By Eric Colby
If it’s possible to hear someone smile through a telephone, I could picture Mark Weigl, president of Tuff Boats in Canada, doing just that after his recent sea trial in one of his Tuff 21s powered by a 570-hp Ilmor engine.
“It’s stupid giggles with a reliable engine,” said Weigl on Wednesday. “The best toy is one where there’s more horsepower than you can use. This is going to be one where there is more horsepower than you need.”
Weigl is a former offshore racing national and world champion who spent most of his career in outboard-powered boats including the Skater 32, Tuff Enuff, which competed in the triple-motor Pro Stock class. He’s built a 102-mph Tuff 21 powered by a Mercury Racing 300 XS outboard, but when a customer wanted him to put together a stern drive boat that could run those speeds, he initially hesitated.
He knew that putting a big block such as a MerCruiser 496 MAG HO or a Mercury Racing HP525 EFI in a smaller boat like a Tuff 21 could create bad handling characteristics because of balance issues. I once put a 496 MAG HO in a 22’ Scarab and had to put 280-S K-planes to keep the boat under control at 75 mph so I know exactly what he’s talking about.
Then Weigl heard about the Ilmor MV570, which is a lightweight 454-cid engine. He crunched the numbers and realized that the combination of the high power output and light weight would work on his 21’ model. His customer agreed to move forward and the first Ilmor-powered Tuff 21 went into production.
With Ilmor power, this Tuff 21 tops 100 mph and has the acceleration to out-sprint almost anything on the water
In the first sea trial, Weigl didn’t even have the right props, but he learned enough to know that the Ilmor engine packaged with an IMCO SCX drive and SC lower unit turned his little 21-footer into a muscle boat. “Ilmor has something here they should be proud of,” Weigl beamed.
With a 5-blade 28” pitch Maximus propeller, the boat ran 90 mph with the motor all over the rev limiter. Then Weigl put on a 30” Bravo One four-blade prop and the boat pulled from 80 mph to 100 mph in “a couple of seconds.” His son was in the boat trying to video the ride and the acceleration was so strong that he dropped his phone. “I can out-accelerate a tournament ski boat,” laughed Weigl. With a 33” Bravo One, Weigl estimates the boat could top 110 mph.
Just as important, the boat exhibited perfect ride characteristics at all speeds. This first boat will have an engine hatch that completely covers the Ilmor but for future models, Weigl said he’d like to build a hatch that partially exposes the engine to show it off. Word of the first boat’s impressive performance spread so quickly that a current owner of an outboard-powered Tuff 21 called Weigl to order the second Ilmor-powered version.
The boat is built with vacuum infusion for a more precise resin-to-fiberglass ratio. With the Ilmor/IMCO package, the Tuff 21 is priced at $98,000, which ain’t cheap, but if you have the money and want some serious fun, it could be worth it.
“The 100-mph top end is great, but it is significantly more fun when you have that acceleration,” said Weigl. “We had that stupid grin on our faces for hours.” You could even hear it through the phone.
Check out Tuff Boats website for more.