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Thread: almost done my '57 Chris Craft Cruiser restoration, and seek final engine advice

  1. #1
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    Default almost done my '57 Chris Craft Cruiser restoration, and seek final engine advice

    I am close to completing the restoration of my 1957 Chris Craft 28’ Sedan Cruiser with flybridge. It currently has twin in-line 6-cylinder Hercules K engines. This fall I want to replace the engines economically, possibly with readily available remanufactured 283”s. I have lots of experience with auto engine rebuilds/retrofits and my goal is simple low-cost retro-fit. Doing a lot of research on this and other great forums, still have a few questions and would appreciate any advice.
    - besides brass plugs, marine gaskets, flame arrester, fuel pump, engine mounts, prop shaft mods, linkage mods, electrical mods, are there other considerations?
    - prefer not to pay the premium for a reverse starboard engine, can I compensate rotation in the transmission?
    - “velvet” or standard Paragon wedge transmission, or other lowest cost option?
    And or course any other advice is greatly appreciated. thanks

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    Default Re: almost done my '57 Chris Craft Cruiser restoration, and seek final engine advice

    engine cooling and exhaust system - muffler, water locks etc? Prop’ type and size.....
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    Default Re: almost done my '57 Chris Craft Cruiser restoration, and seek final engine advice

    The only gears I'm aware of that can run in reverse for counter rotation are not inexpensive: ZF and the like. Are your 6's beyond saving? Or are you just wanting to get more modern. The narrowness of inline 6's is sure nice for access.

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    Default Re: almost done my '57 Chris Craft Cruiser restoration, and seek final engine advice

    my goal is to replace 2 engines economically. without drastic increase in HP/torque considering the age of the boat/wooden hull.

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    Default Re: almost done my '57 Chris Craft Cruiser restoration, and seek final engine advice

    I'm thinking the counter rotation engine was designed to limit stress on the hull? not looking for a accurate restoration but simply re-power with newer engines and readily available (read inexpensive..) parts

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    Default Re: almost done my '57 Chris Craft Cruiser restoration, and seek final engine advice

    Mpauster, I'm going to suggest that "low cost" and "repower" is just not a realistic combination. I also have considerable experience with engines and mechanical work but I would be very reluctant to take on the project of marinizing a 283. The labor involved is trivial but the parts will be $$$$ once it's all done. I very much doubt that you can engineer your own solution for less than a pair of remanufactured Mercruiser 383 small blocks. Plus the Mercruisers can be bought in L/R rotation which greatly simplifies your gear options. But no matter how you do it I don't think you will get it done for much under $30k. Probably more.

    Also I would take a really hard look at the amount of space you have for the V8s. I used to have a 1957 28' Constellation that had been repowered from sixes to original Chris Craft 283s. Same hull as your boat I expect, or close enough. The setup ran great and we regularly saw 18-20 kts but there were some issues. For one thing, it looked like whoever did the conversion wasn't able to get the engines aligned correctly using the stock mounts so they had new struts fabricated which changed the shaft angle to compensate. But in doing so the shafts put pressure on the shaft log castings so that after a while the castings were both wearing holes in the bottom of the tube (bad) and being levered away from the hull (even worse). And then when we went to pull it all apart and fix it we found that there wasn't room to remove the fuel tanks due to the larger motors, so we had to cut out big sections of the cockpit deck. We had to have custom wedges made to correct the engine alignment and then I needed to build up a pad underneath the struts to get the angle correct again. And then when we got the engines aligned at the right angle I found that the engine hatches wouldn't clear the flame arrestors and had to relieve the hatch framing for clearance. It was a mess from start to finish.

    Not saying that your conversion would have these issues, just that it's not even remotely a trivial project and you absolutely will run into problems that you did not anticipate.
    - Chris

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    Default Re: almost done my '57 Chris Craft Cruiser restoration, and seek final engine advice

    Quote Originally Posted by mpauster View Post
    I'm thinking the counter rotation engine was designed to limit stress on the hull? not looking for a accurate restoration but simply re-power with newer engines and readily available (read inexpensive..) parts
    L/R is due to the way the old Paragon reduction gears work. You can't run them in reverse with any significant load. But because you want counter-rotating props you need a way to turn them in different directions. Thus L/R engines. Modern ZF gears can run at full torque in either direction so you can run both engines in the same direction and just hook up one of the gears to run in "reverse". But they are spendy, as noted above.
    - Chris

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    Default Re: almost done my '57 Chris Craft Cruiser restoration, and seek final engine advice

    cstevens- thanks for your reply. I may have miscommunicated, in that I'm am simply looking to replace the stock engines with something inexpensive and with parts readily available. my goal is minimal power increase (straight 6 to v8) considering the age of the boat. further insights are appreciated.

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    Default Re: almost done my '57 Chris Craft Cruiser restoration, and seek final engine advice

    Quote Originally Posted by mpauster View Post
    cstevens- thanks for your reply. I may have miscommunicated, in that I'm am simply looking to replace the stock engines with something inexpensive and with parts readily available. my goal is minimal power increase (straight 6 to v8) considering the age of the boat. further insights are appreciated.
    Given those parameters I would be thinking about finding and rebuilding a pair of used Mercruiser 4.3 V6s. I have no idea what that conversion would look like but I think you would be better off starting with an already marinized engine than trying to do that part yourself. The V6 will be smaller and lighter than a 283, more power than your current motors, and parts are both readily available and cheap.
    - Chris

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    Default Re: almost done my '57 Chris Craft Cruiser restoration, and seek final engine advice

    cstevens- being familiar and experienced with engine rebuilds is ok for me (marinization, starter, fuel pump, etc..) but your comments about alignment are very serious and worth hard consideration. I do not care about the transmission, only that it is simple and fits the boat so without further drivetrain changes. I thought of the 283's only because with research they became stock engines around that time, and therefore parts exist. thanks for your insight!

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    Default Re: almost done my '57 Chris Craft Cruiser restoration, and seek final engine advice

    The Chris Craft 283 that would have been stock at that time is a very different animal than what you would build up. They were set up in a flywheel-forward configuration and all of the marine hard parts are specific to that application. I very much doubt that it would even be possible to replicate that setup without starting with a pair of original motors. Which would be a nice conversion if you could find them but they are no longer common or inexpensive, if they ever were.

    I really think the 4.3 V6 is worth a look. You can buy marine 4.3 long blocks for cheap on eBay from several suppliers. You would still need reduction gears (although you might be able to use the ones you have?), exhaust manifolds, shafts, props, etc. but you would save yourself a whole bunch of hassle by starting with marine motors.
    - Chris

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    Default Re: almost done my '57 Chris Craft Cruiser restoration, and seek final engine advice

    As csstevens says the marinized 283's are a completely different bird.
    I'm not even sure the engine block will interchange without work. The crankshaft, camshaft, intake manifold, distributor placement, oil pump, water pump, and etc are different.

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    Default Re: almost done my '57 Chris Craft Cruiser restoration, and seek final engine advice

    And, not going to get into it here, you really really want counter rotation. Same way props in a twin are not a good thing.

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    Default Re: almost done my '57 Chris Craft Cruiser restoration, and seek final engine advice

    As the owner of a CC runabout with an original 283 I just rebuilt... Yep - rebuilding the engine is quite inexpensive. But, as said, you need marinized 283's. I thought I was going to need to replace one exhaust manifold & it was $450 for a used one. I did have to replace the oil pan -$350 for a used one. As said, the engines are backwards, the distributor is in a different place, gaskets are different, etc. - the differences are substantial.

    I talked to a guy with a late 40's 19 footer that had the original 6 cyl replaced with a Mercuiser 4 cyl. He said that was more powerful than the original engine, but also that he was comparing it with the original when it was old & tired. "I kept the old engine just in case, but what I love is being able to walk down to the dock, pull off the cover, hop in, hit the key, toss the lines & spend the day without worrying about whether or not it'll keep running". He said the 4 cyl would take his boat to the low 30's. My 283 takes mine to about 36-7MPH.

    So - maybe look at the 4 cyl option?
    "If it ain't broke, you're not trying." - Red Green

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    Default Re: almost done my '57 Chris Craft Cruiser restoration, and seek final engine advice

    This beeing a classic boat the sensible choice would be to rebuild the original engines. Only if the blocks are cracked would I consider repowering, and only if I could not get a replacement. If repowering than with something utterly modern, latest generation fuel injected.

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    Default Re: almost done my '57 Chris Craft Cruiser restoration, and seek final engine advice

    No surprise, I'm with Rumars on this one. Mpauster, I do understand your goal but I'm not sure that it's possible to get there from here. Let's look at what's involved in each option. For the repower, I don't think it really matters what GM block you start with. 283 V8, 4.3 V6 or 3.0 I4. There are pros and cons to each choice, but with each you are starting with an already obsolete motor, one that will not have any real technology advantage over the K motors you already have. (Sure, you can upgrade all of them with electronic ignition, fuel injection, whatever you want, but that's not the road to an inexpensive repower). The only advantages to any of those repower options are that parts are cheap and you can find them easily.

    Set against that one pro, the cons are many. No matter how you do it, the up front cost of engineering the new installation will vastly exceed any savings that you see in rebuild parts costs. No amount of labor savings from doing your own mechanical work will make a difference there. You are also certain to run into unexpected challenges that may require significant effort to overcome. Engine alignment or fit issues, challenges finding the right reduction gear, difficulties with exhaust runs. All can be solved but they add to the cost and effort involved in a repower.

    On the other hand, the K motors are the correct engine for the boat. No reengineering is needed to make them fit. No need for new reduction gear or exhaust parts or any of those costs. Yes, rebuild parts are more expensive than for any of the GM motors but they seem to be readily available judging from the sources I can find online. It looks to me like the parts cost to rebuild the motors might be in the range of $1,500 each. Which, true, is quite expensive compared to a rebuild kit for any of the GM engines but it's still far, far less than the cost to repower.

    And realistically that parts expense is a one-time cost. Rebuild them now and maintain them well and you won't have to do it again for decades. Ongoing maintenance costs might be a few dollars more than the GM engines but that cost difference will still never approach the cost of repowering with something else.

    So, as Rumars says, unless the original motors are scrap the only options that really make sense here are to stick with the original motors or spend all the money and go with a modern, clean, fuel injected motor like the 4.5L Mercruiser V6 (which is new block entirely and not at all related to the GM 4.3). Or, dare I say it... electric?
    - Chris

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    Default Re: almost done my '57 Chris Craft Cruiser restoration, and seek final engine advice

    Interesting conversation........ I would agree with the caution needed for the new engine installation. As mentioned, the original C.C. 185 (283 conversion) was a flywheel forward engine. The big advantage of this is that the engine can sit lower and farther aft in the boat (the flywheel spinning below the bottom of the oil pan up forward is not a problem). The idea of a V6 would help that situation.
    One way to go about it would be to find a pair of original flywheel forward engines and swap in a pair of 350 crate long blocks. This is pretty easy to do, I had a Jersey speed skiff done that way (283 marine conversion parts on a crate 350. The 283 went out of production almost 40 years ago and I don't know if they can be bought new. The 350, ... lots of places to get drop in new replacements.





    If there is one engine easier to work on than the SBC it is a flat head six. I have kept mine in my big boat. As to a comment above, when I want to use the boat I go aboard, start the engines and shut them down at the end of the day. Just a month ago I went away for two weeks and cruised from R.I. to the Jersey shore and back. Not a hitch.

    I will admit a bit more power would be nice at times (pair of 125hp Crowns in a 33 ft boat), .... but she is a 63 year old boat so I take it easy on her anyway.


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    Default Re: almost done my '57 Chris Craft Cruiser restoration, and seek final engine advice

    One way to go about it would be to find a pair of original flywheel forward engines and swap in a pair of 350 crate long blocks.
    That would be a neat upgrade Ned, but talk about spending all the money! I have to think that's the most expensive option of everything on the table. I imagine that FF 283s are getting rare and pricey, no?
    - Chris

    Life is short. Go boating now!

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    Default Re: almost done my '57 Chris Craft Cruiser restoration, and seek final engine advice

    I have seen ‘CC185’s for 500-1000 each. Crate 350’s can be had for about 2k each. Do the work yourself and you might squeak by with 6-7 k ready for the pair to go in the boat.

    They sure would cut down on the open space in the engine room though.

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    Default Re: almost done my '57 Chris Craft Cruiser restoration, and seek final engine advice

    Quote Originally Posted by nedL View Post
    I have seen ‘CC185’s for 500-1000 each. Crate 350’s can be had for about 2k each. Do the work yourself and you might squeak by with 6-7 k ready to go in the boat.
    Hm - that's a lot less than I figured. Could you use the original reduction gear? If so that might be a reasonable option. Otherwise a pair of rebuilt velvet drives is going to add another $3k. Add a few thousand for miscellaneous parts. Maybe $15k all up for that setup. But I still think that rebuilding the original motors will be far less than that and if the main goal is to save money then the stock setup is the way to go.
    - Chris

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    Default Re: almost done my '57 Chris Craft Cruiser restoration, and seek final engine advice

    Years ago we ran the old flathead 4 and 6 cylinder Hercules / Continental engine in our Lymans.
    Engine parts we were able to source about an hour south of us in the Canton, Ohio area at more of an industrial; towmotor parts place than marine...read less expensive...
    Can't recall the name of the place, but if it comes to me I'll update here...
    Ignition parts we were able to get close to home from a good old fashioned auto parts store the had a guy who new his stuff... not a kid in a chain store reading a computer...
    Just saying it might not be near as expensive as you think with some creative sourcing on your part... of course if you can handle the mechanical work yourself that will save bucks too.
    Good luck.
    Like to see some pics of your restoration too if you can.

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    Default Re: almost done my '57 Chris Craft Cruiser restoration, and seek final engine advice

    I thank all posters for the insight offered. great feedback. Now I'm convinced, skip the 283s, consider the Mercruiser V6s, OR rebuild my in-line Hercules 6 cyclinders.

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    Default Re: almost done my '57 Chris Craft Cruiser restoration, and seek final engine advice

    Probably the rebuild will be the best economy, especially of you can do the assembly yourself.
    It is not uncommon on disassembly to find marine engines with little or no wear in the bores. (No dust out there!)
    You might get by with rings, bearings and a valve job, good for another 59 years.

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    Default Re: almost done my '57 Chris Craft Cruiser restoration, and seek final engine advice

    The above is what I would do, for a range of reasons, some of them practical ; )

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    Default Re: almost done my '57 Chris Craft Cruiser restoration, and seek final engine advice

    strongly considering rebuild. now I need to research costs of such parts, and cost to rebuild the heads.

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    Default Re: almost done my '57 Chris Craft Cruiser restoration, and seek final engine advice

    It's a flathead no?
    About $50 to mill it flat...

    http://www.finewoodboats.com/Hercule...ld%20Parts.htm

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    Default Re: almost done my '57 Chris Craft Cruiser restoration, and seek final engine advice

    Doing a compression test will give you an indication of the condition of the engines.
    A bore scope will let you get a peek inside.
    Dropping the oil pan and seeing whats in there is also something I would do.
    They are pretty tough engines, might not need much internal work, if they have been cared for in the past.
    How did they run before?

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    Default Re: almost done my '57 Chris Craft Cruiser restoration, and seek final engine advice

    Thanks for all of the insight. very valuable.
    Now I will focus on researching parts to rebuild my straight 6's. I am attaching pics of the boat, as purchased, since currently I have a million projects going on simultaneously and not one of them complete to take better pics!)

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    Default Re: almost done my '57 Chris Craft Cruiser restoration, and seek final engine advice

    having trouble posting pics.........????

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    Default Re: almost done my '57 Chris Craft Cruiser restoration, and seek final engine advice

    If posting from a url be sure to uncheck the radio button that says Retrieve remote file and reference locally


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    Default Re: almost done my '57 Chris Craft Cruiser restoration, and seek final engine advice


  32. #32
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    Default Re: almost done my '57 Chris Craft Cruiser restoration, and seek final engine advice

    Wow! Looking great! I wish Peter Malcom Jardine were still posting here, he could've offered a ton of good advice.
    "If it ain't broke, you're not trying." - Red Green

  33. #33
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    Default Re: almost done my '57 Chris Craft Cruiser restoration, and seek final engine advice

    He might have suggested a pair of Arduns

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    Default Re: almost done my '57 Chris Craft Cruiser restoration, and seek final engine advice

    Arduns???

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    Default Re: almost done my '57 Chris Craft Cruiser restoration, and seek final engine advice

    Tongue in cheek, but he is the only guy I know that actually ran an Arden. I came within a paycheck of buying the set-up back in the '60s

    https://www.ardun.com/history


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