The newly relaunched company strikes a good balance between go-fast and luxury cruising.

By Bill Jennings

As an experienced and knowledgeable boater, you’ve grown quite accustomed to travelling at high speeds over choppy water.  At the same time, you also appreciate the finer things in life, such as smooth sailing, gourmet meals and all the other creature comforts associated with luxury cruising. Black Thunder has never lost sight of their goal to build a boat that provides both of these experiences in one package.  

Last spring, the company was relaunched when founder Don Jenkins decided to retire. 

A group of specialized business professionals took over the reins, bringing with them an infusion of capital. They include John York, marketing; Lance Hedrick, performance package development; Robert Mansur, business development; Kenn Davin, electrical design; Becky Bailliez, marine smart systems; and Bob Jenkins, manufacturing. Using his valued experience, Don Jenkins still offers design advice.     

The group’s mandate is to expand the company with a core of new and even more appealing model offerings. To make this possible, the new Black Thunder Powerboats began by renovating their 57,000-square-foot production facility in Hannibal, MO. 

The premiere model for Black Thunder has been the 46’ twin step. It has contributed significantly to a total sales volume for the company of over 450 units.  This proven model in 2017 topped the charts for V-Hulls at the Lake of the Ozarks Shoot Out, registering a blistering 161 mph without emptying the wine rack. In addition to such world class offshore performance, this boat has also laid claim to being one of the world’s most comfortable offshore yachts.  

None-the-less, Bob Jenkins and the new management team have found ways to further improve their models and have incorporated many changes into new Black Thunder Models. Changes include a redesigned bow entry for improved ride and an extended aft platform to reduce exhaust sound in the cabin. A state-of-the-art navigation and entertainment system will be installed in all models, to enhancing passenger comfort and enjoyment. The new group also promises improved manufacturing procedures with tight quality control. 

With the new 48’ now in production, Black Thunder has turned their attention to the Black Thunder 43’ where similar modifications are being applied. The 43’ will have new versions added to it, including the ‘Poker Run Special’, powered by either staggered Mercury Racing 1100s or staggered twin Mercury Racing 860s, both with M6 drives. For the first time, an outboard powered version is available with four Mercury Verado 400R’s clamped onto the transom.

Most performance boaters we have met consider speeds over 100 mph to represent high performance. Very few boaters buy a boat because it could be competitive in an APBA unlimited class, most find a good safe offshore that can break the 100-mph mark with the whole family aboard, keeping everybody is happy. Black Thunder knows this and builds their boats with a 23-degree dead-rise, twin steps, and sufficient horses to hang with the best. High end rigging, such as carbon fiber panels with Livorsi Gauges and sticks further the feel of exciting performance.  The spacious cockpit in the 48’ includes custom buckets for seven and the 8’6” beam allows owners to easily trailer to where the action is. 

What if you want to join your local yacht club on a four-day cruise?  As you can imagine, a 38’ tunnel hull may not fit the bill. But, a 43’ or 48’ V-bottomed Black Thunder with a raised deck, has the volume to handle a lot more than a pop-up toaster and gives passengers in the cabin stand up headroom, something you simply won’t find on any other performance boat. Black Thunder pride themselves on their interiors, using fabric and paint colors to suit the customer’s personal taste.  With nine-foot couches, heating and air conditioning, a large stateroom, entertainment center and a complete galley, you may not want to leave the dock.  

Does Black Thunder meet their goal of providing a luxury cruising experience with the power to keep up with the other go-fast boats on the market?  We feared that this goal might result in an unsatisfying compromise between speed and comfort. Fortunately, our fears were unfounded, and we concluded that for the boats who want a go-fast boat that offers cruising amenities, Black Thunder is the perfect solution. 

Black Thunder owners keep in touch with each other long after their purchase and enjoy a host of product discounts through free membership in the company’s Owner’s Club, sponsored and paid for by the factory.  It’s just another thoughtful step that Black Thunder takes to make their buyers happy. 

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Poker Runs America is North America premiere promoter of poker runs. Their website and magazine showcase the latest in offshore racing and high-performance powerboats, along with event listings and a rundown in all the latest racing tech.