By: David Lockwood

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The 18ft bowrider market is the most hotly contested between local and offshore boatbuilders. Dave Lockwood measures up a relative newcomer — Glastron’s GX 185 — against some of its competition and finds that in the sub-$50,000 bracket it’s a difficult boat to beat on value, performance, build and specification




At the height of today's trailerboat fashion, coming to a waterway near you, bowriders are no longer seen as one of life's little luxuries but ready-made consumables for finding instant gratification. Take Glastron's luxury new 18-footer. Wildly popular in America, the GX 185 comes with the works, lashings of fun on the side, and just maybe a big drink if the water's warm enough.
While you won't get a two-for-one deal, Glastron has made a tasty packaged boat for the burgeoning drive-through trailerboat market. There are few options and the simplified purchasing process is at least partly responsible for Glastron's rating as the world's fastest-growing boat builder.
There are three tiers of boat: the fully loaded GX models, the mid-specced SX, and the base MX boats. The GX 185 is available with optional extended swim platform, high-altitude prop, stereo remote, canvass, hull colours and a few engine choices. But by any measure the factory-rolled GX 185 is a loaded boat.
If you can meet the price ticket and like the looks - which I do - you can hitch her up, haul her away to the servo, put some juice in the tank and go boating. If you want something extra try a Glastron polo, twill or fleece on the side. And drive-by your local marina or boatshed for a burger on the run.




Take-out boating wasn't about when Glastron first started in the mid-1950s in Texas when fibreglass was a relatively new medium. Over the ensuing years the company's handmade boats earned their fair share of marine-industry accolades and starring roles in movies including Boatniks and Weekend at Bernies.
The company also designed and built the original Bat Boat for Bruce Wayne and, get this, 26 boats for the James Bond film Live and Let Die. Apparently, 17 were destroyed during the practice jumps before what became the world record 110ft-long boat jump. A photo of that jump, of a Glastron GT-150 flying over two police cars, became a cover for Time magazine.
In the '80s, Glastron was acquired by Genmar Industries which went about improving production efficiencies. The boatbuilder headed in a radical new direction using less human resources and more robots. The GX 185 seen here is now one of 14 models founded on the company's much-touted VEC hull, itself a production of an automated line.
For a manufacturer charged with producing thousands of boats-to-go, VEC is quicker, more efficient and cost-effective way to build them. And for the consumer, there are lifetime warranties on the hull, deck, floor, stringers and transom, and less pieces to go wrong.
Like most boatbuilders, Glastron starts with a bunch of boat architects sitting in front a pile of high-powered computers. Design programs are linked to programs that decide specifications for components. These details are then communicated to computer-assisted manufacturing machinery.
Using an automated five-axis milling machine and router, plugs are cut that in turn lead to the creation of closed moulds. Closed moulds are a point of difference for Glastron. The hull is made in one-piece in them, and the deck and floor are the only other component. When joined together they create a stiff, monocoque boat.
Variations in hull densities, laminates, resin and matting are reduced thanks to the aforesaid robotics and computer-controlled pressurised moulds. And machines, such as the Gerber cutter that slices the right amount of marine-vinyl upholstery for each boat, lead to a very consistent line of boats.
Fewer components also mean less rattles and, in the case of the GX 185, a hull with a deep 21 degrees of deadrise - more deadrise than rival boats from Sea Ray and Bayliner - gives plenty of firepower. I though this was a great boat for blasting across the wake and waves, which is what we all like to do in our bowriders.
When not high-tailing it to a honey hole, this GX 185 has good low-speed efficiencies for getting into watersports. The upgraded 220hp 4.3 MPI engine - they package the boat for US$22,655 with a mere 135hp 3.0lt petrol inboard in America - lets you pull kids on fat skis, tubes and boards at big-wave speeds.
The stable boat might also be a handy platform for drift fishing for flathead or fudging about on the anchor. Certainly, its full-length lounge and sunpad are two nice places to unwind.




It goes without saying that you get an automatic bilge pump, engine-room blower and navigation lights, plus a sub-floor fuel tank that, at 110lt on the GX 185, should cater for a typical day of towing, anchoring and bow riding. In fact, that fuel tank carries a good deal more juice than the 185 Sea Ray and a tad more than the 185 Bayliner.
Though it has a very fine and raked entry, the beamy 2.13m wide platform has plenty of stability. The boat comes with a 544kg (six adult) maximum load-carrying capacity. While other 18-foot bowriders may be deeper up front, there's plenty of freeboard for carrying at least a couple of teenagers on the bow seating.
Bow, helm and stern seating is nicely sculptured and topped with excellent upholstery. Secure stainless-steel - in place of plastic - grab handles, stainless-steel windscreen supports and snap-in carpet add to the finish. The dealers fitted pop-up cleats in the bow and gas struts on the lid for the underfloor ski hatch.
Together, these things made for the best finished Glastron I've seen to date. Other nice touches included courtesy lights in the cockpit, a four-speaker Clarion CD/AM/FM radio, and the ubiquitous drinkholders for the Dr Pepper in the bow and cockpit.
Storage is never a strength of VEC-built hulls, however, the GX 185 wasn't too skimpy. There were lined lockers under the bow seating, a very small centre under-seat well for the anchor, recesses under the windscreen, split-level sidepockets in the cockpit, and a glovebox in the customary position ahead of the copilot seat.
Mid-cockpit is the underfloor wet locker for the skis, wakeboards, wetsuits and suchlike, while (piano) hinged seat bases on the rear lounge lead to a nice partly-lined dry storage area. However, the boat didn't have an icebox of any kind.




The helm seats are not your run-of-the mill models, but "SuspensionAire" wraparound bucket seats with flip-up bolsters that were very accepting of my behind. Think of them as the Recliner Rockers of the bowrider world. The adjustable seats swivel and slide fore and aft.
Impressively, the cockpit is long enough - and quite deep at 750mm from floor to gunwale - that guests riding on the rear lounge have oodles of legroom. That rear lounge wouldn't be out of sorts in a living room. The full-width three-seater has good back support.
Behind here and atop the engine room is a full-width sun lounge with ribbed upholstery for extra pleasure. If you think these sunpads are dicky items you would be wrong. Many's the time my sun-struck partner has lolled about on a bowrider sunlounge and given it the thumbs-up.
The blunt end also has an integrated moulded boarding platform, a telescopic three-step boarding ladder and a stainless-steel grab to help you from the briny, river or dam. Of course, the boat comes with a ski tow ring and a trick dashboard.
The kitted-out GX 185 model has faux walnut panel with recessed gold-rimmed Faria engine, fuel and trim gauges; a digital depth sounder and hour meter; and tilt steering wheel with rubber grip-it-and-rip-it sections.
A drinkholder is nearby, but there's no nifty compartment for personal effects. A reach away is a glovebox, however. And at the helm I liked the handy toggle switch to instantly kill the stereo and the 12V accessory plug for your mobile.
A low-glare brow assists with your vision through the clear windscreen, but I found its leading edge right at my eye level. As such, I drove somewhat slouched. Also, the open sides of the windscreen let a lot of cold air in when running beam-on to the wind.
Hull colour options read like candy; Laguna Blue, Cranberry Red, Radiant Yellow, and black which should be licorice or liquorice. The optional matching canvas packs are cut from the good Sunbrella material.




While I'm told the Glastrons sell themselves, they virtually drive themselves, too. Unlike some early models, this 185 was nice and quiet. As with all Glastrons I've been aboard the deep-vee hull was a highlight and it consumed the choppy water nicely, with only minor porpoising when running down sea from crest to trough to crest.
Using an Alpha One drive, the boat was responsive, quiet and agreeable on the water. It was also efficient, giving 18 knots (34kmh) low-speed towing power at 2000rpm and 28 knots (53kmh) cruise at 2500rpm. Fast cruise speeds of 32 knots (61kmh) at 3000rpm up to 37 knots (70kmh) at 3500rpm were recorded.
Flat out the boat hit 48 knots (91.2kmh) at 4500rpm, perfectly in the middle of MerCruiser's recommended rev-out range for the 4.3 MPI. While we were rocketing along the V6 was quiet. And while it was a windy winter's day, we had to try our best to put spray on the windscreen.
Back in the 1950s, Glastron used the motto: tomorrow's boat today. At the time, its boats were considered radical, especially the Fireflite with its tail fins and side spears mimicking the cars of the Deco era.
But in many ways the company remains at the forefront of boatbuilding technology. What you see is what you get with the GX 185 - there are no nasty surprises.
Indeed, the Americans are unbeatable at building boats to go.




Seamless VEC boatbuilding technology and foam-filled voids lead to a stiff hull with lifetime warranty
Integrated deck and cockpit sole provide a nice one-piece layout
Comfortable seating
Priced to go in the bowrider market
More fuel capacity and a sharper hull than its main competitors
Good acceleration, sporty drive and smooth performance
Generous storage space
Stainless steel grabs and windscreen supports
GX model is bundled with the lot, streamlining the purchasing decision




Leading edge of windscreen at my eye level
Open-sided windscreen leaks cold air
Have to step on upholstery when coming aboard from the water
No built-in icebox
Very shallow anchor well and pop-up cleats on bow were a dealer-fitted item
No wind dam between bow and cockpit
Weak second-hand market due partly to new-boat affordability




Specifications: Glastron GX 185



Price as tested: $44,990 with 220hp MPI MerCruiser motor on dual-axle EzyLoader trailer.
Options fitted: Covers, dealer-fitted pop-up cleats and gas struts on hatch lid, and safety gear
Priced from: As above




Type: Deep-vee planing hull
Material: Foam-filled GRP hull using VEC process
Length overall: 5.49m
Beam: 2.31m
Deadrise: 21°
Weight: About 1247kg with 4.3 GL Volvo motor




Rec/max HP: 135/220
Fuel capacity: 110lt
Berths: Camp on deck or try the sun lounge
Water: n/a




Make/Model: MerCruiser 220hp MPI
Type: Inboard V6 four-stroke petrol motor
Rated HP: 220hp @ 4400-4800rpm
Displacement: 4.3lt
Weight: About 393kg
Gearboxes (Make/ratio): Alpha One Sterndrive
Props: Alloy




Webbe Marine,
541 Princess Highway, Kirrawee, NSW
Phone: (02) 9521 7944



Originally published in TrailerBoat #195

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