Founded in 1969 by one of the most charismatic boat builders ever, Don Aronow, the Cigarette brand has managed to stay around through wars, recessions, high interests rates, gas shortages and all of the rest of it. Our guess is that the Cigarette brand will out-live us all. Today the Cigarette boats being built are better than ever -- and faster than ever, thanks to its owner the last 10 years and to a new breed of engine produced by Mercury Racing.
- Sea strainers with fresh water flush
- Power bolsters
- Color GPS
- Halon system
- Gas sniffer
- Hydraulic cabin door with built in steps
|Length Overall||38' 9'' / 11.8 m|
Acceleration Times & Conditions
|Time to Plane||n/a|
|0 to 30||n/a|
|Props||32'' 4-blade stainless|
|Load||5 persons, full fuel, full water, min. gear|
|Climate||75 deg., 75% humid., wind: 15-20 knots; seas: 2-4 feet|
2 x 550-hp MerCruiser 575 SCi (Bravo I)
2 x 525-hp Mercury Racing 525 EFI Bravo One XR
2 x 600-hp Mercury Racing 600 Sci Bravo One XR
We have not been asked to test a Cigarette since 2001 when we tested four of them. The following year Skip Braver, a Chicago businessman, bought the company and it was taken in a new direction. Over the years, since the death of Aronow, Cigarette had been owned by a number of people that considered it more of a hobby than anything else, but Braver had a different vision.
The New Cigarette Company
Cigarettes are no longer built in the small, disheveled shop on 188th St. -- the dusty Thunderboat Alley in North Miami that was re-zoned residential to make way for condos on a canal. Now, the boats are built in a 130,000 sq. ft. factory in Opa-Laka, Florida which takes its inspiration not from the old Aronow days, but from the likes of Porsche and AMG sports car factories. They are famous for their pristine factory floors and assembly workers in white coats.
Cigarette's new direction is because Skip Braver is a former sports car dealer, among other things, and is a stickler for details. In the beginning Braver dreamed of putting the Cigarette brand on all manner of up-scale consumer items such as sunglasses and watches, but that possibility has been put on the back burner. For several years now, in the words of one associate, Braver's main focus has been in building the best Cigarette boats possible.
The Cigarette name has become synonymous for high-speed, high-testosterone powerboats. People who wouldn't know the difference between a Nordhavn and a canoe know what a Cigarette looks like...or, almost.
In the beginning, Cigarettes were for racing. But since there are only a limited number of people who wanted to race, most were sold to the general public. Under Braver's stewardship racing has been dropped as a focus, and recreational boats is its primary business. As day boats they are designed to go reasonably fast, make a lot of noise, and catch the attention of anyone on the water or in a waterside bistro or snuggery.
Since the 38 Top Gun is the smallest Cigarette, it is the "entry-level" boat into that lifestyle.
Over the last couple of decades, poker runs have become popular and it is here that many Cigarettes strut their stuff. These days most poker runs are more like a boat rendezvous for all sorts of boats, not just high-performance. They have become outings for the whole family in many cases. Needless to say, at the marina before and after the poker runs, the Cigarettes get their share of the spectator attention.
Since Cigarettes are custom boats, each owner may have his own slightly different mission. For some that may mean being able to travel at over 100 mph on the water and with twin 700-hp Mercury racing engines that can be accomplished. Other owners may want them just to rumble out of the harbor then blast down the coast and back for a high-speed cruise on the water. Note a few owners take them restaurant hopping on a Sunday afternoon.
Image Is Important
We have been told through advertising and at the Cigarette display at the Florida boats shows that these boats are "babe magnets". The brand has cultivated the "bad boy" image of untamed wildness on the water. This was one of the legacies of founder Don Aronow who lead a personal life that most men could only marvel at, although there were also many would-be imitators.
Now in this day and age, all of this might seem to be a bit retro as far as the ladies are concerned, but we are assured by the builder that the boat is really designed for family activities and that often the wife is the "babe." "Wives go along with the bad boy image," one staffer told us, "and they like it, too."
Today the company is working on "keeping Cigarette sexy" and it does that with its slinky models in its booths at major boat shows. But the real focus is on technology, keeping the boats current, and making them go fast and reliable. This is the big difference betweent the Cigarettes of old and the new generation.
Reliability vs Speed
With the advent of catamarans in the '80s, and huge engines in the '90s, Cigarette could no longer produce the fastest boats -- that were also reliable -- for the recreational market. Hopped-up engines simply don't last and never have. And, it is tough for a deep-V monohull to beat catamarans in flat water, particularly when the Cigarettes have a 24-degree deadrise at the transom. They were made for rough water and maximum speed.
Braver struck an exclusive agreement with Mercury Racing, a division of Mercury Marine, that has built high-horsepower engines for 70 years. Twin 525-hp Mercury's are standard on the 38 Top Gun. Optional upgrades are available. They all have a one-year warranty from Mercury Racing for recreational use.
Made For Speed and Rough Water
In order to go fast, a boat needs to be light and narrow. The 38 Top Gun has a displacement of 9,900 lbs. (4,500-kgs.) and has an 8' (2.43 m) beam. This compares to a normal express cruiser which might run anywhere from 15,000 lbs. to 25,000 lbs. and be from 12' to 15' wide. Compared to other go-fast boats the 38 is about the same or even a bit heavier than some. One factory spokesperson told us, "Cigarette does not compromise on its construction for the sake of lightness to achieve speed."
Bottom shape is a given:
Ray Hunt designed a 24-degree deadrise boat for Dick Bertram and the first Moppie and that deadrise angle has stuck, at least at the transom. A constant deadrise angle was used years ago, but has been pretty much superseded by the variable deadrise that most naval architects use now when designing high-speed boats. By making the bows with a sharp entry they are more comfortable at high speed going through rough conditions.
The Cigarettes are made for rough conditions. That means not only does the 38 Top Gun have a deep-V hull, but it also has the stringer system and hull laminate to take the pounding that these boats are exposed to.
"Cover Girl" Cabin
Having said that, to keep weight down, there is precious little in the 38 Top Gun that does not need to be there. As a result the interior and cockpit are basic. The folks at Cigarette say that the cabin of the 38 is a "Cover Girl Cabin." What is that? A place where a lady powders her nose and little else. Porta-potties are optional.
The interior of the 38 is where someone can get out of the sun or rain, but is not a place where anyone would intentionally spend the night.
Standard Equipment & Imagination
It naturally follows that there is not much standard equipment on the 38. There are sea strainers, a fire suppression system, a gas sniffer, and a hydraulic companionway door, but that is about it.
There are not even many listed options available. But since the boat can be customized, use your imagination and ask for anything you want. All it takes is an open check book.
Customize Your Cigarette
Cigarettes are ideal platforms upon which to customize one's own high-speed dream boat. (In fact, that is how Braver came to own the company, but that is a story for another time.) The hulls and decks are standard, but other than that, the boat is pretty much a blank piece of paper upon which you can draw your wildest dreams. If you want a posh interior, simply work with the folks at Cigarette and have one built. The same goes for the cockpit and the hull color and graphics.
It is on hull graphics that we have seen the most innovation in Cigarettes.
Power for the Glory
Standard power for the 38 Top Gun is twin 525-hp Mercury Racing EFI 8.2 L engines driving Bravo I XR Sport Master lower units. There are optional, higher horsepower engines available. Contact the factory for the details.
Since we have not tested the boat, we have no idea how fast this model goes. The 38 Top Gun we tested in 2001 had twin 550-hp Mercury Racing engines and a top speed of 83.7 mph. But that was a long time ago, and the comparative weights of the boats are different.
Best Fuel Consumption is at WOT
Interestingly, the 38 in our test 10 years ago got its best fuel consumption at WOT -- .85 mpg., which is not bad, all things considered. Our test of the 42 Cigarette powered by the same engines got about the same mpg and was also most efficient at the top end. In offshore racing that is exactly how you want the engine to be set up -- maximum fuel efficiency at WOT so that you have a chance of finishing the race on one load of fuel.
Again, all of this is old news based on an engines and models that we tested in 2011, both of which are no longer in production. Hopefully, we will be asked to test the new boats sometime in the future.
What's the Bruise?
Cigarettes don't come cheap and never have. That is another legacy left by Aronow. The 38 Top Gun is the boat many new customers start with, and it is a pretty big boat. The Cigarette spokesperson would not be pinned down on the price for a new 38 because "it all depends on power and paint." Indeed, the engines are a hefty item and the options are many, and the paint jobs on many Cigarettes are done by real artists who might charge up to $75,000 for a difficult job.
As best we could determine, the starting price for a base boat with twin 525-hp engines is somewhere north of $300,000.
Today high-performance boat building is pretty much a cottage industry in a business which is little more than that overall. There are a dozen or so builders making high-performance boats, both monohulls and catamarans. All of the boats built by these builders tend to be on the expensive side. Unit sales are low for everyone.
We used to watch Don Aronow sell boats at the Miami boat show in his both and he was a master at it. Over the course of a year he might sell 50 boats, many of them himself. Tall, tanned, lean and handsome, he nearly always had a quick broad smile and a clever quip, and people enjoyed his sass -- including billionaires, presidents and kings.
His two favorite sales pitches were:
1. You can't afford this boat…or…
2. It's too much boat for you.
Aronow knew that those two lines were sure-fire ways to either see a checkbook opened fast, or get the prospect out of the way. Either way he got a kick out of it.
Just as with all boats, the best way to save money, is to buy one not two. And that would be our advice when it comes to the 38 Top Gun as well. If you are serious about this boat, we urge you to consider its biggest competition -- the 39 Top Gun Unlimited. It is longer and carries staggered engines that are larger than the 8.2 L models. You might end up with one of the new 9.0 liter aluminum block engines that Mercury Racing is building that have from 1100 to 1350 hp. If your checkbook can sustain the deduction, and you can handle the speed, we'd say go for the 39 Top Gun Unlimited in the first place.