Escape the Real World in Wellcraft's Flashy Scarab III

Author: BoatingWorld Staff
To be candid, performance boats aren’t very practical. Cigarettes, Donzis, Scarabs and the rest usually have crouching-only headroom, pitiful galleys, and bunks that aren’t meant for sleeping. Because they have such long snouts, the boats take up more expensive slip space than their accommodations justify. And because of their monstrous engines, the boats swill enough fuel to make an OPEC minister smile. No, for most power boat folks, a nice convertible sedan or a roomy trawler makes far more sense. So what are performance boats good for? For blowing the cobwebs out of your mind. For feeling your oats if you’re young. Or for feeling young again if you’re old. They’re for people who demand the ultimate in speed, style and handling. And of course they’re for those daring characters who are unafraid to make a statement. Standing at the helm of a performance boat is like the middle-aged gentleman walking down the street with a flashy, young blonde on his arm â “ he feels a little conspicuous, but he’s having a good time. Performance boats have been riding a crest of popularity during the 1980s, especially along the Eastern Seaboard and on the Great lakes. That’s ironic, because on doesn’t speak of performance boating without talking about Scarabs, the boats designed by California’s Larry Smith. Performance pleasureboats evolved from offshore racing power boats. The 1956 Miami-Nassau Race is generally pegged as the beginning of modern offshore racing. In the years and races that followed, innovations like stern drive engines and the deep-V hull became widely accepted byproducts of the racing efforts. Larry Smith’s small, custom shop in Orange County began turning out race-winning boats in the early 1960s. the first of his Scarab series was a speedy, potent-looking 30-footer launched in 1974. The savvy executives at giant Wellcraft Marine realized that a boat like the Scarab 30, spruced up with a few amenities, could be a real winner in the marketplace as well as on the race course. Thus was born in 1975 the Smith-Wellcraft partnership and the first mass-produced, large performance boat. A couple of years later, Smith designed a big brother of the 30-footer, the Scarab 38. One of these, a boat named Kaama, won the World Offshore Championships in both 1978 and 1979. The 38 is now perhaps the best known production performance boat in America. But do most people recognize the boat for its racing laurels? Heck, no. Each Friday night, millions of television viewers see a Scarab 38 bounding the Florida main with Don Johnson at the helm on the hit show â Miami Vice.⠝ Serious offshore racing may have given the Scarab its pedigree, but it took the boob tube and a Hollywood hunk to make the boat truly famous. The TV show boosted the 38’s sales, yet the hottest selling Scarab is a 34-footer called the Scarab III. Smith designed it in 1982, and Wellcraft has since sold some 350 of them. The Scarab III is a clever compromise between the original 30-footer and the 38. Like the 30-footer and unlike the 38, the 34 is legally trailerable on the highway, an unusual feature for a boat of its length. (Of course the boat needs a Peterbilt to pull it easily.) As a shorter boat, the 34 lacks some of the 38’s swoopy foredeck. But the 34 actually has more interior room than the 38, and far more than the 30. Up forward, there’s a V-berth. Just aft, on the starboard side, there’s a settee, and to port, a pair of bucket seats. A little further aft, there’s a compact galley â “ a wet bar, really with a refrigerator and sink. On the other side, there’s an enclosed head/changing compartment. Décor is the standard performance boat, the action is outside fun-in-the-sun. the Scarab III’s cockpit is large and open, with a cushioned sundeck over the engine compartment. Befitting the boat’s racing heritage, side by side stand-up bolsters with knock-down seat bottoms are standard so the helmsman can stand like the race drivers do. There are triple tiers of aircraft-like instruments at the helm, along with push button trim flaps and drive controls. The exhilarating speed and the soul-stirring sounds produced by a pair of big-block V8 engines are the raison d’etre for a performance boat, and the Scarab III doesn’t disappoint. A pair of 454 cubic inch, 370 hp MerCruisers propels the boat to a 63 mph top speed. To those of us brought up on sailboats or trawlers, six knots on the water seems breathtaking while 60 mph seems inconceivable. Yet, in 1987 50 or 60 mph is no longer considered HIGH performance. â I call them â performance cruisers,’⠝ says Larry Smith. â High-performance boats go 80 or 90 mph. There’s a world of difference between 60 mph and 90 mph.⠝ We traditionalists also tend to believe that high speed and the ocean are an uncomfortable and often dangerous mix; that the only proper ocean-going vessel is heavy and slow, with a full-keeled hull to ride out bad weather. However, performance boats like the Scarab are built for offshore work, and their deep-V hulls are one of the finest designs ever devised for rough water. â The boats are made to run dry and safe at 40 mph in four foot seas. Instead of plowing through the swells, the Scarab skims over them,⠝ says Bill Mudgett, Wellcraft’s sales vice president. For Sea’s June, 1985 issue, staff members tested a Scarab III and were indeed impressed with the boat’s handling. â We worked the swells with confidence.⠝ A performance boat’s thirst for fuel can seem exceptional, too. According to Wellcraft, a Scarab III with 370 MerCruisers will consume 24 gallons per hour while cruising at 40 mph. But keep in mind that the boat is covering a lot of ocean, and a trip from L.A. to Catalina will only take a half hour, or 12 gallons. That works out to nearly 1.7 miles per gallon. Wellcraft has a reputation for making rugged hulls. The federal customs service has just ordered 13 Scarab IIIs for patrol use throughout the U.S. And Larry Smith , who continues to build custom and racing Scarabs in his own shop, says he’s pleased with Wellcraft’s quality control and knows of no major hull failure n a Wellcraft Scarab. With a used Scarab, engines will be the primary concern. Assume they’ve been used hard. Paul Perry, marketing vice president for Wellcraft, figures that 1,000 hours of use on marine engines is the equivalent of 100,000 miles on an automobile. The Scarab III, like al performance boats, is a product of emotion and fantasy. Certainly there are more practical power boats. But for those who find a quick fix of flash and dash to be an antidote for the stresses of everyday life, a Wellcraft Scarab III could be the perfect choice.

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