- When it comes to buying a boat, there is a lot to be said for owning something that someone else will inevitably want to own too.
- The fact that the Targa 34 survived so long is testament to its successful design, both physically and aesthetically.
- … the appeal of this boat is just as wide as when it was launched two decades ago.
Greg Copp takes a nostalgic look at the Mark 1 and Mark 2 Fairline Targa 34 sports cruiser in his latest used boat test …
I have always had a passion for the Targa range, but from a driver’s perspective, the 34 has always been my number one choice. Few sports cruisers drive like the Targa 34. This boat has a remarkable ability to handle like a two-berth sports boat, albeit a 34ft one. Like the whole range, this boat has a Bernard Olesinski variable deep-vee hull, with a formidable design and outstanding reputation for seakeeping and handling. Unlike a conventional deep-vee hull with a transom deadrise angle of 20 degrees or more, the Fairline has a deadrise of just 18 degrees at the stern. However, it then increases quickly to around 25 degrees just aft of amidships, getting progressively sharper toward the bow.
The first time I drove a Targa 34 has always stuck in my mind, as what started as an easy run from Poole to Portsmouth soon got lively as we drove into an increasing easterly off the Needles. The boat had no problems dealing with the heightening wave pattern that was trying to make an impact on the bow. Running through the confused waters of the Needles channel at 30 knots that day was what powerboating is all about. Gunning the throttles to crest or cut through each wave was a joy with twin 285hp Volvo KAD300s, as the power-to-weight ratio meant I was able to deal with each wave accordingly. It might be built as a sports cruiser, but when you drive it in conditions like I encountered that day, you have no doubt there is a true offshore powerboat lurking within. As we headed east down the Solent in somewhat calmer but still feisty conditions, the GPS nudged that magical barrier of 40 knots.
This hugely successful boat was built in large numbers – with a production run of 295 over a 10-year period ending in 2006. The first version of the Targa 34, known unofficially as the Mark 1, was built between 1996 and 1998. This model was powered by either twin 200hp Volvo ADP41s or 230hp Volvo KAD42/43s, both on duo-prop sterndrives. There were four V8 petrol engine options ranging in size from 5.7L to 8.2L (260hp to 425hp), but I have yet to come across one in the UK. If you want one of these swift rare beasts you might find one in the Med or the States – and of course they will be a lot cheaper than a diesel boat.
All Mark 1s were built with an emerald green hull and have a different dash layout, including a bigger chart table than the subsequent Mark 2. The Mark 1 also has a different internal layout, with a smaller forecabin, which is pretty much filled by a large convertible V berth. It also has a larger heads, including a separate shower cubicle. The main cabin is also slightly larger in the Mark 1, with a deeper settee, a concealed drinks cabinet and a larger table. The Mark 2 version has a larger forecabin complete with walk-around island berth and a lot more cabin storage. The downside is that this arrangement is not ideal for those taller than 6 foot, as your toes tend to hang off the island berth. In making this cabin larger, the heads is slightly smaller and the shower is not a proper self-contained affair. However, the Mark 2 is far from cramped and benefits from a bigger galley. Headroom below in both versions is excellent – only the mid cabin lacks in this department, though to be fair you can stand upright in the doorway.
What really makes the difference between the two versions is the power options. The post-1998 Mark 2 had 260hp Volvo KAD44s and later 285hp Volvo KAD300s on offer, along with the petrol options. The increase in diesel power really made a difference to this boat. What was swift became fast. The Mark 1 was good for 31 to 34 knots depending on engines, while the Mark 2 was good for anything between 37 and 40 knots. The very few built with 425hp petrol engines are likely to be the Mark 1 version, and will make 44 knots.
Engine access is good on the Mark 1 simply because it lacks a large but useful storage bin located on the engine bay bulkhead, which the Mark 2 is equipped with. Consequently engine access is a bit of a squeeze on the later boat, which is why some people have removed this storage cavity. It is a case of swings and roundabouts. The bin is very useful for all that cruising junk that you can’t resist keeping on board, and it is big enough for a tender outboard. Importantly it is easily accessed the moment you raise the engine hatch. You can work around it by sitting inside the engine bay on the starboard side and leaning over. Alternatively, if the boat has not been run recently you can stand between the bin and the engines.
The cockpit, like any good sports cruiser, is the boat’s focal point. With both versions of the Targa 34 you get the traditional layout of two seating areas. The forward seating area includes a wrap-around bench/navigator seat to port and the helm to starboard. The aft seating area features a U-shaped seating/dinette area that can convert to a sun pad with an infill. Access to the boat is made all the easier by a deep and fairly wide bathing platform. Though its beam does not extend to the full width of the aft quarters, it is a lot better than many boats that pay lip service to the concept of boarding from a finger pontoon. Deck access is via 6″ side decks accessed at the aft end of the cockpit. Though they are slim, they benefit from tall guard rails – something that sports cruisers often sacrifice for appearance.
Ten years is a long timeline for a sports cruiser as the drive for style and performance inevitably creates a demand for something new. The fact that the Targa 34 survived so long is testament to its successful design, both physically and aesthetically. With prices ranging from £70,000 to £130,000, the appeal of this boat is just as wide as when it was launched two decades ago. When it comes to buying a boat, there is a lot to be said for owning something that someone else will inevitably want to own too.
Build period: 1996 to 2006
Designer: Bernard Olesinski
Hull type: Variable deep vee
RCD category: B for 10
Current value: From £110,000 to £170,000
Length overall: 10.51m (34ft 6in)
Beam: 3.41m (11ft 2in)
Draught: 0.92m (3ft 0in)
Displacement: 6.4 tonnes (light)
Fuel capacity: 125 gallons (570 litres)
Water capacity: 51 gallons (232 litres)
Cruising range: 250 miles (depending on engine options) with a 20% reserve
The Targa 34 proved to be a market leader while she was in production, not only because of her modern classic style, but also due to the quality of her construction and fit-out. The only recurring defect I found during my surveys was loose secondary bonding between the hull and bulkhead under the aft end of the port berth, and this is very easily repaired.
If you are looking at one of the older boats, the engine hours are probably going to be quite high, and so the maintenance/replacement history on the sterndrives should be studied, as they can require major work when they have run for more than 1,000 hours.
The Volvo six-cylinder aftercooled diesel engine series that were installed in the Targa 34 are well-proven and generally robust engines, and if regularly maintained will provide many thousands of hours of service.
Also look at the general standard of maintenance of all aspects of the boat as this will significantly affect the value and determine whether she will continue to provide enjoyable and trouble-free service.
Jim Pritchard BSc CEng MRINA MIIMS
With the last Targa 34s built it is a case of whether you want to pay the extra premium that the 285hp Volvo KAD300 engines put on the value of the boat or opt for a cheaper boat powered by twin 260hp Volvo KAD44s. The earliest boats fitted with 230hp KAD42s/KAD43s or 200hp ADP41s will certainly cost a lot less but they will not offer the same driving experience. All engines are generally reliable, and the ADP41, though older, does not have a supercharger to contend with.
The earlier-generation Volvo duo-prop sterndrive used on all the engine options of the Targa 34 is an efficient and effective sterndrive. However, most will have clocked up some hours by now and need to be checked carefully – ideally with a survey. One thing they are prone to is wear in the steering – particularly within the transom shield. This is easily discovered by trying to turn the sterndrives from side to side, as there should be little movement.
The most efficient propeller to use is stainless. With a clean hull you can expect up to another 2 knots and better fuel consumption. However, this will compound the issue of electrolysis, so you need to anticipate two lifts a year to keep tabs on the anodes. If you use the boat frequently, stainless propellers and a clean hull will pay dividends.
When buying a boat of this age it is worth checking whether it has had the bow thruster replaced with a newer-generation thruster at some point. Bow thrusters have come on leaps and bounds in recent years in terms of power, and an old thruster will have had a hard life. It would not be a bad move to upgrade an old thruster to a newer and much more powerful model.
During the early years of the Targa 34 the trend was fabric upholstery. Some boats will have been reupholstered with harder-wearing cream leather in keeping with the upholstery of later boats.
Expect to pay between £400 and £500 per engine for a 100-hour service on any of the engine options, but servicing costs vary from dealer to dealer. Do not shy away from using a recommended and reputable independent engineer. The sterndrives ideally need to have a bellows service every second year if the boat is kept in the water most of the year. This can vary greatly in cost depending on parts, anodes and how long it has been in the water. There is also the cost of getting the boat lifted, so bear this in mind if you bring the boat ashore during the winter.
Boats with KAD44s/KAD300s will return around 2.5mpg at 28–30 knots. The lower-powered engines will not be more efficient in like-for-like conditions, however the consumption rate will be very similar.
Points To Consider
Stainless props: Stainless props are more efficient than alloy, but as you can see they take their toll on the anodes.
This boat is keenly priced for one of the last Targa 34s with Volvo KAD300s. Last serviced in April 2015 with 380 logged, unusually this boat is licensed for, and has been used on, the Thames recently. In her previous life she was undoubtedly used at sea as she has an extensive array of navigational electronics by Raymarine, including radar and autopilot. Internally her condition is very good both in the cockpit and below. Like many of the later Targa 34s, she has the optional and very popular leather interior.