World’s coolest boats: Why the Sunseeker Mustang 20 is an ice-cold 80s classic

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 Sunseeker Mustang 20…

What makes a boat cool? The styling, the vintage, the history, the performance? Well it can be any, all or none of these things. It could just be a very iconic model from a manufacturer’s back catalogue, such as the Fairline Targa 33 we had recently or the Mk1 Princess 45 we featured last year.

What we’ve never featured is a Sunseeker, and that’s not down to a paucity of choice, if anything the opposite is true.

What to pick? The race-developed (and utterly beguiling) Thunderhawk 43? The outrageous jet-driven Renegade 60 that punched 32,000 gallons of water per minute through its twin jets? The evergreen Portofino 31? All worthy choices, but I’m plumping for the Sunseeker Mustang 20.

Launched in October 1986 (notice how every single boat mentioned is from the 1980s? The coolest decade ever that also begat the Lotus Esprit Turbo, Miami Vice and the Sony Walkman), it wasn’t the first trailerable Sunseeker – a mind-blowing concept today.

The Sunseeker Sovereign 17, XPS 21 and 235 Offshore predated it. But it was the first (and only) to successfully downsize the DNA of its larger, glamorous siblings like the Tomahawk 37.

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The helm seats, for example, are pretty much Tomahawk 37 Mk1 seats on shorter pedestals. Even the layout mimicked the Tomahawk. Sunpad over the engine space, a bench seat ahead of it, a pair of helm seats and a small cabin beneath the foredeck.

It’s just that in a Tomahawk 37 that cabin offered seating, a bed, a small galley and a heads. In the Sunseeker Mustang 20 it holds a vee-shaped mattress on the floor. The Mustang wasn’t for living on, it was for looking good and going fast.

That sunpad powered up at the push of a button (just like the Tomahawk’s) to reveal a V8 Volvo Penta of 210hp up to 275hp (again like the Tomahawk, except the latter had two
of them). The largest pushed the top end to 50 knots.

Best of all, it handled like a proper Sunseeker, since it was penned by the same legendary ex powerboat racer Don Shead who designed the bigger Sunseekers of that era. And that’s probably the coolest facet of all.

For all the looks and the speed that this boat has in spades, get it out on the water and it has the sheer capability to confirm that this actually is the real deal. And in a 20ft boat, that’s seriously cool.

Sunseeker Mustang 20 specifications

Year: 1986
LOA: 21ft 3in (6.5m)
Beam: 7ft 10in (2.4m)
Power: Single Volvo Penta V8 petrol up to 275hp


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