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Wheels and Water: Natural Bedfellows

Kenny Wooton

Kenny Wooton

Cars and boats have been joined at the hip since the dawn of the trailer hitch. But in recent years, carmakers—particularly those that build luxury and high-performance vehicles—have dabbled in co-branding boats. They hope, I suppose, to capture (and capitalize upon) the organic kinship they perceive between those who love the water as much as they do the open road.

These attempts have generated mixed commercial results, but have produced some seriously sexy watercraft. Projects created or branded by the likes of Ferrari, Jaguar, Aston Martin, Mercedes, Bugatti and others have pushed the limits of how we perceive the humble boat: more works of art than industrial products. As with concept cars at auto shows, such projects charge our emotional circuits and leave us feeling wired to the future. There always will be those who see timeless beauty in classic boats, but dare I say, these car-inspired boats make us feel young—or something like that.

Most of the projects have been on the petite end of the size range, but among their owners are many who also own superyachts. Numerous motor-racing team owners, professional race drivers, car-collecting hobbyists and those whose fortunes are connected to cars own yachts. Take Herb Chambers. He owns car dealerships in New England selling a range of domestic and imported brands. He’s also owned a half dozen or so large yachts, the latest of which, the 262-foot (79.9-meter) Abeking & Rasmussen Excellence, is profiled in this issue.

Excellence sprang from the hand of U.K. designer Andrew Winch and his team. Winch is no stranger to the car thing. He notably won a competition some years back sponsored by the yacht brokerage house Edmiston to create a Range Rover that takes cues from the superyacht world. Besting six of the top superyacht designers in the world, Winch’s creation was a limo-size Rover (naturally) that featured wood accents on the exterior, including the hood and running boards, and wood lining in the cargo area.

The exterior of Excellence looks nothing like any known automobile. But it does evoke the emotion of a concept car with its scimitar-shaped reverse bow, which Chambers says was inspired by the beak of a bald eagle. The interior picks up numerous details from Chambers’ extensive car collection. For instance, the leather backs of the sofas in the sky lounge take inspiration from the American Cadillac. They are covered in soft shagreen and embossed leather, and have metal car grille detailing on their sides. The furniture louvers in the staterooms are designed to look like car grilles, and the day heads on the main deck are inspired by the Bugatti Royale and Ferrari Daytona Spyder.

Also in this issue is Klaus Bytzek, who bought the traditionally styled 151-foot (46.1-meter) Burger Sycara IV (from auto dealership owner Ray Catena) and had her refit into Nadan. Bytzek worked in the automotive industry, raced cars, and collects Ferraris, Porsches and others.

And on the lower band of the size range, we profile in this issue the LY 650 from Japanese carmaker Lexus. Built in Wisconsin by Marquis Yachts, this production boat is designed to bring elements of Toyota’s luxury marque to the water with subtle styling cues outside, and with fit and finish befitting its four-wheeled cousins.

Real vehicular functional integration is nothing new. Its high-water mark may have been the iconic Amphicar in the 1960s, sort of a sports car you could drive down the launch ramp and keep going. Seaplanes have been around since the early 20th century. Flying cars have begun to appear on the market, but the concept has yet to really take off. As the roads become more crowded, maybe the idea will gain some traction. We’ll see. Meanwhile, I’ll stick to driving cars and sailing boats.

This article originally appeared in the Winter 2020 issue of Yachts International.