Shootout multi-champion Vern Gilbert of Lake Havasu City, AZ-based West Coast Drives—owner of the 1990 40’ Skater known as Predator I—has sold the iconic craft to another speedboating celebrity: Slug Hefner.
Hefner, of Poplar Bluff, MO, has owned a variety of Mystics, including an M4200 center console, the first C3800 cat out of the mold (as well as another C4000), and a 50′ Mystic that he still owns and operates. His boats all bear the name Dirty Duck.
Originally owned by Tucson, AZ’s Shootout legend Gary Smith, Predator was purchased by Gilbert around 2009, and the two have run the boat together at events across the country.
It’s famous for having taken shootout trophies at both the Lake of the Ozarks and the Texas Outlaw Challenge. The Skater is powered by twin Carson Brummett engines putting out 2,300 hp, with Number 6 drives, and is capable of exceeding 200 mph.
The deal, conceived and brokered by Super Cat Fest organizer Alvin Heathman, is unique in that Hefner plans to repurpose Predator’s engines and rigging, and transfer it all to the 438 Skater previously raced on the offshore circuit as MCON. (The current MCON, a 388 Skater, is currently being campaigned by driver Myrick Coil and throttleman Tyler Miller, and is the current leader in OPA’s Super Cat class, while the previous 438 MCON was owned by Tyler and Lindsey Miller, who sold the boat to Slug.) This will be a fall/winter project, after which the Predator hull will be sold to a new buyer.
“I’m sort of retiring,” Gilbert tells Speedboat. “At my age, I’m done. Slug and Alvin made me a decent offer on the boat. It works for them, and it works for me. Alvin’s been really good to me, and I’ve known Slug for years. It breaks my heart to sell it, but at the same time, I just don’t have the energy to do it anymore.”
Gilbert, 73, suffered his third stroke several weeks ago, but considers himself lucky to have achieved so much in his career. “We won the Texas event twice, the Ozarks six times in our class, and we won the King of the Desert award as well—that boat’s been very, very good to me,” he says.
Hefner, 75, is looking forward to the project, which will begin shortly after Gilbert hauls the boat to Missouri. “I’ve always admired those Carson Brummett engines,” he says. “We’re going to have the motors freshened up and gone through. That boat is also loaded up with really good hardware, and they spent a lot of extra money on it. That’s the concept. It’ll be a quicker process than trying to get one built from scratch. Eventually we will sell the hull.”
He chuckles and adds: “Believe it or not, somebody has already expressed interest in it.”