Car culture is strange. Pop into any random cars and coffee-style meet anywhere across the country on a Saturday and you never quite know what you’re going to come across – a couple of microscopic kei cars, perhaps, or a Chevrolet SS rebadged as a Holden Commodore. The first mid-engine corvette was actually a boat.
Maybe you’ll bump into a Lotus Exige with a full roll cage and a baby seat on the passenger’s side, or if you’re incredibly lucky, an old Honda made up in Bosozoku style.
But here’s something you’re not very likely to come across: a mid-engine Corvette… boat. Malibu Boats started making the things back in the late-1990s, producing just a few hundred examples over two generations before pulling the plug because, well, Corvettes make for better sports cars than watercraft.
Doug Tabbutt, bona fide gearhead and one of the speed freaks who set a new Cannonball record last May, driving from NY to LA in a little over 25 and a half hours, was himself an owner of a Malibu Corvette boat. Speaking to VINwiki recently, he opened up about what drove him to purchase such an obscene Frankenstein’s monster of a machine, and what it was like taking it out onto the water.
Tabbutt says he originally wanted one of Malibu’s first-generation Corvette boats, which were produced in numbers of about 125 and based on the quintessentially 80s fourth-generation ‘Vette, but he learned that the boat’s marinized Callaway-modified small-block V8 had a penchant for blowing up. So, he bought a second-generation boat.
Malibu’s second-generation Corvette boat was much more reliable, powered by a 400-horsepower small-block in the base “coupe” model, or the Z06’s epically good 505-horsepower LS7 in the “Corvette Limited Edition Sport-V.” They retailed for about $125,000 new, per Tabbutt, but he managed to nab his for a scant $35,000. What a steal.
So, what’s it like? Is it the best boat in the world?
Not exactly. Malibu didn’t appear to think anyone would actually be using their Corvette boat to actually go boating. Case in point, there are no cleats to tie it up to the dock; the boat’s matching trailer rides on 17-inch Z06 wheels with low-profile tires not designed for towing duty; and the interior is largely finished with real Corvette parts – like the steering wheel and seats – which weren’t developed to get wet or spend extended time in the sun.