1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Demise of the Evil Helm Windshield Frames

In March 2013, I removed the helm windshield frame so we could rebuild the cabin top. As the paint prep work was progressing, I dug into rebuilding the windshield frame to get it ready for paint. One of the biggest problems with rebuilding the frame was that the center glass frame was missing when we got the boat back in late 2007. A buddy up in the Great Lakes was parting out a smaller Roamer, and it looked like I could use his windshield frame extrusions to manufacture a center windshield frame for my boat. After fitting all of the pieces and welding the extrusions together, I started working on improving the larger frame extrusions in preparation for reassembling the main frame. During the 2013~14 winter, I disassembled the whole windshield. It turns out those things are very complex structures, with all kinds of connectors and screws holding them together. Stainless screws in aluminum in the marine environment is a recipe for trouble, and the windshield frames gave me plenty of it. But I kept at it and eventually had all of the pieces fitting pretty good and ready for reassembly.

Frame extrusions and connectors

Most of the screws came out with a bit of work, the rest had to be drilled out. The Frearson screws that hold these frames together use an undercut head. I was able to buy replacement undercut head screws that will work, though they use standard Philips drive rather than Frearson. Even after the old screws came out, though, some of the connectors were broken.

Removing broken frame connector pieces

Removing broken frame connector pieces

I drilled a hole lengthwise into the aluminum connector that broke off in the extrusion. Then I twisted in a deck screw to give me something to clamp onto.

Mr. Broken Connector, meet Mr. Mallet

Mr. Broken Connector, meet Mr. Mallet

3 whacks and the connector came out

3 whacks and the connector came out

Scrap aluminum angle just happens to be the right size

Scrap aluminum angle just happens to be the right size

The 6061 angle has a radiused inner corner that will have to be removed, just like they did originally. I’ll also have to bend the extrusion a bit to match the original, since the windshield frames don’t have 90 degree angles.

Mark the width

Mark the width

New connector, ready for final shaping, drilling, and tapping.

New connector, ready for final shaping, drilling, and tapping

Shopsmith bandsaw removes material from the inner corner

Shopsmith bandsaw removes material from the inner corner

Fit

The new connector piece is ready to fit

Removing material to improve the fit

Removing material to improve the fit

The center uprights were contacting the cabin top on the trailing edge, leaving the forward edge floating just a bit. Taking off a bit of material from the aft edge should improve fit.

The bottom edge of the center windshield frame upright

The pic above shows one thing I didn’t like about the original design: the bottom of the windshield frame upright extrusions were open. This leaves a very narrow line for bedding compound to seal out water. It would be best to weld plates in to provide more area, but the windshield connectors cannot be installed if there are plates in the way. I could weld in plates after the windshield is assembled, but if I ever need to disassemble it again…

It’s always something.

Final fit is good!

Final fit with new connector looks good

After getting all of the windshield extrusions and connectors ready to reassemble, I left them in a neat pile out of the way on the aft deck. My plan was to give them to the painter for refinishing, then put the whole assembly together on the boat. But before I got around to that, the boat was burglarized. In addition to cleaning out all of my tools and materials, the thieves took lots of new and also original boat parts. The OE parts that were stolen consisted of the chromed bronze stanchion parts and many of the aluminum extrusions. Consensus around the boatyard and elsewhere seems to be that after grabbing high value tools and materials, the thieves went for scrap. Recycling yards in the area were paying $2.78/lbs for bronze and 6061 aluminum was $0.78 when the theft happened.

So, just when I solved most of my evil windshield problems, thieves got around $50 in scrap and imposed on me a different resolution to the evil helm windshield problem. With the OE windshield no longer even an option, I went back to the drawing board and then on to the workshop.

Next up in our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: The New Windshield Frames

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One comment on “1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Demise of the Evil Helm Windshield Frames

  1. Bill Tozer says:

    Shakes head… after all the invites to come down and help I’ve decided that there is something I can do for you. When you figure out who ripped you off let me know and I’ll fly down and hold the bass tard while you Q them! Man I hate thevies!

    Happy Thanksgiving Q!

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