Mercedes Unveils $2 Million AMG Cigarette Racing Boat

mercedes amg cigarette racing boat
Image credit: Cigarette Racing

By Hannah Elliott (Bloomberg) — Today in Miami Mercedes-Benz-AMG debuted its latest collaboration with Cigarette Racing, the 515 Project One.

The $2 million superboat has 3,100 total horsepower and can hit a top speed of 140 mph. The look and color scheme of the boat is based on the Mercedes-AMG Project One hybrid supercar developed from Formula 1; it’s the fastest, most advanced boat Mercedes-AMG and Cigarette Racing have produced in their 11-year partnership.

In past years they have paired multiple cars with cigarette-style boats—long and narrow crafts made for speed—including the SLS, the G-Wagen, the Vision GT Concept, and the GT S. The partnership works mainly to buoy each brand’s image and, for Cigarette Racing, as a research exercise to develop engineering that it will use in other boats.

Project 515 is faster and lighter proportionally than the preceding AMG-Cigarette boat, named the Marauder and which was 1,300 lighter than its predecessor, even though this latest boat is bigger with more seating. At 51.5 feet long and 9 feet, six inches wide, it weighs the same as the 50-foot Marauder but offers seating for one more passenger (six total) and 30 percent more surface area. It’s more advanced than any of the nine other AMG-paired boats Cigarette has produced, with a totally different deck and hull composition and different weight balance.

This is a far cry both from the cigarette boat’s predecessors, original “rum-runner” boats used during prohibition to out-run larger vessels and the 1960s-era “go-fast” boats designed for offshore racing (and drug smuggling) across the Caribbean to the United States. Rum-runner and go-fast boats were characterized by their deep V-shape, their 20- to 50-foot hull length, and their massive ability for speed.

The bulkier Marauder, which cost $1.8 million, was considerably more volatile under high speeds. This one is far more stable, says Cigarette Racing CEO Skip Braver—the crucial thing when you’re battling six foot waves on the open ocean. Which is why Braver bought the company in the first place. Anyone can make a boat go faster, but it takes real engineering prowess to make it stable.

“I was tired of getting the crap kicked out of me in other boats,” Braver said this week at the Cigarette Racing factory 20 minutes outside Miami. He bought the 49-year-old company when it was facing bankruptcy in 2002 and has since developed it into a 68-person operation producing 40 hand-built boats a year.

Six of the special 515 Project One boats will be made in the first year. They’ll go on sale during the first public day of the Miami International Boat Show Feb. 16-20.

“People think that our buyer is just a Saudi prince because of the cost of the boat, but the buyer here is the same as the guy who buys high-end cars,” Braver said. “They’re very concerned with fit and finish. They do have a lot of money. What they don’t have is time.”

Need for Speed

While Mercedes won’t actually place an AMG engine in this boat, it does carry significant similarities with the Project One supercar: carbon-fiber construction, massive power, and a set-back cabin with a long front end. On the inside, the six bolstered seats are covered in exposed-weave carbon fiber and Garmin computer systems. They blend with the exterior AMG-designed matte black and silver paint and special badging that matches the Mercedes-AMG Project One.

The key to the smooth ride of the 515 Project One is a special cut-out section along the hull of the boat, which creates a cushion of air and water that, combined with the placement of the control center, power-to-weight ratio, and low hull, make it feel stable at high speeds, say Cigarette reps.

“It’s about pushing the envelope,” chief designer Chad Braver said. “In the same way that an F1 car helps develop technology that will be used in future cars, we are learning from things in the 515 that we will use in many other boats down the line. It’s like looking into a window of the future.”

What they see through that window is more about small, incremental changes rather than one flashy leap forward. Like ever more carbon fiber: as with autos, the boat’s impressive speed and its incredible weight savings, are thanks mostly to the fact that its deck and many of its components, like the hull, bulkheads and engine hatch, are made from the material.

“Carbon isn’t the answer to everything, but it is the secret sauce,” Braver said.

In addition to the carbon fiber, the most significant engineering change, said the designer, was to lower the center of mass of the boat for better stability and cushion at high speed, while leaving the “aggressive shoulders” at its rear untouched. That allowed the large sun cushion to be flush with the hatch as well, which maximizes the space available for crucial things one does on a multi-million dollar pleasure craft, like lounge.

Project 515 is powered by a pair of Mercury Racing engines that produce 1,350 horsepower each when activated by a special “Race Key” fob and racing fuel is used. A separate “Pleasure Key” fob will operate the engines at half power with 91 octane fuel. Cruising range under a calmer setting like that, say 75 mph, is 538 miles.

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