Burning Hot Wellcraft Nova Spyder 230: Bargain Sport Boat
When it comes to deals on the water these days, it’s almost impossible to find. But, the market that still has deals is the mid size sterndrive market. In the 90s and 2000s there were tons of sterndrive sport boats made and many were great boats. Now, they are less sought after, making them some of the best deals on the water. Our friend Steven told me an amazing story about finding a smoking deal on this great Wellcraft Nova with a 454 Magnum. You won’t believe me if I told you he paid only $1,500 with a trailer but he almost died making the deal. Here’s the story.
Steven had ended up selling a really nice Checkmate Pulsare 2400 and his Checkmate 2800 SX outboard, and then settled into a small 18” center console to run around in. After using the CC, Steven felt it was too small and quickly sold it for a profit when demand for boats was sky high. Now, he wanted a boat, didn’t want a full restoration and didn’t want a too much money tied up. All pretty understandable thoughts but tough in this market.
Before the refresh. At $1,500 it would be hard to turn down.
I’m going to use an exert from one of Steven’s messages because he did a great job telling the story:
“one night, while lying in bed, I was surfing through Facebook Marketplace and this Nova Spyder popped up. Furthermore, it was only 25 minutes away from where I lived. The only problem was, I haven’t dealt with an I/O boat since buying a new Regal 230 Velocity in 1988…and it was a project. I tried to forget about it but the add intrigued me. Not only was it similar to my Velocity (same length, same motor/drive), it was the same colors!! White, teal and black with silver accents!
I decided to take a look the following Sunday…
After my conversation with the seller, I had my doubts about buying the boat. I knew it needed work but I had nothing to lose. I arrived at his house and began looking the boat over. The top deck has a lot of sun crazing from exposure. The hull sides and transom were chalky but in surprisingly good shape with no serious scratches or damage. The rear swim platform had some dock rash and would need some gel coat repair. The cockpit was covered in pine needles and leaves but the carpet was dry. The front bolsters were in good shape but the engine hatch vinyl and rear seat vinyl were in bad shape. The stitching had separated where the stripes were and would definitely need replacing. Easy stuff to do. Now came the motor. According to the seller, in an attempt to get the motor running, he had replaced the starter and carburetor after the boat sat for 11 years!! Then he broke his hand riding a dirt bike, lost his job and had to move back home to his parents house, who insisted he get rid of the boat taking up their driveway! There was no way I was going to take on this project unless I saw that the motor was not seized up.
With no battery in the boat and 11 year old stale gas in the tank, I had to get creative. We removed the fuel line to the fuel pump, robbed a battery from his 14’ bass boat and grabbed the portable gas tank from the bass boat. Pulling off the flame arrester, I had the seller pump a little gas into the carburetor by squeezing the fuel bulb while I turned the key on. The old 454 Magnum slowly began to turn over but would not start. He pumped a little more fuel into the carburetor and I hit the ignition a 2nd time. The motor slowly turned and tried to fire up! We had life! We were now overly excited!
The third time around, I wasn’t paying attention to how much fuel he was pumping into the carburetor (I thought he had stopped because he told me to turn the key), I turned the key, the motor fired up and backfired, he panicked spraying gas all over the boat and everything caught on fire!!!!! I took one look at the portable gas tank on the seat, another at the flames and jumped over the port side faster than a jack rabbit (it was a long ways down), running towards the garden hose on the side of the house!! After dousing out the flames, I made sure the seller was ok! Other than some singed arm hair for him, sore knees for me from my leap over the side and quite the scare for both of us, we were ok and happy to be alive!
The flames melted some wire insulation in the engine bay and melted the carpet where some gas sprayed, but no other damage! At this point the seller asked me if I still wanted to buy the boat. I felt bad. He was in a bind and I really didn’t want to take on such a project, however, the motor DID turn over. He said, after everything we just went through, I could have the boat for $5K..I figured I would offer a very low offer of $1500 and escape without dragging a project/restoration home. He said there was no way he could accept $1500. The trailer alone was worth that! I got back in my truck, started to back out the driveway….and then the seller yelled “you got cash? As I drove home, I glanced in my rear view mirror, smiled and thought, here I go again!”
The 2+3 bolstered seating is great in the Wellcraft Nova. Looks very comfortable with that beam and in great shape overall.
Steven is a shrewd negotiator and after getting the 1992 Wellcraft Nova 230 Spyder home it was time to dig in. After spending the better part of a day cleaning everything out, finding weird stuff in the bilge, he replaced the thermostat housing and got a new thermostat kit. Most repairs were from some backyard mechanic work that needed attention. “After seeing the condition of the thermostat housing, I decided to replace all the external components on the motor which included new fuel pump and fuel filter, raw water pump, water circulation pump, new belts, oil change and filter, drive oil change, power steering pump fluid and alternator.” The boat and 454 Magnum engine itself were solid overall, so this was looking like an incredible deal. All in with repairs, taxes, parts, registration; Steven is in it for $4,600.
With some bad repairs done, Steven replaced the thermostat housing on the MerCruiser 454 Magnum among other things.
With a nice Bravo One drive, the boat is a great package. He should see high 50s maybe 60 MPH in the big Nova. For cruising and rough water it will be an incredible boat.
The big Nova looks great and the design is much nicer than many new 23’ family boats you see now.
A light sanding, high speed orbital polish, and wax really brought back the color and shine to the old Wellcraft. Not that it was a small job, it took the better part of a day. The Nova Spyder is a big 23’ boat with a generous freeboard and deep hull, but still has great sport boat lines. Probably rides really well. Even though the upholstery needed some attention, particularly the back deck, Steven was planning on getting that redone eventually, along with the carpet, and engine hatch struts.
You might see the Nova ripping up the coast of South East Florida near Palm Beach County. Steven is showing us that vintage sterndrive sport boats are back.