No one in the marine industry looks back on 2009 as a good year. For Formula Boats, however, the economic collapse that crippled the country resulted in a change in course that led to the most successful introduction in the company’s storied history, the 430 SSC.
“This model is farther out than any other new launch we’ve had,” says Formula president Scott Porter.
Since the 430 SSC made its debut late in 2016, the Porter family’s Decatur, Ind.-based company has delivered five of the new model and has what Scott Porter calls “serious orders” for about 12 more.
One of the noteworthy features of the 430 SSC is the power — four outboards. It’s the first outboard-powered model Formula has built since 1987.
“You can’t ignore what the rest of the world is doing,” says John Adams, the exclusive designer of Formula boats for more than 40 years. “You go to the Fort Lauderdale boat show and get on the bus to go to the convention center, and you’re tripping over outboards.”
The 430 SSC, which stands for Super Sport Crossover, was designed with a 12-foot beam to accommodate four large outboards. The 430 SSC is offered with three sizes of outboard from Mercury Marine — quad 300- or 350-hp Verados or the Verado 400R from the Mercury Racing division.
Porter does not see many people ordering the base engines, and he says most of the early orders were for boats powered by a quartet of the 400-hp outboards. There have been inquiries from parties interested in other outboards, including Yamaha and Seven Marine, but initially Formula is working with Mercury.
Retail pricing for the 430 SSC with the four Verado 400Rs starts at $1,117,120. The number drops to $1,075,000 with the quad 350s. Remember, these numbers are MSRP. Get down to realistic figures that will be discussed between the dealer and the buyer, and the difference between the two engine models will be in the $30,000 range.
The Verado 400Rs are about 5 mph faster than the 350s, so it’s easy to see why a buyer who is already spending about a million bucks will go with the extra power. Mercury offers warranties of as long as eight years for the 300- and 350-hp Verados; the warranty for the Verado 400R is two years for recreational boating and three years against corrosion.
Turning back briefly to the Great Recession, the plan at Formula before the downturn had been to build a 46- or 48-foot model for owners of the Formula 400 Super Sport (SS) to step up to. The 400 SS was one of the most successful boats in the company’s history, but when money got tight the plans for the bigger model were shelved.
Because Formula was already building a few different boats at least 40 feet long, the company did not have to expand its 500,000-square-foot facility to accommodate the 430 SSC. The rigging process for the outboards changes because they are installed later in the process than a sterndrive or inboard would be, but it’s a minor adjustment. The overhead crane rail system used to set decks onto hulls is used to install the outboards.
When the industry and the economy began showing signs of recovery, the Porters and Adams started talking about a successor to the 400 SS again, only this time they took a long look at the power. They saw all of the more than 40-foot center consoles being built with multiple large outboards.
The company was pleased with how well the Formula 350 CBR (Crossover Bowrider) was received after it was introduced in 2011. Formula followed that with the 330 CBR. With 400 SS owners still clamoring for a bigger dayboat, the company decided to meet their demands.
“It was just a great opportunity for us to expand what we do in our CBR world,” Porter says.
Even though the boat and the power were all new, Adams says designing the 430 SSC was easy. “It was connect the dots,” he explains. “We want outboards, we want a swim platform, we want the galley outside.”
They also knew what they did not want in this new model. “Our approach was trying to be different,” Porter says. “We didn’t feel the world needed another big center console.”
Says Adams, “We observed that [the center console builders] were expanding their markets trying to make [their boats] more accommodating to the wife and the family, so we said, ‘Let’s do the full port walkaround and the full central cabin belowdecks.’ ”
A complete walk-through of the 430 SSC would take up at least an entire story on its own, but here are some highlights. The full-beam swim platform makes it easy to board from the docks and has plenty of space for the family to hang out in the sun. The boat has a spacious feel because the main cockpit, helm and forward cockpit (Adams refuses to call it a “bowrider”) are on the same level. Formula calls this “SmartZone” design.
The galley is to port, and just ahead in the passageway to the bow are lockers with dedicated storage for a blender, the cockpit TV and dock lines and fenders. Beneath the coupe-style hardtop, which has a sliding sunroof, the helm has three-across seating and all of the electronics and controls you need to stay in total command of this boat, including a joystick piloting system. Speaking of controls, there seem to be USB plug-ins everywhere, a smart move that will keep millennials happy.
Forward in the bow, there’s a full wraparound lounge and two adjustable-height tables that provide myriad seating and lounging options. Because passage to the bow is to port, the cabin entry is centrally positioned through a sliding hatch. Belowdecks there’s 6 feet, 6 inches of headroom, another small galley, a dinette and a full-beam aft stateroom that has plenty of space for two to sleep comfortably.
Adams designed the 430 SSC’s bottom with twin steps to improve performance and efficiency. With the power provided by the quad Verado 400R outboards, the boat tops out at just under 65 mph.
With all its indoor and outdoor seating options and the 1,600 hp clamped to the transom, this boat would be great for poker runs. Although the 350 and 330 CBR are offered as sterndrives, Porter and Adams were undecided in late April whether they will put sterndrives into the 430 SSC.
Porter says a sterndrive would more than likely have diesels, but it wouldn’t come anywhere near the 60-mph-plus speeds that come with the big outboards. Formula builds the 430 SSC with an integrated structural fiberglass grid that the company developed for its high-performance offshore models.
Although Formula is still undecided about alternative power, the company is offering the 430 as an All Sport Crossover. It will be more dive- and fishing-focused with a bait prep station, rod holders, a 55-gallon live well module that can accommodate dive tanks and a concealed fishbox under the port-side seat to keep the day’s catch fresh. These accessories would be in the aft end of the boat, and the cockpit, cabin and bow would stay the same.
Of course, the 430 ASC will still be powered by four big outboards. After the response to the 430 SSC, there’s no need for another course correction just yet. “When you can develop a boat that everybody finds something that they get excited about, life is good,” Adams says.
It’s buyer’s choice on colors, graphics
To give Formula owners the chance to personalize their purchases, the company has two programs — Formula Flex and Flex My Way. They were introduced about 2010 and let owners create their own graphics and color combinations for a one-of-a-kind boat.
There is no cost for Flex. Flex My Way is an up charge quoted on an individual basis that covers special requests. Formula Flex is available to any buyer/owner, and Formula president Scott Porter says several clients have been ordering a new boat annually because they so thoroughly enjoy the Flex process.
An owner can use the Flex program remotely by having Formula overnight kits of paint samples, fabrics, countertop pieces, etc., and then calling in his choices to the builder’s sales coordinator. The company also keeps an owner apprised by emailing photos while the boat is being built and puts all of the photos on a CD for presentation when the boat is delivered.
Formula does not have numbers, but Porter says more clients are coming to the factory to make their choices in person.
“We love it when clients come to the factory to spec out their new Formula,” he says. “It’s a growing trend.”
This article originally appeared in the June 2017 issue.