Bayliner Cobra: Avant-Garde or Junk Yard

Bayliner Cobra: Avant-Garde or Junk Yard

First, a brief history of Bayliner. The name was purchased from a small manufacturer by John Orin Edson in 1961, he turned it into the highest volume boat manufacturer in the world. Subsequently, he sold it to Brunswick in 1986 for about $425 million. In the Edson days and the early Brunswick days, they made tons of boats and several models, their specialty was the affordable turnkey family boat, $9k boat, motor and trailer and you’re on the water. That’s still the basic model, cheap family boats.  

In the early eighties, Bayliner had a model, which was sort of a line I guess, called Cobra. They made a 16 foot initially, then introduced a 16, 18 and a 22 in 1986, during the Brunswick days. I have to give credit to the designers, the boats looked pretty good but they performed horribly. And, as most boaters know, Bayliner was never known for quality. I would say the older ones, the Edson days, were better quality but the US Marine / Brunswick boats were not well built. 

 Beautiful, look at that seating layout. 

Beautiful, look at that seating layout. 

To revisit those designs you have to be impressed by the forward thinking they had. The 1800 was and still is a very sleek looking boat. Some family friends of mine have one and have owned it since new, they take amazing care of it and it looks great. The 1800 had one of the most radical windshields I have ever seen. Cobra interiors were very creative with unique seating and an automotive style dash. If it had a good hull design and the quality was just a little better, the boats would be legendary. But they didn’t. One funny thing is the back seats are angled in and set in the transom well, so you’re basically sitting beside the engine and facing it. Another thing about that sleek windshield is that it was perfectly lined up to knock all your teeth out if you hit it for some reason. 

The Cobras didn’t perform all that well and by the early 90s, Bayliner went in another direction. Before they did though, the last Cobra models became bass boats and they had one very innovative design that one of the best boat companies in the world, Allison, makes today. The design was a low profile center console bass boat, very cool idea. 

Bayliner Cobra

Design

Innovative center console bass boat, seats 4.  

I will not recommend restoring a Cobra but if you found an 1800 for basically free and it seemed solid enough, it might be fun. You would probably have to spend some time on the hull because most of them had a rocker in the hull and porpoised really badly. I’ll give credit to innovative design and futuristic styling but they are junk.  

Have you seen our Classified Classics section? Click here for our opinion on boats for sale. Is it a beater or a bargain? 

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