Chris Uzzolina, a 27-year-old from Morris County, N.J., is no stranger to speed on the water. His father owned a 24-foot Switzer Craft that topped 80 mph on Lake Hopatcong, the Uzzolina family’s favorite local waterway when Chris was a kid. So it’s fair to say that Uzzolina, who now lives in Charlotte, N.C., and works as a BMW technician, was born to own a sportboat. And he does in the form of a 1988 Chaparral Villain III.
For those of you willing to do the math, that means Uzzolina’s current ride was built when he was two years old.
Several years ago, he bought the 23-foot sportboat for a whopping $3,500. With its stock 260-hp small-block engine modified with Trick Flow heads, a new cam, an aluminum intake and Eddie Marine aluminum exhaust manifolds with stainless steel pipes, the boat reportedly ran 67 mph. But that wasn’t enough for Uzzolina, so he upgraded his power package with a Weiand 144 blower and the boat topped 72 mph. That was the good news.
“The engine didn’t hold up for more than one season before she gave up, “ Uzzolina recalls. “With no budget, I had to settle for a used engine from a friend’s old car. To this day, I still have no clue what parts were in it but it got me back on the water.”
At least it did until, predictably, the car engine failed. For the next two seasons, the boat sat in Uzzolina’s mother’s driveway in New Jersey. But when he moved to Charlotte last year and found himself within a short drive of any number of lakes, the go-fast boat bug bit him again and he brought the boat down south.
A Project is Born
Now, Uzzolina is embarking on an ambitious restoration and repower project for the 23-footer. His goal? To top 100-mph with a naturally aspirated 427-cubic-inch engine hooked up to an Alpha drive. His total budget? Approximately $30,000.
To build his engine, Uzzolina chose the White Performance & Machine automotive and marine engine shop in Kingsport, Tenn. While they have opted for a Dart block and Eddie Marine aluminum exhaust manifolds—Uzzolina said he will be using an array of parts from billet seat pedestals to an Elite Series throttle and shifter unit from Eddie—they are still looking at cylinder head options from ARF and Dart. The lower half of the engine has been finished, he said, and the shop crew expects the 600- to 700-hp powerplant to go on the dynamometer in two weeks.
In a prudent move, Uzzolina is replacing his stock cable steering setup with a dual-ram hydraulic system from IMCO Marine.
More than a little puzzling is Uzzolina’s choice to stick with an Alpha drive, as the Alpha unit is rated to handle just 300 hp—half or less the horsepower his new engine is slated to produce.
“One of the main reasons I want to go with an Alpha drive is it weighs less than a Bravo and requires less horsepower to turn,” he explained. “It also has a much smaller bullet than any of the Alpha drives, and we are going to equip it with a nose cone and a drive shower. We also may upgrade gears on the bottom end.
“Our goal is to run 100 mph,” he added. “I hope we can achieve it.”
While White Performance is handling the engine-building chores, Lake Effects Marine in Mooresville, N.C. is doing all the exterior and interior renovation work on the 23-footer. That includes new stringers, a new beefed-up transom and a new rubrail, as well as stripping the existing gelcoat and replacing it with an all-white gel finish accented with vinyl graphics. Lake Effects also will handle rigging of the boat’s engine compartment, including putting in new components such as an Eddie Marine oil cooler, water pipe crossover and billet battery boxes, as well as the engine installation.
Uzzolina said he hopes the project will be finished by May. Then it will be time for serious on-water propeller testing and drive-height dial-in—the current plan is to raise the Alpha drive’s X-dimension three inch from its current position.
“I’ve been around long enough to know that these projects sometimes take more time than you expect,” said Uzzolina. “But I’m looking forward to seeing it finished and getting it back on the water.”
Editor’s Note: Speedonthewater.com will follow this project and provide updates throughout its major stages.