words - Bernard Clancy
photos - Stuart Grant
With a racebred design based on a need for speed, Glenn Campbell's latest Concept blends versatility, performance and more than a dash of verve. Story: Bernard Clancy Photos: Stuart Grant

Following a spin in a Concept 1900, you'll want to get your head under the hull to answer this question: how can such a relatively flat-bottomed boat ride so softly?

The guy who makes them, Glenn Campbell, grinned broadly when I asked and pleaded the Fifth Amendment. Which, in boating parlance, means: that's mine to know and yours to find out, or "that's our Unique Selling Proposition (USP) and we ain't tellin' nobody!"

So, as soon as we popped the boat back on its drive-on Easytow trailer, my head was under there in a flash - studying angles, strakes, chines, deadrise, planing plank, etc - seeking some magic bit of fibreglassing, like the stepped hull on the American hamburger-with-the-lot Regals, and the like.

But there was nothing like that. The magician's trick remains a mystery, so all I can do, I'm afraid, is tell you the story without the punch-line. You'll have to believe the feeling in the seat of your pants when you drive one, and don't ask silly questions.

So, let's start at the beginning. Make that 'second beginning', because we forgot to put the bung in the first time. Yes, even boat testers and builders can do it!

The Concept 1900 is a 5.65m low-profile ski-cum-family runabout with perhaps an 80% bias towards skisports. It's racebred and built on the Murray, at Echuca, by a bloke who's been into the need for speed on fence palings for years.

Glenn 'Rhinestone Cowboy' Campbell knows his stuff. Concept boats are class winners and record holders for the Grafton Bridge-to-Bridge, Sydney Bridge-to-Bridge, Robinvale 80, Mildura 100 and have won the Southern 80, among others.

The boat was powered by a 200hp EFI Merc swinging a 23-inch, four-blade Trophy prop which had us belting along the National Watersports Centre, at Carrum, at a speedo-indicated 77mph (124kmh) at 6500rpm, with four adults aboard! It was slower upwind into a 50kmh northerly, but by just a couple of klicks.

So, with a wind in our hair of about 100mph, we all tried to look real cool for the camera as our faces were buffeted and sand-blasted into a bright shade of puce. Jolly good fun, although the marine four-speaker CD/radio was a bit difficult to hear and the contents of the built-in Esky stayed put.

The Concept 1900 was launched at the 1998 Melbourne Boat Show and, while based on the company's 1850, is a new hull, wider, deeper and longer. It comes in three models: a social boat (our testboat); sports, which is a social racer; and a pure light-hull racer. All are outboard models only and fitted with a foot throttle, so you can keep your hands on the wheel. The pro-hydraulic steering is quite direct and taut.

The hull weight of the test boat is around 600kg and construction is a combination of fibreglass and kevlar resin... Standard fuel tank is 140lt... Wakeboard speed is 42kmh at 2800rpm... Barefoot speed 71kmh at 3800rpm... At 112kmh, the Merc's just ticking over at 5000rpm.

The driver sits low behind a small wind deflector raised lip in the deck (no screen), with full instrumentation well placed in the dash in front. The observer's seat is a one plus half, which would fit two children easily, and there's a ski locker behind this seat. Everything is carpeted and padded, and the rear bench seat wraps into the corners nicely. Rather than side pockets, the boat has elastic mesh to hold towels and other bits and pieces firmly.

A transverse bin of quite substantial size behind the rear seat will hold skis, wakeboards and wet suits. Further bins are built into two almost outboard pods built on either side of the engine, one of which holds batteries and oil bottles. Actually, the amount of storage room on the boat is quite impressive.

The colour of the boat was a white-grey combination with fluoro orange trimming and just a touch of "Barbie's boat" metalflake on the deck. Nice without being 'loudmouth'. And to keep the sun off, a bimini completes the package.

A unique feature of the boat was the centrally-mounted skipole which can be converted quickly, with extensions, into a hi-tower wakeboard pole or a side-mounted barefoot or training pole. There's another ski pole/grabrail at the stern for more conventional fun.

The motor is bolted to the boat's stern, but down to water level on either side, Glenn has built the two pods or storage boxes which I mentioned earlier. Attached to them is a full-width merbau boarding platform on hydraulic rams, which moulds around the outboard leg quite stylishly.

But let's get back to the hull. Glenn describes it as a variable to 17° at the stern. From the nose, it looks normal enough - a sharpish, typical skiboat. Twin strakes look about average, but the exceptional width of the chines raises your eyebrows. At the stern, the 200mm wide planing plank, which progressively vees towards the bow, also grabs your attention.

Then you notice the underside of those sternquarter pods. Actually, I'm not sure that you can call them pods because at the chines they are part of the hull, but square off towards the centreline away from water contact on either side of the outboard leg. The effect is that the hull, at the chines, extends almost beyond the prop. Is this the 'Rhinestone Cowboy's' secret to softness?

The boat's performance was quite spectacular. It has been built for bays and inlets, as well as river operation, and would handle a chop very comfortably. While the Concept hot-butter-knifed through the slop on our photo runs, the kevlar racer camera boat beside us was doing a merry old dance.

The Concept 1900 turns flat and smooth and dry, and, as you'd expect, comes on to the plane easily. While we didn't try it with a skier out back, the maker claims the wash is nice and flat at slalom speeds, and really steep at wakeboarding speeds for plenty of air.

The Concept 1900 comes on a tandem axle Easytow trailer painted over galvanised. On the boat as tested, Craig O'Donnell, at Barry Lawrence Marine, Preston (Vic) - the sole Victorian distributor - will give you $5 change from $40,000, but packages begin at $34,000.

Base price $33,995
Price as tested $39,995
Material: GRP
Type: Monohull sportsboat
Length: 5.65m
Max. beam: 2.0m
Deadrise at transom: variable to 17°
Weight (hull only): 600kg approx
Fuel capacity: 130lt
Horsepower rating: up to 300hp
Make/model: Mercury
Type: 60° V-six two-stroke loop-charged EFI
Rated hp: 200hp
Displacement: 2507cc
Weight: 185kg
Supplied by Barry Lawrence Marine, Preston (Vic), tel (03) 9478 1420, fax (03) 9470 4638 and Zigs Marine, Glenorie (NSW), tel (02) 9652 0223.

Published : Monday, 1 March 1999

Prices and specifications supplied are for the market in Australia only and were correct at time of first publication. Automotive Data Services Pty Ltd (Redbook) makes no warranty as to the accuracy of specifications or prices. Please check with manufacturer or local dealer for current pricing and specifications.