The 1959 Glass Craft Aero Dynamic Citation as it looked prior to the restoration.
A custom graphic adorns the top of the replica "alien" engine cowling.

Chris Fairchild is a busy guy. His passion is powerboat racing. He’s been racing tunnel boats for over 20 years.  He not only races his own boats in F1 and SST 120 classes, he also builds and repairs race engines and gearcases. He manages to do this in addition to his “real job” of building custom homes with his father, Jim. So, when he sent me pictures of his latest project, I wasn’t surprised. But it still impresses me that he accomplishes what he does with all of the things going on in his life.

A neurosurgeon approached Chris with the idea of restoring the family boat he grew up with.  The boat started life as a 1959 Glass Craft Aero Dynamic Citation outboard runabout.  The doctor wanted to restore the Glass Craft so he could have something to run on the river during the limited time he is “off-duty.” The challenge was the water levels are too low for traditional outboard propulsion. The doctor asked Chris if the boat could be converted to a jet boat. Chris, always up for a challenge and a journey into the unknown, said, “why not?”

Mercury Racing builds the Mercury Sport Jet pumps.
A great view of the integrated swim platform and the Mercury Sport Jet pump.

So the project began in the Spring and continued between home builds, remodeling projects, boat racing, and family commitments. The conversion from traditional outboard power to the modern 200 h.p Mercury OptiMax Sport Jet propulsion provided Chris and his dad some styling freedom.  Being a racer, nothing was left untouched.

The bottom was cut into four sections to update it from a flat bottom design to a blueprinted vee bottom with 15-degree deadrise. A 15-inch wide pad was added for the Mercury jet pump. The overall hull was extended seven inches in length and widened by 19 inches. Other updates include the addition of an integrated swim platform. The retro styled dash features modern Mercury SmartCraft instruments.

Another view of the integrated alien cowl and 16" swim platform.
Fred Kiekhaefer's famous "alien" outboard cowl design goes retro.

Chris bleeds black. He is by far our greatest asset when it comes to promoting Mercury Outboards on and off  the race course. So, when it came time to design the engine cover – he didn’t think twice. It had to look like the “alien” race cowl featured on the OptiMax 200XS SST race outboard.

“She looks great. She floats, too!” said Chris. Now – the true test. How does she run? “We’ll, for the first time out she didn’t run bad. The top speed was around 30 m.p.h.” Chris knew it could run better. He felt the boat could benefit from power trim to address the porpoise (or hop) it had on the initial sea trial. They found their solution by replacing the stock Mercury jet pump ride plate with a Place Diverter hydraulic plate. Now they could fine tune the running attitude of the boat while under way. To date, they have reached a top speed of 50 m.p.h.  Chris plans to add a jet nozzle wedge which will divert  thrust down for enhanced acceleration out of the hole. The adjusted thrust angle should work, in concert with the hydraulic trim, to limit bow lift and level out the running attitude at speed. Chris thinks the boat is capable of reaching 60 m.p.h.

When we spoke recently, Chris said they were putting on the finishing touches including a replica of the original Glass Craft windshield. I bet the doctor is excited to take delivery. I wonder how Chris is going to get it down the chimney and under the Christmas tree without making a sound? If anyone can do it, he can. Ho, ho, ho!

The RetroJet on the ramp prior to the initial test session.






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2 thoughts on “RetroJet”

  1. Hello,
    I would love to talk to Chris and or his team member responsible for the engine portion. I just bought a 1959 Glass Craft Citation, considering a 80hp jet boat engine. I have 1959 Mercury Mark 35A outboard.and that’s cool, but a 80hp jet…come on!!
    Jim Trickel

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