Riviera resurrection

Mark Rothfield | VOLUME 32, ISSUE 1
Now, and then … Ingall’s restored M400 bears little resemblance to the tatty craft found in Sydney.
V8 Supercar legend Russell Ingall has swapped four wheels for two props on his recently renovated Riviera M400.

It was a moment of insanity that’s now emblazoned in the memories of V8 Supercar fanatics across the nation – Mark Skaife emerging from his battered Commodore and standing trackside, fist shaking, as rival Russell Ingall veered his Falcon towards him.

An enraged matador facing a charging bull. Holden demigod versus Ford’s finest.

The resulting rift from 2003 has since healed, yet it speaks volumes about the drive and determination of the man at the Falcon’s helm, the self-proclaimed ‘Enforcer’. Ingall is not one to settle for second.

Since piloting a kart at the age of 12 around a dusty Whyalla track, he has competed at the apex of motorsport, across Europe and Australia. His career extends to 579 Supercar starts for 90 podiums and 27 wins, with a series victory in 2005 and two Bathurst 1000 crowns as highpoints.

An inbuilt desire to be the best, and have the best, extends to Ingall’s boating pursuits. Rarely has he been without a vessel of some sort and today the Gold Coast waterways are his refuge … the yin to his high-octane racing yang.

His latest plaything is a Riviera M400, found languishing on a Sydney marina. In true Ingall style, akin to his last-to-first Bathurst victory in 1995, he decided to resurrect and repower the unloved hull.

Now resplendent in silver and sporting brand-new Mercury Marine 4.2lt TDI diesels, the 40-footer stands as testament to its owner’s perfectionist mindset and the shipwrighting skills of his marine ‘pit crew’.

“It was a big job, I won’t lie, but I’m really glad I did it,” Ingall says. “I’ve rebuilt cars and motorbikes in the past and a boat restoration project is something I’ve always wanted to do.

“After a profession like mine, where everything is wide-open-throttle inside and outside the car, you need something to get away in, if only for a day.”

BORN TO DRIVE

Born in London in 1964, Ingall moved to South Australia as the three-year-old son of so-called ‘Ten Pound Poms’. Father Les Ingall ran a mechanical business in England and also raced timber boats. He’d build the clinker hulls himself and developed an early affinity with Mercury.

Once settled in Port Adelaide, the family bought a service station.

“It was the end of Dad’s boat racing because he had to walk away from everything in the UK and start a new life,” Ingall remembers. “I grew up surrounded by cars, but there were a few boats, too … we got right into waterskiing on the Murray.”

While still a teenager, Ingall bought a centre-mount Flightcraft as a bare hull and fitted it out over several years, having decided “it can’t be that hard – it’s got an engine.” In went a small-block Chev engine that was “hot-rodded up”, and then Ingall added what he believes is one of the first automatic gearboxes for a boat.

“I got a two-speed Powerglide and turned it upside down, then installed a different sump so it fitted in the hull,” he recalls. “It didn’t change gear, but had forward, neutral and reverse. It acted like a dog clutch, only smoother, and it made life so much easier when skiing.

“The boat was good for around 70 miles per hour, but unfortunately I didn’t get to use it for long because I left for Europe in the early ‘90s after winning the Australian Formula Ford Championship.”

QUEENSLAND-BOUND

Ingall returned home in 1996 to join the Supercar fray with Larry Perkins, before moving to Queensland in 2002 for a Stone Brothers Racing gig. His newly built waterfront home on Sovereign Island demanded a boat on its dock.

Riviera came to the party with an M370, which Ingall then upgraded to a new M400 – the same as he has now. When Riviera CEO Wes Moxey resigned, however, the Riv relationship lapsed.

“Bill Barry-Cotter was also a racing fan so I ended up with a Maritimo sponsorship,” Ingall continues. “We had a 48 Flybridge, then a 50 Flybridge. In between came the GFC and I sold out after predicting there would be a fall in boat prices.

“When everyone started importing boats from the US, I was guilty of joining them. I found a Sea Ray Sundancer 48 in Seattle … it was the last boat I owned until this one.”

Ingall and his wife harbour long-term visions of buying a large powercat and spending a year cruising Australia’s northern waters. Friend Tony Longhurst, a fellow race driver and owner of The Boat Works marina on the Gold Coast, has long regaled Ingall with cruising tales.

For the moment, though, Ingall is content with his commentary role for Fox and occasional driving stints. He simply wanted something to kick around locally without breaking the bank.

“The Broadwater is getting skinnier because of silting, with fewer places to go, so until they start dredging it I reckon there’s no point having a big boat,” Ingall says. “At the same time, I can’t have a flybridge because there are road bridges around where I live.

“I thought a second-hand US centre-console boat, with Merc 400hp outboards on the back, would be a bit me … until I realised it was going to be a $300,000 exercise. I ended up finding the 2007-model M400, which I knew were well-built and one of Riv’s best-selling boats up until the GFC.”

The purchasing decision boiled down to pure economics and personal needs. Even with a repower, Ingall realised it would be cheaper than a 32ft centre console – plus the M400 has sterndrives to enable shallow-water navigation with the added bonus of sleeping five.

WORK IN PROGRESS

With the boat’s original 496 Mag MerCruiser petrol engines having accumulated high hours, but minimal maintenance, they barely reached the travelift in Sydney. There, Ingall arranged road transport to The Boat Works, Coomera.

He rates the marina facility as the best in Australia due to the availability of multiple trades, from shipwrights and spray painters, to Mercury technicians from Boat Service Gold Coast, all in one location.

“If you did it anywhere else it would drive you mad, always being on the phone or in the car chasing stuff,” Ingall maintains.

All-up, the restoration took four months – longer than envisaged – but it included a full respray, hull repairs, engine-room flowcoating, upholstery tidy-up and countless part replacements.

The M400’s prescient design helped facilitate the engine changeover. There was generous access through the central cockpit hatch and the hull had sufficient beam to accommodate larger blocks if necessary. Importantly, the fuel tanks were salvageable.

“Probably the biggest challenge was the new engine bearers,” Ingall says. “That’s when you start getting into fibreglassing and fabrication but, thankfully, the guys at Riviera were extremely helpful and the sub-contractors (Devil Engineering) knew the boat inside-out.

“They cut the old bearers out and installed new ones to a more modern spec, using an engine mount jig supplied by Mercury. After that, the installation was relatively easy because it had the same sterndrive mounting, even though this is the (Bravo Three) X leg with straight-cut gears.”

Not only were the new V8 diesels similar in dimension to the 10-year-old petrols, they were 80kg lighter. Torque output was elevated from 450Nm to a whopping 780 per side; hence the need for the race-bred straight-cut gears.

The new Mercs also offer the joy of joystick piloting for close-quarters manoeuvring. Ingall was initially sceptical about needing the system, but is a definite convert.

Having considered other motor options, these ticked all the boxes. Above all, he knew the product well through the motor industry.

“Mercury Marine approached Volkswagen AG – they’re actually the same engine that’s in the Audi Q7 – my wife has had three of them,” Ingall explains. “In the car, it’s just an unbelievable performer – seriously fast, but also quiet and economical. The V6 is brilliant as well and I reckon you could easily put them in the M370.”

Via his motorsport background, Ingall is a firm believer in power-to-weight ratio. He says the car-based Volkswagen motors have similar output to the truck-based diesels previously fitted to production M400s, albeit with a weight saving of over 300kg.

“For a long time in boating, people have felt you needed truck engines,” he adds. “Yes, they’re good for B-doubles that slog away all day on the highway, but they’re relatively big and heavy.

“The motors on my boat spin to around 4150 revs because of the automotive technology, whereas most diesels run out of steam at around 2500rpm. Reliability is not an issue either because nowadays, automotive engines are clocking big miles between service intervals.”

Ingall believes his new diesels are quieter than the previous petrols, however the most significant difference is fuel economy when cruising – at 25 knots (46km/h), they’re consuming just 100lt/h in total.

“You can hardly feel the hull lift onto the plane, it does it so easily, and at 35 knots (65km/h) it’s using only 160lt of juice in total,” he says. “The petrol M400 was a 30-knot (56km/h) boat, so my boat is five knots quicker while using 40 per cent less fuel.

“It’s funny … we blow past people chugging along at 10 knots (19km/h) so they don’t burn 400lt/h in their big flybridges. I’ll be there two hours ahead and it will cost me half as much.”

LIVING THE DREAM

While Skaifey won’t be joining him anytime soon, Ingall’s idea of a perfect boating day is to go somewhere like Wave Break Island in the Broadwater and nudge the M400’s stern into the beach.

“To me, that’s pretty well the ultimate,” he says. “Sterndrives are fantastic around here. The few times we’ve been out so far, we threw an anchor out the back so the kids and their friends can swim. Happy days.

“We also took the boat to Tangalooma and a couple of whales suddenly popped out. We shut the engines down and glided behind them – you see something like that and it’s all worth it. It’s what boating is all about.”

Would he do it all again?

“It’s kind of like renovating a house – you have to make the right decisions and buy the right fixtures. And if you want everything done tomorrow, then it’s going to cost you.

“I’d definitely recommend the repower because the boat probably owes me half of what a new boat of the same size and quality would cost. I have money in the bank and a boat that will last me a good 10 years.”

Overall, Ingall remains enamoured by the M400’s timeless design and layout.

“Boating can become an obsession,” he concludes. “You get one boat, then you want to go bigger, and that’s what happened to me last time. Eventually my wife and I want to downsize the house and upsize the boat – until then, the M400 will do just fine.”


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