A For­mula for Change

Trans­for­ma­tive ren­o­va­tion of a 1980s icon.

Boating NZ - - Contents - BY LAWRENCE SCHÄF­FLER

I’d hes­i­tate to call Bartlett a For­mula 4000 spe­cial­ist – it’s too nar­row a def­i­ni­tion. Still, he has de­vel­oped some­thing of a rep­u­ta­tion for trans­form­ing these old stal­warts from the 80s into modern-day gems. He’s lost count of the con­ver­sion projects he’s tack­led over the 30-odd years he’s been in the game, but the lat­est it­er­a­tion to roll from his shed takes some beat­ing. Only a sea­soned eye will recog­nise Rusty Bul­let as a for­mer For­mula – though her vi­brant colour scheme does per­haps hark back to the era of mus­tard bell-bot­tom trousers and han­dle­bar mous­taches.

The boat be­longs to Auck­land’s Richard Ryan. He’s known Bartlett for some 25 years and has al­ways mar­velled at the magic emerg­ing from his boat­shed. Ryan is an ex­pe­ri­enced trailer boatie and when – about two years ago – he felt it was time to step up to his first ‘ma­rina’ boat, he didn’t think too long about where to look. It would be a Bartlett spe­cial.

“She­lanu was built in 1988 – and was per­fect for what I had in mind,” says Ryan. “Ef­fec­tively, I only wanted a strong, well-built hull-and-decks pack­age. We would scrap the in­te­rior and start again.”

Ac­tu­ally, “scrap­ping the in­te­rior” turned out to be a bit more com­plex and ex­ten­sive than he might have imag­ined.

“I knew this was go­ing to be a some­what dif­fer­ent project,” says Bartlett, “when Richard said ‘would you think me mad if I said I’d like to get rid of the fly­bridge?’ “Er…no…?” Ryan, it tran­spired, hated fly­bridges and pre­ferred sedans. So, af­ter some pre­ci­sion surgery, the su­per­struc­ture was ditched. But greater chal­lenges lay ahead.

She­lanu – like many of her sis­ter ships – was fit­ted with twin en­gines. Straight-six 305hp Volvo Penta 61As. Un­der­stand­ably, they were a lit­tle tired and would have to be re­placed. And they were mated to Hamil­ton Jets – pretty trendy kit in the late 80s – but they too would have to go.

Re­mov­ing the en­gines was ac­com­plished rel­a­tively eas­ily fol­low­ing a large in­ci­sion in the now-ex­posed roof. All pro­gressed smoothly un­til – well, un­til Ryan sud­denly an­nounced that a sin­gle, more pow­er­ful en­gine would not only be lighter, it would of­fer a com­pa­ra­ble fuel burn and pro­vide way more space for main­te­nance – than an­other twin-set.


That meant re­mov­ing the old en­gine bear­ers, build­ing a new, sin­gle set, fill­ing in the holes left by the jets, and cut­ting out a large (2.5m x 700mm) sec­tion from the cen­tre of the hull for the new drive-train. The new en­gine – a straight-six 550hp Cum­mins QSC – would have a 2.4m shaft spin­ning a four-blade ZF prop.

Bartlett con­sulted with a naval ar­chi­tect to check weight dis­tri­bu­tion con­cerns – it all looked cool. But the shaft an­gle pre­sented prob­lems – it would be too steep for the prop to work ef­fi­ciently and would also com­pro­mise the ves­sel’s draft. To mit­i­gate these is­sues, the re­place­ment cen­tre sec­tion was built with a tun­nel for the prop. And given the com­plex­ity of this re­con­struc­tion, it made sense to re­model the lazarette and bilges at the same time.

An­other ma­jor com­po­nent of the re­fit, Rusty Bul­let’s cock­pit and tran­som, is rad­i­cally dif­fer­ent from that of the stan­dard For­mula 4000’s. The re­design – with a com­pletely new sole – has not only en­larged the cock­pit, it’s also brought mod-cons such as a sec­ond helm sta­tion (eas­ier for re­vers­ing the ves­sel into her berth).

A new portofino stern fea­tures a live-bait tank (with tuna tubes) mid-tran­som, and a large, board­ing plat­form. The

im­mac­u­lately-laid teak feels great un­der­foot. And in case you were un­cer­tain about Ryan’s an­gling in­ter­ests, the out­rig­gers should re­move any doubt.

Much of the cock­pit’s changes were trig­gered by re­mod­elling the sa­loon’s rear bulk­head. Dis­card­ing the old For­mula’s sig­na­ture slop­ing rear door, the boat now has a cus­tom slid­ing door and a large tilt-up rear win­dow (man­u­fac­tured by Sea­mac). With both open, the cock­pit and sa­loon be­come one in­te­grated space – ex­cel­lent for en­ter­tain­ing, with an easy flow be­tween the two ar­eas.

I knew this was go­ing to be a some­what dif­fer­ent project.


Ryan owns a large spray-paint­ing busi­ness – trucks, buses, trains and planes have all ben­e­fit­ted from his ex­per­tise. He knows his paint – has seen it in all its shades – and he likes or­ange.

When his wife saw the painted boat – and at that point she was still name­less (the boat, not the wife) – Mrs Ryan an­nounced that it looked “kinda rusty.” Yeah – okay – but she’s pretty quick…

Rusty Bul­let was a log­i­cal pro­gres­sion.

…the changes sort of evolved. That’s not un­com­mon with boat re­fits. Own­ers change their minds fairly of­ten...

OP­PO­SITE Rusty Bul­let – nee- She­lanu – in her new, eye-catch­ing livery.

LEFT Re­mov­ing a fly­bridge, adding a portofino stern and a new cock­pit – all in a day’s work for Bartlett.

RIGHT Bartlett’s hand-shaped radar tower, and be­low, the jet in­fills and tun­nel un­der con­struc­tion.

ABOVE Good­bye dear Volvo, you served us well.

OP­PO­SITE The stern’s trans­for­ma­tion be­gins to take shape.

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