Since Glastron’s inception in the US in 1956, the company has produced over 365,000 units, and even had one of its boats fall into the hands of James Bond in the movie ‘Live and Let Die’ in 1973. The brand was also built here in the early 1970s under licence by Hamilton based Avonex Industries. Now the Glastron name is back in New Zealand under the Genmar banner which also manufactures such names as Seaswirl, FourWinns, and Larson.
The Glastron GX185 is one of the first boats to arrive in the country and it recently won the Imported Boat of the Show award at the National Boat Show at Mystery Creek. Freddy Foote spent some time aboard.
Anyone who has seen the James Bond film, ‘Live at Let Die’, would have remembered the famous scene where Bond jumps a Glastron GT150 over two police cars in true Bond fashion. Seventeen boats were destroyed on that day, and just over 30 years later, I was in one of Glastron’s 2005 models and although I probably wouldn’t be putting it through its paces the same way Bond did, I was determined to get out and enjoy some good weather, after a week of rain.
Turangi and Lake Taupo Marine is one of three dealers to distribute the Glastron brand here in New Zealand, the other two being Wanaka Marine in the south and Peter’s PRB Marine in Auckland.
Our test boat came from Turangi, so Lake Taupo was the venue for our test over Labour weekend. A few mates and I spent most of our time exploring the southern end of the lake, launching at Waitetoko and venturing down past Motuoapa and towards Tokaanu. Conditions were hot and balmy, and although there was a lot of cloud around, the lake remained dead flat all weekend.
One of the first thing’s I noticed was that the boat came on a trailer that was fitted with rollers and a spare wheel – a lot of other American boats come with pads instead and usually the spare wheel is something you have to get as an option.
The helm seat, a pedestal mounted bucket seat with adjustable bolsters, is very comfortable. The bolster can be moved upwards, so that you are allowed to sit a bit higher and peer over the top of the windscreen for extra visibility, this is a great feature when water conditions are rougher. Both the passenger and helm seats are able to be adjusted forward and backwards, and can also rotate a full 360 degrees.
Driving the GX185, I felt very comfortable, I had the seat positioned as far back as it would go, and had adjusted the steering wheel upwards so that my knees cleared it easily. The best way to describe it is like driving a go kart, with your body positioned down low and your legs stretched out in front of you. Although I consider myself to be relatively tall at 185cm (6’1″) it was a comfortable drive and it was easy to get in and out of the seat to move around the boat.
The dash is tidy and stylish with the instruments finished with a white background and a gold surround. There were plenty of switches, clearly labelled, controlling such things as the bilge blower for the engine, horn, bilge pump and navigation lights. Downwards near the floor is a cup holder and side pocket storage, this being duplicated for the passenger’s seat.
Forward of the passenger seat, a glovebox is set into the dash, this houses the Clarion CD stereo system. One thing I did notice was that while changing the CD you had to hold the glovebox lid open – it would be nice to see the addition of a small gas strut to keep it open.
The stereo had a four-speaker system, with two speaker’s fitted forward and two in the main cockpit.
Forward in the bow, the seating is very comfortable, and is set up so that you could recline comfortably with your back against the padded bulkhead. There were hand holds to grab onto as well as cupholders to keep those drinks secure.
Aft, additional passenger seating is on a bench seat. Overall, the seating is very comfortable, although it’s a bit windy when the front section is opened up. However, by fitting the bow cover and closing the walkthrough windshield, wind disturbance is down to a minimum. Aft passengers have access to cup holders which are set into the side pockets and a handrail on each side to grab onto.
There is a sizeable sunpad fitted over the top of the engine hatch and then further aft a small swim/boarding platform is a great feature. A couple of my friends were brave enough to jump into the lake to do a bit of wakeboarding, even though the water temperature was a balmy 12.5 degrees!
The sunpad was great to sit on while we fitted our wakeboards and the swim platform was good for drying off and not dragging a whole lot of water back into the boat after the guys had finished their run. A telescopic retractable boarding ladder was a nice feature, but had a habit of holding water inside it, so when you lift it up and forward to lock into position and then slide the ladder extensions downwards, two jets of water shoot up, so just watch that you are not directly over it! A handrail was also fitted just in front of the boarding ladder, so climbing back into the boat was really easy.
Storage throughout the boat was plentiful, with storage space underneath the squabs in the bow section as well as small storage compartments that were tucked away into the bulkhead in front of the driver, that were accessed by removing the reclining backrest.
Additional deep side pockets are in the main cockpit, with a larger, lower storage compartment and a smaller one located above. Between the passenger and helm seats was a lift up lid that reveals a in floor storage compartment, big enough for skis.
Aft, the bench seat lifts up in three separate sections to provide storage underneath, ideal for stowing the canopy or additional life jackets/wetsuits.
Clip-down carpet was fitted throughout the whole boat, a great feature as it would allow you to take the carpet out if it were to get wet, so it could dry.
Our test boat was fitted with a 4.3-litre MerCruiser sterndrive producing 190hp. The boat comes with three engine options including a 3.0L MerCruiser at 135hp and the 4.3L MPI MerCruiser at 220hp.
I found the 190hp engine gave ample power and performance, although this was just the second time the boat had been in the water and it had less than an hour on the clock, the quick spurt of full throttle that I gave it, showed 49mph on the GPS with three of us in the boat and around 50 litres of fuel.
Out of the hole, the engine was strong and responsive, and while underway the boat only required a very small amount of trim.
We wakeboarded for about half an hour or so, not very long I know, but the water was really cold! We were able to cruise along at an ideal speed for wakeboarding, just below planing speed, and I really only had to work the throttle very slightly to keep it at the right level for the rider.
Glastron does offer an outboard version of the GX185 which is called the GX180, which has many if not all of the same features, minus the full sized sunpad aft. It can be powered by a 115hp outboard right up to a 150hp engine.
I was very impressed with the GX185 – the level of finish, attention to detail and features were superb. Neither launching nor retrieving was any major problem, although I found that when I was trying to manoeuvre the trailer around on the lawn at home, the jockey wheel was a plastic and it had a habit of just digging into the ground and not swivelling as well as the normal inflated rubber wheels.
It’s the kind of boat that is ideally suited to the boater who just wants to get out on the water, tow a couple of skiers, or the kids on a tube. Probably not suited to fishing, no rod holders here mate, but that doesn’t mean you can’t give it a go. The GX185 is certainly one of the best finished boats in its class on the market, and Glastron does offer a number of bowrider models with different levels of features and finish and with the position of the US dollar at the moment, it’s never been a better time to buy an import. And with Glastron offering a lifetime limited warranty on the hull, deck, floor, stringers and transom, which is transferable to the next owner of the boat, it’s a hard deal to go past.
VEC - The Way of the Future
Glastron builds its boats using the VEC closed mould fibreglass lamination technology. This computerised process, developed by Glastron’s parent company, Genmar, is now accepted as the most advanced method for making fibreglass boats. The process enables Glastron to build boats with total precision, and allows it to offer a structural lifetime limited warranty.
The VEC process is highly automated, with more than 500 variables monitored or controlled by computer. The messy and labour-intensive working conditions of conventional boat building are gone, and so is the need for respirators and other protective gear required for hand-laid fibreglass lamination.
A VEC hull has a smooth, near-perfect fibreglass surface inside and out. There are no loose fibreglass strands, no rough edges, no inconsistencies, no wood stringers and every VEC hull that is produced has a weight variation of less than 1 percent. The VEC process also allows a boat to be produced every 45 minutes from each set of moulds!
The VEC process eliminates the need for a separate wood stringer system, replacing it with an integrated fibreglass infrastructure. Although the VEC system is not unique in this respect (some of the better fibreglass boats built in New Zealand have had this feature since the 1970s), VEC has brought manufacturing tolerances more into line with those of the auto industry. The result: boats that have excellent structural integrity and consistency, without needing much highly skilled labour in their construction.
- Model: Glastron GX 185
- Price as Tested: $52,495
- Designer: Glastron
- Material: GRP
- Type: Bowrider
- LOA: 5.49m
- Beam: 2.31m
- Deadrise: 21 degrees
- Hull Configuration: Monohull
- Trailerable Weight: 1480kg
- Height on Trailer: 1.90m
- Engine Capacity: 135hp-225hp
- Power Options: Sterndrive only
- Fuel Capacity: 110 litres
- Engine: MerCruiser 4.3 @ 190hp