Driven by De­sign

AU­TOMAK­ERS HAVE A LONG HIS­TORY OF TRY­ING TO DIP A TOE INTO BOAT­BUILD­ING. THANKS TO MAN­U­FAC­TUR­ERS LIKE LEXUS AND AS­TON MARTIN, THEY MIGHT JUST START MAK­ING WAVES.

Power & Motor Yacht - - IN THIS ISSUE - BY CHRIS CASWELL

There is a long his­tory of au­tomak­ers dip­ping toes into boat­build­ing. Will this new­est wave suc­ceed?

As sexy as Daniel Craig with his shirt off and as el­e­gant as Sean Con­nery in the casino at Monte Carlo, it’s no sur­prise that a crowd gath­ered around the sharp metal­lic blue boat at the Mi­ami boat show. The sur­prise came from what it said on the name­plate: As­ton Martin.

The new As­ton Martin AM37 is just the lat­est ef­fort by au­tomak­ers from Chrysler to Fer­rari, Lexus to Mercedes, to dip their toes into the yacht­ing scene. Some have been suc­cess­ful, oth­ers not so much, but all have brought an in­ter­est­ing land-sea fla­vor to th­ese most pop­u­lar of toys: boats and cars.

The AM37 is a piece of arm candy less Walther PPK and more Pussy Ga­lore—and the “gran turismo” model is lux­u­ri­ously ap­pointed, while the faster “S” ver­sion can chase Spec­tre vil­lain Ernst Blofeld at over 50 knots. How­ever, Bond fans may be dis­ap­pointed to learn that the power is not V-12s but, rather, a pair of 520-hp Mercury diesels. Nev­er­the­less, James Bond has had a long-stand­ing love af­fair with As­ton Martin in the var­i­ous 007 films, and this seago­ing As­ton clearly draws on that her­itage.

One of the fea­tures that would in­trigue Sean, Daniel and Roger— be­yond the Mako Blue As­ton Martin paint and the Cream Truf­fle leather up­hol­stery—is the elec­tric cham­pagne bucket that can be ac­ti­vated from your iPhone (thanks Q), pre­sum­ably while en route in your As­ton Martin DB-11. You would, of course, have a Bollinger ’75 in the bucket.

While As­ton Martin’s Chief Cre­ative Of­fi­cer, Marek Re­ich­man, col­lab­o­rated with naval ar­chi­tects Mulder De­sign, the yacht came not from the As­ton Martin fac­tory in Gay­don, Eng­land, but from Quin­tes­sence Yachts, a Dutch firm with a ship­yard in Southamp­ton, Eng­land. Says Re­ich­man, “The AM37 is a pure trans­la­tion of the As­ton Martin DNA into an en­tirely new mar­itime con­cept. The power­boat re­flects our val­ues in terms of power, beauty and soul.”

Henk de Vries, di­rec­tor of Fead­ship and chair­man of Quin­tes­sence Yachts su­per­vi­sory board, says, “It’s a log­i­cal move for As­ton Martin, as it shares many of the same clients that own and love boats.”

Draw­ing on the speed­boat aura of the clas­sic Riva Aquarama, the AM37 fea­tures planked teak deck­ing fore and aft, a re­tractable car­bon fiber Bi­mini top and re­tractable swim plat­form. The wrap­around wind­screen is a sin­gle piece of sculpted glass, and a three­p­anel slid­ing deck un­folds to pro­tect the cock­pit when not in use. Other ne­ces­si­ties aboard this uber-luxe day boat are a Ne­spresso ma­chine and a re­mote-con­trolled an­chor winch, a must in the ab­sence of bowrails or even a for­ward hatch for fore­deck ac­cess. You, too, can be 007, start­ing at $1.6 mil­lion.

There are, it seems, two kinds of auto/boat crossovers. One in­volves the par­ent au­tomaker in the styling and con­struc­tion de­ci­sions, while the other might best be la­beled “de­cal engi­neer­ing” since the au­tomaker’s in­volve­ment be­gins and ends at putting its name on the boat. This is the nau­ti­cal equiv­a­lent of “badge engi­neer­ing” on cars, such as the Chevy Ta­hoe, GMC Yukon and Cadil­lac Es­calade— name changes made to the same ba­sic plat­form. Such co­op­er­a­tive brand­ing is com­mon in the in­dus­try, with a boat­builder tak­ing ad­van­tage of a car­maker’s im­age to mar­ket its prod­uct.

Long a sym­bol of fast and sexy cars, Fer­rari col­lab­o­rated with Riva in 1990 to cre­ate the Riva Fer­rari 32. It’s es­pe­cially hard to miss in flam­ing Rosso Corsa red, or the tra­di­tional color of Ital­ian rac­ing cars, while the big For­mula One wing can­tilevered for­ward over the cock­pit is more “gee-whiz” than ne­ces­sity in my opin­ion. A to­tal of 30 were built, and the styling is pure Fer­rari Tes­tarossa, with slat-like air in­takes on each side. Sadly—or per­haps wisely—the 32 wasn’t pow­ered by Fer­rari 4.9-liter V-12s with 48 valves but by twin Ital­ian BPM Vul­cano 390-hp en­gines with sur­face drives, cer­tainly less tem­per­a­men­tal pow­er­plants in the ma­rine en­vi­ron­ment. With a top speed of 54 knots, Sotheby’s re­cently sold one for a quar­ter of a mil­lion dol­lars.

Dip­ping its three-pointed star in salt wa­ter is Mercedes-Benz with the Ar­row460-Gran­tur­ismo Edi­tion 1, a col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween the Mercedes-Benz Style stu­dio, Sil­ver Ar­row Ma­rine of Monaco, and Baltic Yachts of Fin­land. Un­like other con­cepts, the 460 is ac­tu­ally in pro­duc­tion, with Hull No. 1 al­ready cruis­ing the French Riviera.

Named for the leg­endary “Sil­ver Ar­row” Mercedes rac­ing cars of the ’30s, the 46-foot coupe wears Mercedes rac­ing sil­ver, of course, but from there takes a sharp turn to­wards pure lux­ury over speed. (Rather than 1930s Sil­ver Ar­row V-12s, it makes use of 440-hp Yan­mar diesels good for 30 knots.) This is a stylish day cruiser, with ev­ery­thing from au­to­mo­bile-style re­tract­ing side win­dows to a most deca­dent wine cel­lar. The in­te­rior fea­tures eu­ca­lyp­tus wood and leather trim, with wrap­around seat­ing for 10 peo­ple, which is es­sen­tial since the cock­pit has only two seats. There is also a bed­room

suite and an open­ing “per­gola” roof for­ward that hinges the en­tire wind­screen up­wards. Only 10 Edi­tion 1s will be built, with each go­ing to a dif­fer­ent coun­try, so plunk your $2 mil­lion down soon.

Toy­ota took an en­tirely dif­fer­ent tack in 2014 with its alu­minumhulled Ponam 31, which it la­beled a “Sports Util­ity Cruiser,” also pop­u­lar­ized by the un­for­tu­nate acronym “SUC.” Sport­ing a large fly­bridge with mez­za­nine seat­ing, the V-bot­tom hull is pow­ered by a pair of 3.0-liter turbo diesels from the Land Cruiser Prado which, in the U.S., is the Lexus GX. Marinized with dif­fer­ent tur­bos and cool­ing, the yacht bears spoiler-styled wings on the bridge and tran­som. Toy­ota first launched a Ponam 28 in 1997, nam­ing it af­ter the Maori name for New Zealand’s South Is­land. The price for the 31 is about $275,000 in Ja­pan.

Toy­ota also made an ear­lier foray into boats with a line of water­ski mod­els in the ’90s called Epics. Us­ing the 4-liter V-8 en­gine from the Lexus 400, the se­ries started with a 21-foot closed bow that was re­called when driv­ers lost con­trol dur­ing turns be­cause of a twist in the orig­i­nal mold. Next came an open-bow 22-footer that fea­tured an auto-bal­last sys­tem, but the line was dropped dur­ing the eco­nomic down­turn of 2001.

Lexus, the lux­ury love child of Toy­ota, launched a wa­ter­borne ver­sion of its cars when CEO Akio Toy­oda was test­ing one of the Toy­ota Ma­rine Ponam yachts and de­cided to have Lexus de­sign­ers cre­ate a sporty lux­ury yacht. The Mar­quis-Carver Yacht Group in Wis­con­sin built a car­bon-fiber pro­to­type us­ing a pair of 440-hp V-8 en­gines from the Lexus RC F and LC500. Vis­i­ble through a unique clear en­gine cover, th­ese push the Lexus Sport Yacht to 43 knots. The styling is drawn from the 200-mph Lexus LFA su­per­car, as are the col­ors of bronze and the gun­metal gray of car­bon fiber. In­side, the full-head­room cabin for two in­cludes gal­ley and head with shower, all fin­ished in Lexus woods and leather. Sadly, this build in par­tic­u­lar won’t see pro­duc­tion in the fore­see­able fu­ture, how­ever Lexus has just an­nounced a three-state­room 65-footer also built by Mar­quisCarver slated to de­but in the U.S. in 2019.

It wasn’t cars but mo­tor­cy­cles that en­cour­aged Yamaha to in­tro­duce the world’s first sit-down per­sonal wa­ter­craft in 1986. Af­ter­ward, the com­pany lever­aged the jet con­cept into the cur­rent Yamaha se­ries of 19- to 21-foot­ers, cen­ter con­soles geared to­wards wa­ter­sports and wakesurf­ing.

An­other Ja­panese car­maker to test Amer­i­can wa­ters was Dat­sun, which, through a South­ern Cal­i­for­nia-based dealer, of­fered the Sun­dance 16 in the 1970s. Shaped much like the flat-bot­tomed ski boats run­ning on the Colorado River, the Sun­dance used a Dat­sun 2.0liter 110-hp 4-cylin­der with a Hamil­ton wa­ter­jet. Uniquely de­signed, the helm was cen­tered on a sin­gle bench seat. Light enough to tow be­hind the small­est of cars, it had a burst of pop­u­lar­ity un­til builder Con­queror Ma­rine closed down. To­day, it re­mains a highly prized score for Dat­sun mini-truck en­thu­si­asts.

Across the pond, Don­ald Healey, founder of sportscar maker Austin Healey, launched Healey Ma­rine in 1956, pri­mar­ily be­cause he and his best friend, rac­ing driver Stir­ling Moss, wanted a boat for wa­ter­ski­ing in the Ba­hamas. The first was a 14-footer with Scott At­wa­ter out­board power. The next was a 16-footer, the Sports 55, with a BMC 4-cylin­der 60-hp in­board. A later boat, also made with ma­rine ply­wood over ma­hogany frames, was the 13-foot, 6-inch Sprite, a name fa­mil­iar to sports car aficionados. Over some six years, Healey Ma­rine built more than 1,750 boats.

Cig­a­rette Rac­ing has had a 10-year re­la­tion­ship with AMG, which is the per­for­mance tuner for Mercedes-Benz. AMG started 50 years ago when Mercedes dropped out of rac­ing, and three en­gi­neers formed a new com­pany to pro­duce pow­er­ful en­gines and sus­pen­sion tun­ing to make var­i­ous Mercedes mod­els into se­ri­ous com­peti­tors on the track and street. The dis­creet AMG badge on a Mercedes sug­gests you think twice be­fore chal­leng­ing one at a stop­light.

The cur­rent 51-foot Cig­a­rette Rac­ing Team Ma­rauder GT-R is a trib­ute to the Mercedes-AMG GT-R sports car, with am­ple use of de­cals and a dark green color called Green Hell—a ref­er­ence to the danger­ous north loop of Ger­many’s leg­endary Nur­bur­gring race track. For the AMG ver­sion of the stan­dard Cig­a­rette Ma­rauder, the use of car­bon fiber has light­ened the boat by more than 1,300 pounds and a new deck was cre­ated, mak­ing room for ad­di­tional guests. Power comes from a pair of stag­gered Mercury Rac­ing quad­cam four-valve dry sump en­gines that can pro­duce up to a to­tal of 3,100 hp for a top speed of 122 knots.

Not to be left out, Porsche con­trib­uted its de­sign tal­ents to Mi­amibased Fear­less Yachts, which launched in 2007 with a 28-footer and plans for yachts as large as 150 feet. Not in­ex­pen­sive ($350,000), it was pow­ered not by Porsche en­gines but by a sin­gle 525-hp Dodge Viper en­gine that gave it a 70-knot top speed. It was touted as hav­ing Euro­pean curves, but with bucket seats for two plus a rear bench and no cabin. Only four boats were sold.

Porsche wasn’t done, how­ever. It signed on with the Royal Fal­con Fleet, a Sin­ga­pore-based frac­tional yacht owner pro­gram, to de­sign an alu­minum-hulled 135-foot cata­ma­ran that would be di­vided among 10 own­ers who ap­par­ently didn’t, ahem, ap­pear. The very odd-look­ing yacht—which Porsche called “a space­ship on the

wa­ter”—was never fin­ished by the also oddly named Kock­ums ship­yard in Swe­den. To­day, it re­mains un­fin­ished in a cav­ern-like un­der­ground naval base in Swe­den, with a cur­rent price of $40 mil­lion.

Porsche still wouldn’t give up. From there, it hooked up with Dy­namiq, a Monaco-based com­pany with a yard in Viareg­gio. The first yacht, the GTT 115, was spot­ted in Monaco, and has a re­versed bow fea­tur­ing an odd, snout-like chine for­ward. Us­ing a pair of MAN V12 hy­brid diesels linked to Fort­jes pod drives, the GTT 115 has a speed of 21 knots and a claimed 3,400 nm range.

The first GTT 115, ap­pro­pri­ately named Jet­set­ter, is priced at $13.4 mil­lion and has a hound­stooth fab­ric dé­cor as a trib­ute to Porsche 911s of the 1970s. Other car-like touches are a Re­caro rac­ing seat for the skip­per and lighted rac­ing num­bers on in­te­rior doors.

And still such car­mak­ers con­tinue to lust for the sea. Bu­gatti, French maker of the Ch­i­ron that can os­ten­si­bly break the 300-mph range for a street-le­gal pro­duc­tion car, has linked with famed boat­builder Palmer John­son of Wis­con­sin to of­fer the Nini­ette, named for the late Et­tore Bu­gatti’s daugh­ter. A 66-footer, the Nini­ette will fea­ture such ne­ces­si­ties as a cock­pit firepit as well as a Jacuzzi spa, pre­sum­ably to pro­vide wa­ter should ac­ci­den­tal fires oc­cur. Ax­opar, the Fin­nish builder of mil­i­tary-style sport­boats, has teamed with Brabus, a Mercedes-ori­ented per­for­mance com­pany sim­i­lar to AMG, to cre­ate the racy Ax­opar Brabus, a 36-footer ca­pa­ble of 50 knots. And Jaguar, which of­fers its XF Sport­brake as a fast and nim­ble four-door wagon, has cre­ated a con­cept sport­boat that draws heav­ily on the XF lines.

Whether any of th­ese will ever reach your lo­cal wa­ters is a ques­tion worth ask­ing. But, nev­er­the­less, au­tomak­ers con­tinue to view the sea as a venue to show­case their tal­ents, merg­ing two of our fa­vorite toys un­der a sin­gle name.

In­spired by race cars of the ’30s and drawn with an eye to­wards the fu­ture, the Sil­ver Ar­row from Mercedes is at­tract­ing at­ten­tion in the Med.

From its metal­lic blue hull to so­phis­ti­cated leather de­tails, the As­ton Martin AM37 ex­udes se­cret-agent style.

Start­ing from a clean sheet of pa­per, au­tomak­ers are de­sign­ing some se­ri­ously shapely boats, like the Lexus Sport Yacht.

Launched in 1990, the Riva Fer­rari 32 has be­come a col­lec­tor’s dream. With the Ponam 31 (be­low), Toy­ota opted to build a boat that’s less sexy and more util­i­tar­ian.

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