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Retro Boat Tests (1973-1990)

Fascinating group of ‘Retro’ or historic boat test reports written by our current editor, Peter Webster, back in the 1970s-1980s when he was Editor of Australian Boating magazine, and continuing through the early part of the "Fisherman & Boatowner" magazine era in the early 1990s-2005. These reports, one of which is now published each month in Australian Boating, have renewed application in modern times, as all of these craft are still extremely popular on the used boat market, and readers are enjoying the chance to check their original performance and building standards.
A key principle of the re-publication of these Retro tests is that not a single word, fact or figure is changed from the original test, which is carefully date-stamped for time relevance. Also proving of great interest is PW’s interesting ‘Hindsight’ assessment which is added to the end of each Retro test, bringing the relevance of the test right into today’s world.


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Title Description Author Pages  
Arvor 20 Diesel Fisherman

Sweet GRP twenty footer built in Australia down in Nowra NSW. Well over 100 Arvors were made, the diesel providing that magic mix of performance and economy fishermen appreciated. Interesting in depth report. PW 9
AUD $5.00
Bertram 28

One of the longest running production game boats in the world, the Bertie 28 has spanned decades of bluewater fishing activity, with safety, reliability and success. PW 5
AUD $5.00
Caribbean Commodore (20')

Here's another hugely popular 1970s-1990s half cabin cruiser that has well and truly stood the test of time - and countless families. these days right up there on top of the reno and/or re-power lists. PW 6
AUD $5.00
Cruise Craft 625 Scorpion

A very handsome boat the Scorpion and our first experience of the ill-fated BMW sterndrives. Most Scorpions were fitted with the 485 Mercruiser and are still a good investment if you can suss out a 'clean one. PW 4
AUD $5.00
Cruise Craft 685 Outsider

Major report on one of Australia's most successful fibreglass sportfishing trailerboats - and one of the longest running in continuous production. PW 10
AUD $5.00
Cuddles 30 Diesel Cruiser 1982

Bruce Harris' traditional double ended displacement cruiser - one of the most popular cruisers in Australia during the1980's, and still sought after on the pre-loved market. Hugely popular with charter boat fleets. Peter Webster 7
AUD $5.00
Dominator 700 Canyon Runner

This is the controversial test that was so much at odds with all the internet crap that was largely responsible for the downfall of the Dominator brand. Here is the real perspective, by PW, about the biggest selling 7.0m cat in Oz. PW 11
AUD $5.00
Formula 233

Yes - this is the real deal - a genuine as-it-was Formula 233 with the original 'long six' 165hp Mercruiser sterndrives in what many owners have described as the most beautifully balanced performance trailerboat of all. PW 6
AUD $5.00
Haines Hunter 565F Centre Console

The centre console with the very well regarded 565 'plank' deep vee hull PW 7
AUD $5.00
Haines Hunter 635 Walkaround

HH designer Ben Hipkens created this model, and it proved to be a special craft, especially as it dealt with the issue that planing strakes DID often create a harsher ride - this 635 confirmed it was no wive's tale. PW 7
AUD $5.00
Haines Hunter V146C

What a sweet little boat this was - with a great hull, cabin for the kids in poor weather, somewhere for Mum and girls to change, terrific performance with a 40-50hp outboard - and easily towed by almost anything. PW 4
AUD $5.00
Haines Hunter V17R vs Monark Olympic

How things have changed - it is virtually impossible to do comparo tests like this one today. Needless to say, the consumers loved 'em, but to do it, we needed manufacturers who had the confidence in their own products. PW 6
AUD $5.00
Haines Signature 493F

This is the boat PW reckons set the bar for the Signature range - and reckons they haven't moved much further forward since - in terms of handling, ride, safety, fishability, etc. PW 11
AUD $5.00
Haines Signature 542F

Another of the big-selling '540' Series John Haines (Snr) created in the 1990s. PW 8
AUD $5.00
Haines Signature 630F

Another of the extremely popular Signatures, the 630F is already verging on the description of being a 'classic". Really, it was the culmination of a period when Signature were building some beautiful craft - and this was one of the best. PW 8
AUD $5.00
Honeymoon 26 Diesel Displacement Cruiser

This is a very nice style of displacement cruiser we knew very well as one of AB's staff, electronics whiz Dave Jeanes, bought one and used it happily for many years on Sydney's Pittwater. PW 6
AUD $5.00
Kevlacat 5.2 Cuddy

We always believed this cat was the 'Best Trailerboat' in Australia, and really, nothing has changed. What made it so special? It was another of these "packages" where everything just came together. Perfectly. PW 10
AUD $5.00
Kingston 770 Diesel Cruiser

Very popular Sydney-built diesel 7.7m displacement cruiser PW 6
AUD $5.00
Mariner 31 Diesel Cruiser 1980

Many people believe this fibreglass cruiser was a real turning point in production GRP cruisers. It is a terrific family package, and design wise, it is just as good value today as it was then. PW 6
AUD $5.00
Mariner 38 Mk11 1988

This was the Mark 2 version of what was already a popular boat from the original Mariner factory in Mona Vale, Sydney. This model closed the gap, to make a good all rounder even better. PW 9
AUD $5.00
Markham 4.9m (16') Whaler

What a little beauty - and like no other in Australia to this day. Great catch second hand - no need to over-power it - flies with 50s, cruises sweetly with a pair of 40 4-strokes, and anything over 60s is a woftam. Excellent fishing platform. PW 7
AUD $5.00
Mustang 2400 Sportscruiser

Fast and furious . . the 2400 is a boat that always stirs the blood in performance boating enthusiasts. Terrific high performance hull with outstanding handling and a very pleasing, soft ride in bay chop. PW 7
AUD $5.00
Nautiglass V150

Hugely popular 1980s cuddy that was sold by the truckload. PW 6
AUD $5.00
Nova 2200 Bridgedeck 1974

The original Nova 2200 with its MerCruiser sterndrive (and the subsequent itinerations from Pride) remained in production for many years, and still represents astonishingly good value in the secondhand world today. PW 6
AUD $5.00
Pongrass 5.25m Waverider

At least 1600 + Waveriders were built by Pongrass, one of the biggest manufacturers in the 1970s. Another Frank Bailey design, the Waverider, was a safe, simple, honest family boat that was powered (usually) by a 60hp-70hp outboard. PW 5
AUD $5.00
Precision 45 Big Game Boat

We very nearly bought one of these - it was the alternative to the Outsider 44 we ultimately purchased. This was - still is - a fabulous, high performance hull with a glorious commitment to high end 130lb IGFA gamefishing. PW 6
AUD $5.00
Quintrex 5.0m Cruise-About (Original, 1976)

History in the making here - arguably, one of the most significant boat tests we ever published, as the Cruise-About went on to become one of the most successful recreational family fishing craft of all time. PW 6
AUD $5.00
Randell 32 1979

A very popular 32 footer from the late 1970's that has still considerable merit to this day as this is one of the best 32 foot hulls ever designed and built in Oz. PW 4
AUD $5.00
Riviera 27 Cruiser

Another really interesting craft from the original Riv stable - and one we still believe should never have gone out of production. PW 7
AUD $5.00
Riviera 30 Diesel Cruiser

It wasn't the first, but it was certainly one of the early Rivs as Bill Barry-Cotter started a process that would see Riviera became one of the major cruiser brands in the world. This model was one of the first built on the Gold Coast. PW 5
AUD $5.00
Riviera 38 Mk 11

Probably the first high-end cruiser that achieved real sales volume in the 1980s. This was also the first to embody the very latest in Barry Cotter's 'inside-out' building technique. PW 7
AUD $5.00
Savage Sabre 640 (Plate) Fisherman

Years ahead of its time, this big, powerfully built Savage has become a benchmark for plate boat building standards - all the more remarkable when you realise the design and build is the best part of 40 years old. PW 5
AUD $5.00
Seafarer 6.3m Volante

This is the slightly bigger version of the incredibly popular 5.9m Victory which always sold a bit better than the Volante mainly because the Victory could run with a 130hp, but the Volante was up in the 175hp class. PW 6
AUD $5.00
Sharkcat 560

Well, the writer was so impressed with this remarkable boat - I bought one! This is avery comprehensive test of a nuggety, go-anywhere rough water cat. PW 8
AUD $5.00
Southwind 640 Sportsman

Stunning 21 footer that is still contemporary. Many believed this model was 'best in class' in its day. PW 8
AUD $5.00
Steber 36 Express Game Boat

This was a very popular test in its day, of one of the more popular, fishing oriented diesel sports cruisers. PW 8
AUD $5.00
Steber 530

Test report on a remarkable craft based on the Steber 525 - one of the most controversial boats developed in the 1970s, but a commercial failure. The 530 version was a conventional build of the 525 design. PW 8
AUD $5.00
Trophy 2302

One of the extremely popular Bayliner-built Trophy outboard Hardtops that scared the hell out of the local GRP boat builders, and showed they were asleep at the wheel . . This model helped get the Trophy range rightfully established as one of the best. PW 6
AUD $5.00
Whittley 700 Cruisemaster

Arguably the best fibreglass trailerboat cruiser ever built in Australia, the Whittley Cruisemaster 700 is still extremely popular, and with very good reason, as it ticks all the important boxes. Terrific in-depth report. PW 9
AUD $5.00
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