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1971 21' Starcraft Chieftain (eventual restoration)

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  • 1971 21' Starcraft Chieftain (eventual restoration)

    Hello Everyone,

    With luck this thread will follow and document my eventual restoration and repair of my newly acquired 1971 21' Chieftain!

    This boat followed me home at the beginning of last week soon after I discovered it on Craigslist. I bought the boat as a non-runner in somewhat unknown condition. The boat had been sitting for likely close to 20 years under cover, it had recently replaced fuel tanks and all new fuel lines as the PO had planned to start using the boat again but had never gotten around to it. Beyond that though the boat was in close to the same condition it was in when it was parked in the early 90's.

    The seller wanted $950 for the boat and trailer and I happily paid the asking price as I've wanted a Chieftain for years and knew he had other interest in the boat and would have no issues getting his ask.

    We filled out the DMV paperwork along with a bill of sale and my brother and I were on our way home, I quickly realized that our truck with a 4.3V6 was not the ideal tow vehicle for a boat this size, we made it home without incident but after seeing our 2 hour drive going to look turn into a 3 1/2 hour drive coming home I realized that I will definitely want more power on tap if I ever plan on going real distances with the boat on trailer.

    Over the next week I worked on the boat as time allowed, on the engine I found that the starter and solenoid had been rebuilt shortly before the boat was parked, the entire ignition system less the coil also looked brand new and recently replaced, but the engine wouldn't start, it wouldn't even crank over.

    I was worried that the engine had seized from sitting for so long. Thankfully I was wrong, it turned out that the copper plate inside the starter solenoid had become so badly corroded that it was no longer providing continuity between the battery and the starter and as a result I was getting a healthy sounding solenoid click but no power to the starter.

    With that problem resolved I moved on to the fuel system. I didn't hit any real snags working through this, I replaced the water separator filter and used a Mity-vac to prime the fuel lines, I then used a fuel pressure vacuum gauge to check the pump on the block, everything checked out fine so I put everything back together and got fuel flowing to the carb.

    Next up was the ignition system, this took me the longest as all my previous experience has been on diesel engines and I didn't realize I was looking at the wiring diagram backwards until the third day of playing with test lights and probing around with my Fluke. It turned out my no spark issue was a bad coil, $36 later I had a new one and had a good spark. I rough adjusted the point gap and was back in business.

    I turned the key with the outdrive on muffs and the engine started up almost instantly. I forgot to mention previously but I did a compression test and found all six cylinders to be at 120PSI +/- 2PSI

    Now with the engine running I did a visual check on the outdrive to verify proper shifting and water flow, everything looked fine so I headed off to the lake for a sea trial, everything worked as it should with the exception of the (up) button for the tilt (it had to be jury rigged by jumping the solenoid on the pump).

    Happy with the way everything was working I brought the boat back and now I'm contemplating what to begin work on next.

  • #2
    Re: 1971 21' Starcraft Chieftain (eventual restoration)

    Nice looking rig,...

    Yous don't want to know what I might maybe do to that boat if I owned it!!!!,.....lol,..


    • #3
      Re: 1971 21' Starcraft Chieftain (eventual restoration)

      Welcome. Looks and sounds like you got a lot of boat for not much money.
      Dave P.
      1979 22' Starcraft Supersport V5
      w/ 1985 Evinrude 140 & 1979 Evinrude 9.9

      My original thread about my boat:
      My restoration thread:

      1995 FourWinns Freedom 3.0 I/O.

      1995 14' SeaFarer LW


      • #4
        Re: 1971 21' Starcraft Chieftain (eventual restoration)

        Nice looking boat and a great deal for the money and the motor even runs congrats and welcome. How are the floor and transom ?
        If it ain't broke don't fix it



        • #5
          Re: 1971 21' Starcraft Chieftain (eventual restoration)

          Welcome aboard Erik, nice Chieftain for a good price...congrats!

          Glad to hear you made progress with the motor, that inline 6 should provide plenty of power for the rig.
          '79 16' Starcraft SuperSport
          12' AeroCraft '55 Johnson 5.5hp
          Starcraft brochures thread


          • #6
            Re: 1971 21' Starcraft Chieftain (eventual restoration)

            Thats a nice looking rig, almost identical to mine. Those inline 6 motors are excellent and very good on fuel.
            1969 Lonestar Medallion restoration

            1972 Glastron GT-160 restoration

            1973 Silverline Grand Bahama restoration

            1991 Galaxie 19' 4.3 Mercruiser
            2007 F150 4x4 Supercrew
            A boat is just a big hull in the water you throw money into.


            • #7
              Re: 1971 21' Starcraft Chieftain (eventual restoration)

              Welcome to the Starmada! Wicked deal you got there! Looks like the deck will need some attention soon but over all it's in excellent condition for it's age. Someone here from NJ is searching for something like that and having a tough time.
              1974 Chieftain 18' OB refit



              • #8
                Re: 1971 21' Starcraft Chieftain (eventual restoration)

                Thanks for the comments everyone. As for the floor and transom, well the floor in the cuddy has some very soft spots from standing water and will need to be replaced. There is also soft wood at the sides of the engine and the wood under the seats (under the replacement fuel tanks) is new but hacked into place above the original floor. So I plan on gutting the boat at the end of the season and replacing the entire floor as most of it needs work and I'd rather do it right once than patch in panels and be right back working on it in a few years.

                The transom seems to be good and solid, but I won't say that for sure until I have a chance to pull the cap and probe around a bit.

                I really do like the inline 6 engine, it has plenty of "get up an go" to move the boat but can also happily push the boat around at 800RPM for canal cruising. Does anyone have rough fuel economy numbers for the engine? Reason I ask is I have ~22 gallon fuel capacity on the boat and I'm planning on doing some canal trips with the family later this year and want to get a rough idea of how long I'll be able to run before I need to fill-up.

                Thanks again for the comments, I'll be sure to keep the thread updated with pictures and my progress!



                • #9
                  Re: 1971 21' Starcraft Chieftain (eventual restoration)

                  Thats a super sweet tinny and deal you got there!!!(*insert envy emoticon here*)
                  I consider overkill a job well done... plus a little extra.

                  There's as many ways to do something as there is people to tell you how to do it... but not all of them are the right way.

                  The drinking and debauchery will continue until morale improves... and maybe for a little while after.


                  • #10
                    Re: 1971 21' Starcraft Chieftain (eventual restoration)

                    Gotta agree with these guys Erik, excellent score on the new rig man! Great boat all around buddy, enjoy and welcome to the Starcraft brohood
                    1983 26' Starcraft Sportfisherman 261V Rebuild
                    1976 22' Starcraft Islander Rebuild
                    1984 16.5' Sea Nymph Ski Sport Rebuild
                    1980 16' Sea Nymph SS 165 Rebuild (swapped)
                    1968 15' Starcraft Jet Star Rebuild (sold)
                    1970's 12' Starcraft Sea Scamp
                    Starcraft Rebuilds and Restorations


                    • #11
                      Re: 1971 21' Starcraft Chieftain (eventual restoration)

                      Personally I would redo the floors and put in a 40 or 50 gallon tank,......

                      Better to much than not enough,........


                      • #12
                        Re: 1971 21' Starcraft Chieftain (eventual restoration)

                        Originally posted by Teamster View Post
                        Personally I would redo the floors and put in a 40 or 50 gallon tank,......

                        Better to much than not enough,........
                        I like this idea, I know I'm redoing the floors, but putting in a larger single tank at the same time is also appealing.

                        Anyone here know what size tank(s) was/were factory on this boat? Right now it has two new 11.5 gallon tanks mounted under the seats.




                        • #13
                          Re: 1971 21' Starcraft Chieftain (eventual restoration)

                          I had a Mercruiser 165 4 banger that got about 3.5 gph @ 3500 rpm in a 19' Stingray cuddy. Yep a glasser but that was when I was very very young. I'm toiling on tank size myself. Check out the Inca brand.
                          1974 Chieftain 18' OB refit



                          • #14
                            Re: 1971 21' Starcraft Chieftain (eventual restoration)

                            Stop by Jason's 22 foot Islander thread and see what he put n for a tank,....If I remember right it was way bigger than the original,...


                            • #15
                              Sign up today
                              Re: 1971 21' Starcraft Chieftain (eventual restoration)

                              WOW!! Nice boat. The gas tank is just like everything else, bigger is always better. That is one nice ride you have there, I'm jelous.
                              2011 SOTY Award Winner
                              1966 Starcraft Nassau 1967 Mercury 650

                              Photobucket 1966 Starcraft Nassau 1967 Mercury 650 Restoration

                              1972 Starcraft Holiday 18 - No motor

                              1973 Starcraft Islander 140 Mercruiser (SOLD)