The new Larson All American 23 is intended to celebrate the centennial of Larson Boats, which was founded in 1913 by Paul Larson in Little Falls, Minn., to manufacture a wooden duck skiff of his own design. Today the company is known as Larson Boat Group, and the new All American is also built on the banks of the Mississippi River in Little Falls. As you may have already noticed, it is not a duck skiff.
The All American 23 is a throw-back in the same vein as the current Chevrolet Camaro; a modern design with a few styling cues to remind us of a classic. In the case of the Larson, this is accomplished with a dip in the bond line – where the hull and deck are joined – amidships that reprises the shape of a few past models and also the classic Larson “tear drop” hullside graphic that once was the company’s trademark. The chrome vent on each hull side and the vintage-style stainless steel logo recall the late 1950s. For the full effect, however, I think the boat needs to be in the butterscotch-and-white color combination, which takes me immediately back to about 1968. The other color choice, navy blue with a red boot stripe, seems more contemporary.
In the recent past, the Larson All American was an entry-level model, but the 2013 version is a big, luxurious, full-feature runabout. Pricing starts at just over $50,000, including a trailer. That base boat is equipped with a modest V6 220-hp MerCruiser 4.3 MPI stern-drive. I tested the boat with a 300-hp V8 MerCruiser 350 Mag MPI Bravo Three, which bumps the price up to $57,000 but enhances both performance and, I think, resale value. In addition to the trailer, the standard equipment list includes the deep swim platform extension topped with a faux-teak mat. The same material also covers the center walk-through to the cockpit. The wrap-around windshield has a nifty polished stainless-steel header, and the thin-rimmed wood steering wheel looks just like the three-spoke job on your big brother’s 67 Pontiac GTO. A four-speaker Jensen audio system and LED cockpit courtesy lights are also standard.
The 23-foot All American is the largest boat Larson has produced using its proprietary VEC (virtual Engineered Composites) closed-mold construction process, which forms the hull and a foam stringer grid as a single, unitized part that is exceptionally rigid and durable. VEC has been in production since 2000, used primarily for smaller models where higher volume offsets the considerable tooling costs. A VEC hull is molded with a very high degree of precision, since injection of resin and the curing process are computer controlled. It also produces smooth inner surfaces that can be seen on the All American in the engine bay. The All American deck is traditional fiberglass composite and is bonded to the stringer and attached mechanically along the bond line. My previous experience with VEC boats has always been positive. The boat feels really solid on the water, yet seems to do a good job absorbing drivetrain vibration and hull noise. This was the case with this All American model, although I only had a chance to run it on smooth water, and that was just a short stretch of the river in Little Falls. The hull is rather flat, with just 16 degrees of deadrise at the transom, but still carved some nifty turns. There was just enough room to reach a top speed of about 52 mph.
If there’s one option to consider for this boat, it might be the reclining bucket seats ($1,194 port and starboard). They are big, wide and fabulously comfortable, and they add a little more retro style. The standard seats are fine, but look a bit too modern. A white and tan interior color scheme matches either hull color well. This boat does not have a ski locker, a move Larson says reduces noise while underway. Instead, there’s a long stowage compartment below the port side of the aft seat. There’s also a clever drawer that slides out from below the aft seat that’s designed to hold extra cushions and the sun top and bows. The consoles are molded fiberglass shaped to evoke a classic auto dash, color-matched to the upholstery.
In the bow, Larson has created an unusual and very functional seating arrangement. In place of the typical wrap-around bench, the All American has a pair of seat bottoms at the consoles with a footwell and wrap-around backrest, so passengers may be positioned facing forward or inboard. There’s a third seat in the bowpeak. The bottom cushions lift off to reach stowage below, and there’s an optional set of filler cushions ($429) and a bow table ($447) to consider. Other options worth noting are a wakeboard tower with racks ($3,336), a Bimini top ($856), and a premium sound system ($1,600).
Boating families with smaller children may appreciate this boat’s depth. In the cockpit, I measured 34.5 inches from the sole to the gunwale, and the bow is a very comforting 33 inches deep. What’s missing is a head compartment, which has become a pretty common feature on runabouts in this size and price range. There’s also no sink, anchor locker or dedicated cooler stowage. But maybe that’s part of the vintage appeal of the All American, to take us back to the days when boats looked distinctive and were a little less complicated.
Here's a short video of the helm area.