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Thrill Ride—Behind The Wheel Of A Full-Windshield 2021 Donzi 38 ZRC

In the cult of the Donzi Marine 38 ZRC, a groundbreaking sit-down V-bottom sportboat introduced in the early 2000s, the notion of a wraparound windshield—you know, one that provides at least some protection for everyone in the cockpit—is sacrilege. Cult purists contend that only quarter-canopy windscreens of the kind that first graced the 38-footer will ever be acceptable.

Clearly, none of them have ever been out of the driver or co-pilot seats. Because pretty as they are on the 38 ZRC’s deck—and that’s damn pretty—quarter-canopy windscreens are totally useless for knocking down wind for anyone other than the driver and co-pilot.

A full-windshield probably won’t fly with Donzi 38 ZRC diehards, but it’s an option of the reimagined version. Photos by Mark Spencer copyright Donzi Marine.

Fred Ross, the owner of the Donzi, Baja Marine and Fountain Powerboats brands, chief operating officer Jeff Harris and the rest of their team at the Washington, N.C., facility are keenly aware of the trade-off between full and partial windshields. And that’s why buyers of the reimagined Donzi 38 ZRC can choose between them.

“Who are we to tell our customers what they should like and not like?” said Ross during an interview at Donzi headquarters. “We want them to have what they like. So they can order the 38 ZRC either way.”

Just 30 minutes before I sat down with Ross, I had the pleasure of driving a full-windshield 38 ZRC powered by twin Mercury Racing 565 engines on Pamlico River with Ed Champion of Big Thunder Marine, a Donzi and Fountain dealer in Osage Beach, Mo. A longtime friend, Champion exited the driver’s seat and motioned me toward it and I—not having to be asked twice—hopped in.

Champion slid into one of the rear bucket-style bench seats next to Speedboat magazine photographer Erick Bryner.

Enjoy more images of the latest Donzi 38 ZRC in the slideshow above.

I am by no means a professional test driver, but I have piloted a few 38 ZRCs during the years. In very short order, we were cruising at 90 mph and I put the 38-footer through a few soft-angle, sweeping turns. As expected, the boat knifed through them and it felt as if it were nailed to the water from entry to exit.

In a quick glance aft, I spied Champion smiling and trying to capture the action on video. Bryner also smiled, but his grin was of the more-nervous kind.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever turned that way at that speed,” he said as we changed positions in the cockpit and I took his seat in the back of the boat.

The verdict on the rear-bench passenger experience in the Donzi 38 ZRC with a full wraparound windshield? It is without question superior to that of a 38 ZRC with its original quarter canopies. Frankly, from the standpoints of wind and wind-noise mitigation, it’s not even close.

Quarter-canopy or full wraparound windshield—with the new Donzi 38 ZRC, the choice is yours.

Of course, this will be taken as heresy by the true Donzi faithful. If I were in their ranks I’d likely be excommunicated for even entertaining, much less writing and publishing, such treasonous thoughts. And I don’t blame them. We all have our passions and tastes.

But here’s the cool part: Now Donzi 38 ZRC buyers can choose for themselves.

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