IF THERE'S ONE LESSON to be learned from the wild commercial success of General Motors' Hummer line, it's that Americans have a thing for badass military chic. So it comes as no surprise that Zodiac, the longtime maker of boats used by marine commandos and anti-whaling activists, this spring introduced the CZ7 Ultimate Adventure Boat, a modified version of the sleek craft currently employed by Navy SEAL teams from the Persian Gulf to the Korean Peninsula.
Zodiac Ultimate Adventure Boat
Built with a fiberglass hull and inflatable collar, the 24-foot CZ7 can top 50 miles per hour, is highly maneuverable, andif you don't like dockscan make beach landings. The cockpit features suspension "saddles" to keep the four-man crew from bouncing into the drink; a headset intercom system (with satellite radio so you can tune in the Village People's "In the Navy"); and an optional infrared surveillance monitor. "It has Gucci extras, but everything's as tough as woodpecker lips," says Rick Scriven, 45, a former marine and a VP at Zodiac. "I'd take it into combat."
Of course, few civilians know how to operate such a rig at full throttle, so Zodiac has launched its Extreme Excursions Academy, a traveling program in which former Coast Guard instructors teach CZ7 buyers to catch air and pull three-G turns on their local waterways. For added spice, students can request that their one- to two-day course include a mock special-ops raid on a terrorist camp or an Indiana Jonesstyle treasure hunt.
At $195,000, the CZ7 is a remarkably expensive way to make an impression. But before you dismiss it, remember that when the first Hummer rolled out, in 1992, few industry experts thought it would ever amount to more than a novelty item for Arnold wannabes. Last year, 28,000 H2's sold for roughly $55,000 apiece, and Zodiac insists the market is ripe for a similar marine fad. "The perfect customer is a commodities trader," says Laura Teller, president of the Princeton, New Jerseybased TellerGroup, which did marketing research for the CZ7. "A high- energy, high-risk adrenaline junkiewith lots of money."