A Formula for Change
Transformative renovation of a 1980s icon.
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.
WHAT’S IN A NAME?
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.