Sports Illustrated, April 04, 1955
Trial By Water
The sleek Century Coronado is handsome -- and does, too
Robert N. Bavier Jr.
The prettiest boat in a boat show actually is only as good as she is in the water. Here SI Boating Columnist Robert N. Bavier Jr. puts the new Coronado through a Florida test:
Her mahogany topsides glowing under many coats of carefully applied and rubbed varnish, offset by white two-toning, gleaming chrome, a curved wrap-around windshield, a Landau removable top, and a striking interior of red-and-white vinyl, the Century Coronado, as viewed on boat-show floors across the nation, looked like an artist's dream come true. She seemed almost too beautiful, too perishable to allow her to get wet, to become defiled by salt spray. Experienced boatmen were heard to mutter: "Looks like a damn sports car without wheels." Many questioned her seagoing ability.
For doubters the Coronado herself had a strong rejoinder. With a specially carbureted 285 hp Connell Cadillac engine, she had led the way in the rough water of the Around-Miami-Beach race on December 26 and had followed this triumph four days later with another win in the nine-hour Endurance Marathon, cofeature of the Orange Bowl Regatta.
Since the only way to really learn about a boat is by trying her out, and because Coronado's appearance and advance billing had made me itchy to put her through her paces, I flew to Miami for the purpose. Sam Griffith, manager of Enterprise Marine Co. where she was berthed and co-pilot in her Around-Miami-Beach success, went out with me, ostensibly to answer questions but also, I suspect, to keep a protective eye on her.
Sam eased her out of her slip and we cruised dead slow past moored boats. I was surprised that a boat capable of a top speed of 54 mph could idle so smoothly. We crept along for a couple of hundred yards at about 5 mph -- slow enough for most trolling -- without choking up. Sam worked her up gradually to 30-35 mph and then 40 mph, a speed at which she can cruise for hours. The motor made a deep-throated but ruffled roar as we skipped over the moderate waves, pounding slightly but in surprising comfort. Then he opened her up and in seconds the tachometer went up to its limit of 5,000 rpms and stuck there. We were exceeding 50 mph which, in a boat, feels like twice that. Vibration? There wasn't any!
Sam slowed down, eased out of the driver's seat and invited me to take over. "Try her acceleration," Sam suggested, so I eased back on the throttle to about 15 mph, then slammed it to the floor. We were pressed back into our seats as the Coronado leapt forward. This time I kept the throttle down. Past 40 mph the Cal Connell Cadillac engine's roar turned to the higher whine characteristic of race boats. She remained easy and light to steer even at top speed.
"Try a full over turn now," said Sam. "You mean full rudder at full speed?" I questioned. "Sure," Sam replied, "she will love it."
If I didn't know and respect Sam's experience and ability I simply wouldn't have done it. We were exceeding 50 mph, seemed to be hitting only the wave tops and I felt that only a damn fool would give full rudder at that speed. Since Sam said so, however, I spun the wheel as fast as possible and as far as it would go, with the throttle glued to the floor. She banked into the turn, the inboard chine biting in nicely and the other riding high, with no tendency to catch and trip. She skidded very slightly, maintaining almost top speed through the turn. As before, she felt in perfect control throughout.
Backing, she revealed her first weakness, one I had expected since it is inevitable in high-speed, small-rudder boats. She could not be steered in reverse, the stern swinging to port even with the rudder applied to bring it to starboard. The only way to control her in reverse was by short bursts ahead to swing the stern in the desired direction and then backing until another burst ahead was required to combat the inexorable swing to port. While backing, even downwind, spray slopped aboard--another characteristic inevitable in the basic type.
Ashore, with time to think her over, the inescapable conclusion was that the Century Coronado is quite some boat -- a Cadillac in more than her engine. She is in price too -- approximately $6,500 delivered, complete with a stock 250 hp Cadillac power plant. That struck me as quite steep for a 20-foot boat but an understandable price for such a superbly engineered, styled and built job. The Century Boat Co. of Manistee, Mich. makes other models of about the same size for less than half the price, but the Coronado has that something extra which makes many people feel she's a buy at the top price.
Those who derided her as a floating sports car were right on the beam when it came to smartness, speed and sales appeal -- they forgot that the Century Coronado also seats 10 people, is rugged and surprisingly seaworthy. She may not be your dish, as she was the Shah of Iran's, one of many who have bought one, but her beauty is far more than skin deep.