Born-again thoroughbred

Chris Beattie | VOLUME 26, ISSUE 3

Bill Barry-Cotter has created an all-new Mustang. He let it out of its corral long enough for us to jump aboard.

“This boat owes absolutely nothing to the old Mustang … nothing whatsoever,” said Bill Barry-Cotter stridently as we discussed the new Mustang 32 Sports Cruiser at a special press launch in mid-April, a month prior to its public debut at the Sanctuary Cove International Boat Show.

There was always going to be a high degree of anticipation in the boating world about what would eventually emerge from Bill Barry-Cotter’s purchase of Mustang Marine back in April, 2010. After all, the styles of boat produced by Barry-Cotter and Mustang couldn’t have been more different. Whereas Barry-Cotter’s Maritimos are known for their stylish, understated elegance, the typical Mustang sports cruiser tended to be more at the glitzy end of the styling spectrum. Targa tops, wide open spaces and sporty design cues were the order of the day on the older craft. But Barry-Cotter has always tended to the more subtle with his use of gentle curves, practical and uncluttered interiors and simple aesthetics.

So I was more than a little intrigued to finally step aboard the first of the new-generation Mustangs – the Mustang 32 Sports Cruiser – that was awaiting our arrival at Runaway Bay Marina, on the Gold Coast.

In a somewhat harsh assessment of the products of the former Mustang Marine, Barry-Cotter said there was little of the company’s assets he valued, beyond its name and customer brand loyalty. He retained none of the original Mustang moulds and saw no reason to continue to produce boats of a similar style or quality.

“Look, they (Mustang) built some pretty average product at times,” said Barry-Cotter bluntly, “but the amount of happy customers still out there is bewildering and that brand loyalty was really the motivation for me buying the name.

“The company was doing 350 to 400 boats a year in the ’90s, with around 150 boats sold here, while the rest were exported. So they were doing nearly twice the sales of Riviera here in Australia and I don’t think anyone really realised that,” he said, emphasising that strong sales also generated equally strong and on-going loyalty from a large customer base.

COST CONSCIOUS

Barry-Cotter added that there was little in the way of local product now to fill the gap left by the sports cruiser manufacturer, so he saw the purchase as an opportunity to cater for a specific market that was/is very much price-driven. It also gives him the opportunity to up-sell Mustang customers to the higher-end Maritimo product further down the track.

On first impressions, it’s not hard to see the design links that the new two-cabin, hardtop 32 shares with the Maritimo line, including, of course, the fact that both are produced at the same Gold Coast factory. The profile is unmistakably the same, with gentle, flowing curves merging the hardtop and upper deck to the hull, while the interior features and finishes are similar in style and execution to its larger stablemates. But, conversely, from any angle, the new craft shares absolutely nothing with the original Mustang sports cruisers.

The hardtop is the most striking visual departure, with the former boats typically sporting a targa top with plenty of canvas covers and clears filling in the gaps.

Stepping aboard, the swim platform sports a lounge so that passengers can be close to the water while enjoying the view. Access to the cockpit is via a starboard transom door.

The cockpit is an expansive area for a boat of this size, with plenty of lounging, dining and entertaining space. It enjoys some protection from the elements courtesy of the hardtop overhang and the teak decking is a nice touch.

A large, L-shaped lounge takes up most of the port side and transom and is serviced by a fold-out dinette table. Further forward on the port side is a well-equipped gourmet galley with a recessed two-burner gas cooktop, a sink with mixer tap and a fridge and a large storage cabinet under the benchtop. The gas bottle is safely stored under the swim platform lounge.

There is plenty of storage space in the form of cupboards, lockers and drawers spread throughout the cockpit and entertaining area.

The entire aft section of the cockpit, including the lounge seat, opens on an electric actuator to reveal the engine space. A lazarette hatch forward, beside the helm, opens to reveal more storage and access to the water tank and waste water tank.

POWER-PACKED

Power in the test craft was provided by a muscle-bound 380hp big block MerCruiser V8 displacing 8.2lt and connected to a Mercury Bravo II sterndrive. Barry-Cotter says that other powerplants would also be offered, including diesels, although he expected that the 8.2lt option would be popular, given its relative fuel economy and ample power. Diesel options would add up to another $20,000, he said.

The hardtop roof incorporates a manual sliding sunroof to let in more light and air.

The forward helm is a twin-seat affair and includes a power-assisted sports steering wheel with wood accent, a digital throttle and shift with a trim switch, trim tab controls as well as conventional engine instrumentation. There is also a tilt control for the sterndrive, high water alarms and a VHF radio with folding antenna. Electronics options include Lowrance HDS7, HDS8 or HDS10 fishfinder/GPS chartplotters.

Visibility, both at rest and underway, is excellent.

The accommodation is accessed via a companionway that leads to the forward master cabin, which boasts an island double bed, deep hanging lockers and wide shelf storage on either side. A round deck hatch provides light and air, while opening portholes on either side also offer cross-ventilation to the cabin.

A bunk cabin is on the starboard side, with upper and lower bunks, a hanging locker and opening porthole. The spacious, fully-enclosed bathroom on the port side includes a sink and vanity, Vacuflush toilet and a shower.

A second deck hatch in the accommodation space provides additional light and ventilation.

The boat’s electrical system is 12V, with a 25A battery charger, battery switches, breaker panels, a DC main breaker as well as shore power plug and cord. There is no provision for a genset for the time being, although Barry-Cotter did mention that an inverter is an option, should buyers want the added electrical capacity. A bank of extra batteries would also be needed to complement the inverter option.

The boat is equipped with a carbon monoxide monitor and alarm as well as a gas alarm and shut-off.

I had already heard sneak reports about the performance of the new 32, so I was keen to see how she rode out on the briny. The nearby Broadwater and a spot of time on a rolling ocean provided the opportunity to sample Barry-Cotter’s creation in a variety of situations and I have to say I came away very impressed.

BORN TO PERFORM

It slides on to plane almost imperceptibly at around 10 knots (18.5km/h) at 2500rpm, with negligible bow rise, and has a very flat and horizontal running attitude once underway. A comfortable cruise speed worked out to around 17 knots (31.5km/h) at 3000rpm, which gave an indicated fuel usage of 43lt/hr. Raising the rpm to 4000 had us covering close to 30nm per hour (55.5km/h), with a fuel burn of 71lt/hr, while WOT brought up a very impressive 38 knots (70km/h).

Barry-Cotter says that outright performance can be improved with the addition of a bigger propeller, giving speeds in the low 40-knot zone.

Of the big V8 engine, he said: “If you keep the revs down, it is really super-efficient. At 3200rpm, it’s doing 25 knots (46km/h), and you can put any amount of load in it and it’ll still be doing 25 knots. Without even trying to be fuel efficient, that’s 46lt/hr.”

In the beginning …

“ I had just bought a bright new Mustang convertible,” explained Graeme Williams (left), who founded the boating brand in 1974. The classic American car provided the name for his new range of boats, which has had a mixed history over the years.

Williams had recently moved to Queensland’s Gold Coast from Melbourne, where he had run a successful boat-building company, Novacraft, in a partnership. He was bought out of the business and had some cash and skills and needed a new focus.

“We started with a 15ft half-cabin boat,” said Williams. “For $2995, you could get the boat, an outboard motor and the trailer. We sold quite a few of them!”

Later came a 24-footer, with inboard engine and sterndrive.

“We sold hundreds of that model,” said Williams. “At one stage we were making one a week.”

By 1976, the line-up had extended to a 38ft flybridge model, one of the largest pleasure boats being built in Australia at the time.

But the business faltered in 1979 and Williams licensed moulds to Vickers, while he and his team regathered. They were back with a vengeance in the early ’80s, bought the licences back and returned to production. Williams bought an eight-acre site in Coomera to build a range of 24-32ft boats.

“We could not keep up with demand,” he said.

In 1998, Williams accepted funding from entrepreneur Gary Garoni and lost control of the business.

“After that, they stretched the 32- to a 37-footer and stretched our original 28 to 30.”

A senior management team, led by Paul Scanlon, succeeded in a reported $65m management buyout from Garoni in October 2005 and set about an expansion program to boost export sales. Part of the strategy involved a venture with Oliver Marine, in New Zealand, to build and brand its flybridge sport fishers as Mustangs. Oliver’s Managing Director, Chris Heaton also joined the Mustang team.

But by October 2007, the company was in trouble and fell into receivership.

In January 2008, Standard Bank Asia bought the business and Heaton took over as CEO.

The new arrangement would last little more than two years and Standard Bank installed administrators in March, 2010.

In early May, 2010, the business was sold to boat-building doyen Bill Barry-Cotter and the first of a new-look line of Mustangs took to the water in April, 2011.

All very impressive from a performance and fuel consumption point of view.

Our run down the Broadwater showed the Mustang to be very responsive to both steering and throttle input, holding a nice flat attitude once on the plane. We also took the opportunity to muscle it out through the Seaway into a fairly rough swell and while we certainly felt movement underfoot, the boat responded well and held its own nicely, taking the odd angry wave in its stride.

It reinforced the base concept of the boat – a family-orientated sports cruiser that is just as capable of propelling its passengers over flat seas at relatively high speeds as it is tackling an ocean voyage in challenging conditions.

GENERATION M

So which generation is most likely to want to claim a new generation Mustang? We put the question to the man who designed her.

“I think the market is 50-plus,” said Barry-Cotter. “There are around 6000 waterfront homes on the Gold Coast and, I’m guessing, but I’m thinking that for around 4000 of them that (the Mustang 32) would be the biggest boat they could have. That’s one of the reasons why we did the 32 first.”

I was left with the impression that Bill Barry-Cotter has engineered a very competent and competitive new sports cruiser that has taken the breed to a new level in terms of performance, quality of finish and value for money. As he said, the Mustang 32 Sports Cruiser is very much price-driven and from what I’ve seen it certainly delivers in terms of value for money, with a starting price as tested of $215,000, including a five-year structural warranty, one-year general warranty and all applicable third-party equipment warranties.

All in all, I think the new Mustang will find a lot of friends in the mid-sized cruising fraternity. It is priced well and has most equipment on board as standard, although there is room for options, should they be required.

And from what Bill Barry-Cotter told us, there are a few more bigger stablemates gestating away in the Maritimo/Mustang boat yards.

SPECIFICATIONS: MUSTANG 32 SPORTS CRUISER

Length overall: 9.85m

Beam: 3.175m

Draft: 1.05m

Displacement: 4800kg

Fuel capacity: 600lt

Water capacity: 120lt

Sleeping capacity: 4-5 standard

Power: 8.2lt MerCruiser Mag 380hp

Price as tested: $215,000

For more information, go to: www.mustangmarine.com.au.


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