Hot Boat Magazine
2004 Evaluations - Ultra 28 Stealth
Humans all have a unique signature that is incomparably their own. Whether you compare fingerprints or even DNA, people are all uniquely different. It's rare for a custom-boat builder to have the kind of presence that commands that same type of consideration, but there are a few exceptions to the rule. Let's face it, a lot of boats look alike. Ultra Custom Boats doesn't fall into this over-inflated category. One look at this striking, 28-foot, V-bottom hot boat's gelcoat, sleek, lines and trick billet hardware, and we knew straight away that this was one of John West's creations and not another carbon-copy cruiser from a lesser builder. Ultra's flair for building modern and stylish boats shines through in all aspects of this agile and beautiful boat and is punctuated by a spirited on-water performance.
Ultra's take on high performance V-bottom design culminates in the 28 Stealth with a variable-degree, stepped bottom. The steps do well to aerate the hull, snapping it from the trappings of its liquid environment and enabling the available horsepower to make the most of the hull design. The deadrise at transom measures a sharp 20 degrees, a feature that gives the Stealth an arrowlike character when slicing through choppy waters. The moderate amount of deadrise enables the hull to carve its way through boat wakes and rollers instead of bouncing over them and, remarkably, offers a soft reentry from more formidable rollers. The strakes are staggered, and the outermost chines are turned downward to keep water from running up the side of the boat and give the hull increased stability while under power.
Like previous offerings from Ultra, our test model exhibited near-perfect tooling and glass quality, which is an obvious derivative of Ultra's strict lamination schedule and use of quality materials. A quick glance over Ultra's specs reveals that the Stealth is fortified with 1/2 inch-thick balsa-cored walls, 1/4 inch-thick balsa in the deck, quadaxial, multidirectional woven fabric and vinylester resin. In other words, this hull is built to last and keep that stunning gelcoat looking straight and free of waves for years to come. The exterior of the hull is accompanied by billet aluminum hardware custom designed by Dana Product Welding to take advantage of the Stealth's sexy lines and West's uniquely cool gelcoat design. The full package of billet accessories comes standard on this boat, and niceties like the pop-up ski tow and Aqua Step did nothing to detract form an otherwise gorgeous paint job.
The engine hatch on our boat opened swiftly, thanks to an optional set of Dana scissor hinges, revealing a sanitary environment for the big-block power plant. While the installation was fairly straightforward (the engine sat on stock Mercury engine mounts), we applauded the manner in which the compartment was arranged, plumbed and wired. Dual batteries were aboard to power the electrical system, and while there wasn't a plethora of ultra-trick hardware to drool over, the excellent manner in which all of the accessory systems were implemented made us forget about powdercoated bezels and steel braided lines during out testing of this boat. This was one of those times when function kicked form's butt all over the engine compartment.
We tend to place a premium on functionality as well as how well a boat looks, and the Stealth did not disappoint us one bit in this respect. The cabin entry is not quite as deep as some we've seen, and yet the cabin itself is as spacious as any we've ever encountered on a boat this size. There is literally enough headroom for three adults to sit upright in the seat, and there is ample storage space beneath and behind the seats. Cold storage is available via a stainless steel Igloo ice chest that's built into the cabin as well. The upholstery work was completed by Designer Interiors, a Corona, California-based company, and matched the theme and consistently colorful paint work on the exterior of the hull. Stepping into the bowrider portion of the Stealth once again reaffirmed our feeling that this boat had loads of space to offer its occupants. A wraparound seat offered luxurious comfort to its riders with deep, padded sides and good use of grab handles within the gunnel storage area. Enough color-matched cup holders are also built into the gunnel compartments to accommodate up to four passengers.
The cockpit of the Stealth is yet another exercise in simple, well-organized luxury. The wide-beam hull design yields an even wider rear bench seat that will accommodate four large passengers and then some. The front bucket seats reside above a pair of footrests that are molded into the floor and have drop-out bolsters. Like the cabin and bowrider areas, the cockpit upholstery is a top-notch, white-vinyl canvas that plays host to a bevy of blue-accented cup holders and bezels.
The driver controls the boat via Gaffrig controls that are located on the starboard side of the boat. The seats are pliable and position the driver with an easy view of the Platinum Series gauges and a good grip on the steering wheel. An optional Gaffrig GPS speedometer takes center stage of a large, flat dashboard, which is raised to create the spacious opening into the cabin below.
There's no greater measures of efficiency where a hot boat is concerned than the radar gun, short of grabbing hold of the rope and running the lights in a drag race. Our test boat was equipped with a standard Mercury 496 Mag HO engine, which was coupled to a Bravo 1X drive, spinning a 24-inch, four-blade Bravo 1 prop. With just 425 horsepower on tap, the 4,900-pound twin-stepped vee-bottom Stealth was able to clip off several 65-mph runs against the gun. This boat is no slouch, and all of our test drivers were impressed with its admirable acceleration. Said on driver, "We didn't lose sight of the horizon during acceleration, and the boat has excellent low-speed maneuverability."
Our test course demanded the Stealth to show off its controlled turning characteristics, and it did so without any porpoise, broach or chine-walking. Through the chop, the Stealth offered a nice, smooth ride and outstanding control on the top end. This boat is just as easy to drive at 25 mph as it is at 65 mph.
DRIVER BUZZ Driver 1: "Everything on this boat is well thought out, and I found it to accelerate fairly well with a nice ride. This boat has outstanding control throughout the speed range and on the top end." Driver 2: "Ultra has done a great job not only with the gel-coat but with the overall styling of this boat as well. This is a nice, stable, easy boat to drive. There are no tricks to it. You don't have to learn anything new. This boat practically drives itself, and I was very impressed with that."
Additional Press on the Ultra 28 Stealth
Hot Boat Magazine
Surprise, West Coast hot-boat kingpin John West's other boat is also an Ultra!
By Mike Finnegan
There are hot boats and then there are HOT boats. The parameters we use to render judgment between the two classes are not set in stone either. Some boats get by with great looks, while others rely on awe-inspiring performance. Still, others combine a carefully crafted mix of both looks and power. John West is one of the more stylish West Coast boat builders around and his clientele proves it. Guys like famed chopper-builder Jesse James go to John for their boating needs because he'll deliver something out of the ordinary every time. John's own 28-foot Stealth is a good example of this anti-cardboard-cutout boat-building ethic. His is arguably one of the trickest, most over-the-top, V-bottom cruisers we've ever seen. It runs a good number and the incredibly blended gelcoat paint job alone puts this John's boat at the top of our most-beautiful-boats-ever list. It's not easy to spray a gel job like the one on this boat, and it's not easy to assemble a list of parts this outstanding and cool. Tack on a huge audio system, matching billet hardware and a color-matched interior and you start to get the picture that this is one tough boat.
The ball got rolling on this one early last year when John decided to make Ultra Boats' presence even bigger at the annual Special Equipment Market Association show in Las Vegas, Nevada. He'd already made waves the year before with a blown 21-foot Stealth bowrider, so it seemed only natural to step up and go bigger. The SEMA show has long been the debut arena for after-market-parts and automobile-parts manufacturers, and since the addition of the marine pavilion two years ago, is becoming a hot spot for boat builders as well. With this in mind and an already extremely successful 21-Stealth bowrider custom project under his belt, John set out to build his personal ultimate 28 Stealth. The focal point would be an outrageous paint job, which John took several weeks to design. Once his trashcan was full of sketches, John settled on an intricate gelcoat paint scheme that placed modern tribal flames across the deck and gunnels of the 28 in a crisscross pattern. The flames traded hues between dark black-cherry, burgundy, gray, and white, whisping between each other and making this moderately wide-beamed boat look as slippery as the 21-footer. It's a marvel of color because the entire hull is covered in smooth blends with zero flat colors anywhere.
Once the hull was out of the mold, Ultra's rigging department dropped a brand-new GM Vortec 8100HP3 engine between stringers, coupled to an IMCO SC drive. To keep up appearances, the engine sits on powder-coated mounts and the exhaust system is fully polished. The Chevy-based 496 cid powerplant was assembled by Marine Power and is said to produce 525 horsepower. The IMCO drive is accessorized with top-flight hardware as well. The steering is a full hydraulic system from IMCO and the drive is attached to the transom via an IMCO stand-off box. Polished Dana HP1000 trim tabs take up residence on the flanks of transom and the package pushes this boat to 75 mph.
Designer Marine Interiors put in overtime to match the stunning outward appearance of John's boat. The shop stitched up yards of Enduratex tweed and soft marine grade vinyl across the rear bench seat and twin, dropout front bolsters. The key ingredient in the interior, though, lies beneath the deck, in the cabin. The sleeping area was dressed to the nines to perfectly match the graphics on the rear engine hatch and the deck of the boat. Designer stitched up a bed pad with the same color and styling as the outside of the boat and recessed a pair of cup holders into the pad for good measure.
Just ahead of the bed, at the front of the V-berth, Advanced audio of El Cajon, California, installed a trio of Precision Power ten-inch subwoofers to pound out the beats of John's favorite tunes. The placement of the subwoofers was optimal, because the long cabin of the Stealth gives the low frequency bass waves plenty of room to travel for a great, natural sound. The rest of the PPI audio system is just as radical and distinctive. There is 3,000 watts of musical power on tap, coming from two amplifiers. Hitting the switch for the Dana billet aluminum scissor hinges actuated engine hatch/sundeck reveals two pairs of 6x9-inch drivers. The 6x9s were attached to the underside of the hatch with custom enclosures while the cockpit is stuffed with four more coaxial speakers. The coaxial speakers lie behind custom mesh grille plates that are recessed into the upholstered gunnel storage panels. This concert hall system is loud, clean, and able to provide the entertainment for a large cove party.
The driver's seat is the nerve center of any boat and control in this area is paramount. John chose Livorsi controls and instruments for two reasons. First off, Livorsi has a solid reputation for quality, and second, the company's platinum series gauges and controls look killer against the eyeball popping gelcoat of the dashboard and gunnels. The dashboard is uncluttered and sanitary-looking, with the gauges up top and a GPS system to the left of the driver. A Formuling, leather-wrapped and polished steering wheel keeps the boat pointed in the right direction.
Trends will always come and go. Some last forever and stand the test of time. Most are flash-in-the-pan exercises in bling-bling style that will find their way into the trash heap like hot-pink heartbeat graphics and those fluorescent orange muscle pants you wish you never bought in the first place. John seems to be one of those guys that is in touch with what's cool at the moment and what will still be cool down the road. This boat is a good example of that approach to building boats that will always look good no matter what new trend hits the market in the coming years.