The Top Outboard Tunnel Hulls Under 22 Feet, You Can Buy Now
This is a difficult category because there are so many small tunnel hulls that are great and there are some that are just over 22 feet that are good options as well. I am going to separate it for 22 feet and under and will follow up with the bigger hulls soon.
Growing up I never had the opportunity to drive a tunnel until later when my brother got an STV. But, when I was a kid in the late 1980s, a young guy had a blue 19 Eliminator Daytona with a 200 Mariner just down the bay from us. He would go by our place often and it was always thought of as one of the fastest boats on our lake. There seems to be a divide between tunnel hull enthusiasts and V-hull enthusiasts. I am both, each design has pros and cons. Small tunnels are amazing because they can be super stable at high speed, are efficient and often look amazing with their low and wide profile. In general, rivers and lakes lend themselves well to the small tunnels and they are very popular in the west, less so in the east. They might not have the same cockpit space as a V-hull can but you can still usually pack 4 or 5 people in one, so beach runs and taking a small group out is not out of the question. Additionally, the driving experience is very different between tunnels and V-hulls. A well setup tunnel can be run safely at high speeds by remaining flat and doesn’t experience the balancing and chine walking issues that V-hulls can experience when you really start flying. Some V-hullers think tunnels can blow over easily but generally, you would really have to be pushing the limits and you can look at driver error more often than not in the event of a blow over. I’d say a small tunnel is actually safer, in general, at high speeds. Most small tunnels can feel solid well into the 90 MPH range and beyond 100 MPH, whereas almost any small V-hull over 100 MPH would have Super Dave Osborne shitting his pants.
What can you buy right now? Most of the hulls available have been around for a while and are proven. These are some of the best, there are probably more, which is a great thing about the boat industry, we still have a decent number of small companies building boats. All of the hulls are center pod tunnels / Mod VP class designs. Mod VP simply refers to a specific race class (Vee Production). You see many larger Catamarans with a true 2 sponson tunnel design (referred to as asymmetrical tunnels) but it’s rare for small pleasure boats. F1 style race boats are a true tunnel hull (air entrapment) as well but that design has many drawbacks for pleasure use. Center pod designs are great for overall performance, with a more forgiving ride and handling, plus they remove the common porpoise or hop that some full tunnels have.
Variations of asymmetrical and symmetrical tunnel hull designs. (AeroMarine Research)
Eliminator Boats, 19 and 21 Daytona - Website
One of the quintessential custom boat builders, Eliminator has been building boats in California since 1969. The 19 Daytona is my favorite because, although it is one of the oldest designs, it still looks radical yet doesn’t need crazy power to run fast. If you were going new, a 175 Pro XS would be adequate to be in the 80s, while being super efficient. If you could get your hands on a 200 Optimax XS from Mercury Racing, you’d have a rocket ship. The 21 is a beautiful boat. If the 19 is just too much of a hot rod, the 21 can be a little more practical and run the newer heavier engines, yet retains the low slung look that you can’t get on the bigger hulls. Quality is top notch and the boats can be customized almost any way you want. Bob Leach started the company after building a flat bottom V drive with some friends and recognized a market for it. He started making boats in a space in a gas station in Huntington Park, California and that is how one of the most legendary performance boat companies started. The 19 Daytona was introduced in 1973 when the gas crisis created challenges for the industry but it was a key reason Eliminator survived. Bob is still part of the company today and many employees have been with the company for over 30 years. From Mod VP racing back in the day to exotic pleasure boats, Eliminator does it all from the 19 to a 40 foot Daytona and a 43 Eagle V-Hull. The 19 Daytona is 18’7 with an 85’ beam and weighs about 1,400 Lbs.
Slightly bigger yet still low slung, copied many times, popular for racing.
Screaming Eagle Boats, Talon 22 - Website
The Talon 22 is without a doubt one of the most stunning designs of any boat from any time. I remember seeing one in a magazine as a kid and it literally looked like a spaceship compared to other boats. With a wide stance and swept back fairing, the small Talon looks like it was designed in a wind tunnel by an F1 racing team. But, it was actually designed and originally built by Gary Armington, who previously built a 21 that was unique but not the caliber the 22 is. Not long ago the molds exchanged hands and are now being built by Screaming Eagle Boats. The owner Todd Lamb, has posted some awesome builds recently and it looks like they are doing a great job. You can get a brand new one from them and when rigged with a 300 XS will eclipse 100 MPH no problem. Still one of the nicest looking small tunnels around, they are a center pod design that can handle big power and is a really stable boat that is near impossible to beat. The hull is exactly 22’ with an 8’ beam and weighs about 1,150 Lbs.
Liberator Boats, 21 Liberator - Website
If you want classic design, solid build and a hull that can handle any power, this is a great boat. Built in Crowley Texas, the 21 Liberator is known to drive very well and can handle some chop, making it ideal for a variety of conditions. Liberator makes a 25 and a 30, which are very beautiful boats but I have a soft spot for smaller boats. The hulls utilize 1 oz hand laid cloth to prevent print through, high quality resins and the deck is core matted. Interior finishings are all high end and there is no wood throughout. The hull weighs just over 1,000 Lbs. You can buy a Liberator and keep it forever and you will probably want to, it's a beautiful timeless boat. With a 300 XS you can expect to be over 100. One option is to have one custom rigged to your specs by Randy Corson in Florida. He recently did one with a Mercury Racing 400 R, custom everything and I believe it runs in the 115 MPH range. You could run a 250 XS and be in the 90s, making a really sweet package.
The Liberator seats 4 comfortably and is fairly practical, making a great family boat that can rip.
KMG Custom Boats, Phantom 22 - Website
KMG is a custom boat builder in California, specializing in a few handcrafted models as well as fiberglass repair, restorations and custom paint. They do beautiful work. If you’re after one of the sleekest 22s out there, this is it. Based on the original DCB Mach 22, this hull is 22’ exactly and features a really wide 90.5’ beam, weighing just under 2,000 Lbs. The 22 Phantom, like the Mach 22, is stunning. KMG offers custom builds with colors in the gel or custom paint if you prefer and they do amazing paint work. They do offer a “sportdeck” open bow version, but I’d go with the closed deck, keeping with the sleek lines of the hull. As many performance boats are, the hull is full composite and rigging looks incredible, keeping inline with the reputation of custom California builders. The Phantom is not as quick as the others in this write up but it performs really well and is one of the most unique boats you can buy. Expect to see just over 100 MPH with a 400R.
Rigged and built like you would expect from a top California custom builder.
Left hand drive, the interior is stunning. Over size toggles, custom seats, nice layout.
Full Throttle Powerboats, STV - Website
Full Throttle Powerboats of Florida builds the venerable STV River Rocket, Euro and Mod VP. Every hull is fully custom, full composite and very light; about 600 Lbs for a “normal” layup to 350 Lbs. for an ultra light kevlar layup. To be fair, these are more race orientated than the others in this category. The origins of these storied hulls lies in racing. Laser boats of Texas had a race division and competed in the Mod VP class at the time. The 380 Ray, Laser was used but then modified into the 18 LTV (Laser Tunnel Vee), which became synonymous with STV (Summerford Tunnel Vee). In fact it was a damaged Ray that spawned the 18 LTV. Once the company split, it was STV going forward and the Roark Summorford built designs evolved and continued to race from 1985 to 1996. The 19 foot hull was marked as the “Ski Bottom” a very fast race boat that could be built with different decks, the Pro Comp, Euro and Ski. That’s confusing. And later a Race Bottom configuration was built and available in the River Rocket deck. Crazy fast boats, obviously layup will determine speeds. My brother has an 18 STV with a Bridgeport and it is a very cool boat. STVs are serious boats and are among the fastest out there.
The Mod VP class which allowed V hull and center pod tunnels to compete spawned some of the fastest hulls created and some legendary boats. The LTV, Stoker and Daytona to name a few. Many manufacturers competed and you can find many from the 80s and 90s still around.
Liberator Boats of Florida, Randy Corson - Website
Randy Corson in Florida builds custom Liberators and other hulls with high level rigging and custom paint work.