As reported yesterday by speedonthewater.com, Paul Fiore, founder of Hustler Powerboats, died Tuesday morning at the age of 76 after battling an undisclosed illness.
In addition to starting Hustler, which was one of the earliest manufacturers to develop stepped-bottom boats, Paul Fiore was the father of Mike Fiore who founded of Outerlimits Offshore Powerboats. Mike Fiore died in 2014 after being injured in a crash at the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout, a high-performance boating event in central Missouri.
Paul Fiore was known as an innovative and intelligent boat builder. In 1985, a Hustler 32 powered by a pair of 630-hp stern drives was one of the first offshore powerboats to top the century mark, hitting 106 mph, according to the Hustler Powerboats website. In 1993, the Hustler 50 was built with the Tek Step bottom, which received a U.S. patent. Four years later, the company introduced the 388 Slingshot that also had a multi-step design and would go on to prove its prowess in offshore powerboat racing.
“The performance-boating industry lost an icon,” Bob Russell, who had a long business and personal relationship with the Fiore family, told Trade Only Today. “Paul was such a smart person and one of the nicest people.”
An entrepreneur from the Seattle area, Russell flew to Long Island to meet Mike Fiore to check out some Hustler products. At the time Mike was working for his father at Hustler. Russell thought the 32-foot Hustler was too small and the 40-footer was too big. After the show, Russell and Mike Fiore became instant friends. Russell told Mike to call him when he built a boat with a length between the 32- and 40-footers. Russell would eventually buy the first Outerlimits 37 Stiletto.
Jason Ventura owns Brand X Hi-Performance Marine in Pompano Beach, Fla., but he got his start in the high-performance world in 2000 working for Outerlimits. Right after he started, Paul Fiore came to work at the company after leaving Hustler.
“Paul was a very big part of my life,” said Ventura. “When I went to work for Michael, my dad had been dead a year and I latched onto Paul.”
The two traveled the world together making sure that Outerlimits customers stayed happy. “We went to Dubai and worked with Sheikhs,” said Ventura, who called Paul Fiore “so unappreciated when it came to what he did and what he brought to the industry.”
Chris Cestaro is the owner of Ocean Performance, a longtime dealership in Old Saybrook, Conn. He met Paul Fiore in 1984 and lost count on the number of boats he had been on with Fiore on poker runs and other events. While Cestaro was never a Hustler dealer, he became a dealer for Outerlimits and worked many shows with both Fiores.
“When you were with Paul, you were never working,” said Cestaro. “We were so good together at selling stuff.”
Fred Kiekhaefer, the former president of Mercury Racing, collaborated with both Fiores for decades. Regarding Paul, he said, “I had the utmost respect for him. The thing that always impressed me was the quality of the product, the build-finish, and alignment. I thought the Hustlers were tremendously under-appreciated and under-valued.”
The way that Paul Fiore stepped up in his role at Outerlimits Offshore Powerboast after his son’s death made an equally big impact on Kiekhaefer. “I was quite impressed with Paul’s ability to step in and keep the brand alive in honor of Mike,” he said. “That to me spoke volumes about Paul and his dedication and commitment and humanity.”
Paul Fiore is survived by his wife Diane and daughter Donna, who works at Outerlimits, plus his former wife Joyce, the mother of Mike and Donna, and grandchildren Nicole, Sophia, Jet and Moxie.