When Americans hear the name Mustang, they often think of the classic car that helped define road cruising in the United States. Remember the Fastback? The Mach 1? The Shelby? The 5.0? These and many other models vaulted the name to auto-industry-icon status. However, my friends, there is another Mustang. One that is attempting to create a new stateside icon in a different genre: the flying-bridge cruiser.
This Mustang, the M43 Sports Flybridge, comes to us from Australia, and unlike the V-8-powered American ride, this 43-foot cruiser prefers twin in-line, six-cylinder diesels from Cummins MerCruiser that produce 1,080 total hp at 2600 rpm. And on a flat-calm day off St. Augustine, Florida, I got to see if this Mustang had what it takes to crack the American market.
The first thing that struck me as I scanned her traditional, slightly angular flying-bridge profile was the morning sun's bright reflection off the rails and hardware. This boat was all stainless steel in all directions, reminiscent of the shiny chrome of those classic cars and an instant attention-getter.
She looked strong, too. Now, while that may sound a bit abstract, there's proof. For instance, her rails are secured into stainless steel backing plates that are fiberglassed into the boat. And that's just the beginning. Her hull bottom is hand-laid, solid fiberglass, with Baltek end-grain balsa coring used from six inches above the waterline. The balsa adds stiffness without adding excessive weight and offers significant sound-attenuation properties (top decibel readings hit 75, and 65 decibels is the level of normal conversation). To further beef up her structure, a layer of Kevlar is laid in her hull from chine to chine. And while the hull-to-deck joint on many similar vessels may receive a treatment of 3M 5200 adhesive plus perhaps some mechanical fasteners to bond the two pieces, this hull and deck are glassed together to make the two sections one piece. Last, there are three watertight bulkheads.
Suffice to say, the 43's build is beefy. Just compare her to her peers. Our test boat's reported dry weight of 34,600 pounds is a couple of tons more than the Riviera 42's stated dry weight of 30,900 pounds and around four tons heavier than the Silverton 42's reported dry weight of 26,300 pounds.
I wondered if the Mustang's heft would translate into a slow-riding boat. In short, the answer was no. In about 35 seconds the Cummins diesels spooled up to their rated 2600 rpm, and we hit a top average speed of 36.1 mph while burning 54 gph. Taking into account her 609-gallon fuel capacity (future 43s will carry 550 gallons), the boat will get 366 statute miles at this speed. When I dialed the motors back to 2250 rpm, the 43 made a 28.9-mph cruise speed at 34 gph and added 100 statute miles onto her range. She's pretty quick and relatively efficient, with her best mileage of 0.86 mpg coming at 2500 rpm.
She also tracked bullet-straight thanks to her small keel and the mellow sea conditions. While turning her wheel, which was matched to standard SeaStar hydraulic, power-assisted steering, I felt some slippage and noted air in the system, an easy fix. Although her turning radius was about three boat lengths, helm response was leisurely; I think she might benefit from larger rudders.
On the straightaways, as the 43 came up on plane, her trim angle hit six degrees, but at no time were her sightlines compromised. She reacted well to tab input, something I could easily judge via the lighted tab gauges on her cleanly laid out helm console.
Besides being a capable performer, the 43's a good candidate for small cruising families, thanks to her two-stateroom, one-head layout. But she can also be modified to fish, with the addition of optional rocket launchers, rod holders, and an in-transom livewell, which were on my test boat. Future models will also have fore-aft, in-deck fishboxes, which will replace the cockpit's current square stowage areas. I'd say, however, that if serious fishing is your intention, forego the swim platform. I did some simulated backing down and managed to pop the hatch on the retracted swim ladder. In addition, the platform tends to pick up water and push it under the transom door into the cockpit. Extending the door a little lower and gasketing everything snugly could help, but swim platforms are also notorious for breaking off lines when a fish darts under the boat.
My day onboard was nearing a close, so I manned the lines as we approached a side-to slip at Camachee Cove marina. When I ventured barefoot along the side decks, I noticed that while the raised finish here appears aggressive, it actually needs more grip. And coming back from the foredeck, I had to duck under the flying-bridge overhang to step down into the cockpit, partially because of the optional canvas awning and partly because of the nature of the design. It's tight, and one more stainless steel handhold right above the step leading down into the cockpit would be make a big difference.
One area that definitely isn't lacking for space is the saloon, which features 6'6" headroom and a 360-degree view thanks in part to wide side windows and a curved full front window. There are no corner mullions, which means no blind spots. A lot of technology went into designing the shape and function of that window, and it's worth a look.
Actually, a lot of things about the 43 make her worth a look. There's the high-gloss Nyotah wood (optional), which blends the best elements of teak and mahogany. On the practical side, there's an easily accessible engine room with 3'10" headroom and lots of outboard space, nearly 90 square feet of cockpit, and of course, all that shiny, eye-catching stainless steel.
Will this Mustang ride into the hearts of American boaters the same way the car that shares her name bonded with U.S. drivers? We won't know the answer to that until some point down the road, but for now I can say that the 43 is off the line cleanly and is definitely in the race.
For more information on Mustang Marine, including contact information, click here.
Knowing that your boat is well built offers peace of mind when heading out for the day, weekend, or longer. But knowing that she's backed by an equally well-constructed warranty can be just as reassuring. The Mustang M43 Sports Flybridge comes with a ten-year, nondepreciating structural hull guarantee, which is fully transferable. And in the unfortunate event that you do file a claim, Mustang says you'll receive full reimbursement for the repairs.—P.S.
16,000-Btu Cruisair saloon A/C; reinforced cockpit area for fighting-chair mount; hot and cold freshwater washdown in cockpit; in-transom livewell; 2/overhead cockpit lights; transom door; 66-lb. anchor w/ 180-foot chain; Maxwell 1500 windlass; s/s rails and cleats; Clarion AM/FM stereo/CD; Fisher & Paykel dishwasher; Sharp Carousel microwave; 2-burner Kenyon electric cooktop; composite faux wood galley sole; 9-kW Kohler diesel genset; Corian countertops; Jabsco electric MSD; Icom M302 VHF; 19" Sharp LCD TV in saloon; antivibration engine mounts; trim tabs
16,000-Btu Cruisair A/C for master and guest cabins; teak swim platform; cockpit canvas awning; exterior canvas for front and side windows; Raymarine package w/ C120 chartplotter, GPS, radar, ST6002 autopilot; Maxwell windlass chain counter; 19" Sharp LCD TV in master; 11/rod holders; fuel-capacity upgrade; flying-bridge hardtop w/ strataglass four-side enclosure; flying-bridge carpet, refrigerator, fill-in cushion; foredeck sunpad; Side-Power bow thruster; U-line ice maker in saloon; high-gloss finish on interior woodwork; galley drinking-water filter; retractable rear window; venetian blinds
Test Boat Specifications
- Test Engine: 2/540-hp Cummins QSC8.3-540 diesel inboards
- Transmission/Ratio: Twin Disc/ 1.77:1
- Props: 31.5x24.4 4-blade full cup
- Price as Tested: $570,367
This article originally appeared in the October 2007 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.