Chris Craft Corsair 36 Review

Issue: December 2005

Blast From The Past

She’s a retro classic with the style of a sports car and a Rolls Royce finish.


If Chris-Craft boats were good enough for movie stars like Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Henry Ford, Marilyn Monroe, Katherine Hepburn and Elvis Presley, then they’re certainly good enough for me.

Chris-Craft have been building boats for more than 130 years and perhaps the greatest testament to the quality of its boats is not the universal praise heaped upon them, but the large number of old Chris-Craft s still out on the water today.

These retro classics have the styling of a sports car and a build quality that would give Rolls Royce a run for its money. Sporting a new look from Sarasota naval architect Mike Peters, the Chris-Craft Corsair 36 turns heads wherever she goes. Owning a Chris-Craft makes a statement ‘you have made it’.

A retro classic she may be, but in the performance stakes, she’s a beast. Powered by twin 8.1lt 420hp Volvo GLX V8s, driving through counter-rotating Duo-Prop sterndrives, this 36-footer has a top speed of almost 50 knots.

This should be more than enough grunt to keep the rev heads happy.

Turn the key and the throaty rumble of the twin V8s greets the ears. This is a driver’s boat and that distinctive V8 sound is all part of the experience. Flick a switch and the muffled sound becomes a thundering rumble that gives some insight into the power concealed below her deck.

This 36-foot boat has the speed and handling of a ski boat. Throw her hard into a turn and she comes effortlessly around in little more than her own length. Her 20-degree dead-rise hull has large, aggressive, down-turned chines, which aid stability, ensure she tracks like a rocket sled on rails and more importantly, keeps the ride dry, even in extremely choppy conditions.

The hydraulic steering takes all the hard work out of the helm, which is light and silky smooth, as are the Ultra Flex throttle and gear levers.

From a standing start this hull pops onto the plane in seconds, without any excessive bow-up attitude. Although the boat is fitted with recessed trim tabs, during this test with two people onboard, the well-balanced hull maintained perfect lateral stability and the tabs weren’t needed.

Her crisp, responsive handling makes her a pleasure to drive and ensures that even flat-out, the driver ‘feels’ completely in control of the boat. At no time does this hull get flighty, so the thrill of on-water speed is always there if you want to push it. Vibration and noise Forget it! This solid boat’s hull slices through the water cleanly with little running noise, even when flat-out. But throttle back to a more conservative cruising speed of 32 knots and the Corsair 36 has a range of around 274 nautical miles.

This is an ideal harbour boat and a great vessel for entertaining. With a seating capacity for 14, leisurely Sunday afternoon cruises with family and friends are definitely a part of this boat’s repertoire.

The Corsair 36 has extra large and comfortable helm seating for driver and navigator. The driver’s seat is not adjustable, but the position of the Italian mahogany steering wheel and the throttle are designed for optimum comfort.

Access to the bow is through the split screen in front of the navigator’s seat. Teak steps are integrated into the forward bulkhead and stainless steel grab rails steady the ascent.

Below deck is equally as opulent. In the bow is a heavily padded leather lounge around a wooden dinette table. The dinette converts into a large double bed. Under-bunk storage, cabin shelving and a cedar-lined hanging locker solve any storage problems.

A small but fully functional galley is to port. The bathroom and shower is to starboard and it’s surprisingly roomy for a boat of this design and layout. The entire saloon is finished in beautiful cherrywood veneer and the floor is hand-laid teak.

For onboard entertainment there’s an AM/FM/CD player and flat screen television, but if you’re anything like me, the only time you’ll spend below deck will be to sleep.

Under the helm floor is a large amidships stateroom. While you do have to bend over to climb in, it does have good headroom above the double bed.

All the boats it imports feature the ‘Heritage Pack’, which includes all the fancy teak work.

The Corsair 36 is a ‘big’ and beautiful 36 footer. Beneath her placid exterior beats a massive heart twin 8.1lt V8s. These engines give this exceptional vessel ‘push you back in your seat’ acceleration and a top-end speed close to 50mph.

But this luxury, style and beauty comes at a price. Around $535,967 to be exact. But when you get around to owning a Corsair 36, you know you’ve made it.

Chris-Craft began building boats in 1874, when Christopher Columbus Smith built his first wooden lake boat for duck hunting. He and his brother Henry went on to build many wooden boats and by the early 1880s, Chris-Craft had set a standard by which all other boats were measured.

According to the team at Chris-Craft, these boats are defined by flowing lines that achieve visual harmony, an unrelenting commitment to quality and timeless elegance that is the ultimate expression of style and individuality.

There is simply no other boat built that is so fundamentally right, because both concept and execution have been worked out perfectly.

The Corsair 36 was powered by twin 8.1lt Volvo Gxi 420hp petrol sterndrives. Other engine options include twin Volvo 375hp or 496 MerCruiser Magnum petrol engines or D6 310hp diesels.

The conditions during this test were calm; there were two adults onboard and the Corsair returned the following performance figures.

6.1 – 1000
8.6 – 2000
23.3 – 3000
35.6 – 4000
42.4 – 4500
48.1 – 5040

LOA: 38’2″
BEAM: 12’7″
WEIGHT: 7258kg
DEADRISE: 20 degrees
DRAFT: 34″
FUEL: 1082lt
BASE PRICE: $535,967

+ Beautiful lines; Sports boat power & handling
– No bowrail