Cavalier Yachts was created as a partnership between Peter Smith and John Salthouse, trading as Salthouse Custom Glass Boats Ltd, later changed to Custom Glass Boats Ltd. They initially produced the successful Cavalier 32 as well as the Coronet Trailer Sailer and the Corsair 36 launch.
Salthouse and Smith amicably parted company with Smith taking the Cavalier Yachts half of the business. Smith introduced two new partners, Pat Sullivan as administrator and accountant, and Grant Bennet as floor and production manager.
At their peak Cavalier Yachts had eleven designs in simultaneous production, and were the largest production boatbuilders in Australasia. Under pressure from the New Zealand government, a sophisticated fibreglass production unit was developed in Glenfield, Auckland to meet the new health and safety regulations for fiberglass construction.
In 1979, Prime Minister Robert Muldoon introduced a sudden 20% sales tax surcharge to the New Zealand boat-building industry which priced Cavalier out of the international market, leading to cancelled orders and precipitating the collapse of the business.
A receiver was appointed and successfully traded the company out, repaying all of its debts. The business was then purchased by Jim Lawry, who formed Export Yachts Ltd, believing that export was the future for the company, and a number of Cavalier 39s were sent to Australia and the United States.
Cavalier Yachts was one of the New Zealand boat-building industry's early successes, the largest in the southern hemisphere at the time. 170 Cavalier 32s were built, and 84 Cavalier 39s .
The entire range consisted of: