By: JOHN FORD, Photography by: JOHN FORD

FORMOSA 430-08.jpg FORMOSA 430-08.jpg
FORMOSA 430-01.jpg FORMOSA 430-01.jpg
FORMOSA 430-02.jpg FORMOSA 430-02.jpg
FORMOSA 430-03.jpg FORMOSA 430-03.jpg
FORMOSA 430-04.jpg FORMOSA 430-04.jpg
FORMOSA 430-05.jpg FORMOSA 430-05.jpg
FORMOSA 430-06.jpg FORMOSA 430-06.jpg
FORMOSA 430-07.jpg FORMOSA 430-07.jpg
FORMOSA 430-09.jpg FORMOSA 430-09.jpg
FORMOSA 430-10.jpg FORMOSA 430-10.jpg

When Queensland manufacturer Formosa recently introduced a small side-console to its line-up, John Ford was lucky enough to test the first model off the production line: the Formosa 430 Classic Side Console.

The Formosa 430 Classic Side Console: it's "built like a brick s***house" according to the designer.

When a mate of mine recently asked for my opinion on what sort of boat he should buy, I was surprised at the long list of rigs he was considering. Although he had whittled it down to an aluminium fishing boat in the 4-4.5m range, he had still amassed a formidable catalogue.

He was essentially after an easy-handling, low maintenance boat that could fit in his garage, carry four people and even head offshore when the weather was right. It’s safe to say he is not alone with that wish list.

As I soon found out, however, the small tinnie market is a very crowded place, and it’s no wonder buyers get a little confused when faced with a multitude of options of hulls, motors and fittings. The boats on offer range from simple pressed-metal runabouts with thwart seats and an outboard engine, through to sophisticated fishing weapons with every layout imaginable.

If it’s hard for punters to choose a boat, it’s equally hard for manufacturers to market their goods as the best thing since smelly plastic bait. Making a boat stand out from the crowd is a big task, so when I asked Formosa’s Ross Stevens what was different about the new Formosa 430 Classic, he was straight to the point, telling me the thing that got his customers on side was the fact it was "built like a brick s***house".

As co-owner of Formosa Boats, Ross designed the new side console for the demands of fishermen in Australia’s Top End who want a rugged outfit that can withstand being dragged across rocky outcrops and towed over unmade outback roads. Basically, fishos who had seen big Formosas in action wanted something smaller, but just as tough.


To achieve this sort of structural integrity, the little boat is built using a combination of pressed-metal and plate construction technology, utilising 5052-grade aluminium that can tolerate the curves pressed into the 100mm chines. Ross said he couldn’t use the 5083 aluminium in his full-plate boats because it can’t take sharp bends or be pressed into complicated shapes without cracking under the stress.

Bottom sections in the 430 hull have two longitudinal sections on each side, as well as lateral ribs welded together with the floor frame, creating a strong and stiff platform for the marine ply floor. The addition of closed cell foam into the under-floor cavity provides buoyancy and the added benefit of sound deadening to help alleviate the tinnie "slap" found in many alloy boats. The gunwales are fully welded for strength and to give the boat extra stiffness. The sides are 3mm and the bottom section is 4mm, contributing to a hefty weight of more than 420kg.

The 430 Classic we tested was the first side console out of the Formosa factory, and the run through JD’s Boatshed in Sydney was something of a shakedown cruise for the new model. The side console shares a hull with the equally new centre console, and although maximum power is 60hp the team at JD’s decided to fit 50hp Mercury four-stroke.


Happily, the boat looks far more elegant than the proverbial outhouse when sitting on its trailer, the sporty lines enhanced by a slight rise in the sheerline to give the bow a more prominent look. The fastback transom adds to the boat’s appeal and extends its waterline length, providing handy boarding platforms on either side of the motor.

A prominent spray rail runs along the separation of bottom and sides, and the unpainted lower section gives a purposeful look to the well-finished slab sides with the familiar (if slightly optimistic) Formosa jumping marlin at the stern. At the bow, a deep vee flows back to near the centre and flattens out to a modest 12° deadrise at the transom.

A solid bowsprit adds to the boat’s focussed presence and takes the overall length to 4.25m. Wide side decks meet at the bow and make space for a deep anchor well with carpet lining to protect the hull and keep things a bit quieter when retrieving the anchor. A low casting deck built into the bow features a hinged lid for access to storage space below. I particularly appreciated the way the navigation lights are tucked in under the bow rails to keep them well protected when manoeuvring into wharfs. Very thoughtful.

In addition to the side console set to the rear of the boat, there is a flat, open floor in the space from the casting deck to the transom. The relatively wide beam of 2.1m gives the boat a roomy platform for two or three to fish without getting in each other’s way (as long they coordinate their casting properly, of course).

I found the boat particularly stable at rest, and even with two of us right up against one gunwale it remained fishing-friendly flat while the thigh-high gunwales gave a reassuring feeling of security.

Towards the rear is a simple aluminium starboard side console with a low screen protected by a well-placed grab rail around its perimeter. The pedestal-mounted bucket seats for the skipper and a passenger can be moved to two more mounting points in the bow. The helm seat has 150mm of travel and I found that, while admittedly a little rudimentary, it offered good support and was well placed to operate the side-mounted controls and steering wheel.

A speedo, tachometer and hour meter are set into a flat dash panel and a Garmin 350 fish finder sits on top, but there is no trim gauge.

A neat storage box in the transom gets the battery and valuables off the floor, and while there is no live bait tank, I am assured one can be fitted as an option. The swim platforms over the back are covered in non-skid vinyl and the port side is fitted with a nifty folding aluminium ladder.


With our inspection out of the way it was time to head to the upper reaches of the Port Hacking estuary south of Sydney to see how the little Formosa performed, but we initially had trouble getting the boat on the plane and it seemed the console had been set back too far, upsetting the balance of the boat. A trip back to the dealership saw a Permatrim foil fitted to the motor as a quick fix and it seemed to do the job, although a more permanent solution would be to move the helm forward 300mm on production models.

With that sorted the boat was a willing performer, even though the 50hp Mercury is 10 horses fewer than the factory recommendation. The heavy-duty hull showed its worth across the short chop and wake from other boats in the wider bays, with a smooth ride and no flexing and drumming. Planing speed is not reached until nearly 4000rpm and around 12kts (22.2kmh), but from there the boat is more willing and will top out at 26kts (48kmh) with the newly-installed Mercury spinning at 5800rpm. Once on the plane, the 430 is happy at anything between 4000-5000rpm for a cruising speed of 15-25kts (27.8-46.3kmh).

Most people would be happy with the 50hp engine for the performance and initial savings it offers, but my guess is that a 60hp would be a more suitable match for better acceleration and a few more knots at the top end.

Across the smooth water in the protected stretches of Port Hacking’s South West Arm, the boat delighted in being thrown around from lock to lock, and it showed no tendency to dig the bow in when heading into full power turns. Back at the ramp, retrieval was an easy drive onto a trailer equipped with a combination of skids and central rollers.

One of the advantages of these smaller alloy boats is their ease of maintenance, requiring only a quick hose down and engine flush at the end of the day.


While Formosa has met the demand for a bulletproof boat for its customers in the Top End, the new 430 will also appeal to us southerners looking for a rig with the structural integrity to take them well into the future.

The boat has a very attractive entry-level price of less than $30,000 and its strong build will accommodate a lot of individual modifications that could be incorporated at build or later by owners. And while the little 430 Classic has looks to be proud of, it’s what’s below deck and out of sight that makes the difference.


  • Built strong to withstand rough treatment
  • Good stability at rest
  • Simple layout that can be modified easily
  • Attractive styling


  • Lacking in storage
  • Could use more power than 50hp


2.8kts (5kmh) @ 1000rpm

5kts (9kmh) @2000rpm

5.7kts (10.5kmh) @2500rpm

6.5kts (12kmh) @3000rpm

8.8kts (16kmh) @3500rpm

12kts (22kmh) @ 3800rpm — on the plane

14.7kts (27kmh) @ 4000rpm

20kts (37kmh) @ 4500rpm

21.5kts (40kmh) @ 5000rpm

23kts (42kmh) @ 5500rpm

26kts (48kmh) @ 5800rpm — wide open throttle



Price as tested: $25,990

Options fitted: Kill tank; Garmin 350 fish finder

Priced from: $24,990


Type: Monohull fishing

Material: Aluminium 4mm bottom, 3mm sides

Length: 4.45m LOA

Beam: 2.1m

Weight: 420kg

Deadrise: 12°


People: 4

Rec. HP: 50

Max. HP: 60

Fuel: 75L

Water: N/A


Make/model: Mercury 50HP

Type: Four-cylinder EFI

Weight: 115kg

Displacement: 995cc

Gear ratio: 1.83:1

Propeller: 12in three-blade Vengeance


Formosa Boats

3/1424 New Cleveland Road

Capalaba West

Queensland 4157

Tel: (07) 3245 2950

Web: www.formosamarineboats.com.au


JD’s Boatshed?

27-29 Captain Cook Drive


New South Wales 2229?

Tel: (02) 9525 3166

Web: www.jdsboatshed.com.au


Originally published in TrailerBoat #294, May 2013.

Find Formosa boats for sale.


Want the latest stories delivered straight to your inbox? Sign up for the free TradeBoats e-newsletter.