Chris-Craft Cobra [1955]

Don Mortrude

By the 1950s Chris-Craft had long established a name for its impeccably crafted, modern timber vessels, with sculptural hulls seamlessly forming upwards into deck spaces and furnishings carefully cut in for maximum comfort. However, after witnessing the comparatively rapid progression of the automobile industry, particularly the American vehicles coming out of Detroit, Chris-Craft wanted to give its clientele a piece of this new age focus on form and speed, resulting in a brand new model, the Cobra. Designed by Don Mortrude, a freelance industrial designer who had also done work for General Motor’s, the Cobra was to provide a nautical counterpart to the Chevrolet’s exotic Corvette – GM’s own newly minted, newly successful model. Complete with a single, impractical row of seating and a bold dorsal fin of fibreglass to cover the engine, the Cobra (as a markedly poor performing production vessel) acted as the ultimate ‘halo’ design – the first and last of its kind, serving to fascinate and provoke in the decades that followed.

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