It’s been 12 months coming but the re-incarnation of the Mustang 32 was more than worth the wait.
It’s been virtually 12 months to the day since marine industry icon Bill Barry-Cotter made the curious (at the time) decision to purchase the assets of the then defunct Mustang Marine. After all sorts of dubious ownership and then an unfortunate hiatus where it was pushed, prodded and manipulated by a private equity ownership – arguably the worst possible recipe for disaster – finally the ‘referee’ had called full time, and the doors were closed.
Ever with a vested interest in the welfare of the Australian marine industry, this was a decision that saddened Barry-Cotter deeply. Not so much because the company had closed its doors, but moreso for the fact the ionic name that had been around for many years in one form or another and had indeed sold well over 3000 examples in its time – was in danger of disappearing off the face of the earth.
It is history of course that the receiver’s efforts to sell the company as a going concern failed to materialise, prompting Bill Barry-Cotter to put in a ridiculous offer for the assets and more importantly Mustang name. The offer was made in conjunction with Swagman CEO Steve Seale, who in effect only wanted the plant and equipment then, contrary to the scuttle-butt at the time – he was out of the deal from then on. History will also suggest it was fortuitous too for Barry-Cotter that it was cheap for upon closer inspection of the moulds and designs Mustang were working with at the time – he made the rather astute decision to scrap the lot and start again. In his mind Mustang had got so far away from what the company stood for, what it had built its enviable reputation on, that the only way to get back to the grass roots philosophy and ideology of the iconic brand – was to start again, from scratch.
The Mustang name prospered over the years on the strength of the fact it was a great family sports cruiser that sold at a competitive price; it was probably no surprise therefore that Barry-Cotter opted to commence his new range right back where Mustang on the cruiser side of its range, first put its name up in bright lights. In Australia especially the renowned Mustang 32 arguably doubled or perhaps trebled the sales of its opposition combined, for it was the quintessential easily handled and affordable family cruiser that, perfect for the mum and dad boater, was also the sensible next step up for the trailerboat fraternity.
Ever a man to get his hands dirty so to speak, Barry-Cotter worked tirelessly with the R&D team at Maritimo and swept along by the thrill and the challenge of designing, building and developing a new project from scratch, the 12 months it took from first purchasing the brand to turning the key of his baby for the first time, was probably some sort of a record. And you could certainly tell during the media occasion when he unveiled his new baby to the world, that this was a boat he was immensely proud of, it had achieved its objective in every facet. “We studied the models built under the previous owners and they were simply not up to the standards I expect from my organisation, so the only way was to start again,” Barry-Cotter told the assembled media contingent. ”We have taken the brand back to its grass roots.
“This new design builds on the true traditions of Mustang and certainly this first model was an exciting challenge; the technologies we used are leading edge but it was always a constant challenge to make it a quality boat, to save weight and to keep the price down, all at the same time; we don’t have quite the same constraints in a larger boat. The Australian boating public deserve a great sports boat and we intend to provide it,” he said.
Still very Mustang
From first glimpse the lines were still individualistically very ‘Mustang’ in appearance, although I am pleased to report that the heinous ‘bubble’ design that so typified and indeed characterised the earlier Mustang sports cruiser cabin tops is a thing of the past. In its place is a very balanced design, with cabin top and hull topsides in complete unison.
What impressed me most about this boat though, upon stepping aboard, was the realisation this was very much an affordable boat; Mustang, Barry-Cotter, whomever, had not tried to do too much with it, make it something it will never be. It would be very easy when you are a cruiser manufacturer, to build to those same heady standards, but they have resisted the temptation with this boat. It was in fact an almost restrained approach so as to adhere strictly to the Mustang ideology – provide the features, but not at an astronomical cost!
The integrated boarding platform was one such glaring example. They could have fitted pushpit hoops, grab rails and all sorts of extraneous gear. But you can’t stand out there while the boat is underway, so all you need to sit and enjoy the occasion, put your flippers on or alight down the nicely-secreted swim ladder, was a simple well presented bench seat moulded into the transom beam. It had storage underneath for the gas bottle for the stove, a stainless steel dorade (engine vent) and a remote shower – what else do you really need?!
This area was presented in typically small-cruiser finish of non-skid durable gelcoat, but enter through the again-durable ‘poly’ transom gate and all of a sudden the living area cum cockpit cum saloon cum helm, where it was appropriate, was presented to a distinctly higher level of specification. A teak floor, an elevated folding solid teak table complete with integral drink holders, generous storage in two drawers under the lounge, two more at the back of the helm seating and in deep cupboards across the starboard side (all presented in gloss teak), and a French-stitched L-shaped lounge – all justifiably elevated this boat into the ‘cruiser’ class. The cabin overhang covers some of this aft area, but if you wanted maximum protection from the elements you would need to come up with your own version of an overhang extension!
Moving further forward, to portside was the galley module against the wall and front bulkhead. Entirely appropriate in a weekender situation more importantly, while it featured a sink with hot and cold water, a two-burner gas stove, a decent-sized storage cupboard and a 120-litre Waeco refrigerator – its underlying single greatest attribute was the fact it didn’t hog too much valuable space. And with the ‘Star-board’ covers in place over the sink and stove, it transformed nicely into a servery.
Opposite the galley and leaving plenty of room for access to the accommodation area, was the generous-sized two-person helm seat behind what was a perhaps ‘plainer’ dash than we are used to seeing from Maritimo; this ‘lack of something’ or ‘too much grey’ was for me the only very, very minor downside. In saying that though, in fairness to the design team they couldn’t do much more with a switch bank, remote anchor switch, trim buttons, Lowrance HDS-10 GPS/plotter sounder combo and the two Mercury ‘display’ combos of tacho, water temp, oil pressure, volt meter and fuel level. Hey this is a prototype model, so I am sure something will be done to jazz it up just a little, so it matches the pizzazz and general appeal of the rest of the boat.
There was a lot to like about this particular helm area of the Mustang 32; I was impressed by the ‘close to the helm-wheel’ positioning of the Mercury Marine DTS remote single-lever throttle and gear-shift remotes, the power-assisted steering with ‘tilt’ wheel boss, the stand-up or sit-down driving position, the great visibility to all parts of the vessel including the anchor feature at the bow, the clever way the three-piece front screen was designed, the three windscreen wipers, and – the neat ‘hand-propelled’ overhead sun-roof which I must say retracted surprisingly easily! With the air from this and that which emanated from the accommodation level below decks, the ensuing cross-drafts cooled the occasion down nicely.
A real family boat
The pre-launch hype which insisted the Mustang 32 was a ‘family’ boat was very much confirmed when I dropped down the two steps at the windscreen bulkhead, onto the accommodation level. From above I could clearly see the ‘master’ accommodation in the bow; but what wasn’t immediately obvious to me from up there, was the second cabin and the bathroom opposite, both of which were concealed behind closed doors. Yep, good privacy there, for everyone!
The master cabin featured an island berth that while slightly smaller at the foot of the bed for strategic reasons (climbing up the steps each side, and into bed) opened out to a near queen-sized berth where it mattered most. I was staggered the designer(s) had been able to get a berth of this dimension into this for’ard cabin; then to follow it up with a Pullman-style twin-berth cabin to starboard and opposite this a changing-room cum bathroom with head and vanity at one end and shower at the other – was a commendable effort!
At the end of the day it was all about balance and trade-off between cockpit, ‘saloon’, helm and accommodation; this was absolutely spot-on and yes, exactly what you would expect in a cruiser! The other aspect I struggled with was this suggestion the vessel was deliberately down-spec’d in the interests of price conservation for while it was described as an entry-level cruiser the finished product in this cabin suggested anything but. The ‘his and hers’ lined wardrobes, good storage provision, the generous head-room, carpet on the floor, nice lashings of wood and upholstery, no gelcoat visible in either cabin, overhead and porthole ‘opening’ hatches and comfortable deep-padded berths – all enhanced the light, comfort and ambience of this accommodation level immensely.
Which of course leaves just one other very important facet of the Mustang 32, the power mode – the making or breaking of any vessel and especially so in what is loosely described as an ‘entry-level’ vessel. Why, because so many manufacturers lamentably skimp on this aspect, in order to keep the price down. Not so in this case though, Bill Barry-Cotter has been around for too long to fall for that one. He has just three prescribed options available for this boat; a 330hp D6 Volvo Penta diesel, a 350hp MerCruiser QSD diesel or his preferred option fitted in this instance to our test boat, a single 8.2 litre 380hp MerCruiser 8.2 Magnum petrol engine. In all instances this model will ONLY run a stern-leg configuration; here it ran the MerCruiser Bravo III twin-prop version.
I must say that upon stepping aboard I was a little puzzled as to where the engine was in fact sited. There was no access from the swim platform and the only hatch in the teak floor forward of the transom beam was a huge machinery room, wet storage or food storage area (take your pick) adjacent to the galley, which housed in this instance the battery bank and the 25-amp SBS battery charger, battery switches, breaker panels, a DC main breaker, the shore power plug and cord and access to the water and waste water tankage.
What I didn’t count on though was the ingenuity of the designer to provide a virtual floating floor which opened to provide obscene access to the engine and peripherals. That’s perhaps not such a big deal, a lot of albeit much larger cruisers boast that feature, but what was special was the fact this whole floor assembly lifted from the starboard side in an athwartships rather than fore and aft direction – without having to shift lounges, cockpit table or whatever. That was a big feature in my mind, in a boat this size, as was the fact they had even remembered a carbon monoxide monitor and alarm, and a gas alarm and shut-off as well.
380hp under the bonnet
Performance I figured, was going to be reasonably spectacular when it had 380hp ‘under the bonnet’, and I must say I didn’t come away disappointed. Bill Barry-Cotter reckoned on this particular model, running the Bravo III leg with 20″-inch pitch twin-props, achieving in the region of 33-34 knots wound out to its maximum 4800rpm. Guess what, he was wrong; it was even better than that for I managed an exhilarating 37.5 knots at full throttle!
What I did like at this most respectable speed was the responsiveness of the hull. Over my favourite test track off the entrance to the Gold Coast Seaway, the boat felt as solid as a rock and very predictable; fleet-footed is an analogy that sprang to mind, even in an aggressive turn at the fast cruise speed of 26 knots! It handled the angry chop in its stride, which was a pleasant surprise considering yes it had a fine entry, but it flattened out reasonably quickly to the predominant 19-degee deadrise from there to the transom. I suspect there was a tad more to the design, than Barry-Cotter was admitting to!
The hull answered well to the Minn Kota trim tabs (I thought they only made electric motors for bass boats), which was good considering you will always get windage and an inherent ‘lean-on’ in the winds such as those we encountered on the day of our test. The other endearing feature was the ‘trimming’ of the hull; you could ‘lock’ the bow down if need be, but at the other end of the scale a bit of fine-tuning allowed me to get an additional 3 knots over what the earlier contingent of journalists had managed. No disrespect to the other journos but I was probably a bit braver with the trim button and as such, realised the full potential of this ‘sports-orientated’ hull.
That surely is the secret to a sound hull design, its ability to respond to the trim button to create the right attitude and balance – whatever the conditions. The other very valid by-product of good trim is of course fuel economy; if a hull answers to the trim ‘appropriately’ the lift provided equates to greater efficiency, which in turn equates to greater economy! Any wonder then, that at the 26-knot cruise speed – the range of this boat was over 400nm!
Bill Barry-Cotter has proved once again he is the master of taking a vessel from concept to fruition, and making it work first time. Forget the fancy computer design programs and theories, his is ‘seat of the pants’ knowledge and experience when it comes to knowing what does and doesn’t work. His uncanny feel for a market, the timing of a new model and the way he presents that new model, are just as astute also. This boat was a sensible balance and trade-off all the way through, from design, to engine power, to performance and handling, to features and creature comforts, and to presentation in the areas of upholstery and woodwork in particular. It was a fun boat to be aboard, but the best part of all about the new Mustang 32 Sports Cruiser was the ‘as-tested’ price of $AUS220,000. I know of a few larger trailerboats that cost more than that – what would you rather have?
- Boat Design Name: Mustang 32
- Year Launched: 2011
- Designer: Bill Barry-Cotter
- Interior Designer: Bill Barry-Cotter
- Builder: Mustang Marine
- LOA: 9.85 m
- LWL: 9.67 m
- Beam: 3.175 m
- Draft: 1.05 m
- Displacement: 4800 kg
- Max Speed: 37.5 knots
- Cruise Speed: 26 knots
- Construction: GRP
- Fuel Cap: 600 litres
- Water Cap: 120 litres
- Engines Make: 380hp MerCruiser 8.2 Magnum
- Gearboxes: MerCruiser Bravo III
- Drive Train: Stern-leg
- Propellers: Mercruiser Elite Series Bravo III Twin-prop
- Bow Thruster: Optional
- Anchor Winch: Quick Astor
- Anchors: Maritimo 25lbs
- Steering: Morse Cable
- Engine Controls: Mercury Marine DTS
- Lighting: Cantalupi
- Paint (Topsides): Gelcoat
- Hatches: Lewmar
- Wipers: Exalto
- Windscreens/windows: Alfab
- Porthole Hatches: Lewmar
- Heads: Dometic Sealand Vacuflush
- Wood Finish: Teak
- Stainless Steel: Mustang Marine
- Trim Tabs: Minn Kota
- Helm Chair: Mustang Marine
- Upholstery: Mustang Marine
- GPS/Plotter/Sounder: Lowrance HDS-10
- Entertainment: Fusion Stereo
- Engine Instruments: Mercury Marine DTS Smartcraft
- Software System: Lowrance
- Switch Panel: BEP Marine
- Base Price of Boat: $AUS214,000
- Price As Tested: $AUS220,000