Hot Boat Magazine
- March 1995
NOTE: the 200LS/LX were formerly the 606zp
It was not so long ago that the lake was inhabited by boats in two distinct and
easily identifiable subsets - those designed for family use and those which were
unmistakably of the performance variety. The two kinds have steadily merged in
recent years, and the resulting aquatic melting pot has produced some outstanding
family boats that hold their own on the lake.
Stingray Boats, based in the unlikely venue of Hartsville, South Carolina, has
dramatically crashed the performance realm with its line of family-oriented craft.
The effective vehicle for this crossover is the Z-plane, a dramatically different
bottom design that creator and company founder Al Fink predicted would change the
face of family performance boating. We're here to report that this bold assessment
has come to pass.
It may be true that the Stingray's graphics bring to mind your father's
Oldsmobile and that some of the line's styling elements seem more than a bit dusty.
Those observations aside, the Stingray may well be the sport's ultimate family
sleeper boat. And we're not referring to overnight boarding.
Before you scoff, consider this: The computer-designed 606ZP (6.0 meter Z-plane)
is without question one of the fastest small-block, I/O powered 20 foot-vees in
production history. And one of the quickest accelerators.
Stingray's emerging reputation as a performance entity rides on one of the
industry's truly original bottom designs. The patented Z-plane's hydrodynamics
center on strake design. Conventional vee-hulls, Fink says, are hampered by a
pocket of air created by the conventional protruding strake configuration.
Stingray's design, in theory, leaves undisturbed the flow of water to the prop
by integrating the strakes into the hull, thereby creating a terrace effect that
results in a smoother, more fluid flow.
Efficiency breeds economy, and there's no better example of that performance
credo than the surprising 606. This was our first bout with MerCruiser's new,
235-horse fuel-injected small block, and its debut vehicle could not have been
more appropriately cast. The new-release mill spun a 21-pitch Mirage three-blade
worked through an Alpha case. It's a rare stern-drive vee that will ever crack
60 mph on crate-stock 350 power; imagine our surprise when our radar check found
a 61.3-mph pass left in the wake of this smooth-handling MerCruiser 5.7L EFI
bowrider. No small wonder that Stingray doesn't even offer a big block on the
606 - who needs one?
Stingray builds significantly more boat than most conventional performance
builders, but as with the bottom, advancing technology is at the forefront of
its production efforts. CAD (computer-aided design) systems and hand layup
techniques intertwine in a facility where nearly everything is built in-house.
Our test boat emerged from a cache of obviously well-tended molds with a glossy,
perfectly straight surface. The hull and deck were box-fitted, and their seam
was cleanly trimmed. It's two-color gelcoat work was unexceptional, to say the
least, but showed technical proficiency. Musty, taped-on graphics offered
Overall construction and installation of the stainless-steel hardware
(windshield, bow railing, deck cleats, bow and stern eyes) were rated very high
by our ramp team, and all externals were well placed and solidly mounted. Three
deck cleats, two aft and one forward, were placed in easily accessible areas. The
five-piece walk-through windshield was sturdily installed in an aluminum frame,
which was booby-trapped with a few rough sharp edges. Its centerpiece opened to
access one of the boat's unique design features - a removable flush-mounted deck
lid that converted the bow section into a hard deck in an instant. Formed of hard
plastic the lid was stout enough to support a 200-pounder and stowed neatly away
when not in use. With the bow cover in place wind deflection was lessened
The two front bucket seats were mounted on swivel-slider pedestals, which were
screwed to the floor using stainless-steel hardware. The moderately dense foam in
the vinyl-covered front buckets resisted bottom out during high-speed, roughwater
bursts, but the seat backs weren't as sturdy as we would have liked, especially while
traveling at 60 mph. The rear bench was framed in treated marine plywood and offered
excellent comfort and support. Like the buckets, it was double stitched, piped and
nicely color matched. The bow seating area was typically cramped for a boat of this
COMPACT BOAT OF THE
Our evaluators called the Stingray "the sport's ultimate family sleeper
boat," and with good reason. Dockside, who would have guessed that this
well-built but conservatively styled production boat could sprint from dead
weight to 50 mph in 10.84 seconds? Or that it would register a delightfully
stable 61.3-mph top end? Or that it could do all of this on stock smallblock
One of only a few production hulls to carry 60 mph performance
on stock smallblock muscle, the Stingray is a delightfully hospitable day ride.
The 606 ZP is supremely responsive, handles rough water like a larger boat and
turns as if on rails.
Members of our test team were dazzled with the Stingray's superb
detail and finish work. They liked the way the 606 converts from a hard deck to
a bowrider and also liked the addition of a slick bow insert. But that's not its
most amazing transformation. This year's Compact Boat of the Year, which stickers
at under $20,000 as tested, is as close as family boating gets to Clark Kent
emerging as Superman.
You won't find better fit and finish work anywhere in a boat costing less than
$1,000 a foot. We had to look hard before finding even minor deficiencies in its
detail. We did uncover a few traces of raw, unfinished plywood buried in the
gunwales. The engine and drive installations were sound and sanitary. The wiring was
cleanly routed and the bilge pump and blower were affixed neatly.
There was a fair amount of interior storage penned into the ZP's cockpit design.
It included large, segmented areas in the engine compartment, wet stowage in small
pouches on the rear of the buckets and a somewhat useless area in the gunwales that
might inevitably develop into a black hole out of which nothing small will emerge
The base Stingray included four integrated drink holders, a molded 20-inch by
72-inch rear-boarding platform, a ventilated floor-mounted ski locker with a teak
cover and interior cockpit lighting. Its molded dash housed dual panels, one for
the blackface Teleflex gauges and one for a series of rotary-style switches. Easily
monitored dials were placed directly over the wheel, and controls were placed for
It's been quite some time since we met up with this rarefied level of performance from
a boat in the Stingray's blatant bargain price range. In fact, the 606 may be the ultimate
performance boat for less than $20,000-barring, of course, the far less civilized tunnel
fraternity. It scooted onto plane in 2.25 seconds-one of the quickest of all boats tested
on either coast. The 606 motored into a smooth, quiet 30-mph strut in just 5.68 seconds and
found 40 mph in a breath under eight seconds. At an easy-breathing 3,000 rpm, the Stingray
was captured on radar at 39 mph, and at 4,000 revs, it settled into a steady 55mph gallop.
The 606 showed off a number of characteristics that make it a can't-miss selection for
the beginning powerboater but performed in a league suitable for the more experienced
enthusiast. Extremely quick off the line and to plane, the Stingray maneuvered precisely
through our low-speed handling drills and threaded our slalom course with equanimity. It
was very receptive to trim.
We cranked the 606 as sharply as common sense would allow, at full throttle, and couldn't
coax the slightest hint of cavitation or slide from its underbelly. It turned perfectly
flat and exhibited fingertip control through the midrange. Steering torque on the big end
was simply nonexistent, even at WOT, and the 606 maintained its sharp, responsive feel
throughout its power band. The 606 is one of the smoothest, most predictable boats we've
tested this year, and its full potential can be enjoyed by even the most raw performance
We guided the Stingray into unprotected water to test its limits further and discovered
more of the same outstanding service. We bounded across two-foot chop, buried the speedometer
into the 50-plus mph range and let the boat do most of the work. The hull withstood the
punishment, catching air repeatedly and just as often landing in perfect position. All the
while, it remained free of rattles and vibrations.
It's only occasionally in our testing that we encounter a moderately priced boat that does
most things above average. We found, in the 606, an astounding combination of value,
workmanship and performance, the likes of which you won't easily find, even for thousands of
dollars more. Well-built, solidly rigged and a blast to drive, the 606 ZP is a five-star
performer-for the beginner and experienced enthusiast alike.
Hot Boat Magazine