After a couple of seasons running his new-to-him 1997 43-foot Black Thunder Offshore V-bottom, Virginia performance boater Brian Borga decided it was time to upgrade the boat, which was powered by twin 500-hp MerCruiser Hi-Performance Series engines and Bravo One XR drives.
The team at Maryland Offshore Performance Marine redid almost everything on this 43-foot Black Thunder over the past couple of years. Photos courtesy Andy Imhof and Brian Borga
Without a referral, Borga found Maryland Offshore Performance Marine Center in Rockville, Md., and hit it off immediately with owner Andy Imhof and shop manager Mitch Kramer. So, over the course of a couple of off seasons, Borga had the boat repainted, the interior and cabin redone, the engines and drives upgraded and a full re-rig handled by Imhof, Kramer and company. (Click image at right to enlarge.)
Obviously the 43-footer looks and feels like a new boat now that it has been redone “from top to bottom,” according to Borga, who added that he and his fiance, Mariana Vilchez, didn’t get to use the boat as much as they wanted this summer between unfavorable weather and coaching responsibilities for his kids’ sports teams.
“I had a 27 Excalibur before buying the Black Thunder so the first season I owned this boat I knew it needed more power—it was pretty sluggish compared to my 27, which was very responsive,” Borga said. “I went with the Black Thunder mainly because of the cabin space—it has 6 feet, 10 inches of headroom—and because of the bottom. The boat handles great and it takes on big water really well. It’s a fun ride whether I want to goof around with friends or take my kids out for a good time. The boat was fun before, but now it’s incredible. It’s like a brand new boat.
“Andy and his team did everything in-house and they nailed it,” he continued. “Plus they were incredibly easy to work with. They don’t act like they’re doing you a favor when you’re spending money with them like some shops do. I can’t say enough about the customer service aspect of their business. Yes they do amazing work—and it shows when you see my boat—but they’re also a phone call away if you need anything. They came out on a Friday night this year to fix a steering hose that blew.”
Borga said the boat’s performance is a “night-and-day difference” thanks to twice the power and much stronger drives. He said Imhof found a pair of 1,150-hp Nor-Tech-built engines that Maryland Offshore Performance Marine Center refreshed and coupled with new IMCO Marine SCX drives.
“We did some cleaning up and general maintenance on the engines, and we changed over motor mounts, wiring and re-rigged the boat completely,” said Imhof, who was just as proud of everything you can’t see in the boat as he was with the aesthetically pleasing aspects like the flashy red, gray and white paint job, the custom dash panel and the fresh color-matched upholstery installed in the cockpit and on the sunpad. “We redid the bilge and everything in the engine compartment including the flooring. We also updated everything on the transom, including the X-dimension of the drives.
“The propeller change with this project was the single biggest jump in prop sizes we’ve ever done,” he continued. “The boat went from 26”-pitch four-blades and Bravo One XR drives to 34”-pitch five-blades with IMCO SCX drives. The boat had about a 70-mph top speed before; now it has a 70-mph cruising speed, and we’ve yet to really get out there and run it to see how fast it can go now.”
Imhof said Borga doesn’t seem to care about top speed, he just wants to be able to take the boat places, stay in it overnight and have the reliability to get there and back without any issues.
Check out the slideshow above for more images of the Black Thunder project boat.
“The motors are phenomenal and they’re pretty tame around the docks, too,” Imhof said. “We’ve ran the boat on the Chesapeake Bay several times and it’s a beast. We’ve had it out in 4- to 5-footers, running 50 mph, and it cuts right through that stuff.
“We had a lot of fun with this project—Brian was a great customer to work with,” he added. “He seems to really love the boat especially now that he’s made it his own. It’s great-riding boat with a huge cabin and turnkey reliability. It’s also one of the coolest and most complete projects we’ve tackled.”
It’s fair to say that Borga is happy he turned to Maryland Offshore Performance Marine Center to handle the overhaul, which also included adding air conditioning to the cabin.
“Not only are those guys great to work with, I didn’t feel like they were trying to gouge me,” Borga said. “I’d definitely do another project with them.”
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