Two summers ago, David Jones, the head of Outboard Marine Co., stood before an assembly of Four Winns dealers from around the country and hinted at his plans to turn this Cadillac, Michigan boat builder into the next Bayliner. The plan, apparently ill conceived, was not to be, as OMC would shock the industry by declaring bankruptcy in December 2000.
Four Winns and seven other OMC boat-building companies would survive the coal left in their Christmas stockings that year and just a few months later find themselves part of the growing Genmar family of boat producers. Genmar Holdings Inc. had teamed up with Canadian industrial giant Bombardier to make a joint offer to the bankruptcy court for all of the U.S. OMC properties.
Bombardier acquired the world-famous brands of Johnson and Evinrude motors, while Genmar acquired the Four Winns, Hydra-Sports, Javelin, Lowe, Seaswirl and Stratos boat lines. Genmar also initially purchased the Chris-Craft line but immediately sold it to London-based Stellican Ltd., while Brunswick Corp. acquired the Canadian-based Princecraft.
Despite the uncertainty and chaos, we saw little evidence that Four Winns was shuttered for the better part of the first half of 2001. At its last dealer meeting, several new models were at the company's Cadillac testing facility dock, including hull number one of the completely redesigned 234 Funship — one of the first new Four Winns models to be built under Genmar ownership.
Get Ready for Some Fun
Out on Lake Cadillac on one hot Midwestern day, we had our chance to run the new 234, and it performed way beyond our expectations. With the 320 hp 6.2L MerCruiser Bravo Three twin-prop stern drive, we were running at just shy of 50 mph.
Cranking the wheel hard over when you're at wide-open throttle isn't one of our favorite maneuvers in a strange boat, because there is always the chance that you'll launch one of your passengers (including yourself) off the front of the boat. Nevertheless, we cranked the wheel hard over several times at close to 50 mph, and the 234 handled a couple of these maneuvers quite well.
Often, a boat will either lug down from the added load of turning through the water or the engine drive will just blow out, spinning widely because the props can't find any water during the maneuver — but we didn't experience either of these situations. We grabbed onto the handholds and withstood the forces of the radical turn, which the boat performed satisfactorily as it quickly came back up to its full speed in a matter of seconds.
The platform proved to be very stable and handled our wake and trough as we constantly searched for any rough water that we could find. Backing down with any twin prop is a delightful experience, if you're easily frustrated by the fact that most single-engine runabouts always want to back in a circle — never taking you in the direction you want to go. With MerCruiser's twin-prop-equipped Bravo III, the boat backed in a straight line every time, making it a breeze to maneuver around the dock or in tight quarters.
A Well-Rounded Design
Probably the best part of the new Funship — other than its solid performance — is its layout. The 234's comfortable layout has everyone facing each other, providing the perfect environment for carrying on conversations and just enjoying each other's company. All of the seating corners are rounded, which doesn't cost you seating capacity, but it sure makes sitting in the corners a lot more comfortable.
The helm station has been modified to provide better visibility for both tall and short drivers. Both bucket seats have full-suspension, flip-up bolsters and a new adjustment system. The dash is accented with an attractive burled wood finish and separate Faria gauges surrounded by gold bezels, which replace the cluster of gauges featured in the previous models.
The portside console has an enclosed head on one side and a well-appointed bow refreshment center on the other. Both are nice features to have on board a deckboat — though not necessarily adjacent to each other.
The Sony AM/FM stereo with CD player is actually housed inside the head compartment. Fortunately, the operation of the stereo can be controlled at the helm, with a remote. An optional stereo remote is also available on the transom swim platform, which may sound a bit frivolous but is still far better than the alternative.
The transom lifts up to provide instant access to the engine, batteries and water tank, making routine maintenance less of a hassle. Similarly, inside the storage area on the side of the helm console is a cutout that provides access to the back of the gauges. All of the finishes we saw were well done, whether it was the glasswork in the cockpit or the top-of-the-line vinyls used to finish off the cockpit.
We especially liked the convenient molded-in ice chest holder under the portside aft settee, as well as the starboard side entrance in the bow, which aids in boarding or unloading passengers at the dock. Four Winns also added gas cylinders to the lid of the in-floor ski locker — to keep it from slamming shut.
The principal function of a deckboat is to provide a big, wide-open area where you can have fun. Four Winns has fulfilled this objective remarkably well, and the company has executed it with a style and functional elegance that places this deckboat at the top of the list of boats we would use when inviting a dozen of our closest friends for a weekend of boating fun.
|Dry weight (approx.)||4980 pounds|
|Fuel capacity||65 gallons|
|Maximum power||320 hp|
|Base price with a 270 hp 5.0L Volvo Penta GXi SX (single prop) four-stroke stern drive and trailer||$44,615|
|Price as tested with a 320 hp MerCruiser MX 6.2 MPI stern drive (Bravo Three drive) and trailer||$51,092|
|Top speed||49.2 mph|
|Cruising speed||25 mph|
|Miles per gallon at 25 mph cruising speed||2.7|
|Fuel cost for 100 miles||$40 (based on a fuel price of $1.09 per gallon)|
|Range at 25 mph cruise||175 miles|
|Model||MerCruiser MX 6.2 MPI stern drive (Bravo Three drive)|
|Bore x stroke||4.00 x 3.75 in.|
|Max. engine speed||5,200 rpm|
Bow fill-in cushions, stainless steel hardware, anti-skid deck, snap-in carpet, Sony stereo/CD player w/removable face plate and remote, Burlwood finish dash, Faria gauges, tilt steering wheel, bow and transom showers, 36-quart removable cooler, Bimini top, docking lights, Sure Load trailer.
Transom swim platform, stereo remote, center walk-through door, camper canvas, sport graphics.
For more information:
Four Winns Boats
925 Frisbie St.
Cadillac, MI 49601