1968 Commander 23' from Fiumicino (Italy)

1968 Commander 23' from Fiumicino (Italy)

thibaud
thibaud

November 25th, 2007, 11:17 am #1

Hello all,

I have been a long time lurker here in this great forum, looking for information about Commander and Lancer 23'.

I now take the plunge of posting here since I have just found and bought in France a 1968 Chris Craft built in the Fiumicino plant in Italy (very few CC in Europe from that era are from the States).

Basically the hull and deck structures are in good shape but all the interior need to be rebuilt. The estimated 700 hours work (complete restoration and repowering, like new) will start in a renowned French shipyard next week.

Originally, I was looking for a Lancer Transdrive, but when I saw the boat, at first sight I thought it was a Commander because there was no fish-tank at the rear of the boat. However, I saw also that it was not a V-drive but a Z-drive (Transdrive). Therefore, according to the existing litterature (mainly CC Essential Guide), it was not possible that the boat could be a Commander.

Now that I have the papers with me, I am surprised because according to them, the boat has the following hull number : FRAZ-23-6008
If I understand correctly the CC nomenclature, it should seems the following :
- F : Fiberglass Division (in that case, Commander division, not the Corsair one which is O)
- R : Runabout
- A : first type of deck design
- Z : Z drive
- 23 : 23' length
- 6 : 6th year of production
- 008 : 8th boat build during that year

The papers also state that the year of production is 1968 in Fiumicino. Then, if I still remember correctly, the Lancers 23' production has started in 1966 and the Commanders in 1968 (but that was in the US. The hull number should then be FRAZ-23-008 (if it is a Commander) or ORAZ-23-2008 (if it is a Lancer).

I suspect there is an error on the papers but as I still did not find the plate on the boat, I cannot confirm yet. Moreover, the boat has been imported from Italy to France in December 1968 (there is still the custom stamp on the papers) ; so it cannot has been built in 1971 like the hull number suggests...

Then my questions :
- I know that the Fiumicino plant was building Lancers, but I did not know about it was also building Commanders. Have you ever heard about that?
- For me, Commanders were only V drive. Since the boat seems to be a true Commander and not a Lancer (because of no fish-tank at the rear and the hull starting with "F"), how possible that boat could be a Commander with a Z drive?

In other words : is the boat a Lancer or a Commander?

I am quite puzzled about that.

Many thanks for your help

thibaud
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Bill
Bill

November 25th, 2007, 6:00 pm #2

Hello Thibaud,
Sounds like you have a unique Chris Craft 23. Can you either post photos of your boat or send an email to Paul ( chriscraftcommander@hotmail.com )as he can then post them for us to see.
I am interested in knowing if your boat is set up w/ a bench rear seat or 2 jump seats on either side of the motor box? That will tell us something.
We have become aware of another 23 model from Italy, "Montecarlo". Looks like a cross between a 23 commander and a Riva aquarama. Looking forward to seeing your 23.
Thanks for sharing info.
Good luck,
Bill P
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Paul
Paul

November 25th, 2007, 7:00 pm #3

Hello all,

I have been a long time lurker here in this great forum, looking for information about Commander and Lancer 23'.

I now take the plunge of posting here since I have just found and bought in France a 1968 Chris Craft built in the Fiumicino plant in Italy (very few CC in Europe from that era are from the States).

Basically the hull and deck structures are in good shape but all the interior need to be rebuilt. The estimated 700 hours work (complete restoration and repowering, like new) will start in a renowned French shipyard next week.

Originally, I was looking for a Lancer Transdrive, but when I saw the boat, at first sight I thought it was a Commander because there was no fish-tank at the rear of the boat. However, I saw also that it was not a V-drive but a Z-drive (Transdrive). Therefore, according to the existing litterature (mainly CC Essential Guide), it was not possible that the boat could be a Commander.

Now that I have the papers with me, I am surprised because according to them, the boat has the following hull number : FRAZ-23-6008
If I understand correctly the CC nomenclature, it should seems the following :
- F : Fiberglass Division (in that case, Commander division, not the Corsair one which is O)
- R : Runabout
- A : first type of deck design
- Z : Z drive
- 23 : 23' length
- 6 : 6th year of production
- 008 : 8th boat build during that year

The papers also state that the year of production is 1968 in Fiumicino. Then, if I still remember correctly, the Lancers 23' production has started in 1966 and the Commanders in 1968 (but that was in the US. The hull number should then be FRAZ-23-008 (if it is a Commander) or ORAZ-23-2008 (if it is a Lancer).

I suspect there is an error on the papers but as I still did not find the plate on the boat, I cannot confirm yet. Moreover, the boat has been imported from Italy to France in December 1968 (there is still the custom stamp on the papers) ; so it cannot has been built in 1971 like the hull number suggests...

Then my questions :
- I know that the Fiumicino plant was building Lancers, but I did not know about it was also building Commanders. Have you ever heard about that?
- For me, Commanders were only V drive. Since the boat seems to be a true Commander and not a Lancer (because of no fish-tank at the rear and the hull starting with "F"), how possible that boat could be a Commander with a Z drive?

In other words : is the boat a Lancer or a Commander?

I am quite puzzled about that.

Many thanks for your help

thibaud
Hello Thibaud, “Welcome Aboard !”

We’ve known for quite some time that we had a good international readership from France, including Didier and Serge, and we’re happy to have you as a reader and participant here too.

Since I’m so long winded today, I see Bill has beaten me to a response to your note. Good going Bill! I was probably looking through the EG when you were responding!

I think your hull is most likely a 23' Lancer, which means it's a highly desirable boat, with great performance and desirability. It would still be very close to the Commander family tree.

As you know, the 23’ Lancer and 23’ Commander hulls are nearly identical, the drivetrain and some relatively minor trim and fitting-out issues being the main difference. I’m curious to see if there were any early transfer papers you may have that referred to the boat in one way or another, and if there are any badges on the boat that would suggest Chris Craft actually introduced the Commander name in Europe, the latter of which I am not aware of.

In any case, there are plenty of (19') Commanders out there with Z drives, and tons of Lancers, and in this era the same Z drive that went into and XK-19, lots of Corsairs, and Lancers, would probably bolt directly into the 23’ Lancer.

Technically, and through word-of-mouth, I am not aware of any boats being built in Europe that had the “Commander” name. I’m no expert on this, I’m just an enthusiast, and an eager forensic historian, so maybe we’ll both learn something new here.

We wish you all the best with this restoration, and we’d be delighted if you would document it and share it here on the Forum. Even if it proves not to be a Commander by name, it still retains much of the essence of the Commander series, with an interesting European twist too. We don’t hear all that much about the Fiumicino operations, and I would love to learn more.

The “F” designation in the serial number most likely does not refer to “Fiberglass” simply because there are so many other fiberglass models that don’t have that designation. The “F” designation does appear to be unique to the Commander series. The “O” designation for the Corsair Division first appeared in 1963 before any Commanders were built, the 17.5’ XL170 and XL175 Sun Lounger Transdrive/Sport-V being one example of three models beginning in 1963.

The “R” designation does appear to designate the “Runabout” model, and I don’t know if this is by coincidence or a fact, but looking over the models suggests this is correct. I have never seen anything in print mentioning this, so this may be a new tidbit of info we’ve learned today here on the Forum! (We’re always on the lookout for tidbits, by the way!)

The “A” designation is used on inboard and transdrive boats, but all seem to have a forward deck and similar type of windshield, but the FRBV Commander of 1969 is the same boat as the FRAV of the preceding year.

The “Z” we know has to do with the type of drivetrain.

Since the ORA (Corsair) designs and Commander designs were basically designed during the same time frame, and simply badged as a Corsair or Commander by the marketing and sales departments, and were all under the same management, engineering, and styling teams, either badge placed on this boat is going to be a “badge of honor”.

The FRAV and FRAZ 19’ Commanders were built (first) in 1969. They rolled off the exact same assembly line as the ORCZ and ORAV XK-19 Corsairs that followed in 1970-75. They’re the exact same boat except for the badge, and a some minor detail changes.

The ORAZ (1966-68) 23’ Lancer hull series appeared first, and continued as the ORBZ, ORCZ, and ORDZ through model year 1977. The 23’ Commander appeared in the marketing brochures for a very short time frame, in 1969 and 1969 with 50 and 65 boats being built, during those two short years of production. Therefore, the V-drive configuration in a 23’ boat is probably limited to the 115 23’ Commanders built those years, and the 90 19’ Commander SS of 1969, the 75 XK-19 hulls built in 1970, and the rare 23’ Lancer Premiere/Custom Super Sport of 1979, of which 25 were built, all with 427 power and V-drives (all in the Cortland, NY, Thompson/Chris Craft Corsair Division plant). That’s a run of 305 V-drive Chris Craft runabouts, and that is a relatively low production number for this many hull designs.

During this time frame the Z drive (outdrive, or “transdrive” as Chris Craft called it) was gaining popularity due to the interior design layout implications and the performance features of being able to adjust the prop propulsion angle, engineering developments, etc., and the fact that Jim Wynne of offshore racing fame (and the designer of the wetted hull) was largely responsible for introducing this concept to the boating world in the first place.

Now you’re probably wondering why I got off onto the long conversation about V-drives and Z-drives? It’s to illustrate the fact that the Commander run of 23’ hulls was very limited and only included 115 hulls, before Chris Craft decided it was better positioned in the Lancer market sector. There were 2613 23’ hulls manufactured under the Lancer name (in the US), and it is unknown how many of these very popular 23’ hulls were built in the Fiumicino, Italy, Chris Craft plant. In any case, the 23 is a well proven and timeless hull design, sharing the offshore racing technology of Jim Wynne and the styling expertise of Dick Avery. It’s a wonderful combination regardless of the badge placed on the boat.

Due to the short run of 23’ Commanders and the overwhelming production numbers of the 23’ Lancer, I’d say your boat is probably a Lancer. It may be a slip of a pen back at Chris Craft Corporation. The only FRAZ built in the US appears to be the 19’ Commander SS of 1969, of which only 15 received the FRAZ designation.

The papers you have with the hull number designation should be researched more fully. It’s one of those trivia questions that can drive people up the wall, but it’s also one of those obscure pieces of history that can be so interesting too. Look further for a hull number on the boat. Look underneath the forward and rear hulls for laminated-in numbers. Look also right below the rub rail on the Starboard aft section of the outside hull and the frontal port section of the same location, for some small cast-into-the-gelcoat numbers.

I don’t know how they did all the hulls in Europe, but here is how they did some of the hulls at Cortland, New York (Corsair division). This is from my 1966 20’ fiberglass Sea Skiff.


More prevalent on the Lancers, are stick on block letters that were adhered to the hull, either up front or in the aft motor area, which were then covered over with a layer of clear polyester. Look for something like that on your hull !

Who knows, if the FRAZ designation is correct, you may have the one and only! In any case, it’s a great hull design, congratulations, good luck on the restoration, and we hope it gives you many years of enjoyment. Get ready for lots of positive comments!

As Bill noted, I’ll be happy to post any photos you may have. You can send them to me at [url=mailto:chriscraftcommander@hotmail.com]chriscraftcommander@hotmail.com[/url]

Regards,

Paul
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thibaud
thibaud

November 25th, 2007, 8:34 pm #4

Hello Thibaud,
Sounds like you have a unique Chris Craft 23. Can you either post photos of your boat or send an email to Paul ( chriscraftcommander@hotmail.com )as he can then post them for us to see.
I am interested in knowing if your boat is set up w/ a bench rear seat or 2 jump seats on either side of the motor box? That will tell us something.
We have become aware of another 23 model from Italy, "Montecarlo". Looks like a cross between a 23 commander and a Riva aquarama. Looking forward to seeing your 23.
Thanks for sharing info.
Good luck,
Bill P
Sadly, I forgot to take my camera yesterday on the shipyard.
But as I plan to go there every month or so to view the work in progress, I will undoubtly take pics and post them here as soon as possible.

Waiting for that, I can try to describe the cockpit, depsite it is in abysmal shape (everything needs to be rebuild) :
- from what the shipyard master says, the deck has never been modified. Therefore, there was no fish-tank since the beggining (one could imagine that it has been suppressed during a past restructuring between 1968 and now)
- from what I have seen looking at the cockpit structures, the boat "could" has been a Montecarlo one (large sundeck at the rear, no back to back seats)

But :
- the shape of the cockpit is so bad that there is no more seat (no seat for the driver in the starboard, no port side seat, nor rear one) so I cannot confirm
- the hull number of Oscar's Montecarlo is ORAV-23-7036 (Lancer) vs FRAZ-23-6008 (Commander) for my boat
- the hull is red, (not blue) and it seems to be the original color


I will ask the guy to take some photos for me (I live 400 miles from there).
I keep you posted !

thibaud
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Dave Mehl
Dave Mehl

November 25th, 2007, 9:14 pm #5

From the description, it's a European model we did not get here in the US. The restoration shop should be sending you photos by email to keep you informed about their work, and to demonstrate the progress they are making for you. When you get those, we sure would like to see them here.

Congratulations, good luck with the boat.

Dave
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thibaud
thibaud

November 25th, 2007, 9:23 pm #6

Hello Thibaud, “Welcome Aboard !”

We’ve known for quite some time that we had a good international readership from France, including Didier and Serge, and we’re happy to have you as a reader and participant here too.

Since I’m so long winded today, I see Bill has beaten me to a response to your note. Good going Bill! I was probably looking through the EG when you were responding!

I think your hull is most likely a 23' Lancer, which means it's a highly desirable boat, with great performance and desirability. It would still be very close to the Commander family tree.

As you know, the 23’ Lancer and 23’ Commander hulls are nearly identical, the drivetrain and some relatively minor trim and fitting-out issues being the main difference. I’m curious to see if there were any early transfer papers you may have that referred to the boat in one way or another, and if there are any badges on the boat that would suggest Chris Craft actually introduced the Commander name in Europe, the latter of which I am not aware of.

In any case, there are plenty of (19') Commanders out there with Z drives, and tons of Lancers, and in this era the same Z drive that went into and XK-19, lots of Corsairs, and Lancers, would probably bolt directly into the 23’ Lancer.

Technically, and through word-of-mouth, I am not aware of any boats being built in Europe that had the “Commander” name. I’m no expert on this, I’m just an enthusiast, and an eager forensic historian, so maybe we’ll both learn something new here.

We wish you all the best with this restoration, and we’d be delighted if you would document it and share it here on the Forum. Even if it proves not to be a Commander by name, it still retains much of the essence of the Commander series, with an interesting European twist too. We don’t hear all that much about the Fiumicino operations, and I would love to learn more.

The “F” designation in the serial number most likely does not refer to “Fiberglass” simply because there are so many other fiberglass models that don’t have that designation. The “F” designation does appear to be unique to the Commander series. The “O” designation for the Corsair Division first appeared in 1963 before any Commanders were built, the 17.5’ XL170 and XL175 Sun Lounger Transdrive/Sport-V being one example of three models beginning in 1963.

The “R” designation does appear to designate the “Runabout” model, and I don’t know if this is by coincidence or a fact, but looking over the models suggests this is correct. I have never seen anything in print mentioning this, so this may be a new tidbit of info we’ve learned today here on the Forum! (We’re always on the lookout for tidbits, by the way!)

The “A” designation is used on inboard and transdrive boats, but all seem to have a forward deck and similar type of windshield, but the FRBV Commander of 1969 is the same boat as the FRAV of the preceding year.

The “Z” we know has to do with the type of drivetrain.

Since the ORA (Corsair) designs and Commander designs were basically designed during the same time frame, and simply badged as a Corsair or Commander by the marketing and sales departments, and were all under the same management, engineering, and styling teams, either badge placed on this boat is going to be a “badge of honor”.

The FRAV and FRAZ 19’ Commanders were built (first) in 1969. They rolled off the exact same assembly line as the ORCZ and ORAV XK-19 Corsairs that followed in 1970-75. They’re the exact same boat except for the badge, and a some minor detail changes.

The ORAZ (1966-68) 23’ Lancer hull series appeared first, and continued as the ORBZ, ORCZ, and ORDZ through model year 1977. The 23’ Commander appeared in the marketing brochures for a very short time frame, in 1969 and 1969 with 50 and 65 boats being built, during those two short years of production. Therefore, the V-drive configuration in a 23’ boat is probably limited to the 115 23’ Commanders built those years, and the 90 19’ Commander SS of 1969, the 75 XK-19 hulls built in 1970, and the rare 23’ Lancer Premiere/Custom Super Sport of 1979, of which 25 were built, all with 427 power and V-drives (all in the Cortland, NY, Thompson/Chris Craft Corsair Division plant). That’s a run of 305 V-drive Chris Craft runabouts, and that is a relatively low production number for this many hull designs.

During this time frame the Z drive (outdrive, or “transdrive” as Chris Craft called it) was gaining popularity due to the interior design layout implications and the performance features of being able to adjust the prop propulsion angle, engineering developments, etc., and the fact that Jim Wynne of offshore racing fame (and the designer of the wetted hull) was largely responsible for introducing this concept to the boating world in the first place.

Now you’re probably wondering why I got off onto the long conversation about V-drives and Z-drives? It’s to illustrate the fact that the Commander run of 23’ hulls was very limited and only included 115 hulls, before Chris Craft decided it was better positioned in the Lancer market sector. There were 2613 23’ hulls manufactured under the Lancer name (in the US), and it is unknown how many of these very popular 23’ hulls were built in the Fiumicino, Italy, Chris Craft plant. In any case, the 23 is a well proven and timeless hull design, sharing the offshore racing technology of Jim Wynne and the styling expertise of Dick Avery. It’s a wonderful combination regardless of the badge placed on the boat.

Due to the short run of 23’ Commanders and the overwhelming production numbers of the 23’ Lancer, I’d say your boat is probably a Lancer. It may be a slip of a pen back at Chris Craft Corporation. The only FRAZ built in the US appears to be the 19’ Commander SS of 1969, of which only 15 received the FRAZ designation.

The papers you have with the hull number designation should be researched more fully. It’s one of those trivia questions that can drive people up the wall, but it’s also one of those obscure pieces of history that can be so interesting too. Look further for a hull number on the boat. Look underneath the forward and rear hulls for laminated-in numbers. Look also right below the rub rail on the Starboard aft section of the outside hull and the frontal port section of the same location, for some small cast-into-the-gelcoat numbers.

I don’t know how they did all the hulls in Europe, but here is how they did some of the hulls at Cortland, New York (Corsair division). This is from my 1966 20’ fiberglass Sea Skiff.


More prevalent on the Lancers, are stick on block letters that were adhered to the hull, either up front or in the aft motor area, which were then covered over with a layer of clear polyester. Look for something like that on your hull !

Who knows, if the FRAZ designation is correct, you may have the one and only! In any case, it’s a great hull design, congratulations, good luck on the restoration, and we hope it gives you many years of enjoyment. Get ready for lots of positive comments!

As Bill noted, I’ll be happy to post any photos you may have. You can send them to me at [url=mailto:chriscraftcommander@hotmail.com]chriscraftcommander@hotmail.com[/url]

Regards,

Paul
Hello Paul,

In the place I will use the boat in France, there are quite a lot of Lancers :
- around 10 19'
- at least 15 23'
- no more than 2 25'

Almost all of them are from Italy, according to the owners I have met.

For example, a friend of mine owns a 1968 Lancer Transdrive from Italy in the same place : it has an ORAZ-23-2xxx hull number as well as the fish-tank at the rear. The papers state that it is a Lancer (mine state Commander).

Also, I have hesitated for a while in buying another CC Commander 23 in the South of France. It is a true V drive, has a blue hull and is from Italy according to the seller. Unfortunately I have not seen the hull number.

An intersting point about the papers delivered in that era by the French boating administration :
- My friend's Lancer is listed as a Lancer by the French administration and is officaly 7.03 meters long.
- My boat, presumably a Lancer but listed as a Commander by the French administration is officialy 6.60 meters long. Of course that does not reflect the reality. One could then easily imagine this is another mistake about the lenght on the papers. But :
- The blue Commander (V-drive) mentionned above is listed as a Commander by the administration and is also listed as 6.60 meters long on ots papers !

So that would mean the French administration refers to 2 different boats, despite the hull is strictly the same.

Anyway, we may think there could has been a Commander production in Fiumicino. The plant has produced for sure "classic" Lancers 23' (as well as 19' & 25') with Z-drives (and a ORAZ-23-xxxx hull number), like my friend's Lancer.
But the plant may has produced :
- "classic" 23' Commanders with V-drives (and a FRAV-23-xxxx hull number), like the blue one mentionned
- 23' Commanders with Z-drives, (and a FRAZ-23-xxxx hull number) like my boat

Of course, this is only an assumption from myself based on the few elements I am aware of. It seems anyway that the French boating administration was not very drastic in its measures during the 60's !

The shipyard my boat is currently lying in has totally rebuilt about 30 Lancers during the past 20 years (as weel as Bertrams, wooden Riva, Gar Wood, wooden CC etc...), most of them still being cruising in the place.

I will ask the master who has a deep knowledge in Lancers and Commanders if he can inquire about that.

I keep you posted.

thibaud
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Paul
Paul

November 26th, 2007, 1:00 am #7

Your info about the European scene is a great piece of the puzzle. We've received other pieces from the Oelgarts from Spain, Malcom from Malta, Rickard from Sweden, Didier and Serge from France, and some others too. All these pieces help build the puzzle of what happened 30 or 40 years ago.

The blue hull 23' Commander sounds genuine, and it could well have been an imported boat from the US. If we can verify any Commanders were actually built in Italy, that would be some very interesting news.

It sounds like you have your boat in a premium shop, and I am sure the results will be VERY REWARDING.

Keep us posted, we'll help in any way we are able to.

Regards,

Paul
FXA-38-3004-R
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thibaud
thibaud

February 18th, 2008, 5:02 pm #8

Sadly, I forgot to take my camera yesterday on the shipyard.
But as I plan to go there every month or so to view the work in progress, I will undoubtly take pics and post them here as soon as possible.

Waiting for that, I can try to describe the cockpit, depsite it is in abysmal shape (everything needs to be rebuild) :
- from what the shipyard master says, the deck has never been modified. Therefore, there was no fish-tank since the beggining (one could imagine that it has been suppressed during a past restructuring between 1968 and now)
- from what I have seen looking at the cockpit structures, the boat "could" has been a Montecarlo one (large sundeck at the rear, no back to back seats)

But :
- the shape of the cockpit is so bad that there is no more seat (no seat for the driver in the starboard, no port side seat, nor rear one) so I cannot confirm
- the hull number of Oscar's Montecarlo is ORAV-23-7036 (Lancer) vs FRAZ-23-6008 (Commander) for my boat
- the hull is red, (not blue) and it seems to be the original color


I will ask the guy to take some photos for me (I live 400 miles from there).
I keep you posted !

thibaud
Ok, I went to the shipyard the past week. Work is now well advanced, but there is still a lot to do. Inside the boat, all the wooden structure has been taken away and replaced by a new stratified wood one. Almost one week was needed to remove the old structure.
Teck floor has already been fitted in the cockpit and on the inside floor. The trunk is ready to receive a brand new engine.
Holes on the deck have all been filled up. Same for stern and the I/O.
The whole hull is now waiting for a lot of sanding + painting.
The aluminium windshield was in a so bad shape (rust) than a new one is currently being built in mahogany to get the best effect.

Next steps are then :
- sanding
- undercoat
- sanding
- undercoat
- painting
- new made to measures gasoline tank
- mahogany work (windshield, coaming, seats, bench), as all interior will now be made of precious wood
- upholstery + cover
- teck work (floor, bath platform)
- electricity
- new engine
- deck equipement (step pads, original cleats, original emblems, hydraulic jacks for the trunk...)

The boat should be ready for next June. Enclosed (if it woks) are some pics :

trunk


stern


port_side


place_for_tank


more photos in next thread...............................







edit comments: Fabulous restoration documentation! I posted the remainder of your photos in the next two threads, so they don't load up a single thread with so much memory requirements. Paul

Last edited by FEfinaticP on February 18th, 2008, 6:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Thibaud
Thibaud

February 18th, 2008, 6:26 pm #9

hull_02




helm


floor


floor


more photos in next posting...........
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Thibaud
Thibaud

February 18th, 2008, 6:29 pm #10

deck


deck


bow

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