Trojan: Used-Boat Survey
Trojans run the gamut from classic cruisers to International Euro-styled express boats, to the new Carver/Trojan ultramoderns; owners may not like other Trojans, but most are quite satisfied with their own boats.
As in 1992, owners gave the Classic 32, one
of the most popular boats of its size and class
ever built, high ratings for value and overall
Trojan Yachts, yet another reputable builder with a new lease on life, nevertheless has something of a split personality. Among its customers there are the owners of the “classic” Trojan cruisers that spanned the 1970s and 1980s; there are the owners of Trojan’s International Series of stylized Euro-cruisers, introduced in 1986; and there are the owners of the “new” Trojans, built since 1993 under the aegis of Carver Boats.
Few Trojan owners can relate to model types outside of their own class—a phenomenon we’ve seen with other makes, including Mainship and Chris Craft—and the mixed results can be seen in our latest survey. While owners as a whole are perfectly happy with their own boats, rating them a solid B, and would gladly buy another (if possible), most have no desire to possess a Trojan from another series. This explains in part why only 72 percent of those who own older Trojans—one of the lowest scores we’ve seen in our used-boat surveys—said they would buy another Trojan. Even many of the “yes” votes contained a caveat summed up by the owner of a 1990 10.8 Meter express cruiser: “Yes. But not one of the current models.”
The good news is that there are many excellent values out there, especially for those seeking one of the F-series of classic 32- and 36-foot Trojans. As we learned in our last survey of Trojan boats in 1992, these older cruisers have held up well, both in physical condition and value.
Trojan has been building boats for a long time, beginning as a manufacturer of plywood runabouts, in the 12-16-foot range, in 1949. After buying out a bankrupt builder from New York, Trojan set up shop in a dairy barn in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, well-known for the woodworking abilities of its Amish and Mennonite residents. “They were very conscientious and did extremely fine work,” remembers Larry Warner, who worked at Trojan for 35 years.
Trojan expanded into the cruiser/motor yacht market in 1966 after buying out the Shepherd Boat Company in Ontario. A number of 32 and 36 footers were built in Canada before Trojan consolidated operations at Lancaster. By 1970, the company had switched from wood to fiberglass (at which time, many of the local craftsmen packed up their woodworking tools and departed, declining to work with plastic) and began building some of its classic models, including the F-32 and F-36 cruisers.
The company (along with Bertram Yachts) was bought by the Whittaker Corporation of California in the late 1970s and began down a familiar path of corporate swaps that led to downsizing, lack of retooling, and, eventually, stagnation. In the interim, however, the builder was one of the first to embrace the new Euro-look, turning out some innovative and not entirely unsuccessful models built on Harry Schoel’s Delta Conic hull. But the new look was adopted by others, most notably Sea Ray, who could crank out comparable models for much less than the cost of a Trojan. Nor did the traditional Trojan customer embrace the new International series, although Warner will say that “they’re a pretty good-looking boat.”
Trojan, like Bertram and many others, filed for bankruptcy and was rescued in 1993 when Carver, part of the Genmar group, picked up the assets and began building its own interpretation of the International line. The latest line began with a single model, the 370 (now the 390), added a 350 in 1994, and a 440 last year. (The new owner also destroyed the old Trojan hull molds, a source of dismay for many old customers.) “Carver reinvented the 37-foot Trojan, the old 11 Meter, but they could make it for 30 percent less than Trojan could,” says Larry Russo of Russo Marine in Medford, Massachussets, who took on the line in 1992. As a result, he said, Carver/Trojan has “tapped into a whole new market” and is doing very well with its sleek Express Yachts. Still, Russo concedes that “There are a lot of (classic) Trojan boats on the water that have stood the test of time.”
The Survey Shows…
Not surprisingly most of those who responded to our survey—90 percent— were owners of older Trojans. Of these, 37 percent owned one of the Classic 32s, one of the most popular boats of its size and type ever built; 24 percent owned a version of the Classic 36, and 24 percent owned one of the newer Internationals—10, 10.8, 11, or 12 Meters.
Each of these groups has its own prejudices, with 32 owners feeling the 36 was not a very successful upsizing of the smaller sedan/flying bridge model, but both uniting in their disdain for the Euro-style express boats, whether built by the original or the Carver-owned Trojan companies. (“Carver” is something of a misnomer; while the 350 and 390 are built at the Carver plant in Wisconsin, the 440 is being made at the Hatteras facility in North Carolina.)
Owners of the International series, produced from 1986 through 1992, have little regard for the stodgy “traditional” Trojans and tend to reject the latest express cruisers, primarily because Carver has jettisoned the Delta Conic hull, famous for its soft ride. New Trojan owners, on the other hand, represent a whole new market, as Russo observed, who have made their comparisons not with previous Trojans, but with makes such as Tiara, Sea Ray, and Formula.
Among the groups, Classic 32 owners showed the highest overall satisfaction rating, 87.5, compared to 82.5 percent for 36 owners and 80 percent for 10 Meter owners. And more than 92 percent of 32 owners felt their boats were holding their value well—the only A rating in this category. These results vary somewhat from four years ago, when Classic 36 owners posted the highest rating for overall satisfaction, followed by the 32 and 10 Meter boats.
Trojan owners collectively listed an approval rating of 82.5 percent, on a par with Bayliner owners (PBR, July 1995), but several percentage points lower than Chris-Craft (another company with a fragmented customer base), and well below Carver owners, for example, in our most recent survey. As a group, however, Trojan owners gave a respectable B rating for the value of their boats, higher than Sea Ray or Mainship owners and second only to Carver.
As they did in 1992, Classic 32 owners gave their boats A ratings for interior layout—one of the boat’s undeniable strong points—and low-speed, or docking, handling. Low-speed handling, in fact, got high ratings all around. Owners of the 32 gave their lowest approval rating—77 percent—for layout of the helm; only 10 Meter owners, at 75 percent, rated their helms lower. Classic 36 owners, by comparison, gave interior layout a B- (Trojan gave the 36 two extra feet of cockpit and expanded the saloon, but stole space from an already cramped galley). The bigger boat—no surprise here—also received higher marks, solid Bs, for sleeping accommodations and cockpit/deck layout.
The 10 Meter, typical of the express cruisers, posted the highest grade, a perfect 100, for performance (credit the Delta Conic hull, once again), but just a C for its helm station and a C- for its cramped (and oddball) berthing arrangements.
As in most other survey’s we’ve done, owners of newer boats were generally more satisfied, especially in the fit & finish and performance categories. Naturally enough, boats built between 1986 and 1992—a mixture of old-style and express cruisers—got the best marks for value. Many of these marks are, of course, subjective, and in certain areas, specifically resale value, perception doesn’t necessarily mesh with reality.
Owners Tell Us…
Owners of Classic 32 and 36 models have, in many cases, long years of experience with their boats and thus few illusions. They also operate from the perspective of being able to compare their boats to newer boats. As a result, outdated helms, galleys, and heads tend to be downgraded when compared to their better-equipped and more ergonomic counterparts on contemporary boats.
Trojan made few major changes to the 32 Flybridge Sedan over its lifespan (1973-1992), during which some 2,700 models were sold, making it a best-seller by any standard. One was to make the lower, secondary steering station optional (everyone steers from the flying bridge, anyway) and a second was to replace the earlier V-berth with a center island berth.
Obviously, the boat, as originally designed, appealed to a broad range of buyers. One of its appeals is its clean and simple lines. “The boat is very attractive—everybody comments on it,” wrote the owner of a 1987 boat based on Florida’s west coast. Although the cockpit is fairly short—about six feet—for this size boat, most owners seem willing to make the tradeoff for extra room in saloon, which is open and airy, with lots of headroom. “This boat has a better interior layout than any other 32-foot ‘modern-style’ boat I have seen,” said another Florida owner, who bought his 1988 model used in 1991.
Built of standard, but solid, chopped strand and 24-ounce woven roving, the Classic hulls have aged well. In fact, the survey was devoid of complaints about structural defects, except for minor fit and finish problems. “It’s a good solid boat for the money,” said the owner of the 1987 boat in Florida. “I haven’t spent anything except for engine work, generator work, canvas, and bottom paint.”
The most common complaint about the 32 was its handling at speed, especially in any kind of sea. “I bought this boat new and it would broach when running with a following sea,” said the owner of a 1988 model. He corrected the broaching problem by installing larger rudders, but then found his hydraulics were inadequate to operate the rudders. This owner was one of just a few 32 owners who said he wouldn’t buy another Trojan. Another reader said the modified-V hull (9 degrees deadrise aft) “pounds terribly in a short chop, but goes straight without having to hold on to the steering wheel.” Yet another owner complained about inadequate fuel capacity (120 gallons) on his 1980 model; later versions carried 220 gallons in dual tanks (and some buyers added saddle tanks).
The newer International cruisers, as noted, posted a perfect score for high-speed handling and a strong A for docking maneuverability. “Stability is outstanding and docking is made easier by the width of the walkaround,” said the Maryland owner of a 1987 10 Meter. The same owner, however, complained about difficult access to the twin 454 engines, a common lament by owners of the 36 as well. Satisfaction with performance was almost universal throughout the express cruisers. “The ride of the Delta Conic hull is amazing. It will take far more pounding than we can,” commented David Cohen of Maryland, who owns a 1990 8.6 Meter. Still Cohen feels his outdrive trim is “ridiculously sensitive” and repeated the familiar complaint about difficult engine access.
Smallest of the Trojan Internationals, the
29-foot 8.6 Meter is a bit dated in looks, but
runs well on its Delta Conic hull.
The Classic 36 was produced in several configurations, including the Tri Cabin introduced in 1970 and the popular 36 Convertible, which arrived two years later; both were available with alternative interior layouts. Although the 36s, as a group, received just a C rating for fit and finish (with some justification), the hulls appear to be as solid as other Trojan boats, with no reports of major problems or gelcoat blistering (although we saw some signs of minor gelcoat crazing and worn nonskid). Writes one owner, of a 1982 Tri Cabin in Washington State, “I have hull plugs from a 34-foot Tollycraft; the Trojan plugs are thicker.” Kim Pollack, who cruises a 1987 model on Chesapeake Bay, said the “gelcoat (when waxed) still looks new, the stainless is in great shape, (and) the engines (with almost 600 hours on them) don’t burn or leak any oil. We can efficiently cruise at 9 knots on about 6 gallons/hour.”
While the 36s got a higher (B) rating for cruising than the 32s, there were complaints here as well. One owner said his 1974 model handled well at lower speeds, but at about 17 knots tended to nod from side-to-side, requiring lots of steering. Several owners also felt the 36, with twin 350s, was underpowered.
Jim Korney, who charters his 1972-vintage 36 Convertible out of Newport, Rhode Island, is one of many owners of older versions who has faced the repowering issue. Korney chose to replace the existing 350 Mercs with 454 Chevy blocks, partly because of initial cost savings, but has had second thoughts about not going with diesel-power for more fuel economy (and range). He has made some alterations to the boat, notably replacing the aft deck (adding a higher crown for better drainage), but otherwise praises the boat for its handling, deck layout, and enclosed saloon, which provides refuge for his charter fishing parties. “The boat’s well designed for what I use it for,” he said.
Larry Warner, who now helps run Marine-Tech in Lancaster, which supplies replacement parts for older Trojans (see Contacts), said many customers choose diesel power when the gas engines give out. He recommends one of the smaller Cummins diesels or, for larger boats, the Caterpillar 3116.
Our Inspection Showed…
While most of the Trojans we saw in the water were of the classic variety, we did get a close look at some of the International models as well as the 350 and 370/390 newcomers from the new Trojan. Euro-styling or not, some of the International models, such as the 8.6 Meter sport a truncated look, with lots of bow but not much in the way of stern. The resulting aft “cabin” is too small for adults, but overnighters have the compensation of a pedestal Queen-size berth at the bow.
On the 11 Meter Express, the hull styling (and size: the beam is 14 feet) create an open feeling below, despite a lack of natural lighting; but again the master stateroom, aft of the head, is cramped and contorted in dimension. But it’s either that or stretch out in the open dinette/lounge area, where a Rube Goldberg arrangement converts part of the sofa into a bunk. We didn’t see any evidence of it, but several Express owners reported small, annoying leaks window leaks.
At 38 feet, with a beam of 12 feet, the 350 can be considered the successor to the old 11 Meter. So why does it feel so small for its size on deck? Well, from the length, you can subtract the 30 inches of swim platform as well as the bow pulpit. From the width, there are 10-inch sidedecks in the cockpit, plus furniture and other obstructions. We measured six feet by three feet of walkable sole in the aft cockpit.
We were unable to get any design or construction details from Trojan, despite several calls to the Wisconsin plant. A brochure said the line, from hull to interiors, apparently, was the work of Fulvio DeSimoni Yacht Design of Milan. What we gathered from a look at one of their owner manuals was that the hull, like older models, is a fairly standard laminate consisting of chopped strand and woven roving, with a vinylester resin barrier below the water line for osmotic blistering protection. The hull-deck joint is the tried-and-true shoebox lid arrangment, fastened with Sikaflex and stainless steel screws, backed with plywood. Balsa wood, plywood, aluminum, and synthetic materials are used for coring in appropriate places “for stiffness and insulation,” according to the manual. Trojan provides a five-year hull warranty, including two years of blistering coverage.
Glasswork on the 1995 model we looked at appeared solid, above and below; fit and finish were okay, but not perfect (we found loose fibers inside a storage bin on deck, and a crude sealing job in a crack behind some cushions). Down below, the door to the portside head was sticking; the most noticeable lapses in finish involved installation of wood trim, where screw holes inside cabinets were left rough, and not all joints fit snugly. The woodwork wasn’t bad—but certainly not up to Lancaster craftsmen standards. After a season on the water, the smaller fittings had held up well; the only sign of rusting we saw was at the exhausts.
The main saloon of the 350 is fairly spacious, with about 6′ 4″ of headroom. Head, with shower stall, and galley are to port; the saloon settee is along the starboard side, beneath storage cabinets and a large AC and DC panel arrangment, which is behind a framed glass lift-up door—a neat arrangment that permits viewing without raising the lid.
The 33-foot 10 Meter International Express,
like its larger cousin, the 39-foot 11 Meter,
offers some good bargains for those who like
Instead of attemping to squeeze in an aft cabin, the 350 uses the step-down space under the helm area for another table and U-shaped settee. Separated as it is and with just over three feet of sitting headroom, this is a place you can send “bad” guests to take their cocktails. Although the boat is rated to sleep six, we’ll do our sleeping in the V-berth, thank you. There’s a respectable 35-40 inches of sitting headroom above the pedestal, or island, berth, which measures 75 inches by 56 inches at its longest and widest points. A Bomar hatch above lets in plenty of light and provides another exit; we found evidence of leaks/condensation along the interior, however. We’d fix that fast, and we’d definitely do something about the four mirror panels gracing the forward bulkhead. All in all, a fairly open space that may owe something to the somewhat bulging lines of the European hull style.
The 390 we climbed around was boat-show bright. Instead of the odd pedestal-type companionway steps on the 350, the 390 has a carpeted spiral stairway that provides one of the more elegant entrances to a boat we’ve seen. And while one International owner dismissed the new, Fulvio-inspired interiors as both “flashy” and “sterile,” we kind of liked the 390’s, which is done in off-white with maple trim. The 390 (LOA: 39′ 4″; beam: 13′ 6″) seemed spacious, with a roomy settee to port and an efficient L-shaped galley opposite. There’s sufficient storage below and above the galley, but the slight edge of counter trim is more decoration than an actual fiddle.
The 390 (which was drawing a crowd) sports a somewhat more spacious lounge area in the after part of the cabin, and contains a proportionately larger stateroom in the bows. The cabin has its own entrance—always a welcome feature—to the comfortably-sized head to starboard, where a curved sliding door converts the head into a shower stall. There’s a lip to keep the water from draining into saloon or cabin, but expect some mopping up within the head. Of course, it’s hard to tell at a boat show how well everything will hold up; one owner of a 1993 370/390, while basically pleased with his boat (except for the head), reported failures of “three dozen little things”—cabinet hardware falling off, inoperable switches, nonworking spotlight and nav light, etc.
Both boats, like the new 440, have vinyl liners everywhere, including the inside backs of cabinets, which makes for easy cleaning and should cut down on the mildewing problems experienced by owners of older Trojans, both traditional and the European expresses, which had fabric covering and required much ventilating in the absence of a dehumidifier. We didn’t inspect a 440, but talked to an owner (who had broken ranks and moved up from an International), who says he is very happy with his new boat. Unlike its smaller cousins, the 440 has sufficient space for a full aft cabin, giving it two private staterooms. “It’s really the boat to buy, because it’s easy to live on,” said the new owner. “It’s really set up for living for a couple of weeks at a time, not a couple of days.” This owner also takes exception to the “glitzy” label: “It’s not slick, it’s sumptuous.”
The Used-Boat Market Tells Us…
Trojan owners feel strongly that their boats have held their value well. And in some cases they are accurate. Classic 32 owners felt the strongest, with 92 percent experessing confidence in the continuing value of their boats. According to the used-boat price guides, they are right, with a 1989 model, for example, declining just 29 percent in resale value (see Market Scan, pages 6-7). A 32-foot Bayliner motoryacht, by contrast, shows a loss of 43 percent of original value in just four years; a 1988 34-foot Mainship III also depreciated by 43 percent over the first six years; only Carver, which traditionally holds its value well, was close, with its 1988 Aft Cabin 2307 depreciating 31 percent in six years. The F-36 also has retained its value, according to the price guides, matching the 32 with just 29 percent depreciation for a 1989 model.
The pricing situation gets more complicated with the International express cruisers, some of which, in the last days of the old Trojan company, were selling for less than wholesale. Used-boat bargains were even greater, well below suggested prices in the used-boat guides. Daniel Coluccio of New Jersey said he paid less than $65,000 for a 1987 10 Meter Flybridge in 1993. “After some research,” he wrote, “I discovered that this boat had listed for about $150,000 in 1987!” The problem, as former Trojan dealers have said before, was not the quality of the boat, but the overpricing necessitated by Trojan’s production and financial troubles.
Bargains like this should result in severe depreciation of boats such as the 10 Meter but, in fact, the price guides are showing an average loss of 34 percent for the 1989 10 Meter. But then, the the ABOS Blue Book also shows, for the model with twin gas engines, a new-boat price of $119,900. But we talked with owners, who paid $125,000 and more for their 1989s. Prices for 10 Meters in a recent Soundings issue varied from $60,000 to about $80,000 for a 1987 model. Silvertons and Sea Rays could be considered competition for Trojan in these models. Although it’s difficult to find head-to-head comparisons, the 1989 Silverton 37 Convertible, according to ABOS and N.A.D.A., shows an average depreciation of 40 percent, the 1990 Sea Ray 350 a drop of 30 percent.
Faltering production left a few orphan Trojan models, almost one-offs and with little (we’d guess) popular appeal. The 8.6 Meter, the smallest of the International expresses, was built from 1988-1990, but not in any great numbers. At 29 feet, with its squared-off transom, it lacks both looks and interior space. As one (not entirely dissatisfied) owner said, “I should have realized that while I was buying a 1990 look, I was also buying early 1980s engineering and design.” According to the price guides, The 8.6 has fared the worst among Trojans in the used market, with the 1989 version losing an average of 43 percent of its value in six years.
Mild confusion reigning in the Trojan field can work to the buyer’s advantage—if Trojan offers what you seek. Although there are fewer bargains among the classic 32 and 36 cruisers, there’s also more to value than price. It’s an even better deal if the previous owner(s) have repowered and upgraded equipment, as many have. Geoffrey Duncan of Safety Harbor, Florida has owned three classic 32s over the last 18 years. “I would consider pre-owned 32s and 36s on the market today, in good or above average condition, to be an extraordinary value for someone wanting a good buy in a used boat,” Duncan said.
If you like the styling, there are good values to be found among the International boats as well, especially the larger 11 and 12 Meters. While we haven’t encountered any tales of major structural problems among any of the Trojans, complaints about fit and finish and failures of small pieces of gear would prompt us to give these boats a careful inspection. And while you might be able to buy cheap, don’t look for a great return at resale time.
Nor should you worry, as readers did during our ’92 survey, about being left without manufacturer support, with Larry Warner and John Leed, another Trojan veteran, supplying parts, including smaller moldings, for the early models. Marine-Tech drew praise from half a dozen readers for its friendly and competent service.
Trojan’s earlier woes, and uncertainty about the future under Carver, can also help the new-boat buyer. Chuck Willett of Boston, Massachusetts went to a boat show last year intending to buy a Sea Ray. When the dealer wouldn’t deal, Willett ended up with a Trojan 350 at a price he could afford and has no regrets. Although time (and a lack of data from Trojan) make it difficult to assess the performance or integrity of the newer models, the lamination work seems adequate, if not high-tech, there’s a reasonable warranty, and the styling—if you like it—is the sort of subdued European we could live with.
Contacts— Trojan Yachts, Box 1010, Pulaski, WI 54162; 414/822-3214. Marine-Tech, 2821 Old Tree Dr., Lancaster, PA 17603; 717-397-2471.
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