By Bob Carter
Performance Boat editor
Through my involvement in power boat racing and the VSBC, (Victorian Speed Boat Club), I had the highest respect for Dave Gill as a boat builder who had a flair for designing fast and successful race boats plus the skill as a timber boat builder to turn out amazing race boats.
David and Kevin founded Gilflite on race boats, but eventually they were destined to become one of Australia’s foremost fibreglass ski boat manufacturers. In December 1979 the Gilflite fibreglass production ski-boat, ‘Spitfire’, graced the cover of Australian Powerboat magazine. According to my article, brothers David and Kevin Gill designed the hull in December 1976. But before going into production the hull was modified and developed to be one of the sweetest riding and handling hulls of the era.
Powered by a Holden 308 and driving through the new and inspired Gilflite soft-clutch, the Spitfire impressed me greatly. Wound out, the hull returned a top speed of 52 mph at just 4700 rpm. The riding attitude was sweet, the ‘screen’ a stunner … “it is indeed rare to test an inboard ski boat which has so few vices, yet so many attributes.”
Can you believe that the test rig was just $7825 on the trailer, turn-key?
Not long after this test was published, the magazine editor introduced an annual PowerBoat Magazine, boat testers Boat of the Year feature. Each of the contributing journos had to nominate the boat, which impressed them the most over the preceding year of tests. I had no hesitation in declaring the Gilflite Spitfire as my Boat of the Year.
In the day, PowerBoat magazine was a powerful medium for the powerboat market. I’ve got no doubt that the test and then the Boat of the Year accolade contributed to the popularity and sales success of the Spitfire. Much more significant to the success of the Spitfire though, was the simple fact that this was an exceptional ski boat and the boat buying public were smart enough to recognise it.
If only it still carried a price tag of $7825.