World’s coolest boats: Miami Vice Wellcraft Scarab is the definitive 80s muscleboat

Each month Nick Burnham picks out an iconic boat that can lay claim to the title of world’s coolest boat. This month, he takes a closer look at the Wellcraft Scarab that starred in Miami Vice…

In a move that rivalled Decca famously turning down the Beatles (its executives apparently citing that guitar bands were on their way out), Wellcraft said no to Universal Studios’ request to supply a boat for a new cop show called Miami Vice.

So for series one of a show that quickly became the biggest hit of the 1980s, a Chris-Craft Stinger 39 was the power boat of choice for fictional undercover law enforcers, Crockett and Tubbs.

Quickly realising the monumental mistake they’d made, Wellcraft execs made Universal Studios an offer they couldn’t refuse and from Season Two onwards, a Scarab graced the dock at Bayside Marina in Miami alongside the boat Sonny Crockett lived aboard, an Endeavour 42 sailboat called St Vitus Dance.

In fact there were far more than just one boat, Wellcraft supplied two vessels per season, painted with eye-catching pastel hull stripes.

Keen boat geeks (ahem) enjoyed spotting continuity errors, such as deck colours and the radar arch changing from teal to silver over the passing years, but most people probably didn’t notice.

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The look was matched by the sound – four storm drain-sized exhausts poking through the transom, mated to a pair of 440hp V8 Mercruiser petrol engines for the authentic
‘rolling thunder’ American muscleboat noise.

Wellcraft boat sales went up 20% right across the board, and the company even released a Scarab 38KV Miami Vice Edition that looked almost identical to the show’s boat – only those eagle-eyed boat geeks spotting that the lower hull side stripe reached the transom rather than hitting the waterline level with the windscreen.

One was loaned to keen powerboat enthusiast (he later took up powerboat racing with some success) and star of the show, Don Johnson, who played Sonny Crockett. When the show was filming at the docks, he would often commute to the set aboard it.

Several of the boats have been lovingly restored by Miami Vice enthusiasts – men of a certain age who grew up in the 1980s and who are ensuring that the legends these boats became live on.

Miami Vice Wellcraft Scarab specifications

Built: 1985
LOA: 38ft 0in
Beam: 8ft 0in
Power: Twin 440hp V8 Mercruiser petrol
Top speed: 52 knots (approx)
Price: $130,000 (when new)

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