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MTI At 25—Looking Back At Speed Racer

Of all the high-performance “theme boats” that were built in the 2000s, precious few stood the test of time, much less commanded top dollar at resale. That’s because no matter how well-executed—and no builder has been better at creating them than MTI in Wentzville, Mo.,—theme boats are hyper-personal expressions of a given owner’s tastes, sensibilities and imagination. As such, their appeal is inherently limited.

After purchasing Speed Racer in 2009, Bob Christie ran it in an array of poker runs and other go-fast boating events for several seasons. Photos by Tim Sharkey copyright Sharkey Images.

The greatest exception to this, though arguably so of course, is the 44-foot Speed Racer catamaran from Marine Technology Inc. Built for Missouri’s Randy Kent in 2005 (model-year 2006) and painted by Mark Morris at Visual Imagination, the MTI was themed to conjure the popular cartoon series, which was produced in Japan and originally aired in the late 1960s. For boys of the gearhead kind who grew up in that era, Speed Racer was “must-watch” television—to miss an episode was to be out of the adolescent-male loop.

Among those boys was Bob Christie of New Jersey, now a semi-retired businessman who worked on Wall Street and later in book publishing, as well as several other ventures during his long career. In 2009, Christie purchased the 44-footer without engines, though it did have surface drives, from Kent. Christie then tapped Ron Potter of Potter Performance Engines to build him a set of supercharged 1,100-plus-hp engines for the boat and also replaced the cat’s surface drives with Mercury Racing No. 6 units.

For go-fast boating fans of a certain vintage, the Speed Racer theme never got old.

Eventually, Christie stepped up the power to 1,300-plus-hp Potter engines. He also had the cat’s interior expanded from its original four-seat configuration to accommodate six people.

“Randy Scism of MTI flew in and tested the boat to 190 mph,” said Christie, who has owned multiple boats including an MTI 340X catamaran since selling the 44-footer. “He said if she had bigger props she would have topped 200 mph.

Speed Racer was my favorite boat,” he continued. “It handled rough water perfectly and cruised at 165 mph all day. My wife, Madelyn, and I have some great memories of that boat.”

Christie eventually upgraded the cat’s supercharged Potter engines from 1,100- to 1,300-plus-hp versions, and the boat became a rocket.

So, too, does this reporter, who Christie let drive in the Atlantic City and Miami Boat Show poker runs, though I’m not sure those count among his finer memories of Speed Racer. (What’s hosing down a boatload of pals behind you on New Jersey’s Barnegat Bay or cutting it a bit too close to a bridge in the Florida Keys among friends?) The catamaran was just one of those boats that made people smile—even those who had never seen the cartoon series that inspired it—when they saw it at the docks.

Though dash layouts have changed dramatically since Speed Racer was built, the boat’s command-center setup was state-of-the-art at the time.

“I’m not sure where she is now,” said Christie, who owned the boat for four years. “But I miss her like crazy.”

Editor’s note: “MTI At 25” is a new weekly series on speedonthewater.com celebrating the company’s 25th anniversary. A new installment will go live every Wednesday on speedonthewater.com through the end of the year.

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