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Hang on to your caps folks, the Mustang 43 is a fiery steed, her thoroughbred performance an instant adrenaline rush, but once corralled she becomes an amiable member of the extended boating family

The Mustang 43 Sports Cruiser. Bill Barry-Cotter is said to have taken a very personal interest in its development.

It's actually been a few months since I tested the Mustang 43 at the Sydney International Boat Show and the boat itself has been in the market for the best part of a year now, so we are by no means the first cab off the rank with this tidy offering from Mustang Marine. Personally, I think this has worked out well because if ever a boat deserved extended media coverage beyond the first gratuitous fanfare most receive at their initial release then the Mustang 43 is it.

Previous reviewers, whose opinions I respect, have talked about how the Mustang 43 was a project Bill Barry-Cotter took very personally. Said to have been developed to precisely deliver on market expectations extracted from a vast pool of customer feedback the Mustang 43 design and a prerelease process that was subject to exhaustive incremental reviews involving both the internal Maritimo team and the company's extensive global dealer network.

With that in mind it would be easy to assume this boat is truly the result of a melting pot of ideas, gently distilled to produce a perfectly balanced elixir, like the maritime equivalent of a blended whiskey. Now that may be the case, but personally I don't think so, it is just too good. I'm prepared to offer an alternative argument; one that suggests the Mustang 43 is actually a boat Bill has had banging around in his head for years, one which upon concept he did a masterly job of getting stakeholder buy-in. After all everyone knows single malt whiskeys are the best.

What leads me to this conclusion? Well, while researching a story on a Mariner 43 I discovered a reference suggesting it was one of Barry-Cotter's favourite all-time boats, and one he would like to revisit. Characteristics observed in this Mustang 43, such as its reliable, uncomplicated approach to engineering, its fuel-efficient hull that allows it to eat sea-miles without biting chucks out your wallet, and of course its length (the Mustang is only 34cm longer than the Mariner) suggest the principles of the Mustang 43 were jotted in Bill's notepad long before any glass was laid.

Yes internally the Mustang 43 differs entirely from that classic and clearly it does not have a flybridge but I think it's a better than even bet Bill didn't need to go trawling through screeds of supplied data to know what works.

It was good to catch-up with Rosco Williton again. Maritimo's go-to man for all at-sea operations is a no-nonsense straight shooter who talks my language without any of the embellishments we often have to wade through. Heading out to the testing ground he gave me an overview of where the boat fits into the market.

The Mustang 43 is the most recent rendition in the range, which includes the Mustang 50 and the Mustang 32. As has been said before, none of these boats bear any resemblance what-so-ever to the marques pre-buyout product. Interestingly, in the States, where the line is exceeding expectations with five or six hulls sold since the American release a couple of months earlier (this was confirmed independently by an American dealer), Mustang boats are marketed under the Maritimo banner. Not surprising, as a quick walk around reveals many of the more exclusive brand's best tricks.

In what is a first in my experience the 43 is available in three entirely different propulsion options to suit varying budgets and personal preferences. The base boat is offered with twin 330hp Volvo Penta diesel's driving sterndrives. For around another $20,000 you can have Volvo Penta IPS 400 pod drives; double that and you get twin 480hp Cummins QSB shaftdrives. The latter was the setup we were testing and I got the impression this is Rosco's favourite option - for simplicities sake, it would be mine as well. 

Like the Mustang IPS 500 I tested in April the 43 has a sleek hardtop sportsboat look built around a single-level concept, which is the current trend for lifestyle-orientated craft.

Boarding is easiest via the huge rear swimplatform and up into the teaked cockpit via either of the walkways to port or starboard of the centrally located amenities island. Impressive as this fixed swimplatform was it's also available in a hydraulically-lowered version, ideal for easy water access and the launching and retrieval of tenders.

The cockpit itself is an inviting sundrenched (yes, we were blessed with yet another glorious spring day on Sydney Harbour) space in proportions that compete with that swimplatform. Complete with a comfy rear-facing lounger surrounding an equally generous timber table it is easy to picture yourself sipping a chilled Chardonnay in the late afternoon sun. At least three could be catered for as is, and with a couple more portable chairs which could be stored in the volumous lazarette, up to five.

The cockpit also offers the full range of amenities within easy reach including a standard marine drinks-fridge to port, an electric barbecue plate in the aft island, a large-volume freezer next to that, a sink with hot and cold water, a very handy Whale shower nozzle accessed from the swimplatform and good-sized rope lockers to keep everything out of sight. The retractable shorepower leads also find a permanent home in the starboard side, although if this sounds like a busy space it really isn't, such is the level of organisation applied in the design.

And on the topic of design I liked the way the aft-facing couch and al fresco dining table is located next to the electrically-operated rear window and adjacent galley. Visually it separates the dining area from the wet areas, where swimmers and fisherman play - a simple thing but really effective at ensuring all feel comfortable and part of the action in their own way.

Shelter from the sun is provided by the fixed roof overhang, which extends at least a third of the length of the cockpit. It also acts as fixing point for a nicely curved stainless steel grabrail running all the way to the front of the windscreen. It's certainly needed to add assuredness to anyone negotiating their way to the bow, which is one of the few quibbles I have with the Mustang 43. I personally found this handle slightly low and the gunwales a bit narrow for complete comfort, swinging around the cockpit and up to the bow. In my notes I wrote that an additional handrail at the right place on the roof would make all the difference.

One short step on the same level brings you into the combined saloon, galley and helm station space, again on a single level. Refreshingly light-filled and airy, especially with manual sunroof open, this is a space designed to bring the world inside.

The large windows are at the right height to prevent the feeling of claustrophobia sometimes experienced in the cabins of smaller-volume boats. High-gloss natural timber and leather is in abundance throughout, adding a touch of timeless chic to the atmosphere.

As mentioned earlier the galley is located aft, keeping both the cockpit and the internal dining table within easy arm's reach and it was nice to see a lip around the contemporary Corian bench-tops. A home-style, vertically-standing fridge-freezer unit and pullout pantry will make most feel at home, and happy to make good use of the four-burner cooktop. A microwave/convection oven and a dishwasher are also on hand for convenience sake and with storage to burn, no excuses should be forthcoming.

Next to the cooktop sits a lift-top entertainment centre featuring a high-standard of electronics, as you would expect. This unit also provides a home for the drinks cabinet and pulls double-duty as a servery with the lid closed. The whole unit is a little too close to the cooktop for my liking but it would be difficult to shift it without compromising something else - compromise is an inherit feature of all boat design after all.

Facing the entertainment centre is a long and appealing settee around a cleverly hinged dining table. A pop-top lid reveals the wine storage rack - perfectly placed to keep the party rolling on. Step across the cabin from here and you're in the captain's domain in front of a sportily presented helm station (more details of that later). 

In the last couple of years the industry has seen a significant overhaul in the approach production boatbuilders' take to sleeping cabin configurations. Inspired by the space initially freed-up by pod-drive installations and now applied consistently in conjunction with most propulsion systems, designers have completely rethought the opportunity a large central cabin presents. A wide range of innovative solutions can be seen in any number of this year's new releases and the Mustang 43 is no exception.

Presented in two cabins - a traditional master cabin forward and an innovative guest cabin central - the Mustang 43 provides refined quarters for as many as four adults and two children. Think of it as capable of catering to three generations of a family: grandparents in the master cabin, and mum, dad and the kids in the central cabin.

This is by virtue of that central cabin having a queen-sized berth laid laterally and adjacent to the engineroom bulkhead and a settee that converts to twin singles Pullman style - very clever and possibly a first for this size of vessel. Usually the kids have to toss their sleeping bags on the couch in the saloon.

Both cabins are serviced by a single, large bathroom and head that to my eye looked both classy and easy to keep clean.

As we have come to expect from this yard the Mustang 43 would prove to be in love with the water and a very pleasurable driving experience. For some reason I always feel I need to pull on a pair of leather driving gloves when I step behind one of these sporty helm stations. As a self-confessed Simrad fan I was delighted to see the NSS12 dominating the low-profile dash. Even as a bit of a flybridge aficionado it was easy to appreciate the comfort and high visibility afforded here.

From a performance viewpoint it is always good to go for a spin with Rosco. As a raceboat driver he knows exactly how to balance ride with whizz in any given sea conditions. Initially I found the tabs overly sensitive, but that was because I was being too heavy-handed in my approach. Incremental adjustments are all that is required.

As an option the twin 480hp shafts we were testing this day are at the boat's maximum and result in thrilling experience. The 43 literally explodes out of the hole and just keeps on going. Without trying too hard, we found ourselves rocketing up the harbor at 32.5kts consuming a comparatively economical 190lt/h. Frankly, I didn't want to hand the wheel over.



MATERIAL: Fibreglass
TYPE: Planing monohull
LENGTH: 13.45m (LOA); 13.36m (hull)
BEAM: 4.09m

FUEL: 1400lt
WATER: 400lt 
WEIGHT: 12,000kg


MAKE/MODEL: 2 x Volvo Penta D6 (standard); 2 x Volvo Penta IPS 400 (optional); 2 x 480hp Cummins QSB shaftdrives (optional)
TYPE: Six-cylinder turbo-diesel
RATED HP: 330 (each)
DISPLACEMENT: 5.5lt (each)

Mustang Marine,
15 Waterway Drive,
Coomera, QLD, 4209
Phone: +61 7 5588 6000

From Trade-a-Boat Issue 433, Nov-Dec 2012. Story: Jeff Strang Photos: Barry Ashenhurst

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