With an enormous swim platform and single-level layout, the 380 SSC is chock full of ways to have fun in the sun.
On a hot summer Sunday in North Miami, my husband Gary and I stepped aboard the Formula 380 Super Sport Crossover (SSC) with old friends, Vic and Arlene Spellberg. As we cast off the lines and got underway, Vic—who has worked with Formula and its parent company, Thunderbird Products, for many years—and I reminisced about the adventures we had together over the past quarter century sea trialing Formulas for magazines.
Some of these trials were aboard high-performance Formula models that flew through (or I should say, over) the water on the company’s signature FAS3TECH hull. Although the 380 SSC we were aboard that morning is a coupe-style boat designed for luxury day cruising rather than racing or poker runs, Vic told us its deep-V hull is capable of speeds up to 45 knots when powered by the twin 520-hp Mercury Racing stern drives.
Gallery: Formula 380 SSC
“Its bloodline comes from the FAS3TECH,” said John Adams, the longtime designer of the Formula line. “It’s a deep-V with 21-degree deadrise. It’s a stepped bottom with two steps.”
The 380 SSC’s high-performance hull and stern drive propulsion system are more than a nod to Formula’s race-boat heritage. They also give owners who grew up on stern drive boats an alternative to the ever-growing number of outboard-powered boats on the market today.
“There are a lot of Formula stern drive owners. They are just not outboard people,” Vic said. (If you are an outboard person, an outboard version of the 380 SSC is available.)
The 380 SSC is the latest model in Formula’s Super Sport Crossover series, a slightly smaller sibling to the 400 SSC and 430 SSC. “What’s interesting about how we developed that line is that we started with a larger boat, the 430, and moved down,” Adams said, adding that if he and the Formula design team had started small and moved up instead, the 380 might not have had all the amenities and accommodations it now features.
As we cruised along the ICW, we saw dozens of boats loaded with family and friends, dogs and water toys, anchored at small islets—including the colorfully nicknamed Beer Can Island—and sandbars in the waterway. This is a popular way to use your boat in South Florida, and it was clear that the Formula 380 SSC, with its enormous hydraulic swim platform, 11-foot 6-inch beam, covered cockpit seating area and bow cockpit would be the ideal vessel for it. The boat’s single-level, open layout facilitates traffic flow and accommodates a large number of passengers. “It’s all about friends and family and getting a lot of people on board,” he added.
Of particular note is the large walk-through windshield located to port of the helm and console cabin—instead of folding back on hinges, the glass door slides open and shut. This innovative feature was introduced on the Formula 400 SSC and has “trickled down” to the 380 SSC. “One of Formula’s [hallmark] features is the walk-through windshield, but on the larger boats, they were getting heavy,” Vic said. The sliding glass door is a nice solution.
It was tempting to stop at a sandbar and launch the water toys (our test boat had an optional SUP rack on its platform), but we were on a mission that morning to head to Boca Chita Key south of Miami. We transited North Miami’s Baker’s Haulover Inlet to the Atlantic Ocean and turned south. In choppy, 2-foot seas and 13 knots of breeze, we ran at a comfortable cruising speed of 27 knots at 3500 rpm—ably demonstrating the offshore capabilities.
Driving the 380 SSC is enjoyable. Thanks to the coach roof, it is protected from the elements. The starboard helm is faced by a three-person seat with flip-up bolsters. I chose to sit instead of lean, with my feet on the footrest molded below the helm. The optional 18,000-Btu air conditioning kept the cockpit extra cool.
Among the many features on this new model were two wireless USB charging stations at the helm. “People are influenced by their car, and what they have in their home and office. It makes our job easier when we start with what [owners] see every day,” Adams continued. “They perceive the value in it.”
The boat accelerated smoothly through the rpm range, only requiring small moves on the throttles. There was a bit of bow rise as it came onto plane; then it was full speed ahead. The ride was smooth and comfortable as we headed south through the ocean and then turned into Biscayne Bay. Although they weren’t necessary that day, an optional Seakeeper 3 is available on the 380 SSC: the hull and machinery space were purposefully designed to accommodate the gyros. “It’s about being able to stay out on the water and enjoy the experience more,” Adams said.
While in Biscayne Bay, we stopped at Stiltsville, the group of colorful houses built on pilings. Storms have taken their toll on this iconic community over the years, and there are not many homes left, but they’re still fun to photograph.
We continued south to Boca Chita Key, which is part of Biscayne National Park. Heading into the small harbor, we passed the key’s picturesque 65-foot white limestone lighthouse. As on most Sundays, the harbor was lined with boats full of weekenders exploring the island, grilling, relaxing and enjoying the clear, tropical water and ocean views.
After our stop at Boca Chita, we headed back toward Miami and another famous island, Key Biscayne, that lies just off the city. After cruising beneath Rickenbacker Causeway, which connects it to the city, we pulled into Whiskey Joe’s Bar & Grill on tiny Virginia Key, home of the Miami International Boat Show, and tied up. Dark clouds growing on the horizon warned us that we soon would need to cut our outing short and head home. Luckily, the 380 SSC had plenty of power to get us there quickly.
Back on the boat, as Vic drove north, I looked around the cockpit, appreciating Formula’s signature attention to detail. Notable examples include the many well-positioned grabrails—old school but practical. I found electrical outlets as well as USB ports in both cockpits, so everyone can recharge their devices and be on the ready to listen to their playlist via the high-powered JL Audio entertainment system with multiple speakers.
There is a large refreshment center to port of the helm station, which has a sink, fridge, storage and a home-sized trash can. In the gunwale forward are two lockers that open to reveal clever surprises. The first holds the blender (a “must-have” on a luxury day boat), while the second cabinet holds the TV. Both are securely mounted in dedicated racks. The TV has a stainless steel pedestal that slots into a drinkholder mount on the refreshment center. Both forward and aft cockpit tables have specially designed storage spaces.
“These guys think of everything,” Adams said.
I opened the door to the cuddy and was impressed by its size and the number of amenities. Headroom in the main area is 6 feet, 6 inches. This air-conditioned inner sanctum probably will be utilized mostly for its wet head and as a cool spot to get some respite from the sun. But it also offers two large berths and a compact galley, giving this day boat true weekender versatility.
We beat the storm back to the dock and reluctantly said goodbye to the Spellbergs and the 380 SSC. I hope we get invited back to anchor out at some of the local day boat hotspots. Old friends and a new boat sounds like the right formula.
Formula 380 SSC Test Report
Formula 380 SSC Specifications:
Displ.: 20,500 lbs.
Fuel: 250 gal.
Water: 43 gal.
Power: 2/520-hp Mercury Racing stern drives
Price: $1.04 million