A visitor to the performance trials motioned to the Fountain 35' Lightning, asking who the boat manufacturer was. When told it was a Fountain, the visitor shook his head and said, "I've never seen one with that much color." Neither had we. Welcome to a new era in Fountain Powerboats, where buyers can create a paint job as wild or as sedate as their personality.
Fountain continues to evolve and company founder and owner Reggie Fountain recognized the growing market for customization. The company showcased some of the work coming out of its paint shop in Washington, N.C., during our 2004 Performance Trials in Fort Myers, Fla. With hopped-up HP575SCi engines from Mercury Racing, the 35-footer showed that it had more than good looks going for it.
The twin-step 35' Lightning has been a staple of the Fountain line for several years. Though a pair of stock HP575SCi engines would have been a great choice for the established performer, the modified versions—with Superchiller intercooler kits—proved inspired. The kits reportedly upped the output from each electronically fuel-injected mill from 550 hp to 650 hp.
That power surge showed its worth in all aspects of the 35-footer's speed and acceleration, starting with its top end of 103 mph with the engines turning 5,400 rpm. With stock HP575SCi engines, the boat reportedly runs in the mid-90-mph range.
True to its name, the 35' Lightning bolted from 30 to 50 mph in 3.6 seconds, 40 to 60 mph in 3.9 seconds and 40 to 70 mph in 6.8 seconds. From a standing start, the boat leveled off in 5.3 seconds and, with its 380S K-Planes down it reached 80 mph in 20 seconds.
Acceleration numbers were particularly strong given the boat's tall lab-finished Bravo One 15 1/4" x 37" four-blade stainless-steel propellers. The drives were Bravo One XR units with Sport Master gear cases, 1-inch spacers and 1.5:1 gear reduction. The lower units didn't have cavitation plates (the missing parts reportedly did not reach Fountain in time for our Performance Trials), which likely would have improved the boat's already acceptable time to plane.
A touch of negative tab trim was all it took to keep the 35' Lightning comfortably planted at more than 100 mph—you won't find many V-bottoms this size that feel so stable at that speed. The tabs also proved useful in quartering-sea conditions. Offshore ride quality, which we evaluated in 2- to 4-footers taken at quarter, head-on and following, was exceptional. So, too, were the boat's handling manners. The 35' Lightning is still one of the most agile, yet stable stepped-bottom models in its class. With slightly positive drive trim, the boat grooved its way through multiple slaloms and circles at various speeds.
To compete with custom builders, Fountain added in-house custom paint services a couple of years ago. That was a bold move from a production builder.
The first Fountain with an intricate custom paint job we've seen, the 35' Lightning was brilliant—in color and execution. Its multi-hued graphics, which attracted substantial attention at the docks, were free of glitches and protected by a strong rubrail. Behind the paint were layers of multi-directional fiberglass and vinylester resin.
The acrylic deck hatch was painted to match the boat's color scheme. Also on the deck, to help people reach the anchor locker on the nose, were two stainless-steel handrails. Other hardware items included a navigation light, Accon four-bolt cleats, a number of stainless-steel grab handles throughout the boat and a ladder in a locker on the integrated swim platform.
Clean—that best described the rigging in the engine compartment. Offshore mounts and L-angles through-bolted to the stringers kept the computer-managed big-block engines in place. White epoxy was used to finish the bilge, and the batteries were mounted in powder-painted boxes. Although one wire loom could have used more support, overall wiring work was first-rate.
Fountain retained traditional cockpit seating for the 35' Lightning, meaning two bolsters, with power drop-out bottoms, and a straight rear bench. The builder also stuck with its classic starboard helm layout, which meant the Gaffrig by Livorsi levers were on the left side of the steering wheel and gauges were arranged around it.
For 2004, Fountain has made Gaffrig Monster gauges standard in all its performance models, and our test boat came with the enormously popular instruments. Rubber-booted toggle switches activated the accessories.
Between the helm and the co-pilot's station, which included a locking glove box and a grab handle, was the three-piece acrylic door for access to the cabin. Two facing lounges comprised the seating accommodations below deck, though the port lounge was shorter than the starboard side# because a galley with a Norcold refrigerator and a sink also was to port.
Aft of the galley to port was a locker that housed a 640-watt amp for the Kenwood CD stereo system. Opposite the galley was a surprisingly spacious head locker with a head unit, a mirror and two lights. All the way forward was a V-berth with lockers below its single cushion.
The 35' Lightning is among the finest models we've seen from Fountain in years. It delivered the kind of excellent performance for which Fountain models are known in an uncommonly dressy package. Fountain could well be on the way to reinventing itself.
Hull and Propulsion Information
|Deadrise at transom||24 degrees|
|Hull weight||8,600 pounds|
|Engines (2)||Mercury Racing HP575SCi|
|Lower-unit gear ratio||1.5:1|
|Propellers||Mercury Bravo One 15 1/4" x 37"|
|Price as tested||$348,031|
Options on Test Boat
Upgrade to twin Mercury Racing HP575SCi engines ($73,245), cyclone graphics ($19,281), Superchillers ($17,846), Gaffrig by Livorsi Monster gauge package ($2,615), stereo upgrade ($1,948), shore power ($1,197), mirror hatch ($1,277), deck graphics ($1,171), colored rails ($923), flush ($700), depth gauge ($505), billet steps and drink holders ($308).
|Site||Fort Myers, Fla.|
|Wind speed||2-4 mph|
|Sea conditions||2'-4' chop|
|5 seconds||25 mph|
|10 seconds||50 mph|
|15 seconds||70 mph|
|20 seconds||80 mph|
|30-50 mph||3.6 seconds|
|40-60 mph||3.9 seconds|
|40-70 mph||6.8 seconds|
Rpm vs. Mph
|Radar||103 mph at 5400 rpm|
|Nordskog Performance Products GPS||102.1 mph at 5400 rpm|
|Time to plane||5.3 seconds|
|Minimum planing speed||19 mph|
For More Information
P.O. Drawer 457
Washington, NC 27889