In February, Michigan performance boaters Kevin Kaczan and Kristy Vandenplas purchased their 2003 Cigarette Racing 36 Gladiator—one of only three produced by the legendary Miami company with a canopy. In less than a year, they’ve turned what they expected to be a minor graphics project into a complete cosmetic overhaul of the 36-footer, which was converted into an open-canopy pleasure boat several years before they bought it.
The Unleashed Cigarette 36 Gladiator received a fresh makeover from the crew at Boat Customs in Michigan.
Kaczan said after purchasing the V-bottom he brought it to Chris Mills at Boat Customs in Caledonia, Mich., to replace the Unleashed vinyl stickers on the side. He and Vandenplas decided to keep the classic graphics since the unique boat was so recognizable. But rather than using vinyl, Mills suggested airbrushing Unleashed on the boat.
The airbrushing idea led to repairing some blemishes, which turned into a complete paint redesign along with updating various sections of the boat, including replacing the tired windshield. Speedonthewater.com reported on the boat’s new windshield from Fontana, Calif.-based Aero-Marine in June just before the 3/4-inch-thick acrylic windshield was delivered to Boat Customs (read the story).
The slideshow above features a variety of pictures of the restored Cigarette.
“Chris (Mills) and I just kept feeding off each other,” said Kaczan, who ran the new-look boat with Vandenplas for the first time earlier this week. “The next thing you know we’re shaving and reshaping the engine hatch to get a better fit, adding extra cleats to hang fenders, removing the bow rails and windshield washer squirters, smoothing and painting the hatch cutouts where the exhaust sticks through, and more. I know we made it difficult on Chris and the guys because the project kept growing and sometimes we even had to backtrack because we wanted to change something. It took a while to finish, but it was worth the wait.”
Completing the boat took longer than expected because Boat Customs had to work around other projects that were in progress or already booked on the calendar.
“All said and done, we probably put 250 hours into the boat,” Mills said. “Unfortunately for Kevin and Kristy the project had to be fit in between some big jobs, but they were more than understanding. I know they’re real with happy with it—we’re real happy with how it turned out, too.”
The similarities are obvious when you look at this before-and-after shot of the 36-footer.
Although they were hesitant to alter the graphics, Kaczan and Vandenplas are extremely pleased with the new paint job.
“I love it—it’s just a dream come true,” said Kaczan, who is planning to run the boat at the next Traverse City Offshore Fun Run he’s helping organize—the Fall Run and Cook Out Party on Saturday, Sept. 20 at the Harbor West Yacht Club in Traverse City, Mich. “I told Chris we couldn’t completely change the paint because this is such a rare, one-off boat. The pressure was on him to keep it the same, but make it better and he pulled if off perfectly. The paint is so deep, too. They did a clearcoat, block sanded, re-cleared, wet sanded and buffed it. It’s remarkable—all of the bodywork is. Chris even surprised us with custom Cigarette logo engine hatch vents.”
Next up for Unleashed, which is powered by twin 750-hp engines, is a completely functional poker-run-style interior including a new dash layout and gauges as well as seating alterations.
“The goal is function with a little more comfort as well looks to match the rest of the boat now that it’s been updated,” Kaczan said. “It’s still a driver’s boat and we are keeping it raw. Eventually we’d like to upgrade the engines.”