Spectator — July 2001
By Tom Fexas
Whatever Happened to DCFBs?
|Part 2: DCFBs continued|
In the `50s many boat manufacturers such as Matthews, Richardson, Wheeler, and Huckins produced DCFB motoryachts, although Chris-Craft owned the segment. Back then Chris-Craft was what Hatteras is today: a preeminent producer of American midrange motoryachts. Most Chris-Crafts were DCFBs in sizes ranging from 34 to 53 feet. In the upper lobby at the Bahia Mar hotel in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, there is a large picture of the marina as it existed in the `50s in which I calculated about a third of the boats to be Chris-Crafts!
Chris-Craft also evolved the DCFB into its highest form: the so-called supersundeck (SSDCFB). Study the picture on the next page and you'll see the timelessness of the design. This 1955 53-foot Conqueror, contemporary to this day, remains one of my all-time favorite designs. The rounded bow and stepped sheer complement the soft superstructure. Look at the way the superstructure is handled aft, with gently rounded cabin sides curving down to a coaming surrounding the cockpit. The cockpit is covered with an integrated hardtop, and the supersundeck is enclosed on four sides, with the control station forward and two large settees fitted into it. Forward there is access down to the saloon and aft down to the cockpit.
A product or species always reaches its highest form of development just before it becomes extinct. Sadly, this was the case for Chris-Craft, which in the late `50s was subjected to a fiberglass juggernaut from North Carolina named Hatteras. Chris-Craft was slow to convert to fiberglass, and its styling lost its edge in the `60s. As a result, Chris-Craft lost its commanding market share, never to regain it.
Interestingly, about seven years ago, I was working with the president of Chris-Craft and pitched him a modern rendition of the DCFB, which I felt (and still feel) would help put Chris-Craft back on the map. It was a 50-footer as I recall, but financial woes prevented anything from ever developing. As I mentioned last month, the line of Chris-Crafts just introduced, while nice, does not draw on the immense pool of styling cues and innovations that Chris-Craft introduced in the `50s. Instead it draws from styling of the `60s, which as I said, had lost the magic.
We are presently working on a DCFB 50-foot Midnight Lace, our tribute to Chris-Crafts of the `50s, a rendering of which is shown on the previous page. After spending hours noodling this design, I can tell you that packaging everything in this configuration is a real challenge, and I now appreciate what Chris-Craft did back then. For example, the engine room must be under the saloon, just forward of amidships, which dictates the whole design.
I have faith in American boaters. I believe they will buy boats that look right even though the interior may not be as palatial as a "max-volume" boat. A famous designer once said, "When it looks right, it is right" and I thoroughly agree. DCFBs just plain look right and make a lot of sense from a whole variety of standpoints. That's why I say, bring back the DCFB!
Tom Fexas is a marine engineer and designer of powerboats. His Web site is www.tomfexas.com.
This article originally appeared in the May 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.