Text by Barry Thompson
Fi-Glass’s move into the hardtop market further enhances the wide appeal its super successful Warrior already has. Barry Thompson took the first one for a run during the recent Mercury Expo 07, where the Warrior was one of the star attractions.
When I first heard about the hardtop version of the Warrior it was from someone who had seen the boat at the Christchurch boat show, so having had the opportunity to test every Warrior model from the very first 30 years ago I was keen to see it for myself.
My opportunity came recently at Mercury Expo 07 during a media test day at Gold Coast City Marina, in Surfers Paradise. The Fi-Glass was just one of a dozen or so boats fitted with some of Mercury Marine’s latest offerings, both outboard and sterndrive.
The Fi-Glass Warrior Hardtop was packing a Mercury Verado 200 L4. This newly released four-cylinder version of the Verado made a whole lot more sense on a boat like the 6.4m Warrior, due to its being 70kg lighter than the 200hp L6. I wouldn’t have given a four-cylinder engine much credence on a boat this size, but boy was I wrong.
The engine, like all supercharged Verados, was eerily quiet and after idling through the 6-knot area, with only the sound of the tell-tale to remind us the engine was running, I pushed the throttle down. The Warrior rose effortlessly to plane and we had no problem reaching a top speed within the short distance we had before it was back to 6 knots past Sanctuary Cove.
Fi-Glass rate the Warrior as being suitable for outboards from 115hp to 225hp and it can certainly handle the top end of the range without any issues. In a previous review I tested the Warrior with both a Mercury 140 Saltwater, the other with a 220hp MerCruiser 4.3 MPI. The MerCruiser 4.3MPI ran 45 mph @ 5000rpm and the Mercury 140 Saltwater marginally faster at 45.5mph @ 5500rpm. By comparison the Verado 200 L4 topped out around 50mph @ 6300rpm, which according to Griff Simpson, managing director of Fi-Glass, is nearly 5mph slower than the non-hardtop version – small price to pay for the all-round weather protection from the hardtop.
Look around and it seems that just about every alloy boat over 6m has a hardtop these days. Aluminium boat manufacturers many years ago saw the advantage of closing in the open cabin boats. The reasons were simple – better protection and more comfort resulted in extended on-the-water usage of their boats. Now, keen fishos spend more time on the water and suffer the rainstorms, winter winds and thrashing spray in semi enclosed comfort. Anyone who has spent a few hours bashing their way back to the boat ramp from some exposed offshore fishing spot can appreciate why the hardtop design has become so popular.
Although fibreglass production boatbuilders adopted the hardtop fashion a little later in most cases, it is now very mainstream.
For Fi-Glass Boats, one of the country’s leading and unquestionably most experienced builders, the hardtop evolution has been late arriving. With the release of the Fi-Glass Warrior Hardtop, the company has taken its first step in hardtop production and initial reactions have been better than expected.
“We knew we had to do it, it was just a matter of the right time and getting the design true from the outset”, says Griff.
Hardtops not only change the aesthetics and overall styling of a boat, they can also change its ride and handling characteristics – something that Fi-Glass took into account right from the start of the design process. “Everyone knows that a common trait of hardtop boats is they have a tendency to lean into the wind with the extra weight and windage they carry up high, so we fitted Bennett electro hydraulic trim tabs as standard”, says Griff.
When I drove the Warrior hardtop I was impressed with the way the tabs kept the boat straight and true. Just a small touch of the port rocker switch and the boat levelled up. Add some engine trim and I was able to get the hull trimmed just right. I personally hate getting into a boat and not being able to trim it right because the balance or set-up is wrong. In the case of the Warrior hardtop I had no such problem.
In 1977 the highly successful 17ft (5.2m) Warrior was released. In 1996 a major redesign saw subtle changes to the hull and the addition of an integral boarding platform and an integral bowsprit, and the Warrior 6.4m subsequently proved to be one of the most successful cabin boats on the New Zealand market. With well over 1200 units sold, the Warrior has long been one of Fi-Glass’s most successful models. Over the years it has undergone some structural and layout changes, but always retained the same basic premise of being a safe, robust and comfortable family cabin boat. With the release of the hardtop version, that has now been extended. It’s also going to open the boat to the broader market of the serious fisherman.
Apart from the addition of a hardtop on the same deck footprint as the standard screen, the ‘new’ Warrior Hardtop has an enlarged anchor locker to handle the extra tackle for offshore fishing and will take a rope/chain auto winch. The fairlead size has been increased to accommodate larger anchors.
The fibreglass hardtop is surrounded with toughened glass screens, with the moulded aft stays incorporating a set of pre-wired marine speakers. There is a canvas backdrop with dual zips for easy access. If you are staying out overnight, with the cockpit canvas in place you can transform the boat into a nice compact weekender.
With over 45 years of manufacturing boats, Fi-Glass builds its boats to the highest standard and supports that with a six-year structural hull warranty – one of the longest hull warranties offered by any company in the New Zealand boating industry.
The Warrior Hardtop is constructed with fibreglass stringers and Klegecell, with 95% of the under-floor cavities filled with closed cell polyurethane foam buoyancy. “It is stronger, doesn’t rot and is quicker to build. The use of Klegecell core in the transom also has the same longevity benefits and the only timber in the boat now is in dedicated areas where we need to screw or bolt fittings, seat bases etc”, says Griff.
Cabin the Same
The cabin layout has not changed and features a massive deck hatch, which is great when you’re anchoring. The front squab also removes to show a non-skid fibreglass base. There are no storage areas under the squabs as the area is fully foam filled, with side trays providing the necessary space for gear. A portable head in the centre is an option as are the two-infill squabs to convert the whole area into one large berth – all good if you are considering overnighting. Add a gas BBQ, small fridge and some fresh water and you’d need little else.
The big difference is forward in the cockpit where the high profile split screen meets the deck just forward of the helm console. The standing headroom under the fibreglass hardtop is plentiful and the full wrap-around screens afford great visibility for the driver.
The raised eyebrow on the facia is enough to handle the now common two multi purpose engine monitoring instruments, with a large flat area for a big screen combo plotter/GPS/fishfinder below. The lower bulkhead caters for any other switches, panels or add-ons you may have around the helm area. Sliding side windows let in plenty of ventilation that flows through the hardtop area, which can be a real plus in very hot weather.
Standard seating is a fully adjustable pedestal helm seat on a Softrider base and a back-to-back king/queen opposite. The base lifts to provide access to a moulded storage bin. There are also removable jump seats aft, which if the builders want to appeal to fishermen is a bonus in providing extra fishing space.
In the Warrior Hardtop the carpet is removable and the GRP sole has an effective anti-skid pattern. As in all Warriors, storage is plentiful, with a wet locker forward in the cockpit, wide side trays either side under the coamings and a separate moulded locker beside the forward passenger seat.
Fi-Glass Boats is the longest established and one of the largest manufacturers of trailerable fibreglass power boats in New Zealand, with over 10,000 units sold in the domestic market alone. Since the company was formed in 1958, designer and founder Frank Simpson has designed a line of quality boats, always with the company slogan in mind – ‘Excellence in Performance, Safety & Design’. The Warrior hardtop certainly tops the bill in all criteria.
- Price As Tested: NZ $ 95,300
- Packages from: NZ $ 85,700
- Material: GRP
- Type: Hardtop
- LOA: 6.40m
- Beam: 2.30m
- Deadrise: 22 deg
- Hull Config.: Deep V
- Trailerable Weight: 1850kg
- Height on Trailer: 2.80m
- Engine Capacity: 175hp – 225hp
- Power Options: Outboard or sterndrive
- Fuel Capacity: 140 litres
Performance - MERCURY 175
|1500 rpm||2.0 mph|
|2000 rpm||3.5 mph|
|2500 rpm||6.5 mph|
|3000 rpm||19.5 mph|
|3500 rpm||26.0 mph|
|4000 rpm||30.0 mph|
|4500 rpm||33.5 mph|
|5000 rpm||38.0 mph|
|5500 rpm||42.5 mph|
|6000 rpm||45.0 mph|
|6400 rpm||47.5 mph|
Speeds recorded in MPH on a Lowrance GPS.