The Corvette Boat Was Pretty Terrible for Actually Boating

Getting a boat to work that was never meant to go outside of a collection or car show is tough.

byStef Schrader| UPDATED Sep 17, 2020 12:28 PM
The Corvette Boat Was Pretty Terrible for Actually Boating

Boat-car mashups have always been a bit of a compromise, but the boats based on the Chevrolet Corvette weren't even built to function as either a boat or a car. In fact, these were made more as showpieces to show off at car shows next to your Chevrolet Corvette—not really to use as a boat. 

Bless your heart if you try to go Corvette boatin' anyway. 

Malibu Boats started making limited-edition boats based off of the Chevy Corvette in 1997, according to VINwiki guest Doug Tabbutt. The first Corvette boats, made from 1997 to 1999, were based on the angular C4-generation bodystyle, per Hagerty. These were powered by a modified-for-water Callaway LT1 Corvette engine. That engine had some flaws, according to a Callaway engineer Tabbutt spoke to, but it did produce 400 horsepower. The design was modified to sport C5-generation-style rounder lamps in 1998, and those boats could get the then-new 375-hp LS1 V8.

The Malibu Corvette boat was revived for a second generation in 2008 and was based on the C6-generation Corvette. There was a basic "coupe" model with a 400-hp V8, but you could also get a Corvette Z06-based version called the Corvette Limited Edition Sport-V with a 505-hp LS7 out of the Z06, per Hagerty. Only 50 2008 Z06-based boats were made according to Tabbutt, but these were supposedly the more reliable Corvette boats to buy. The Z06 boat cost over $120,000 when they were new. This Z06 boat was what Tabbutt ultimately bought. 

Tabbutt was a weirdo among Corvette boat owners insofar as he actually wanted to use the thing. On water. Heavens, what if it gets dirty? Or dings? Ugh, imagine actually using a vehicle and having fun with it. You can't seriously drag some barnacle-damaged watercraft to Corvettes at Carlisle or wherever, can you? GASP!

Many of the boat's issues come from its Corvette source material. The seats, dashboard and steering wheel were all Corvette parts, which meant they were made of leather that wasn't designed to get wet or be exposed to sunlight in an open boat. The leather parts also get hot, too, but just in case, the leather seats are heated.  

There's carpeting, too, just like the car, and it has to be aired out and dried every time it's used to avoid getting mildewy. The storage compartment in the nose features an eight-speaker Rockford Fosgate sound system, that you don't want to get wet. 

The matching trailer for the boat uses Z06 wheels, which look cool until you realize that trailer tires (as crappy as trailer tires tend to be) are designed to handle the extra vibrations and load of a trailer—and passenger car tires are not. Tabbutt's newly purchased Corvette boat-and-trailer combo popped a tire on its way home. Replacing these with regular trailer wheels and tires was tough given that the trailer used Z06 hubs, and only one set of trailer wheels in the country fit that bolt pattern. 

Then there were the functional bits that the boat was missing. It had no cleats to use with rope to tie the boat to a dock. The seats face forward, too, so there's no good place for a spotter to sit for water skiing. There's no rear-view mirror, either. 

The engine's awkward placement behind the seats and frequent need for special tools made working on it more difficult than any LS engine should be, too. Again, it's obvious that no one ever thought anyone would be crazy enough to use the Corvette boat. 

There isn't much support for these, either. Tabbutt says that his attempts to get help from the company were met with laughter. It's all pretty custom anyway, and it definitely sounds like even they expected no one to use either the boat or its trailer. Finding parts involves cross-referencing Chevy part numbers with the engine's Malibu-stamped parts. 

Why would you want one anyway? Absurd horsepower and torque, duh. Tabbutt said it handles great out on the water, and makes a wonderful sound. That alone sounds perfect. 

"Every time I have to deal with it, I swear I'm going to sell it," Tabbutt told VINWiki. "And every time I actually use it, I say I'm never going to sell this. This is the greatest boat ever."

Tabbutt owns another weird boat-car combo-vehicle: the 1999 Ford Expedition SeaScape. It's an SUV that has stayed an SUV with some extra nautical design flourishes, so needless to say, that one works much better. 

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