As heavy late autumn rain lashed the runway at Melbourne’s Tullamarine airport, the anticipation of leaving the ground was enhanced by the knowledge that I would shortly be cruising the Broadwater on the Gold Coast on a new and much-anticipated boat from the Mustang stable.
From the moment Bill Barry-Cotter announced his takeover of the Mustang brand two years ago, it was expected that he would imprint his own design templates on the Queensland-built sports cruisers. And the existing boats in the ‘Mustangs by BBC’ range – the 32 and 50 – both exhibit that influence and show a clear demarcation from the sportier, flashier look of the previous Mustang era.
It is not surprising, given its shared parentage, that the new Mustang range of sports cruisers shares much with the larger, costlier range from stablemate Maritimo. Both brands are part of the Bill Barry-Cotter folio and both have much in common in terms of overall design and styling cues.
There is an understated elegance and simplicity about both ranges that, to some extent, conceals the very clever thinking and design innovations that are inherent in their DNA. Use of available space, hull efficiency and design and consideration of weight distribution and buoyancy are hallmarks of the BBC design approach. Practicality and simplicity are also high on the priorities when Mr Barry-Cotter and his team apply their considerable combined experience to the art of boat building.
The new Mustang 43 neatly fills the gap between the ‘entry level’ 32 and the flagship 50 and is the result of an intensive consultation process between dealers, existing boat owners and the factory, says Mustang’s marketing man, Luke Durman.
“The 43 was an unprecedented development process for us,” he said. “We had a lot more dealer involvement at the design stage and restructured our whole new product development process for this boat.”
“We assembled a product development support team to work with our internal team that included dealers and key customers. The support team visited the factory and their feedback was critical in creating the boat that we have today.”
In terms of practicality and overall user-friendliness, Luke says the support team’s contributions are evident throughout the boat.
Feedback also made it clear that build quality and sound, proven engineering were high priorities, along with interior fit-out and finish. From what I saw on our Broadwater cruise, I’d have to say that Mustang appears to have responded on all fronts.
Luke also pointed out that the 43 has been designed from the keel up to suit Australian conditions and boat owners. He said Mustang invited comparisons with the new 43 and any other local or imported craft in terms of quality of finish, price and suitability for the Australian boating lifestyle.
To emphasise the point, as we stepped aboard into the cockpit, Luke pointed out a couple of features not found on most imports, including the rear-facing L-shaped cockpit lounge and the rear galley, tucked away behind a large sliding window in the rear saloon bulkhead. And, indeed, the cockpit area does lend itself very much to the great Aussie outdoors approach to boating, with its combined island barbecue/fridge/freezer/storage unit, generous fixed boarding platform, teak decking and plenty of room to move about. A hydraulic boarding platform is optional, while swimmers can spray off the brine with a transom-mounted, hot ’n’ cold freshwater shower.
Lounge lizards can make use of a compact removable cockpit table. Storage compartments in either coaming add to the utility of the cockpit, while the roof extends far enough rearward to provide some shelter from the elements.
The first 43 to roll out of the Coomera factory has been equipped with twin sterndrives – one of three power options, the other two being twin pod- or shaftdrive applications. Luke explained that the sterndrive option (twin Volvo 330hp D6 diesels) came about after feedback from US dealers, who urged the factory to include it for their market. Luke says it’s a worthwhile option for Australian buyers, too, and allows owners to safely access shallower waterways and even beach their boats, should they be so inclined.
It is a tribute to the design prowess of the Mustang crew that they have been able to design a hull and internal layout versatile enough to accommodate all three drive options with relative ease and efficiency. The poddrive option (listed as twin D4 Volvo 300hp IPS units) adds a further $20,000 to the sterndrive’s base price of $164,000, while ticking the shaftdrive box (twin QSB Cummins 480hp) will relieve buyers of an extra $37,000 over and above the base price.
As far as installation goes, in the case of our test craft the sterndrive layout was extremely clean and tidy, with both engines mounted at the rear of the boat, under the cockpit sole. Mechanics would approve of the generous room either side – and even under – both engines, and there is plenty of additional space for stowage. The rear cockpit sole and forward lounge area hinge up separately on electric/hydraulic rams to provide easy access to the below-decks area.
On the shaft-drive version, the rear space occupied by the Volvos in the sterndrive application becomes a cavernous lazarette for storage of inflatable toys and diving or fishing gear.
Immediately forward of the sterndrive engine room is a separate compartment housing the 11kW Onan genset, with plenty of additional space for stowage, while a small hatch provides access to the forward hold, which, on this boat, contains the twin fuel tanks and a freshwater tank. This area would be the engine room on the shaftdrive boats.
Interestingly, according to Luke, the forthcoming carbon tax will have a very definite impact on all boats in the Mustang range, with an additional $1500 slug due to the use of carbon dioxide-filled fire extinguishers, effectively making it also a safety tax.
Everything has been located and arranged for ease of maintenance and, in the case of the fuel tanks, to enhance weight distribution and buoyancy when underway.
Access forward is easy and safe via two walkways, with good handholds provided for the journey.
FIRST CLASS WORKMANSHIP
While this Sports Cruiser is designed to take full advantage of the outdoors, the interior spaces are where the factory has really put in a lot of effort. As Luke Durman was keen to point out, workmanship in such areas as upholstery stitching, panel alignment, cabinetry and fittings is first class, with nary a stitch or latch misplaced. Serviceability was also a priority, with good access to such things as air-conditioning units, ducts and windscreen wiper hardware.
Enhancing the lifestyle aspect of the 43, the starboard rear galley is a pleasantly open area, with quick and easy serving access to the cockpit via a counter-weighted window that slides down into the rear saloon bulkhead. Galley features include Corian benchtops, a small sink, four-burner cooker, microwave, magnetised self-closing drawers (used throughout the boat) and room for a dishwasher. All internal timber work is polished teak.
Opposite the galley is an L-shaped dinette, with an impressively crafted fold-out polished teak table, that also doubles as a storage space. Facing the dining area is a cleverly conceived and executed entertainment/liquor cabinet, complete with pop-up TV.
Large windows help create an open and light atmosphere, enhanced by a large, manually operated sunroof.
In the forward saloon is the helm station. Skipper and first mate share a bench seat facing an adjustable Mustang sports steering wheel and a dash laid out with simplicity and usability in mind. Visibility in all directions is excellent. All of the usual controls and switches fall easily to hand and there is enough room to accommodate two reasonably-sized electronic displays. Our test craft was equipped with a single Simrad NSS 12in plotter/sounder unit.
A good example of the planning and thought that has gone into this boat in terms of space and layout is the L-shaped VIP cabin, with access via the central forward companionway. Located to port, it boasts a full-length lounge, which converts to twin Pullman bunks and a full double bed, transversely placed, with the lower end of the bed occupying an alcove below the main saloon. There are plenty of drawers, a hanging locker and shelf space, plus good standing room beside the lounge. Natural light is abundant, courtesy of a pair of good-sized portholes.
Forward is the conventional-style owner’s stateroom, with a walk-around island double berth. Two portholes and an overhead hatch bathe the cabin in natural light, while there is plenty of shelf space and storage options.
To starboard is a large, fully-moulded bathroom with a spacious enclosed shower, vanity and hand basin and electric toilet. Again, portholes and hatches provide abundant natural light and fresh air.
As with all Barry-Cotter-created craft, on-water performance is central to the design of the Mustang 43 and a session on the Gold Coast’s Broadwater confirmed that this latest effort exhibits the usual all-round good manners and sea-keeping evident in the rest of the Maritimo/Mustang fleet.
KEEL IS THE KEY
As we navigated our way past the marina arms, skipper Ross Willaton pointed out that the Mustang’s low-speed course-holding was pin-sharp, with none of the wandering normally associated sterndrives. Likewise, once we had some room to move, the 43’s ability to turn and respond to small helm movements was obvious. A small keel is the key here, resulting in particularly impressive sure-footedness in turns, especially on full-lock turns at speed, where the gunwales would normally be in the water, but remain high and dry on the Mustang.
On the plane, the running angle is relatively flat, allowing for good forward visibility and comfort when moving around. The Volvo throttles include an automatic Trim Assist feature, but Ross demonstrated that in most situations, the drives can be left trimmed at the neutral zero setting. Fussy skippers might want to adjust trims at higher speeds, but given the efficiency of this particular sterndrive installation, only marginal gains would be made.
The deep-vee hull produces a comfortable, shock-free ride, demonstrated when we encountered a largish wake. Ross also pointed out that the Mustang is a very dry craft – apparently though it had been trialed in a variety of conditions prior to our run, the windscreen wipers had yet to be used in anger.
The Volvos delivered spirited performance, a good cruising speed – according to the electronics – working out to be around 23 knots (42.5km/h) consuming under 80lt/hr. Top speed on the day in relatively benign conditions was 31 knots (57km/h). A quick calculation, based on fuel figures, suggested a range of close to 350nm (650km) with the twin 700lt fuel tanks topped up and running the engines at around 3200rpm.
Another impressive aspect of the 43 was its quiet running, with very little engine noise intruding into the saloon.
Base price for the 43 Sports Cruiser is around $688,000 with the sterndrive option. A host of further options and drive configurations mean that owners can very specifically tailor their boat to suit their own needs. In the case of our test craft, additional options, including, among other things, the barbecue, bow thruster, interior upgrade and Clarion sound system, raised the ante to around $722,000.
With the mid-sized gap now filled by the 43, Mustang is now clearly defined in terms of its model line-up and very definitely now shows clear departures from previous Mustang incarnations. Having already spent time on the entry-level 32, I have to say that the 43 continues the overall theme in terms of quality of finish, capability, efficiency, performance, serviceability, usage of space and amenity. It is a sophisticated craft, and is the result of much thought and feedback from both dealers and potential owners. Above all, it is ideally suited to the Australian boating lifestyle.
SPECIFICATIONS: MUSTANG 43 SPORTS CRUISER
Length overall: 13.36m
Length: 13.45m (with swim platform)
Capacity: 6 people
Fuel capacity: 1400lt
Water capacity: 400lt
Power: 2 x Volvo D6 330hp sterndrives
Base price: $688,000
For more information, tel (07) 5588 6000 or go to www.mustangmarine.com.au.