1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Salon Entryway Panels

I haven’t been posting articles at my usual pace, and it’s not just the cold winter that’s slowing me down.

A while back I was moaning and groaning about how my life is a country western song. I’d replaced my beater Ford F150 with a much newer Nissan Frontier, and in no time the automatic transmission went out. In November 2015 I got it back from the shop with a two-year warranty. But within a few weeks the engine lost power. It turned out the catalytic converters had come apart, and there was evidence that the transmission shop caused that to happen by beating on the exhaust near the converters with a big hammer hard enough to dent it. Ceramic from the converters got up into the engine, and the compression had dropped pretty low. But then, as I explained at the end of My Life WAS An Old-School Country Western Song, compression came back up to normal after a few weeks of driving and everything seemed fine.

Fast forward 1,100 miles and I noticed the oil pressure gauge was dropping very low when I went around corners. I stopped to check and found there was no oil on the dipstick! I figured I must have made a mistake when I changed the oil, so I added 3.5 quarts to top it off. Fast forward another 1,000 miles, and the same thing happened again! While all of this was happening, I also had a problem with hard shifting between 2nd and 3rd that you wouldn’t notice on rough roads, but it was very obvious on the smooth roads on the way to the boatyard every weekend. So I took the truck back to the transmission shop, showed them the broken catalytic converters, pictures of the low compression readings, and the still fresh dents on the exhaust system. They took the truck, and a few days later claimed they did something to the transmission, topped up the oil, and told me to come back in 1,000 miles. Same thing happened…rough shift and very heavy oil consumption. When I called the shop, they told me to take it to the dealer to see if they could diagnose the problems. The dealer topped up the oil and told me to come back in 1,000 miles. 500 miles later, the oil had dropped to the ‘add’ line on the dipstick, so I went back. The dealer’s estimate said I needed a remanufactured transmission (they don’t recommend rebuilding) and an engine long block. They didn’t recommend replacing the engine with a used one, since you never can tell how an engine has been used or abused. They also said that since several gallons of oil had passed through my new catalytic converters, they were contaminated and should be replaced. The estimate total was $16,000.

I went a few rounds with the transmission shop before they finally accepted the warranty claim. They replaced the engine with a used one with 95,000 miles, and they replaced a part in the transmission. The engine seemed fine; it felt as powerful as when I first bought the truck. But after driving on smooth roads to the boatyard, it was clear that the transmission problem was still there. I was considering just living with it when the Service Engine Soon light came on. 50 miles later, the truck started stumbling…top speed 60mph on the flat. It was throwing codes for powertrain and crankshaft position sensor.

So…back to the transmission shop once more. I also did some poking around online and found that the hard 2-3 shift is a known problem with these transmissions when they’re rebuilt. There are articles on transmission industry group websites that explain the clutch pack clearances are super critical, but they’re not normally set during a rebuild. Also, some O-rings deep inside the tranny need to be upgraded to nitrile. I shared that info with the shop, and they claim to have fixed everything. I’ll go pick it up today. Hopefully, this will be the final episode in my life as a country western song. This busted truck has been a huge time sucker.

That said, I have been getting things done on the boat when it warms up enough for epoxy to kick. I recently put mahogany veneers on the salon entryway panels.

When we got the boat, somebody had altered the original entryway

The original door was still there, but they’d removed the bi-fold panels that close the dashboard and added an upper door and a plexiglass enclosure. It was very unattractive. So I’m going back to the original configuration, with a piano hinge between bi-fold panels.

The upper entry panels are 3/4″ Tricel

Tricel is lightweight and structurally robust. I’m using it instead of 3/4″ plywood for the interior doors on the boat, and I had just enough left over to make these panels.

I’m on the last pieces of veneer, so efficient layout is essential

US Composites epoxy with 2:1 no-blush hardener is a great product

Roll on just enough epoxy to wet the veneer backing surface but not so much that it pools

Next, wet out the Tricel panels

With clamps, thick lumber, and a bunch of heavy old zincs, press the panels and veneer together

A vacuum table is what I wish I had. I just can’t justify one for the limited veneer work I’ll be doing.

Next day…the clamps and zincs come off


Trim the excess veneer, then do the other side

Be very sparing when epoxying the veneer, otherwise it bleeds through

Position the veneer on the panel

Use a squeegee to remove air bubbles

Repeat on the other panel

I use shrink wrap plastic scraps left over from the tent to separate the two panels

Final pressing

That’s not a wrap for these panels. I still have to make solid mahogany edges for them, which is something I’ve never done. That’s not a top priority, though, so I have time to think through how I’ll do it. In the meantime…I’m off to get my truck!

Next up in our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Installing the Pantry Panels


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