In the second part of our 'Big Four' series, we trace the history of Fairline motorboats
From the gravel pits of Oundle to world domination, Fairline’s story makes for remarkable reading.
It all began when Jack T Newington, known always as ‘JT’, was searching for an inland base for his own boat. He stumbled upon a disused site on the River Nene at Oundle, near Peterborough, but soon realised its commercial potential. First he converted the pits into a marina before adding a slipway, workshop and chandler’s in 1964. Oundle Marina Ltd was born.
When the young company was offered the moulds to a craft called a Fairline 19 in 1967, JT saw another opportunity to expand his business. The snug little daycruiser and its derivatives proved an instant hit, with over 700 being sold in its eight-year production run.
In 1969, the Fairline 19 was joined by a Fury 25, designed by John Bennett, the most prolific boat designer of the time. This was a genuine, if unusual, offshore cruiser – the single helm was set into the cabin top, and was accessed by a set of offset moulded stairs.
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In 1971, JT’s son, Sam Newington, a former fighter pilot and business graduate, came on board, and changed the name of the company to Fairline Boats to better identify it with the craft it was building.
John Bennett’s relationship with the firm was also further established, after he was commissioned to design a 22ft sportscruiser, which would become the Holiday.
But it wasn’t until the Bennett-designed Phantom 32 hit the market in 1974 that Fairline was truly recognised as one of the big players in the vanguard of GRP builders. The seven-berth Phantom 32 remained in production for 13 years, with more than 600 built.
From the late 1970s to the early 80s, Fairline began to assert their iron grip on the market with a couple of classic designs: the Fairline 40, which was in production for a record 11 years, and the very first Targa.
The Targa, which celebrated its 20th birthday in 2005, has proved to be a highly significant contributor to the company’s growth, spawning enduring models like the Targa 38, Targa 52 and the 44 Gran Turismo.
In the early 1990s Fairline made their move into the larger yacht market with the first boat in the now-renowned Squadron series, the innovative and stylish 62. Those ideas were gradually filtered down into the more affordable models in the Squadron 55 and the Squadron 43.
Having spent 42 years on the original Barnwell Road site in Oundle, the Fairline headquarters moved into new premises a few miles down the road in 2009. Their dealerships have grown into a global network spanning Asia, Europe, North and South America and they continue to design and manufacture some of the best motorboats in the world.