By: Bernard Clancy, Photography by: Stuart Grant

When the US-built Chaparral 220 SSi was first released in 2001, the Americans liked it so much they voted it Runabout of the Year. The distinctions, they determined, were in the detail and in the performance of the hull

Since the Australian dollar took a rise we’ve seen more of Uncle Sam’s nautical niceties Down Under. The Chaparral is one of the better examples.
In fact, while we were getting organised at Scott O’Hare’s lovely new Anchorage Marina right on Port Phillip Bay at Williamstown, we ran into a chap who was seriously thinking of trading in his 28ft bridgedeck Sea Ray for the Chaparral, despite it being a much smaller boat. He felt he could enjoy the same quality of boating with the Chaparral 220 as he had with his bigger boat, but the Chaparral being trailerable meant he could avoid marina fees. He had a big garage at home — but he also had a wife, who didn’t approve of the trade, and I suspect she thought his motives were dubious. There’s no doubt the beast is a real chick attractor. It looked great on the trailer and on water, and its performance matched its gorgeous figure.

The Chaparral’s LOA is listed at 7.24m but 1.5m of the length is monopolised by the swim platforms (yes, two) which decorate the stern. The platformed transom treatment over the Mercruiser leg is huge and beyond that is an equally-large, bolt-on swim platform. This makes the boat ideal for skiing, wake boarding and generally just jumping off and having fun.
The detail that has gone into the hull design is evident throughout. For example, the hull of a trailerboat is susceptible to damage around the eyebolt for the trailer strap hook, but Chaparral has insured against this by protecting this area with a large, highly-polished, stainless plate flush with the hull.
The foredeck sports an anchor hatch forward of the bowrider section (but there’s no bowsprit). Additionally, the anchor slots in vertically to save space and is held in place by its cradle. Nice touch.
The bow section is large enough to seat four adults and the upholstery throughout the boat is fully padded in triple-stitched leather-look 36oz quality expanded vinyls in fawn tonings, with stitching in a Tenara thread by Goretex which is UV resistant and impervious to salt water. Now that’s attention to detail boaties will appreciate, because in other boats the stitching is the first thing to wear out.
There’s plenty of storage under the seats, the deck has a clip-on carpet, the stainless drinkholders are big enough to accommodate stubbies, and twin speakers bring the sound of music to the ears. There’s no head though.

The walkthrough windscreen is mounted on twin binnacles, one for driver and one passenger, and these have side-opening doors to reveal good storage spaces. The passenger side door doubles as a door for the bowrider section. Clever.
The wide centre section of the glass three-piece wraparound screen swings to port and is held in place by a magnet when open.
Two lockable gloveboxes are out of the weather in front of the passenger seat, and there are ample over-sized drinkholder in the dash. The smaller glovebox contains the stereo set-up, which might be a bit fiddly to get at. There are two remote panels to operate the stereo, one near the helm and another on the side of the rear walkway, accessible to those frolicking on the swim platforms on the transom.
The helm position is one of the best I’ve experienced. The pilot and co-pilot chairs are first class. Both feature swing-up bolsters so you can sit higher for over-the-screen viewing at slow speed or when you’re really hammering in a bit of a sea. Both seats have forward-aft adjustment and swivel but there’s no real need for height adjustment. The rake adjustable helm means you don’t have to bend back to reach the helm from this high position. A carpeted footrest adds assurance, and the woodgrain-look instrument panel is perfectly situated in front, with back-lit rocker switches in panels left and right of the wheel. A compass sits front and centre.
A huge wet storage box is underfloor between the seats and is plenty big enough for skis and a wakeboard or two.
The cockpit area is cosy with an L-shaped lounge around a removable table, which can be lowered to convert to a huge sunpad. The walkway through the transom can be filled in with a removable seat to extend the lounge.
Behind and above the table, over the powerplant, is a second, higher sunpad, which would accommodate a sunbaker or two.
A removable ice cooler in a moulded recess behind the skipper’s chair is within easy reach. There are more in-built speakers, downlights and comfort galore.
Manually-operated struts hold open the lid of the huge engine hatch. The bilge is gel coated for easy cleaning and the engine is lagged bolted to the stringers and further secured with the transom assembly. Most of the wiring is protected by conduit.
Cleats on the bow, amidships and at the stern are all pop-up, substantial and bolted to a backing plate. We didn’t need the bimini on test day because it was one of Melbourne’s finest, but full covers are available, as is a wakeboard tower.
If you wanted to have a quiet fish you could probably put a deck chair out on one of the swim platforms. You wouldn’t have far to reach for a drink because there are two wet bins — perfect as eskies — built into platform deck. A telescopic ladder allows you to come back onboard.

The styling of the Chaparral hull is modern, featuring broad shoulders, wide chines right to the bow, twin spray mouldings low on the hull, triple-fastened, stainless-steel and chrome fittings, and rubber rubbing strips. Docking lights are moulded into the bow.
The hull incorporates what Chaparral calls an "Extended V-Plane": the leg is mounted in a recession in the centre of the hull’s stern, so that two pods extend beyond the leg mounting position. The company claims this increases stability, enhances tracking, delivers a quicker planing time and adds to running efficiency.
Performance was impressive, with WOT of 80kmh at 5000rpm and smooth cruising of 60kmh at 3500rpm.
Weighing in at 1656kg for the hull only, the Chaparral is too heavy for greased-lightning holeshot, but I heard no complaints from our wakeboarder.
The boat was beautifully presented and the high-quality moulding, glasswork and finish shone. Chaparral uses 16-20ml of gelcoat and a combination of fine lamination ingredients including AME 4000 resin, 36oz woven roving, glass mat from one to three ounces laid quad-axially. Syntactic foam is injected to fill every nook to dampen sound and for added structural strength. Balsa coring is used selectively for extra strength and flotation.
The end result is that the boat feels solid. There is no wave slap on the hull and it seems to ride like a much larger craft, slipping through tight turns easily and without fuss and carving slalom turns smoothly. A well-built craft that looks great too.

Build quality
Great looks
Equipment level

Cockpit a little small
No toilet
Expensive for a bowrider


Specifications: Chaparral 220SSi

Price as tested: $79,800
Options fitted: Mahogany tilt helm, digital depth gauge, carpets, automatic fire suppression system, docking lights, pop-up cleats¸ transom remote for stereo, compass, transom leg switch, dual axle braked Dunbier trailer ($7500)
Priced from: $69,950

Material: Quad radial lamination GRP
Length overall: 7.24m
Beam: 2.59m
Deadrise: 20°
Rec/max hp: 320hp
Weight : 2316kg (on trailer)

Fuel: 212lt
Water: n/a

Make/model: Mercruiser V8
Type: MPI
Rated hp: 260
Displacement: 5.0lt
Weight : 952kg
Drive: Alpha 1:62:1
Prop: 21in stainless-steel MP5

Aussie Boat Sales,
Anchorage Marina, 34 The Strand,
Williamstown, Vic.
Phone: (03) 9397 6977

Originally published in TrailerBoat #200


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