Make no mistake. Reggie Fountain, CEO, founder and force behind Fountain Powerboats in Washington, N.C., is a promoter. If he gets your ear, he'll sing the praises of Fountain boats until you're a believer.
Can you blame him? Fountain has the product to back his bluster. The 35'-long, 8'6"-wide Lightning we tested off Captiva Island, Fla., provided proof of that.
The base price of the 35' Lightning with a pair of MerCruiser 502 Magnum MPI engines is $200,333, a relative bargain in the offshore- performance-boat world. Our test model boasted a couple of options, most notably an upgrade to twin Mercury Racing HP500EFI engines that raised the price to $254,467.
At that price Fountain certainly isn't giving away the 35' Lightning. Still, it's a lot of boat for the bucks.
The boat rode on a two-step modified-V-pad bottom with four strakes. The first step was approximately 14 feet forward of the transom, and the second step roughly 3 1/2 feet aft of the first.
Of course, the bottom alone didn't get the Lightning to its top speed of 85 mph. The twin 470-hp, fuel-injected big-blocks channeled their juice into Bravo One XR drives spinning Bravo One 15 1/4" x 30" four-blade propellers through a 1.5:1 reduction.
In midrange performance drills, the Lightning lived up to its name, bolting from 30 mph to 50 mph in 4.8 seconds, from 40 mph to 60 mph in 5 seconds and from 40 mph to 70 mph in 9.7 seconds. From a standing start, the 8,400-pound boat reached 64 mph in 15 seconds and 73 mph in 20 seconds. About the only lackluster aspect of the boat's acceleration performance was the loss of visibility when coming on plane — due in no small part to the aggressive steps.
When it came to handling, our lead test driver could find nothing to gripe about. Sweeping turns at 70 mph were smooth, especially when our driver dragged the outside Mercury Racing 280-S K-plane trim tab. In abrupt slalom turns at 40 mph and 50 mph, the Lightning held its grip well and didn't slide or catch. Those maneuvers were just slightly less crisp at 30 mph. The boat tracked perfectly at all speeds and didn't veer off course during sudden or gradual deceleration.
In quartering, following and head-on seas, the Lightning was impressively smooth, cleaving through swells and wind chop.
Like its larger and smaller siblings, the 35' Lightning was handlaid with vinylester resin and quad-directional fiberglass.
The luster of the boat's red gelcoat was better than average, and the wave-free mold work was as good as it gets. Protecting the smooth hull was a black extruded-plastic rubrail with a rubber insert.
All hardware was powder-painted to match the gelcoat. Useful items included a navigation light on the boat's nose, an anchor locker and handrails on the deck, a cleat on each side of the precisely installed windshield (with red frame), and two more cleats all the way aft.
A center-mounted electric screw jack raised the engine hatch to a high angle that gave our inspectors a great look at the fuel-injected motors. The engines were installed with Mercury Racing offshore mounts on L-angles through-bolted to the stringers.
All wiring was neatly routed and supported by aluminum aircraft cushion clamps. (Wiring between the engine compartment and the helm was run through PVC tubes in the gunwales.) The entire installation appeared well planned and "parallel." For example, a steering pump was mounted on the side of each engine. The pumps for the trim tabs and drives were mounted on the firewall.
In addition to facing lounges and a spacious V-berth, the cabin boasted an enclosed head compartment and a galley with a refrigerator, cabinetry and plenty of counter space.
Other cabin highlights included a suspended headliner, indirect lighting behind valances, a hanging locker and a Clarion Marine stereo system. Like the lounges and V-berth in the cabin, the twin bolsters and rear bench in the Lightning's cockpit were French-stitched. Fountain builds its own bolsters in-house, and those in Lightning were supported by red-powder-painted stainless-steel stands through-bolted to the nonskid sole, which was covered by welted lay-in carpeting.
At the helm, gauges were arranged in a horseshoe with a Nordskog Performance Products GPS speedometer front and center flanked by twin tachometers. To the left of the steering wheel were the chrome-plated throttles and shifters, above which were the rocker switches for the drives and tabs.
Across the way to port, the co-pilot's position included a grab handle and a huge glove box for stowage. Other stowage areas included gunwale trays and space under the bottom cushion of the rear bench.
Grab handles were mounted within easy reach of bench passengers. Beyond the bench was a two-person sunpad and an integrated swim platform.
But perhaps one of the best aspects of the Lightning's cockpit — and a rare amenity on an offshore boat — was the windshield. Typically, one would have to shout to hold a conversation when the boat is running at speed. Not so in the 35' Lightning. The driver and passengers sat well protected from the deafening wind that accompanied 80-plus-mph speeds. Testers scrawled notes of praise in their logs.
Fountain's new twin-step 35' Lightning is an eye-catching offshore performer that's built to go fast and take a pounding — all while coddling its passengers in wind-free comfort.
Hull Information and Propulsion Information
|Deadrise at transom||23 degrees|
|Hull weight||8,400 pounds|
|Engines||Mercury Racing HP500EFI|
|Lower-unit gear ratio||1.5:1|
|Propellers||Mercury Bravo One 15 1/4" X 30"|
|Price as tested||$254,467|
Twin MerCruiser 502 Magnum MPI engines with Bravo One drives, hydraulic steering, battery boxes with custom heavy-duty brackets, two 12-volt bilge blowers, two 12-volt bilge pumps, swim ladder, Gaffrig tachometer and gauges for oil pressure and oil temperature, Gaffrig throttles and shift controls, refrigerator, head.
Options on Test Boat
Upgrade to Mercury Racing HP500EFI engines ($27,762), custom gelcoat ($7,050), Silent Choice exhaust ($4,133), stereo upgrade ($2,765), hatch with Fountain numbers and lightning bolt ($2,440), red rails and vents ($2,161), sea strainers ($2,000), colored instrument bezels ($1,360), special graphics ($1,353), electronic GPS ($1,116), seat back embroidery ($684), freshwater flush ($598), depthfinder ($431), chrome throttles ($281).
|5 seconds||25 mph|
|10 seconds||49 mph|
|15 seconds||64 mph|
|20 seconds||73 mph|
|30-50 mph||4.8 seconds|
|40-60 mph||5 seconds|
|40-70 mph||9.7 seconds|
Rpm vs. Mph
|Radar||83.6 mph at 5200 rpm|
|Nordskog Performance Products GPS||84.5 mph|
|Time to plane||5.1 seconds|
|Minimum planing speed||19 mph|
|At 55 mph||1.5 mpg|
|At 65 mph||1.3 mpg|
|At WOT||1 mpg|
|Fuel capacity||182 gallons|
P.O. Drawer 457
Washington, NC 27889