1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Motion Windows’ Response (long rant)

The helm windshield has been a non-stop pain in the butt for about as long as I can remember on this refit. First there was all the work cleaning and repairing the original windshield frames. Then the bastard thieves stole some of the aluminum extrusions when they cleaned the tent out in May 2014. Then the master fabricator who built the replacement windshield made it so it didn’t fit the opening, so we had to break open the hard top and cabin top paint and do fiberglass and fillet work all over again. And then, when the new windshield frame was all sparkly, painted in metallic black Awlgrip and finally–FINALLY!!!–installed on the boat, Motion Windows sent me some windows that were too big for the holes, and they attached a bunch of parts I don’t want or need.

I sent an email complaint to Jeff at Motion Windows with lots of pictures showing the problems. Here are the responses from Motion on the various issues:

In my initial email to Motion, I explained that I wanted a center window with fixed lower glass and an upper window that opens with top-mounted hinges. Black powder coat. Tinted glass. And I sent along pictures of another Chris Craft windshield so Motion could see what I was attempting to replicate.

Center-opening windshield with centrally-mounted linear actuator

Center-opening windshield with centrally-mounted linear actuator and side latches to keep it closed in rough conditions

The linear actuator in the pic above is manually operated. But the bigger boats, like my Roamer, use chrome and bronze electromechanical units that work with the flip of a switch.

Roamer windshield opener circa 2007

Note the center window hinges and latches...and nothing else

Note the center window hinges and latches in Motion’s drawing…and nothing else

Motion window came with high pressure gas springs that I didn't ask for

Surprise! Motion’s window came with high pressure gas springs that I didn’t ask for or want

The opening window frame also has a center handle welded to it, presumably to make it easier to manually open and close. The problem is, just like the picture I sent them shows, these old Chris Crafts have linear actuators that open the window for you. The gas springs and handle are unsightly and will interfere with my 1969-vintage chrome and bronze linear actuator. In response to this complaint, Motion Windows said [my response to each claim in brackets]:

You ordered a top-hinge Series 1275 window. You did not communicate any specific requirements in your request [Demonstrably false per my initial email]. You received the part as ordered [Demonstrably false per Motion’s own drawings]. We do not offer drawings of every particular part on our window and product improvements are made periodically to enhance the look and function of our product line [Fine, but is it too much to ask that you describe your enhancements in the drawings you provide? After all, they show the hinges and latches…why not gas springs and handles]. All drawings and internet photos are an example only and are never intended to represent an actual part ordered. This window is received in the industry as absolutely the best hinged window on the market [No doubt, but that has absolutely nothing to do with this particular issue]. Speaking of looking goofy, the use of a center-mounted linear actuator instead of using the window as intended fits that description.

Several of Jeff’s initial comments were demonstrably false, but I can easily attribute them to a busy guy running a busy shop who simply forgot all of the things we had discussed and pictures I’d sent him. It’s a mark of laziness that he didn’t check our email correspondence to confirm his beliefs were in line with the facts, but at least I can understand where he might be coming from.

But that last comment–the snarky one where Motion Windows tells me that Chris Craft’s center windshield linear actuator looks goofy–struck me as profoundly stupid. I imagine a teenager with a big wing, spoilers, and a fart can muffler on his Honda Civic making the same sort of idiotic comment about a fully restored 1959 Cadillac: “STUPID FINS, old man! You need to put a wing on that for downforce!!!” Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and Motion Windows’ opinion about what’s goofy or cool is completely irrelevant on my boat. Further, the dashboard on my Roamer is 5 feet deep. So climbing up on the dash and crawling forward to manually open the windshield the way the punks at Motion think it ought to be done doesn’t strike me as the coolest maneuver. What IS cool is flipping the switch and having the old chrome and bronze electromechanical actuator do its stuff. Either way, I feel this was extremely unprofessional of Motion.

The next issue I raised was about the windows not fitting the holes in spite of me having sent templates that fit without interference. I copied the following from Motion’s online instructions for measuring window openings:

“Making Patterns
Sometimes on an odd size or unusual shaped window,  it is necessary to make a pattern of the Hole Size Opening.  To make a tracing  or  template,  simply  remove  the  existing  window,  hold  or  tape  a  piece  of  paper  (butcher  paper,  poster  paper, cardboard, etc.) to the  Inside Wall  and accurately trace the hole opening from the outside.  Do not trim the paper after tracing the hole opening.  Make sure your lines are thin and clear and represent the hole size of both the inside and outside.”

Granted, I used 1/4″ luan plywood instead of flexible paper. These windows are big and it’s easier to get accurate templates with plywood than with paper taped to the frames. I sent pictures of the luan patterns to Motion in my 2nd initial email, showing the tight clearance all around between the templates and the frames. I asked if the patterns would suffice, and Motion told me they looked good and to mark the windows in a very particular way, which I did.

Luan pattern fits perfectly INSIDE the hole all the way around

Luan pattern fits perfectly INSIDE the hole all the way around

Close fit, per Motion's instructions

Close fit, per Motion’s instructions

After Motion received the templates and sent me the quote and final drawings, I recalled the problems I’d had with the bow seat windows being too big (that time, too, I’d sent hole size templates but the windows came back too big). So I called to verify that no part of the window would be bigger than the template. Jeff at Motion said the templates were “very good,” and that the windows would be no larger than the drawings, which listed dimensions that were just slightly smaller than the templates I’d sent. If they’re smaller than the templates, they’ll definitely fit in the holes.

But when the windows arrived, I made the mistake of only test fitting one window before asking my crew of guys to come out help get the windows and trim installed the following Saturday. While the one window just happened to fit perfectly, its inside trim ring did not when we went to install it. And neither of the other windows fit in their respective holes. I ended up losing $900 in labor and sending the guys home after three hours. Here is Motion’s response on the windows being too big [my comments in brackets]:

You are correct that it is a horrible assumption to expect a perfect fit for custom ordered parts in only test fitting one part. The biggest mistake you made in this process is not following the order instructions [Demonstrably false, per our emails and Motion’s online instructions]. We are clear and consistent in our request for patterns of the rough cut openings yet you insisted in sending patterns of the part you wanted built to fit these holes.[Demonstrably false; the only thing I insisted on was that the parts could not be larger than the pattern, and I marked the pattern exactly as Jeff at Motion instructed]. Had you sent patterns of the holes, a normal reduction would have been made to those patterns for correct fit [Demonstrably false–my email clearly stated that the patterns were of the holes. The pictures verify that point]. By sending actual part build patterns that were so tight in tolerance to your hole openings you negated that process [Demonstrably false; the patterns were of the window holes. I never said “Make the frames this size.”]. We were clear that all build dimensions are subject to manufacturing tolerance of +/- 1/8” [Demonstrably false–nowhere on Motion’s drawing does it say +/- 1/8”, and Jeff never mentioned when we were talking on the phone that he might make them 1/8″ long]. We were clearly within these tolerances [Demonstrably false, as discussed next].

That last point about build tolerances is particularly galling, since my phone records support my memory of calling Motion several times to remind them not to make the windows–not even the welds–any bigger than the templates. Jeff at Motion had assured me the parts would be no bigger than the drawings, which were based on the templates.  But in his patronizing response he seems to have completely forgotten those discussions and the emails I sent.

The next issue I raised was about the inner clamp rings not fitting. The center window clamp ring fit fine, but the port and starboard ones weren’t even close–3/8″ too big to fit in the window hole. Which is a roughly 3x the “+-1/8″ tolerance” Jeff claimed to have built the frames to.

The corners of the clamp ring don't fit into the window opening

The corners of the clamp ring don’t fit into the window opening

The clamp ring won't fit because it's 3/16" too long in the corners

The clamp ring (the part on top) won’t fit because it’s 3/16″ too long in the corners; 2 corners = 3/8″ too big

I did not specify how the clamp rings should be oriented, but the three bow seat windows and the center windshield all had the clamp ring oriented outside the window hole, not inset as in the picture above. Since Motion had my patterns, if they wanted the clamp rings to fit inside the window openings it seems like they should have assembled them so they’d be no bigger than the window frames they made. Here’s Motion’s response on that point [my comments in brackets]:

It should not have come to a surprise to you the way the trim on the port/starboard windshields was different that the center hinged window. This was stated on the order contract you signed as well as demonstrated to you on the installation samples included in your shipment [Demonstrably false; the order contract says nothing about trim ring orientation. The “installation samples” were just some scrap lengths of the extrusions without so much as a note of explanation about their purpose. But the real problem isn’t the orientation–it’s that the clamp rings don’t fit]. The trim did not fit because it has to be large enough to match the holes punched in it to line up with the screw lead in the back of the frame [translation: we didn’t even think about the trim ring fitting inside the window hole]. If we made the trim any smaller you would not be able to match the holes to the screw lead [Isn’t that the sort of thing a competent fabricator might note to the customer?]. Again, this could have been avoided by supplying hole size templates – however, with instruction to build the window size to the templates the trim naturally ended up slightly larger [Again, this is demonstrably false since I did supply hole-size templates].

That last point gets it completely wrong, I think. “Do not build the frames any larger than the templates” is quite different than  “build the window size to the templates.” If I’d only said it once in passing, I could understand the confusion. If I hadn’t mentioned that I didn’t want a repeat of the bow seat windows that they’d made too big, I’d understand. But with written instruction, drawings, templates, and the “no larger than” message being reiterated in phone calls, it’s stunning that I’m somehow to blame for the clamp rings being made too big. Never once did I say “Build the frames this size.”

Oh, and by the way…the frames didn’t fit because they were built bigger than the templates and drawings. Specifically, Motion once again failed to take into account the thickness of their admittedly robust welds. Great product…lousy execution on one little tiny but very critical point.

The final point I made was simple frustration: I don’t understand the point of spending a day making window hole-size templates and then paying to ship them across the country followed by phone call reminders to not oversize the windows if, ultimately, they make them too big 2/3 of the time.  To which Motion snarkily replied:

My fabricator did match the frame size build to the templates [Demonstrably false; the templates clearly fit in the windshield frame while the windows and clamp rings do not]. These parts were manufactured within the tolerance you accepted [Demonstrably false; Motion’s drawing and emails showed no +- tolerances, and Jeff also confirmed in our phone calls that the parts would be no bigger than the templates]. We do not call each customer to ask them if they want us to alter our normal build. If you order a Big Mac from McDonalds are you upset that they deliver it with special sauce because the cook didn’t ask if you wanted it on there? If you have a special request it is expected that you will convey that request in no uncertain terms.

That last snarky point about the Big Mac would have been a nice burn if, in fact, I had asked for a special order. But I didn’t. I made hole-size templates, just like their instructions say. I told Jeff multiple times they were hole size, and sent pix to make it perfectly clear…and they still botched the order. If I order a Big Mac, I know it might not look exactly like the picture when I open the bag, but I’m going to refuse the order if they try to hand me a vegan hot dog on a gluten-free bun. No matter how many times they mistakenly repeat that the vegan hot dog on a gluten-free bun is actually a Big Mac, I’m not going along with the insanity! Motion’s drawings, text, and the conversations we had never indicated that they intended to include gas springs and the center handle. And at no time did I tell them to modify their normal process and make the windows the size of the templates +-1/8″. The specifications I gave them and the pictures I sent were clear.

In spite of having an indisputably excellent concept, Motion Windows’ actual builds have been problematic 70% of the time. And that snarky, unprofessional response was uncalled for–Jeff could have at least consulted with his inbox to confirm that his memory was consistent with the facts.

So…that’s where the windows stand. Sorry for the long rant…it’s been cathartic just writing it down. Maybe this will serve as a warning to others who consider ordering from Motion.

Speaking of Motion Windows, it’s time to wrap up the installation of the bow seat windows. And that means I’m converting the salon back to a wood shop.

Next up on our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Galley Mahogany Panels

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7 comments on “1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Motion Windows’ Response (long rant)

  1. The old Q that I know would have had these guys in front of a judge by now and they would be begging for the opportunity to make this right. You getting soft in your old age? I’m so tempted to re-post this entry on the MutZ Secret Forum!

  2. TwoCaptains says:

    Planning to re-window the sides of my 56′ Ocean. Now I know one place I WON’T get the new windows from.

    • 1969roamer46 says:

      I can’t blame you, although it’s really too bad. But if Motion Windows can’t ensure their [otherwise outstanding] product won’t be even a small fraction of an inch larger than a plywood template of the window opening, I don’t know how else to communicate with them.
      Good luck on your Ocean.
      Cheers,
      Q

  3. tracy doriot says:

    Yikes! What a freaking nightmare. It sure seems like you did everything that would have been expected to communicate the fitment of those bad boys. As you mention, the product is pretty top notch, the execution of building the order for a critical fit application has a few holes in it. What is the resolution ? Seems like there isn’t much you can do on your end to make those fit. Can you remove the center pull and make a replacement that will integrate with the linear drive ? The gas shocks, although not necessary, would become a non-issue. Granted, it would be cleaner without them, but they are not horrifying either. Still, I know how it is to have your expectations dashed on the rocks ! Keep the faith. The only way out is thru !

    Tracy

    • 1969roamer46 says:

      At this point, I don’t know what the resolution is. I agree with everything you wrote and appreciate the commiseration. In the very least, the port and starboard clamp rings need to be cut, rewelded, drilled for the screws, and then powder coated.
      Q

  4. Scott Horslin says:

    wow… MY blood pressure is thru the roof.

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