The past decade has seen Bar Crusher boats garner a well-earned reputation among the offshore and big bay fraternity, as well as finals berths in every instalment of TrailerBoat ’s Australia’s Greatest Boats since its inception in 2009, taking home the silverware in 2010 and 2012.
’s Australia’s Greatest Boats since its inception in 2009, taking home the silverware in 2010 and 2012.
Both of those ’10 and ’12 AGB winners were fully-enclosed hardtops and excellent examples of plate alloy engineering. This particular configuration is rapidly becoming the company’s mainstay and more are waiting in the wings. So I was pretty chuffed when I received an offer from Bar Crusher’s Peter Clelland to borrow a boat for an extended test and, despite a forecast of inclement weather, I quickly resolved to take my family to Victoria’s Gippsland Lakes. Well, it was a Bar Crusher after all.
BUT NOT AS WE KNOW IT
Peter came out to greet me as I rolled up to Bar Crusher’s Dandenong (Vic) factory, ushering me inside and out of the increasingly strong breeze. I followed him inside, but was quickly a little confused as a he handed me a set of keys and told me he’d just run it up for me.
“The 535 XS,” he said as I turned my gaze to follow his. “Thanks,” I replied, trying to remain polite.
Rain began pelting the factory roof, and I swear Mother Nature was mocking me.
“This is a great boat,” Peter continued unabated. “A bit different to our other ones.”
“Really, you think?” I thought to myself as I walked around the 535 XS, taking in the details, as any boat reviewer worth his salt would. Hardtop? nah; folding gas strut roof and angled cabin? nope; windscreen? well, technically; big-arse motor? no; Quickflow ballast? no. Okay, that last one is going too far. Even my four-year-old boy knows Bar Crushers look a certain way. (He’s sat through enough videos from Australia’s Greatest Boats to scar him for life.)
I smiled politely at Peter and resigned myself to the fact that since I hadn’t tested one of these not-quite Bar Crushers, it might be okay. Two birds, one stone, and my wife’s going to kill me.
When I pulled up outside my house, the kids rushed out. “Where’s the Bar Crusher? You said you were bringing home a Bar Crusher!” my boy frowned.
“This is it,” I answered truthfully.
“No. No it’s not.” And he ran off.
It then started raining again. My wife caught a drop in her hand, looked at me, shook her head and went inside. So there I was, standing in my driveway and staring at this boat that no-one understood, when Mother Nature mocked once again.
Five hours and 300km on, the family had taken up residence at the Nowa Nowa pub, a modest establishment that provides nourishment and lubrication to the (approximately five) local inhabitants and various interlopers that swell their ranks each weekend. Parked outside our room among a hired Polycraft and a rag tag assortment of kitted-out tinnies and bass boats, the 535 XS suddenly seemed right at home. Despite the weather, a fully-enclosed hardtop would have looked as out of place as boobs on a bull.
People constantly stared at this blue arrow head resting on its custom-built Easytow trailer, taking in the simple raked silhouette, straight flanks, familiar rear handrails and wide transom marlin board.
“Is that a Bar Crusher?” one bloke cannily asked, and my response drew high fives from his toothless mate.
Then it dawned on me. Yes, it’s different from its larger siblings, and despite my preoccupation with the stuff it didn’t have, what it did have was Bar Crusher to the core. This made me look with a more subjective eye and it all started to make sense.
I ran my hand across the boat’s haunches, feeling the tension in the 3mm plate. I absorbed the details: neat and consistent welds; moderate deadrise; clean and uncluttered interior; cast alloy rod holders in the coamings; simple console; checkerplate floor; and carpeted side pockets. The boat was unadorned, save for the baitboard and multi-function Garmin GMI 10. It was uncomplicated, but ever so functional.
I reflected on the way it had gobbled up all our gear prior to leaving my driveway and how easy this low-slung rig had been to tow. Somewhere, a humble pie was being shoved into an oven and I’d soon be lining up for a double helping.
Internally, the 535 XS is a study in simplicity. Unlike most alloy boats in its size range, it forgoes carpeted timber floors in favour of fully sealed and welded treadplate surfaces over a skeletal sub-frame, that Bar Crusher calls “Rigideck”. As implied in the name, rigidity is the name of the game, with hull flex kept in check by an engineered matrix that’s boxed and braced to form an energy-absorbing grid of aluminium sheet.
Essentially, the voids between ribs and hulls in many boats, particularly pressed alloy, allow flex and any impact is relayed to the occupants. A matrix allows the energy inherent in any impact to be directed in a range of directions, dissipating as it flows. In short, fewer bangs, less noise and cheaper chiropractor bills in the future.
Sealed voids are created in the process and these provide additional buoyancy. An added benefit of a rigid floor is that any structure fixed to it is naturally
better braced and moves far less, minimising harmonic vibrations and “buzzing” when underway.
Following on from the whole linear concept, the centre console is a box: no curves, slight rake, all business. A token Perspex panel skirts the top shelf in a bluff, somewhat severe interpretation of a windscreen. There are no curves or radiuses, nothing soft about this boat other than the ride. While the appearance is far from the bloated organic look of many competitors, the XS is all about purpose and intent. But that’s not to say it doesn’t work. In fact, it works just fine, thank you very much.
Since most components such as sounders, GPS, radios and gauges are either flush-mounted or come standard with straight-edged gimbal brackets, the blank canvas approach works well. Thoughtful passenger grab rails that extend from the leading edges of the console proved handy in the rough.
MIND YOUR MANNERS
The first day greeted us with 25-30kt easterlies down on the shallow and exposed bottom lake, pushing up steep, dirty chop and waves of more than a metre. With my two girls on the pedestal seats forward of the console, and my wife and young son by my side, we let the 70hp Suzuki off its chain. Without fuss, the 535 XS hitched up its skirt and got on with it, with bugger all bow lift if you throttle down hard.
It’s responsive, this little boat, and it almost pre-empted what I was about to do before I even did it. I kept looking back at the engine, wondering if they’d made a mistake and stuck a 90 on the rump instead. It was that good. There was no longer any question we were rolling in a real Bar Crusher.
To be honest, after no time at all it didn’t feel like a boat and motor combination anymore as the two components meshed into one integrated unit. After a full day on the water, and another yet to come, I was convinced I’d just experienced the most well-sorted rig I have ever driven, and the fun factor was off the scale.
Sure, we got a tad damp chucking the boat around doing some really daft stuff (at the kids’ insistence, of course), but given the conditions, the breadth of performance we squeezed out of the rig was astounding. With five on board, half a tank of fuel and swinging a Suzuki 13.75x17in three-blade alloy prop, we topped out at a respectable 32.2kts, or just shy of 60kmh. Turns were executed in a sure footed manner and inspired confidence.
On day two, I stayed up river. The kids slept in as I snuck out early with the lense luggers to capture the rig in still and moving images. The results are on these pages and video of the rig in full flight is featured on our website (www.trailerboat.com.au).
In more benign conditions, and mainly driving one up, the 535 XS doesn’t put a foot wrong, and does it all without Bar Crusher’s Quickflow Ballast system.
Rather than missing them, it is precisely the lack of all those features my spoilt-brat preconceptions thought made a Bar Crusher that made this one so special. Beneath that svelte slip of aluminium origami beats the heart of a pedigree that will take on all comers.
We know boats in the smaller Wavecrusher series ride like other Bar Crushers, at least in sheltered conditions, and it hints at wanting to be a tournament contender. Does it cut it?
After we ran out of tape (memory?) in the video camera, we headed down stream to hit the snags that lined a river bend. Working vibes and soft plastics in a stiff breeze even without a bowmount electric, proved a breeze thanks to the boat’s low wind signature.
Two blokes moving around caused the hull no worries at all. And even when we employed the ample frame of TrailerBoat’s senior boat tester John Willis to try to upset the Bar Crusher cart, the 535XS retained its composure and level head.
The simple interior works well enough, but is screaming out for a pucker lockable rod rack, and a livewell or aerated esky needs to reside under the alloy casting deck if you’re planning on seriously hitting the tournament trail.
ON THE PLANE...
· Rides like a “proper” Bar Crusher
· Excellent stability in a breeze
· Minimal power needs for oodles of performance
· Low windage makes it a great lure platform
· Light and manageable
· Standard hydraulic steering
DRAGGING THE CHAIN...
· Another fishing boat without secure rod storage
· Would’ve loved to see what it could do with more grunt
· Needs fine tuning if you want to make the tournament grade
Specifications: Bar Crusher Wavecrusher 535XS
Price as tested: $44,000 and includes Easytow single-axle trailer, 70hp four-stroke Suzuki, baitboard, bow mount plate, 3 x pedestal seats, Sarca anchor, Garmin GMI 10, hydraulic steering
Type: Alloy monohull
Deadrise: 17° (estimated)
HP Rating: 100
Make/model: Suzuki DF70A (XL)
Type: Four-stroke DOHC
Gear ratio: 2.59:1
Propeller: Suzuki 13.75x17in three-blade alloy
MANUFACTURED AND SUPPLIED BY
5 Quality Drive,
Dandenong South, Vic 3175
Tel: (03) 9792 2999
Originally published in TrailerBoat #291, February 2013