and they were "not going to go look."  

When it came time to investigate how much dry rot was around...it was...A LOT.  I started with some under patches and light sanding of exposed areas underneath to match a putty up for hole-filling.  This worked brilliantly as with no prior information my best guess at the deck planking was African Mahogany.  I purchased some small iterations and none matched.  I would later via a passer-by at Lathrop State Park in Walsenburg Colorado (just a few months ago) discover that this was actually Honduran mahogany, which is why it never matched.  

After much tedious work over a 4-5 month period I was finally able to get to stain.  I chose to divert from the original color pattern.  Again; I had no way to match it as the lighter-stained areas I had seen on the 54-55 iterations had since been painted at least 3 times in all slightly different shades of yellow paint, and the dark areas had been sloppy-style multi-coated with some type of polyurethane...they even coated over the hardware when made pulling it on, well, a practice in destruction.  The wood bottoms for the seats were rotten and because I was moving away from the yellow accent I decided to reupholster those in green with white piping (not finished in these pictures yet) and recoat the underhull in a boston green antifouling to match (with one of the wood "faux ballasts" painted in a white epoxy for contrast).  I also have a friend who works in marine-grade vinyl so I didn't have to spend a fortune on gold-lettering, which was never present on these boats in the first place.  

At any rate - I did get it finished in time for mid-July this year and out on the water.  I hadn't even tried the motor, it hadn't been started since 1991 and because I needed to let the wood soak a full weekend anyway...I thought it best I try to fire it up while giving it the annual break-in soak.  I have since found that Cylinder 2 is completely stripped, bored, helicoiled, and failed helicoiled so...she isn't quite sea-going but boy...she does look good.  I think it all turned out well, and hopefully the rest of it will too.  

I hope to figure out what in the world I'm going to do about that cylinder in the coming weeks and try to get it out once before Colorado turns south again for 4-6 months.  Cheers sailors!

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Anyhow - just joined the forums to look for advice on the stripped spark hole and have found myself trenched into a number of various forum posts over the past few days as a result.  I am really enjoying it - thanks for having me and I hope you enjoy!
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Re: How I got my first Merc...Vita Bella!

Postby 49morphew » Wed Sep 08, 2021 2:33 pm

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If your boat is an Inland it was most likely built in Madison WI. There's plenty of info on the web about their operation. There may have been a dealer in Rockford IL?
Welcome to the site!
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Re: How I got my first Merc...Vita Bella!

Postby JayhawkLB7 » Wed Sep 08, 2021 3:20 pm

49morphew wrote:
If your boat is an Inland it was most likely built in Madison WI. There's plenty of info on the web about their operation. There may have been a dealer in Rockford IL?
Welcome to the site!


It is so funny you say that...so the original logo on the boat (Mine just had the faded remnants) I snagged from that '55 had it listed as Rockford, IL as does the ad...but during a deep dive last night I found that Madison, WI information you are referring to, not coincidentally on another forum on this site.  I had NEVER seen any reference to "Inland Lake Boat Works" monikor ...which is why I never found it :)  

Thanks a ton - I now have another whole mess of research to do, haha!

InlandLogo.jpeg
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Re: How I got my first Merc...Vita Bella!

Postby john bennig » Wed Sep 08, 2021 6:30 pm

I restored this one many years ago.  I no longer have it.
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Re: How I got my first Merc...Vita Bella!

Postby JayhawkLB7 » Wed Sep 08, 2021 10:05 pm

john bennig wrote:I restored this one many years ago.  I no longer have it.


Ooooh!  That's a beautiful long bow!  I can't tell from the photos...last one looks like a Mark 50 but not the first photo.  Is that an old Johnson back there?
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Re: How I got my first Merc...Vita Bella!

Postby john bennig » Thu Sep 09, 2021 2:08 pm

Mark 40H
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Re: How I got my first Merc...Vita Bella!

Postby JayhawkLB7 » Thu Sep 09, 2021 3:04 pm

john bennig wrote:Mark 40H


Ah!  Excellent.
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Re: How I got my first Merc...Vita Bella!

Postby Pondrocket » Sun Oct 03, 2021 1:45 am

Nice setup.. Molded Mahogany hull w/ a merc!!  here is some info http://www.fiberglassics.com/library/in ... tle=Inland

Travis
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Re: How I got my first Merc...Vita Bella!

Postby JayhawkLB7 » Mon Oct 04, 2021 5:23 pm

Pondrocket wrote:Nice setup.. Molded Mahogany hull w/ a merc!!  here is some info http://www.fiberglassics.com/library/in ... tle=Inland

Travis


Wow!  Fantastic and thank you!  So the 195X? one appears to be exactly my craft style, which according to the only documentation I have (the title) is a 1959 model.  How interesting - really nice bookmark to have!
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