When it comes to commitment to the American Power Boat Association Factory 2-class racing, no company tops Thunderbird Products, manufacturer of Formula boats. At the 2000 APBA World Championships in St. Petersburg, Fla., which kicked off as this issue went to press, at least 10 Formula Factory 2 teams planned to compete.
As it happens, Factory 2 boats, with 940 horsepower under the hatch and solid rough-water ability, also make mean poker-run boats. Or, in the case of the Formula 382 FAS3Tech Poker Run Edition, vice-versa. Pull the rear bolsters from the 38'2"-long, 8'3"-wide boat and it's an out-of-the-box racer legal for Factory 2 competition. Leave them in and you've got a killer poker-run machine.
Base price for the Formula 382 FAS3Tech with a pair of MerCruiser 502 Magnum MPI engines and a fully equipped cabin is $235,070. Base price for our test boat, the 382 FAS3Tech Poker Run Edition, is $302,680. It has no cabin to speak of, but it does have other goodies including twin Mercury Racing HP500EFI motors, Kevlar in its lamination schedule, four bolsters, lifting eyes that comply with APBA Factory 2 requirements and lots more. With a few upgrades, the test boat cost $321,005.
The 382 FAS3Tech Poker Run Edition runs on the same efficient, two-step hull as the "standard" 382 FAS3Tech. That means the modified V-pad bottom had one step approximately 15 feet forward of the notched transom and another step 6 feet aft of that. The boat had four strakes, with the inner pair terminating at the first step. The outer set of strakes ran full length but were staggered, meaning they moved progressively outward from the keel on each running surface.
Bolted onto the 470-hp fuel-injected motors were Bravo One drives with Teague Custom Marine Platinum Series upgrades spinning lab-finished Mercury Bravo One 15 1/4" x 31" stainless-steel propellers through a 1.5:1 reduction. That propulsion package and efficient hull enabled the boat to run a top speed of 85.1 mph at 5100 rpm on the Nordskog Performance Products GPS speedometer. Top speed as recorded on Stalker Radar was 84.4 mph.
That power/hull combination proved just as impressive during acceleration drills. The 382 FAS3Tech Poker Run Edition came on plane in 4.8 seconds, ran 70 mph in 15 seconds and 78 mph in 20 seconds. More impressive still was the boat's performance in midrange acceleration drills. It shot from 30 to 50 mph in 4 seconds, 40 to 60 mph in 4.7 seconds and 40 to 70 mph in 7.9.
Used during the 2000 season as a paceboat for APBA offshore races, our tall-sided test model proved nimble in slalom turns at 30, 40 and 50 mph. In decreasing-radius circles at cruising and full speeds, it displayed none of the unsettling quirks (skips, hops and slides) we've seen from other stepped-bottom models. Accelerating or decelerating, the 382 tracked perfectly.
But perhaps the best aspect of its performance was the way it smoothed out what rough water we could find off Captiva Island, Fla. In quartering, following and head-on conditions, it delivered a soft, predictable ride. The 280-S K-planes from Mercury Racing helped our test driver keep the boat level in quartering seas — that's nothing unusual. Extraordinary, however, were the boat's wraparound bolsters. "You feel like you're ?wearing' this boat," said our test driver.
Our test boat featured flawless Imron paint on gleaming white gelcoat. Mold work, as well as the installation of the rubrail protecting it, was perfect.
The boat was laid up with Kevlar, woven roving, Coremat, biaxial fiberglass and AME 4000 resin. The company also uses custom-stitched fiberglass, the precise weave of which is very hush-hush. For coring, PVC foam and Divinycell were used. Per raceboat standards, hardware was minimal. A nav light was on the nose, and a stainless rail ran down the deck to the aluminum faring.
The manually opening engine hatch was made of fiberglass and held in place by race-style hood pins. Inside the engine compartment, the engines were secured on Mercury Racing offshore mounts and L-angles that were through-bolted to the stringers. The majority of cables, wires and hoses were well-routed and supported by stainless-steel cushion clamps.
Among the nicer touches in the engine compartment were two Mercury propeller brackets. Each held a lab-finished prop that matched those on the drives. That setup comes standard with the Poker Run Edition package.
Under the deck there's nothing but fiberglass, resin and wood. The idea was to cut down on weight, a big advantage in races and poker runs.
Any buyer, however, should appreciate the 382 Poker Run Edition's outstanding cockpit. Our test team members felt secure once nestled into any one of the four bolsters. They featured thick padding, sturdy upholstery and body-hugging contours.
Set up for two-person operation, the boat had Latham throttles and shifters set up in a podium between the two forward bolsters. Ahead of the podium in the dash were white-faced Gaffrig gauges in red bezels.
Ahead of the driver was a Garmin GPS 180, as well as a lower-tech compass. Ignition switches were to the lower left of the steering wheel. To port, the co-pilot's dash had a stainless-steel grab handle and redundant tab- and drive-trim switches.
Formula knows that every racer isn't into poker runs, and every poker runner isn't into racing. In the 382 FAS3Tech Poker Run Edition, they've created two great boats in one.
Hull and Propulsion Information
|Deadrise at transom||24 degrees|
|Hull weight||8,200 pounds|
|Engines||Mercury Racing HP500EFI|
|Lower-unit gear ratio||1.5:1|
|Propellers||Mercury Bravo One lab-finished 15 1/4" X 30"|
|Price as tested||$321,005|
Mercury Racing HP500EFI engines, two sets of Mercury four-blade Bravo One lab-finished bed propellers, Latham steering and tie bar, Arneson trim tabs, custom poker run/race dash, center console with dual-use throttle, Gaffrig offshore gauges, dual trim-switch placement, Mercury trim indicators, outdrive showers, four-racing bolster poker run package, Kevlar blend hull and deck laminate, aluminum race windscreen, cockpit hatch and fiberglass engine hatch with twin air scoops, Eagle triaxle trailer with triaxle brakes, electric jackstand, spare tire mounts with alloy wheels.
Options on Test Boat
Upgrade to Platinum Signature Imron graphics ($10,500) Racing Communications intercom and VHF radio ($5,385), cockpit cover ($1,045), Raytheon GPS ($880), freshwater engine flush ($515).
|5 seconds||30 mph|
|10 seconds||53 mph|
|15 seconds||70 mph|
|20 seconds||78 mph|
|30-50 mph||4 seconds|
|40-60 mph||4.7 seconds|
|40-70 mph||7.9 seconds|
Rpm vs. Mph
|Radar||84.4 mph at 5150 rpm|
|Nordskog Performance Products GPS||85.1 mph|
|Time to plane||4.8 seconds|
|Minimum planing speed||24 mph|
|At 45 mph||1.6 mpg|
|At 55 mph||1.5 mpg|
|At WOT||1 mpg|
|Fuel capacity||125 gallons|
Thunderbird Products/Formula Boats
P.O. Box 1003, 220 W. Monroe St.
Decatur, IN 46733