Your go-to source for performance boating.
HomeProjectsProject: Donzi 38 ZR Comp Restoration Complete

Project: Donzi 38 ZR Comp Restoration Complete

Among the kindest and most generous people you’ll ever meet in the high-performance powerboating world, New Jersey’s Thomas Anselmi purchased his 2003-built Donzi Marine 38 ZRC dream boat in 2007. Since then, he and his wife, Andrea, have run the V-bottom—the hottest sit-down cockpit model of its era—in everything from dozens of Florida Powerboat Club and New Jersey Powerboat Association poker runs to special events such as Shore Dreams For Kids.


Anselmi is hoping his refreshed Donzi 38 ZRC will last him at least another 10 years. Photo courtesy/copyright Florida Powerboat Club/Pete Boden.

“Ever since I was about 10 years old, my dream was always to own a ‘Cigarette boat,’” Anselmi said. “I was the guy in high school walking around with a Cigarette Racing Team jacket instead of a varsity jacket. When the Donzi 38 ZRC came out, I found my perfect boat and bought it directly from Donzi as a leftover/demo boat. So I am technically the first owner of it.

“I fulfilled my dream,” he continued. “But I believe you should enjoy your dreams once you achieve them. So here we are, 10-plus years later, and I am still enjoying the boat. And I plan on keeping it for another decade.”

Despite his impeccable care, Anselmi’s 38-footer—powered by Mercury Racing 575 SCi engines, which he eventually had upgraded to 700-plus hp, with IMCO Marine SCX drives—was like all go-fast boats used year-round beginning to show its age. So late last year, he embarked on what became an extensive renovation project headed by John VanderStel and Ron Potter of Innovation Marine in Sarasota, Fla.

Led by Jim Cowan, Premier Performance Interiors of Sarasota reupholstered all the seats and handled the vinyl work in the cockpit, which included a new custom design and colors. Shields Premiere Windscreens, Shields and Canopies of Martinsville, Ind., created new three-quarter-inch acrylic quarter-canopies, and OPTX Marine of Lodi, N.J., provided the LED lights for the cockpit. Sarasota’s Dave Pyc handled storing and moving the boat, and detailed the finished product.

For a closer look at the completed renovation project, check out the slideshow above.

Beyond cosmetics, the scope of renovation work included gutting and completely replacing the boat’s original wiring, installing new cables for throttles, shifters, tabs, drives and indicators, adding diamond-plate flooring and installing spare propeller mounts in the engine compartment, as well as replacing bilge pumps and blowers. Anselmi also had Innovation Marine rebuild the boat’s drives and evaluate and refresh its engines.

“The original plan was to freshen up the interior, fix the dash that was falling apart and install new canopies during the winter of 2016/2017,” said Anselmi. “Well, that turned into a complete overhaul once we started diving into things and looking at 15 years of use, abuse and ‘updates.’ We realized that now was the time to do everything over fresh to get another 15 good years out of it.”

Though the project, thanks to its expanded to-do list, took longer than he originally expected, Anselmi said he couldn’t be happier with the finished product. His friends in the Garden State performance boating community kept him motivated, as did his wife.

“Andrea supports me no matter what and puts up with my crazy hobbies—and enjoys them,” he said. “We were able to update everything to new or like-new and I was able to put my custom stamp on the interior. I can’t thank Innovation Marine enough for the amazing work they did, especially with John VanderStel and Ron Potter overseeing it all.

Related story: Project: Donzi 38 ZR Comp Being Made New