Home » Holes In The Water: 1977 Bayliner vs 1970 Bayliner

Holes In The Water: 1977 Bayliner vs 1970 Bayliner

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Good morning, and happy Friday to you all! On today’s edition, we’re leaving the wheels behind and taking to the high seas (or at least the lakes and rivers) with a pair of cheap old runabout motorboats. Or, as they’re often called, “holes in the water that you pour money into.” Before we dive into those, let’s see which Caddy you’d rather set sail in:

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Yep, that would be my choice too. Looking at that ’91 makes me miss my ’89 Coupe DeVille. That was just too damn big, but this Eldorado looks just right. And I prefer that earlier square-jawed style. It’s going to make somebody a nice cheap ride, that one.

So… Boats. I’ll come right out and say it, I’m a little out of my depth [Editor’s Note: I GET IT! – JT] here. Most of these columns I can sail through without a whole lot of research, but this time I can’t just float along. [Editor’s Note: Oh there’s more – JT]  I need to navigate some unknown waters today, and I hope those who know better what they’re talking about will show me a little patience as I learn the ropes. [Editor’s Note: Oh god – JT] With that said, let’s get our feet wet – possibly literally.

Both of these boats are made by Bayliner, who, as I understand it, had a reputation for some pretty cheap shoddy materials and workmanship early on. But like any “cheap” product, they have their devoted followers, willing to put in the work to turn them into something respectable. But because of the bad reputation, they often sell cheap, even the nice ones. Basically, they’re the shitboxes of the boat world, which makes them perfect for us.

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1977 Bayliner Mosquito – $1,600

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Engine: 85 hp Mercury 4 cylinder 2 stroke outboard

Location: Portland, OR

Length: 17 ft

Condition: Good, no leaks, engine runs but has a miss

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This would appear to be it: the least amount you can spend for a pleasure boat that is intact and has a hope of being seaworthy. It has a fiberglass hull and an 85 horsepower outboard motor. As is common for outboard boat engines, this is a 2 stroke engine. The reasons for this are that boats don’t need a lot of  torque, but top-end horsepower is useful. (Snowmobiles are usually 2 strokes for the same reason.) 2 stroke engines are also smaller and lighter than 4 stroke engines, which is important when you have to swing the whole engine back and forth to steer, and pick it up out of the water when you’re done.

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This particular Mercury outboard is having some issues; the seller says it runs, but “something is just off.” There aren’t a lot of moving parts in a 2-stroke motor, no valves or camshafts, so the list of potential trouble spots is few. But finding parts for a 45-year-old boat motor might not be the easiest thing, and replacement outboards aren’t cheap.

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Apart from the engine issues, it doesn’t look too bad for a $1600 boat. The seller lists a lot of recent work done, including work on the included trailer. It sounds like it might have been in storage for a while, and if the engine wasn’t put into storage properly, that could account for its problems now.

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Boats are not a cheap hobby, but if the price of entry is this low, this could be a good way to dabble without having to commit to too much expense. And chances are, if the engine isn’t fixable, you can move it on to another owner for the same price.

 

1970 Bayliner Runabout – $2,700

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Engine: 105 hp Chrysler 4 cylinder 2 stroke outboard

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Location: Portland, OR

Length: 17 ft

Condition: Great! Ready to go

Raise your hand if you knew that Chrysler Coropration was once a giant in the boating industry.

That’s what I figured. Chrysler Marine fell victim to the corporation’s money troubles in the late 1970s, and was sold off piecemeal to other companies in the early ’80s. But in the 1960s and ’70s, Chrysler boats and boat engines were huge.

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This 1970 Bayliner would have been a competitor to Chrysler’s speedboats, but it shares the same 2 stroke outboard motor. Chrysler boat motors were highly regarded and very reliable, and this one has been gone over carefully, and according to the seller, runs like a top.

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The rest of this boat has been well cared-for as well, and it shows. A long list of recent repairs and maintenance is listed in the ad, and it comes with a whole assortment of extras, including the all-important cover. These old Bayliner boats have fiberglass hulls, but wooden decks and structure, so it’s important to keep them out of the elements when they’re not supposed to get wet.

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I have to be honest: I really dig this boat. I have no idea if it’s actually a good deal or not, but it sure seems to be. I can see myself putting on a Hawaiian shirt and my straw trilby, playing a little Herb Alpert on the sound system, and puttering up to the marina bar at happy hour. (I don’t know why it has to be Herb Alpert, but it does.)

And that’s the problem with looking at cheap boats; they put all kinds of bad ideas in your head. Everybody knows you don’t really want a boat anyway – you want a friend with a boat. But for these prices, you could probably learn that lesson first-hand and not lose too much in the process. So if you’re going to make this particular mistake, which one is it going to be?

 

QuizMaker

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Arrest-me Red
Arrest-me Red
1 year ago

Not really a fan of boats (except the speedboats my grandfather had). Between the two I would buy the better sorted runabout. You are already buying a large ongoing expense, might as well start off it the better one.

Wesley Brooks
Wesley Brooks
1 year ago

On old boats in this size class, the hull has zero monetary value. Make your decision based on the engine and the trailer. Get the runabout.

Wesley Brooks
Wesley Brooks
1 year ago
Reply to  Wesley Brooks

Oh, and folks snarking about throwing money at holes in the water are mistaking these lil’ guys for much larger craft. The smaller (and lighter) the boat, the less there is to go wrong. These won’t have water makers, refrigeration, toilets, nav units, bow thrusters, light effects, or really any amenities at all. They’ll get around with modest engines, stay put on small anchors, and pay the minimum rate at the launch ramp or marina. All that should keep them from landing you in the poorhouse.

unclesam
unclesam
1 year ago

This reminds me of childhood car trips. There was somewhere we’d pass in what had to have been Ohio or Indiana where there were a couple of sad man-made lakes stuffed to the gills with these sorts of little guys. It’s probably the image I most associate with pleasure boating, and a leading reason why I have no interest in pleasure boating. 2 stroke fumes being another leading reason. Yuck.

LTDScott
LTDScott
1 year ago

My parents owned a ’72 Chrysler tri-hull boat with a Chrysler 75HP outboard back in the mid ’90s when we lived in Texas. I recall the engine not being that reliable, to the point that I can still clearly remember how to remove the engine cover because I had to do it for my dad fairly often. A submerged tree stump ultimately took out the transom of the boat and we transferred the outboard to some ’80s V-hull boat.

Drive By Commenter
Drive By Commenter
1 year ago

I’ll take the cheaper one. A two stroke Mercury doesn’t have that much to go wrong. 85 hp isn’t enough to ski behind, but tubing is doable. Until the kids get CO poisoning and fall off. Or the driver goes deaf from the roar.

Brian O'Neill
Brian O'Neill
1 year ago

I voted for the Runabout as it appears less likely to have rotten stringers or floor. But, to be honest, I wouldn’t spend a dime on either. Either one I wouldn’t trust the motor while out on the water and I would want to repower it, but, once you start going down that route it’s a waste of money on a Bayliner.

IMHO most people selling boats like these are trying to get someone to pay them to take away their trash. Disposing of a fiberglass boat is expensive, much better if you can get someone with dreams of boating to pay you to take it off your hands.

Redfoxiii
Redfoxiii
1 year ago

No and more no. These things have zero appeal to me. Total wastes of fiberglass and gasoline, and not even nice to look at.

These particular boats are too small for anything more than fishing, anyway. Anyone nursing ideas of a party should keep in mind that a beer cooler will mean you can take 3 passengers at most and they won’t be moving around much.

Der Foo
Der Foo
1 year ago

Boats aside, let’s talk engines.

Those Chrysler engines, while cool in many ways, are not that great. It may be running now, but with any outboard engine, it will stop running and need repairs. Good freaking luck finding parts for a motor that old. Especially one of that brand.

Almost the same for the Mercury, but at least the Mercury had higher sales numbers and the likelihood of finding salvage (almost no parts are still made for outboards that old) parts for them is much higher.

Acrimonious Mofo
Acrimonious Mofo
1 year ago

I will gladly hang out on your boat to knock back a cold one or two while listening to some Herb Alpert. I love me some Tijuana Brass. And knocking back cold ones on boats. Your boat, that is. I ain’t voting for these floating nightmares.

David Smith
David Smith
1 year ago

Agreed. But I did vote for the skeeter because if forced to choose I’d rather only spend $1,600 total for my boat ownership experience.

Phil Layshio
Phil Layshio
1 year ago
Reply to  David Smith

There is never a “total” to s boat owning experience.

Lew Schiller
Lew Schiller
1 year ago

Boat: Wouldn’t maker a choice without knowing the condition of the floor. Tearing out rotten plywood and stringers…rebuilding a transom..is not fun in any sense.
A Bayliner of this vintage would, in my opinion, not be worth a rebuild.

Motor: I’d go with the Mercury. Back in the lake days we had a runabout with a 65 hp Merc. It was good and totally reliable. I echo what other said about the Chrysler outboards being considerably less so.

Data
Data
1 year ago

Looking at these boats makes me feel like I am watching an episode of CHiPs. Some guy is towing his boat behind his 70’s era Country Squire station wagon when a teenage driver in a VW dune buggy cuts him off while driving recklessly. The station wagon loses control and spins out, while the boat breaks free and careens down the highway.

Ponch and John witness this from an overpass and zoom down the overpass after the dune buggy. Cue disco infused theme song.

Now I want to watch an episode of ChiPs. Also, if you do watch an episode, you’ll notice the same cars in every scene.

Dar Khorse
Dar Khorse
1 year ago
Reply to  Data

Remember that Barney Miller/CHiPs crossover series, “Fish and CHiPs”?
Yeah, neither do I, but wouldn’t it have been great if it existed?

Birk
Birk
1 year ago
Reply to  Data

Aweigh We Go!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_TLpcoqC4qo

As much of a PR stunt for LAPD as it was, as a kid growing up in the ’80s I sure did love CHiPs. Especially the afternoon reruns you’d get to watch when sick at home from school. Two buddies working together, riding motos all day in the sun, having adventures, then hanging with the babes after hours…

Dodsworth
Dodsworth
1 year ago
Reply to  Data

To this day I still dream of finding a nice KZ1000 Police Special. Sigh.

Soso Tsundere
Soso Tsundere
1 year ago

My only advice for amateur boating is this: don’t go chasing waterfalls, stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to.

10001010
10001010
1 year ago

I picked the power boat, the one with the outboard I guess. I find the lack of masts and sails on these water vessels disturbing.

Redfoxiii
Redfoxiii
1 year ago
Reply to  10001010

Seconded. You can’t even take multiple day voyages and sleep on em, what’s the point?

MaximillianMeen
MaximillianMeen
1 year ago

Who doesn’t love motorboating!!!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5jdQlGluJ9A

I’ll take the Mosquito. At least there would be one chance in hell that you could get a part or two for the engine since Mercury Marine has been around forever. Plus it has a small swim step for getting back into the boat after swimming/skiing. Trying to get back into the runabout without a step would be a humiliating sight for an old, large person such as myself.

Dave
Dave
1 year ago

Let’s clear up one misconception – Chrysler boat engines engines were not ” highly regarded and very reliable” in the 1970s and 80s. I know. As a young lad in my pre-automotive days I was very much a boater. Still am, lo these many decades later. And while the Mercury engines of the day were known to be a bit more finicky about maintenance and upkeep, they were solid performers. The Chrysler engines not so much. I knew of only two on the lake. One was a smaller engine – a 35 I think. On a pontoon boat. Smoked like a bad diesel. It made our Evinrudes look downright ecologically responsible. The other was this engine – the 105. A friend of ours had it on his bass boat. It spent more time in the shop than the water. Big, noisy unreliable thing. We towed it home more than once. He didn’t own it long – replaced it with an I/O Regal with a Mercruiser.

Based on that, I’ll vote for the Mosquito.

FWIW, Between Dad and I we’ve had 9 different outboard engines on mostly different boats. If I include the boats of friends & neighbors I’ve spent time operating and working with, that number jumps to 17, and doesn’t include the inboard ski boats.

AnalogMan
AnalogMan
1 year ago
Reply to  Dave

I totally agree with your take on Chrysler outboards. I also boated extensively in the 1970’s (in my younger days). Chrysler outboards were the ones to avoid. They were bought by people who either didn’t know any better, or because they were cheaper than the alternatives.

Mercury’s were the ‘performance’ motors. If you wanted to go fast, had a hot boat, you wanted a Mercury. Evinrude and Johnson were the ‘reliable’ or ‘family boat’ motors. Good torque if not the highest hp, heavier than Mercury, easy to live with.

Chrysler outboard motors didn’t have anywhere near the stellar reputation of their car engines. The 426 Hemi and other Chrysler motors were usually the standards by which others were judged. Their outboards, unfortunately, were the other end of the spectrum.

AC2DE
AC2DE
1 year ago
Reply to  Dave

My dad had a 55 hp version on a fiberglass trihull. The crankshaft snapped. Somehow, it got him back to the dock, but it sounded like the end of the world. When we discovered that we could tip the flywheel 5 degrees in any direction, we decided that engine was done for.

Matt Woods
Matt Woods
1 year ago

I don’t know much about boats, and don’t really want to know much about boats. So, I voted for the one that works. Maybe it could be used a couple times before it breaks.

Man With A Reliable Jeep
Man With A Reliable Jeep
1 year ago

Runabout, because Mopar or no…um…no boat.

OpposedPiston
OpposedPiston
1 year ago

Mopar or no spar.

StillPlaysWithCars
StillPlaysWithCars
1 year ago

I grew up around boats and while, yes, they do involve money if you do your own wrenching and properly maintain them it is not as bad as their reputation gives them. 2 stroke engines are the way to go and the smaller the cheaper. Both of these are in the sweet spot of ease of care and usability. The biggest factor here is actually the condition of the hulls any rot or cracking in the fiber glass and it’s a hard pass. Assuming both hulls are in good shape. The ‘77 is the one you want here despite the issues with a misfire. It’s been in storage a while and likely needs new fuel and a tune up (maybe new carbs). That opening middle section of the windshield is a HUGE game changer in comfort while on the water (no shade and sunlight is reflected back up). Both of these engines are at the point we’re if it’s not a cheap fix it’s time to consider a repower. Even if it’s running well now, that ‘70 Chrysler engine will likely start having issues soon as well.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
1 year ago

I made the similar comment about the leaks.

I have memories of days spent in a barn getting high on fumes and covered in goo, and damnit, no matter how well we did it, it would never seem to actually hold for long (aka don’t leave shore w/o the hand pump).

Boxing Pistons
Boxing Pistons
1 year ago

Good call on the pass-through. That does make a big difference.

CatMan
CatMan
1 year ago

Bust Out Another Thousand

Boulevard_Yachtsman
Boulevard_Yachtsman
1 year ago

I have to go for the one with the Chrysler motor. Not because of reliability, looks, or any of that. It would just give me a great excuse to go shopping for a same-era Chrysler Imperial to tow it with.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
1 year ago

Runabout for sure, if only for the engine. In my experience, Mercury engines were troublesome when new, much less one this old!

And as long as no leaks on the boat anywhere, the non-mechanical upkeep and other stuff is just a little work now and again.

These types of boats are the seagoing equivalent of a Ford Mustang – cheap, quick, versatile, and if not particularly classy, plenty of fun.

SquareTaillight2002
SquareTaillight2002
1 year ago

I like the blue one better but I chose the yellow one because it seems better cared for. They are both going to require frequent water-towing but the Runabout might give you 3 halcyon afternoons before it fails.

Icouldntfindaclevername
Icouldntfindaclevername
1 year ago

The best boat options are the ones your friends own!

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
1 year ago

“The best boat options are the ones your friends own! ”

Preferably ones who live a few blocks over at a minimum so all your immediate neighbors have plenty of garage and driveway space to store all their crap.

IRegertNothing, Esq.
IRegertNothing, Esq.
1 year ago

I didn’t read any of this. I went straight down to vote for the cheaper boat, because both of them will drain your bank account regardless of which one is in better condition now. You might as well save some money up front before you have to decide between selling it for a huge loss or trying your hand at insurance fraud.

DubblewhopperInDubblejeopardy
DubblewhopperInDubblejeopardy
1 year ago

I picked the Runabout, ready to go for bikini clad people, beer, and fishing!

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