For the best part of 60 years, without a single break in production, Oy Marino Ab has been generating accessible fiberglass boats for the family user. In fact, having become involved in fibreglass so early on in the material’s use for marine applications, it calls itself “a pioneer in fiberglass boat manufacturing” and its repeated Boat of the Year nominations at the Nordic shows has done plenty to reward and reinforce the popularity of its forward-thinking approach.
Better still, the company itself is just as easy to like as its products - and not just because it’s a family owned and run business with a pair of thoroughly affable guys at the helm, but because in a world increasingly beset by outsourced labour and the cost-cutting temptations of ever more effective Eastern European production facilities, Marino remains very much a Finnish builder. Its Head Office, administration, product development, manufacturing, sales and service departments are all still located in Söderkulla, along the Sipoo River, about five minutes east of Helsinki.
So where does the Mustang fit in?
Marino’s current fleet comprises ten boats in six hull lengths from the rowable 13-foot, tiller-steered Junior model to the bulbous, otherworldly looking Barracuda Fly 32. It also features the APB 27, an equally freethinking take on family boating, so we know Marino has a fondness for a design tangent. And yet, with the long-awaited reintroduction of its original 14-foot Mustang, its latest nod to the future is in fact an unapologetic revival of the past.
Now of course, we’ve seen plenty of fresh interpretations of old models from manufacturers keen to recapture the spirit (not to mention the sales figures) of boats from simpler, more profitable times. But to use the word ‘retro’ in relation to the ‘new’ Mustang is to miss the point. ‘Retro’ suggests something akin to an imitation of the past - and this is not so much a copy of what went before as a simple resumption of business. To all intents and purposes, it is the very same boat as the original Marino 1960s runabout, built by the same people and overseen by the same family-owned company. So what exactly does a 50-year old hull and design concept have to recommend it today?
The merits of an unchanged platform
One of the principle merits of the new boat is the confidence-inspiring story of its inception. Marino’s hand-laminated hull was originally developed in the world of offshore racing, with a fine entry, a useful bow flare and a fairly generous deadrise of 22 degrees to help keep things smooth and dry through the chop. It proved so effective in this regard that, in 1970, one of these modest little 14-footers was even fitted with a sail and used to cross the Atlantic Ocean without an escort boat, so it’s fair to suggest that build quality is well up to the challenge of the fairweather day trips for which people will use them. And while these race and endurance exploits relate to events that took place about half a century ago, it’s worth noting that, even today, the company’s Swing model, which is built on the same hull as the Mustang, is the linchpin of the Marino Swing Cup, Finland’s most prolific class of motorboat racing.
As for the Mustang itself then, well at just 230 kg, it’s child’s play to store, tow and deploy – and its performance on the water is every bit as user-friendly as you would expect. Sitting in your deepset bucket seat with your legs beneath the foredeck and your throttle arm resting on the gunwale top, it feels like a fine place to be. With a colour-coded Tohatsu 30 on the transom, it hits 24 knots with ease and, assuming your internal distribution of weight is properly balanced, it runs with great agility, a very progressive attitude and a remarkably soft, dry ride.
In a hard turn, there’s plenty of old-school heel but inevitably, a lot of your pace is washed off as the modest engine of the test boat struggles to preserve the revs. This is where the extra urgency and poke of the maximum 50hp outboard option could help make a serene and relaxing experience just that bit more potent and memorable. Either way, what is so different about the new Marino Mustang is that nothing at all is different. It’s precisely the boat so many fond owners of the originals have spent a great deal of money and toil trying to restore. But here, for a package price of around 18,000 Euros, a pristine, trouble-free Marino Mustang in your choice of colour, is ready to go.
If you fancy investing in your own slice of history, you should be aware that, by the standards of a modern 14-footer, the practicality of the Mustang is distinctly limited. It seats only four, its fit-out is rudimentary, it’s extremely sensitive to the shifting of weight off the plane and I’m willing to bet it would be a lot less entertaining to drive without a second person to act as your ballast.
As a matter of principle, I also find it difficult to condone any kind of pandering to bygone styles – and yet even I have to concede that, with its long cockpit, duck-billed foredeck and wraparound screen, the Marino Mustang is as fun to look at as it is to drive. It’s by no means cheap, particularly given the dynamic superiority of a boat like a 14-foot Fletcher; or the practical superiority of a spacious, stable, centre-console dory. But with its family-driven race heritage, its engaging performance and its unapologetic 60s flair, it’s a boat that will no doubt win a lot of passionate fans when it arrives in the UK.
Marino Mustang specifications
Power: 15-50 hp
Test engine: ETEC 30
Package price: from around 18,000 Euros