BOAT TEST: MUSTANG 32
The first new Mustang under Bill Barry-Cotter’s command has pedigree, discovers DAVID LOCKWOOD.
When pre-eminent boatbuilder Bill Barry-Cotter bought Mustang last year, nobody understood his intentions. A popular Australian-made badge, Mustang had carried something of a stigma in latter years. Its boats were built down to a price, rather than up to a standard - the two need not be mutually exclusive - while the glitzy styling was on the cheap, and there were arguably diminishing amounts of utility aboard.
Mustang really lost its way when it bought the assets from broke NZ boatbuilder Oliver Royale and attempted to make flybridge and cabriolet cruisers. Speak with Barry-Cotter and he will tell you those boats were assembled in such a convoluted way that they were impossible for him to make profitably by production means. Most of these boats have now been scrapped.
"They were just too labour intensive," explains production manager Phil Frazer from Maritimo, when asked to perform a build schedule on the Mustang 43. "The boat had as much labour in its cockpit as the whole of our Cabriolet 50 put together!"
If not the lingering loyalty of all those past Mustang owners, then the entry-level sportscruisers and cabriolets models still on the drawing board are the goodwill of the badge. Still, rather than build a Mustang sportscruiser as we knew them, Barry-Cotter went back to the drawing board to create what this writer considers one of the smartest small boats to hit the water in decades.
We don't say this lightly after having spent an inordinate amount of time aboard our magazine's little project boat, a Mariner 760, also built by Barry-Cotter back in the 1970s. But fresh from being away for three days and two nights aboard that Pacer with our four-year-old and 14-week-old, we were in the zone, as they say.
We followed the production of the Mustang 32 from its inception. Go to www.tradeaboat.com.au and listen to the interview with Barry-Cotter during the launch of our project boat, dubbed Ralfy V, you will hear him say how that restoration was a great insight into the way we used to go boating.
At the same time, his Mustang 32 was being shaped alongside and Barry-Cotter was walking between the two boats, spending progressively more time aboard the 32 in craftwood mockup stage. There are parallels in so far as both boats are Barry-Cotter's entry-level, everyday, everyman cruisers - albeit nearly 40 years apart - and the boats now share the same new fuel and water systems, and heat-exchanger setup.
Barry-Cotter of course built more than 400 Pacers, so he knows something about cost-effective entry-level cruisers. We've said it before, but the Pacer 760 really does make brilliant use of space. While it's bigger, roomier, and even more practical, the new Mustang 32 is in some ways the Pacer 760 of 2011. Only it's 35 years smarter.
BANG FOR YOUR BUCK
Entry-level price for the Mustang 32 is $215,000 with single 380hp MerCruiser 8.2L MAG petrol inboard with Bravo III sterndrive. The boat sleeps four, has a separate bathroom, and gas-powered galley. The hardtop on a boat of this size consummates the design, in our opinion, but its layout is what really won us over.
For a 32-footer, with a 31ft 9in hull length, you get a huge amount of living space. In fact, the amount of space for a family of four is just outstanding, the amenities will cater for a long weekend at least, and you're not exactly slumming it. The boat's Euro cabriolet styling is smart rather than glitzy. At last, one can be a proud Mustang owner.
Add some aftermarket covers, an awning at lunchtime, and you can extend the all-weather space right back to the transom. But by and large on the new 32, you will be kissing pesky clears goodbye and enjoying the benefits of all-weather boating beneath a hardtop with great headroom instead. A sunroof is provided to help with ventilation.
HULL & ENGINEERING
When Barry-Cotter got hold of the Mustang moulds he considered trying to use the pre-existing hulls for his new line of boats. But it became immediately apparent that those boats just didn't perform. There wasn't enough boat in the right places to get them up and running.
While it was used as a rough guide for the Mustang 32, the pre-existing Mustang 28 hull had too much rocker. This was removed and the hull was modified. It now performs really well, noise levels are in keeping with most sterndrive-powered sportscruisers (38 to 40dbi), and the boat seems extraordinarily dry. You can leave the vent hatch open on the foredeck when running.
Below the floor, meanwhile, is a boat built to big-boat standards. You, too, will be impressed by the fuel system with alloy tank, the heat-exchanger and accumulator tank that provides hot water more than 12 hours after you have shutdown the engine, and the 120lt of water for a long weekend.
Though you will need to be careful with such a high-pressure freshwater pump - especially with a deck shower included - and 45lt holding tank, the boat has legs. Holiday boaters might just find they swing past the yacht club for a fill and shower every few days, that's all.
The aforesaid engineering items are located almost amidships and accessible through a floor hatch. But there's so much space left over that boatowners won't be caught short with storage. Fishing rods in racks, tubs of water toys, crab pots, barbecue, a roll-up tender, and folding chairs will all fit underfloor.
Meanwhile, the single MerCruiser 8.2 MAG and engineroom bilge are accessible at the push of a button that raises the aft cockpit floor. The demonstrator needed a new actuator, but with that sorted the boat has great engine access. Of course, a blower is included.
We couldn't actually discern any fumes during our trials and the central transom engine vent and usual underwater through-hub exhaust seem to work well. The boat is equipped with a carbon monoxide monitor and alarm, as well as a gas alarm and shut-off.
SUM OF THE PARTS
In base guise, you get just about everything you need to go boating on the Mustang 32. Even teak decks are included on the vast cockpit sole. Ever the production boatbuilder, Barry-Cotter has developed an OEM parts pack from an external supplier for his Mustang 32 and will always keep one on the shelf so he can make a boat at short notice.
In respect of the decks, there's a lot to embrace. Some might consider the sidedecks to the foredeck kind of tight, but with cabin-top rails and toerails we think they put the emphasis back where you want it, on interior space. There's also trademark Barry-Cotter non-skid, big above-deck cleats, while the boat's not insubstantial 3.175m beam helps with stability.
With a Quick windlass as standard, you can anchor without needing to leave the helm. Pick down, you will gravitate back to the L-shaped lounge tracing the cockpit. Without the curves seen in the mouldings of Yankee sportscruisers, the Mustang 32 seems to offer more spare legroom on deck.
With a couple of lose chairs, and an aftermarket Euro awning attached to the hardtop, you could do six for lunch around the folding teak table in the shade. Just as welcome is the fact the lounge is long enough to use as a daybed. Put a line out the back and kick back between bites.
For this purpose and that of other watersports, the moulded swimplatform is welcome. There's a low-slung moulded lounge that could do with a grabrail. Its base hides the 4.5kg gas bottle and an area that would double as icebox storage. We'd add a stainless U-bar to the swimplatform, not just as a handhold, but for mounting a gas barbie and fish-cutting board with rodholders.
The galley, up under the hardtop, is a great way to go, allowing cooking in any weather while enjoying views. The two-burner gas stove will do everything asked of the crew sitting drooling in the lounges. There's a 12V fridge with freezer tray below, a sink with hot and cold water, and a storage cupboard.
Behind the skipper's bench seat is a whole nest of storage cabinets and various drawers, with sub-lounge storage opposite. As I said, storage is a strong point on this big little boat. But you can still waltz around the cockpit with ease - there's probably even room to put a folding banana lounge behind the helm seat.
Meanwhile, the high-gloss teak joinery and trim for the cupboards adds just the right amount of nautical style to tie in with the teak floor and table. The only thing that crossed my mind was: what if the helm bench seat was reversible to face the rest of the cockpit seating? That would be a nice touch in our view.
Drinkholders, downlights, speakers for the sound system, and a simple dash complete the above-deck layout. The boat had some $4500 worth of optional Lowrance electronics, but was still below $220,000 drive away.
The matt-grey dash should help with reflection in the windscreen, there was a red night-light as well, while the boat comes with a Shorepower connection for its 25amp battery charger. By the way, the alternator on the 8.2 MAG is a high-output 65amp. Charging issues solved.
While the Mustang 32 embraces above-deck living, its accommodation plan will assuage a family of four on weekends. The stateroom in the bow has an island berth that's big enough to stretch out on, a couple of impressive teak-fronted hanging lockers, and opening portlights along with the obligatory escape hatch.
The second cabin has bunks perfect for the kiddies. As was suggested to us, we'd order our Mustang 32 without the cabin door so as to create even more space. Besides, the stateroom has a small bi-fold door if you really need privacy. There is no companionway door, however, so this isn't a lock-up boat.
Full marks for the one big non-skid bathroom space with pullout hot/cold shower and the electric freshwater Vacuflush loo. Headroom is a highpoint and natural ventilation comes via a portlight that might be best frosted.
Put it all together and you have a cost-effective family cruiser that can probably satisfy 75 per cent of boaties' requirements. As we said at the outset, pricing and quality aren't mutually exclusive. The Mustang 32 is evidence of that. My family would be positively clambering aboard.
(Facts & Figures)
PERFORMANCE & HANDLING
While there is a diesel option for those who can't come at petrol power, the base 380hp MerCruiser 8.2 MAG DTS with Bravo Three isn't to be sneezed at. Propeller fine tuning was still needed, as the boat hit its rev limiter too easily, but with the 20in pitch we pulled 37kts as we anticipated.
This is all well and good, but big-block V8s get kind of thirsty at top revs from 4800 to 5000rpm. It's in the low-load cruising range from 3000 to 4000rpm that things make far more sense. At 4000rpm and 30kts, consumption is 71lt/h. At just 3300rpm and 27kts, you're using just 50lt/h. Now that's eco-cruising.
With a new 21 or 22in prop to come, top speed might gain a knot. So the above is just indicative data. The Bravo III sterndrive with counter-rotating propeller offers plenty of torque for shifting the boat to plane with, say, an aft-seated crew, even towing tykes on tubes, while also affording low-speed steerage in reverse.
That said, we'd tick the box for optional bowthruster on this boat. When the wind is blowing, the bows of single-sterndrive cruisers tend to skate away from you no matter how sharp your skills. Fortunately, this isn't such a big boat that you can't manhandle it off other boats or pull it back into its pen using mooring lines.
The steering is power-assisted and with the DTS gearshift and sportswheel, it's simple cruising. Views are clear in all directions, with just a duck and a look needed when performing sharper U-turns to make sure all is clear. Wipers are provided in
case of inclement weather.
Meantime, there's a lot more excitement at Maritimo on the eve of subsequent testing of the Mustang 32 with the latest 350hp CMD (Cummins MerCruiser Diesel) TDI engine. The QSD350DTS Bravo SX uses an electronic V8 diesel engine built by Volkswagon that's been rebranded MerCruiser. I'm told it's a ripper.
But the price premium of $29,000 for the diesel is something you'll have to weigh up. For entry-level boaters it's probably prohibitive, though I'm guessing the Mustang 32 might just be all the boat some couples need. Already there is talk in Queensland of fitting one with a generator and air-con.
PRICE AS TESTED
$219,315 w/ 380hp MerCruiser petrol engine, and options
Lowrance HDS10 with Lowrance Sub-Sonic Hub ($4315)
$215,000 w/ 380hp MerCruiser petrol engine
MATERIAL: Solid moulded fibreglass hull and deck
TYPE: Hard-chine monohull
LENGTH OVERALL: 9.85m
HULL LENGTH (ISO): 9.67m
BERTHS: 4 (+ 2 on deck)
HOLDING TANK: 45lt
MAKE/MODEL: MerCruiser 8.2 MAG
TYPE: Big-block V8 multipoint- and sequential-injected petrol engine
RATED HP: 380 at 4400 to 4800rpm (max)
WEIGHT: Approx 490kg
GEARBOX RATIO: 2:1
Maritimo, 15 Waterway Drive, Coomera, QLD, 4209, Phone: (07) 5588 6000, www.maritimo.com.au
This is probably the smartest Australian-built entry-level cruiser that we've seen in decades. The biggest issue for us: prising ourselves away. All the boat you and your family needs. A Mustang with pedigree at least.
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