Chris-Craft Commander

Chris-Craft Commander

Chris-Craft Commanders are a range of cruisers built by Chris-Craft Industries.

The 1964 38’ Commander Express was the first fiberglass cruiser built by the company.

"The 38’ Commander Express cruiser was the pivotal boat in the development of fiberglass technology by Chris-Craft Industries. It was the first all-fiberglass cruiser made by Chris-Craft. Its production bridged the past to the future as it was the last design by "Mac" Mackerer who had worked for Chris-Craft as far back as 1925. The 38’ Commander Express proved to be a tremendous success for Chris-Craft resulting in the production of subsequent sedan and sport fisherman models." (Classic Boating, Jan/Feb 1998) The 38'Commander debuted at the 1964 New York Boat Show, where it caused a sensation. At the time, none of the large main line motor yacht builders (Matthews, Owens, C.P. Leeks (Pacemaker), etc) were building in fiberglass. Hatteras Yachts, which had started as a partnership between two North Carolina furniture makers, was only one of two companies making fibreglass boats over 30' in length. Pearson, generally noted for their fiberglass auxiliary sailboat cruisers was the other.

The following information is from the book: The Legacy of the Fiberglass Chris Craft Commander, ISBN 9780615334592, published 2009, reprinted 2010, by Paul Pletcher, provided here with permission from the author and publisher:

"The Chris Craft Commander line represents the first fiberglass cruiser series built by Chris Craft, commencing with the first 38’ Express designed and built in secret, and shipped to the 1964 New York Boat Show under wraps for what was a truly stunning unveiling. Fred Hudson, working in conjunction with Chris Craft’s Senior Vice President, A.W. “Bill” MacKerer, designed the first 38’ Commander Express. In subsequent years there were many more models of the Commander penned by Dick Avery, all of which have nearly flawless proportion and great attention to detail. The Commanders created a boating style of their own, flawless proportions, logical function, and the feeling of solid value. When you saw one (and see one today) you immediately think “Chris Craft”. They are known by marine surveyors, collectors, and boating enthusiast’s world-wide as “the standard” for fiberglass boat construction." It is noted that in order to enhance the accuracy of this publication, the author involved Herb Pocklington during review and who also directly contributed to the content, who served as former Chris Craft Public Relations Director, Advertizing Manager, Director of Product Planning & Styling director of product planning and styling at Chris Craft, also serving as CEO of Chris-Craft S.A. (Switzerland) and Chris-Craft Italia, during the time the Commanders listed in the lineup below were planned and manufactured:

The following information is from the book: 'Restoration of the Fiberglass Chris Craft Commander, Also Featuring Classic Fiberglass Lancer and Corsair Runabouts', ISBN 978-0-615-44519-9, published 2011, by Paul Pletcher, provided here with permission from the author and publisher:

"It became apparent that A.W. “Bill” MacKerer, who had a lifetime history at Chris Craft being responsible for so many wonderful wood hulls, and all other executives at Chris Craft were concerned about the design and structural integrity of the new 38, as well they should have been. They really did not know how strong to build the big cruiser hulls with fiberglass, as there wasn’t really any precedence within the company, and although there were other fiberglass boats being built at the time (Hatteras, for instance), nobody really knew how long the various combinations of resin and glass would endure, because the products just had not been around long enough. So in short, the company had to move into fiberglass to stay competitive, they defaulted on the side of conservatism, and the boats ended up being over-engineered, which is a good thing for owners today. Chris Craft designed the first Commanders to withstand 3 times the stress of running at wide open throttle in a six foot sea. One wonders if the hulls were not really engineered beyond that." It is noted that in order to enhance the accuracy of this publication, the author involved Herb Pocklington during review and who also directly contributed to the content (see brief bio in paragraphs above); and also involved Chris Smith, former Chris Craft employee and grandson of Christopher Columbus Smith (founder of Chris Craft) who was in charge of the actual building of the first Commander wood plug, from which the first molds were made, and who personally water tested many of these boats.


"Weekend" Commanders

Weekend Commanders range 19 feet to 28 feet length and are excellent boats for weekend fun. Some are pure runabouts reminiscent of the boating style Chris Craft helped form in the 1920s.

Others are more suited to small sport fishermen or entertaining guests on short cruises. The largest boats in this range also provide for occasional overnight capabilities. The 19' and 23' Commanders feature deep-V hulls designed by Jim Wynne and Walt Walters, of offshore racing fame, and are especially well suited for moderately rough water. The 30' Commanders have hulls designed by C. Ray Hunt, and are highly sought after for offshore fishing due to their deep-V hulls and superb rough water characteristics. Numerous options and variations existed throughout the entire model line, such as the 27' Commander which was available in an open "Sportsman" configuration with single or twin V8 motors.

The models in the range are:

19' Super Sport
27' Sports Express
28' Sports Express
30' Sportsman
30' Tournament Fisherman

"Mainstream" Commanders

Mainstream Commanders ranged from 31 to 38 feet, and owe their label "mainstream" to the simple fact that they represent by far the largest number of Commanders built. They are all boats that will accommodate families for long cruises with overnight stays, or provide for ample entertainment opportunities at sea or in port. A not-for-profit club formed to celebrate and preserve the full line of fiberglass Commanders exists at A not-for-profit Chris Craft Commander Forum, Inc., features an ongoing newsletter, photo documentation, technical tips, and restoration assistance for these boats, available at also registered as, and hosted the worlds largest gathering of Commanders in 2008/2009 on Lake Erie, at Huron, Ohio.

The models in the range are:

31 Sports Express
31' Commander
31' Sedan
33' 337 Commander
35' Commander
35' Salon
35' SportsCruiser
36' SportsCruiser
36' Tournament Fisherman
38' Commander
38' Sedan
38' Sport Fisherman

"Large" Commanders

Large Commanders range from 41 to 47 feet. They typically feature double staterooms, dual heads and shower cabins. Some of the models were available with different interior layouts. These boats will accommodate family or friends for extended cruises and provide for ample entertainment opportunities.

The models in the range are:

41' Flush Deck/Yacht
42' Commander
42' Sports Cruiser
42' Tournament Fisherman
45' Commander Flush Deck
45' Tournament Fisherman
47' Commander
47' Commander YachtFish (aft cockpit)

"Luxury" Commanders

These Mega Commanders were the state of the art luxury yachts of their time. Today, they are still awesome craft that attract attention anywhere they go, thanks to their classic design and attractive looks.

The models in the range are:

55' Commander
60' Commander

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