Top speed for the 38-footer was 81.1 mph with the engines turning 5,300 rpm. (Photo by Tom Newby)

Top speed for the 38-footer was 81.1 mph with the engines turning 5,300 rpm. (Photo by Tom Newby)



No one at Thunderbird Products claims its Formula FAS3Tech models are "custom" offshore boats. On the contrary, Scott Porter, the company's CEO takes great pains to point out that Thunderbird is a production boatbuilder. Nor do Porter and company claim their boats are the fastest or most nimble in their class.

But does any production builder offer a better all-around—from amenities and construction to performance—offshore model than the 382 FAS3Tech? Probably not, at least when you look at the total package. Having tested a few of them, most recently one with a pair of Mercury Racing HP575SCi engines combining to make 1,100 horsepower, we can say that confidently.

Performance

Though the 575SCi engines will be shelved in 2005, Mercury Racing will still provide support, in the form of parts and service, for the foreseeable future. Plenty of those supercharged, electronically fuel-injected 550-hp engines are still in the pipeline.

In addition to those power plants, the builder outfitted the stepped model with 1.5:1 Bravo XR drives with Mercury Maximus 15 5/8" x 28" five-blade stainless-steel propellers, which now are standard equipment for the 382 FAS3Tech. Top speed for the 38-footer was 81.1 mph with the engines turning 5,300 rpm. Sure, there are like-size boats that will go faster on the same power, but few, if any weigh in at 10,450 pounds.

What you give up in speed thanks to weight, you get back in a solid ride offshore. Like every 382 FAS3Tech we've tested, this year's model provided a solid ride in rough water. And churned up as it was by a hurricane a few days before we tested, the water outside Sarasota Bay was plenty rough—3- to 5-footers with the occasional 6-foot attention-getter.

Land the 382 FAS3Tech on its side and you'll find it delivers a healthy thump to your spine, as would any number of boats. But land it level in head-seas, following or quartering, and reentry is soft. Plus, the boat never feels light or fluttery when it leaves the water.

The 382 carved well in slalom turns, as well as cruising- and high-speed circles. Like most, if not all, stepped V-bottoms, it cornered best with neutral to positive trim. Trimming down drives as you enter a corner might be standard practice with conventional V-bottoms, but stepped models require a different approach. Latham full hydraulic steering made the 382 FAS3Tech responsive at the steering wheel. Yet the boat never over-steered, and tracking at all speeds was first-rate.

Workmanship

New for 2005 were our test boat's Lazer graphics, which were applied in Imron paint. No production builder has a better in-house paint department than Thunderbird, and that showed in the execution of the color scheme. Of course, it helps to work on a canvas—decks and hullsides—that don't have any flaws.

Again typical for a Formula, the 382 was loaded with hardware that included eight custom cleats. When you need to crawl up to one of those cleats on the boat's nose, the stainless-steel handrails on the perimeter of the deck, which had four large Bomar hatches for cabin ventilation, will be much appreciated. Likely, you'll also be glad to have the ladder, which folded into its own locker on the integrated swim platform, if you take a dip.

The boat's cleanly finished engine hatch/sun pad was lifted by an electric screw jack. Both motors were secured on racing mounts and L-angles, and through-bolted to the grid system. Stainless-steel cushion clamps were used to hold wires and cables in place, though we've seen more tidy installations from Formula.

Interior

Short of a bolster-style bench, the best you can ask for in a performance boat is a deep, sculpted bench with rich padding. That's an apt description of the rear bench in the 382 FAS3Tech's cockpit, which had snap-in carpet covering its sole. For added security in rough water, there were grab handles on the gunwales above the deep stowage trays, as well as grab handles on the backs of the McLeod bolsters for the driver and co-pilot

Per the FAS3Tech standard equipment list, those bolsters had power dropout bottoms. The footrests ahead of the driver and co-pilot also were McLeod power versions, which enables people in those seats to adjust them to their preference. In terms of comfort and support, the arrangement couldn't have been better. We'd probably relocate the seat-bottom and footrest rocker-switch controls on each bolster armrest. More than once we smacked our elbows on those switches.

We couldn't think of anything that would improve the boat's helm station. It's red-accented dash, new for 2005, was outfitted with Livorsi instruments in chrome bezels that matched the chrome Livorsi shifters and throttles.

There are vacation homes, many of them, that couldn't match the 382 FAS3Tech cabin in terms of features and appliances. An air-conditioning unit took up what would have been a large locker on the port side of the boat, just ahead of the galley. Opposite that was a fully equipped head locker.

The facing lounges and V-berth were upholstered in Ultraleather, standard stuff for Formula. Also standard, starting this year, was the Sharp Aquos LCD flat-screen TV and DVD player.

Overall

What we've always liked about the Formula 382 FAS3Tech is that the boat presents a complete package, perhaps the most complete package of its kind. It's not a purpose-built go-fast boat that does one thing—go fast—well. But it is a well-built boat that offers strong performance and features just about everyone can appreciate.

Hull and Propulsion Information
Deadrise at transom24 degrees
Centerline38'2"
Beam8'3"
Hull weight10,450 pounds
Engines(2) Mercury Racing HP575SCi
Cylinder typeV-8
Cubic-inch displacement/horsepower502/550
Lower-unit gear ratio1.5:1
PropellersMercury Maximus 15 5/8" x 28"

Pricing
Base retail$283,030
Price as tested$412280

Options on Test Boat

Upgrade to Mercury Racing HP575SCi engines ($81,670), Stellings extension boxes ($12,605), Lazer graphics package ($12,155), Kohler gas generator ($9,360), Captain's Call exhaust ($4,625), air conditioning ($4,555), Garmin 182 chartplotter ($1,775), VHF radio with Shakespeare antenna ($1,090), macerator with Y-valve discharge and pump-out ($950) and stainless-steel docking lights ($465).

Acceleration
5 seconds23 mph
10 seconds40 mph
15 seconds55 mph
20 seconds65 mph

Midrange Acceleration
30-50 mph6.1 seconds
40-60 mph7.3 seconds
40-70 mph13.6 seconds

Rpm vs. Mph
10008 mph
150010 mph
200019 mph
250021 mph
300041 mph
350053 mph
400062 mph
450070 mph
500077 mph

Top Speed
Radar81.1 mph at 5300
GPS78.6 mph

Planing
Time to plane6.6 seconds
Minimum planing speed19 mph

Fuel Economy
At 25 mphNA
At 35 mph1.3 mpg
At 45 mph1 mpg
At 55 mph.0.97 mpg
At 65 mph0.82 mpg
At WOT0.87 mpg
Fuel capacity195 gallons

Test Conditions
LocationsSarasota Fla.
Temperature84 degrees
Humidity71 percent
Wind speed4-6 mph
Sea conditions1' to 2' chop
ElevationSea level

For More Information

Thunderbird Products
Dept. PB
2200 W. Monroe St.
Decatur, IN 46733
800-736-7685
www.formulaboats.com.

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