HydroStream Vector


  • Boat Type: Vee-Pad Runabout
  • Length: 17' 1"
  • Beam: 89"
  • Transom Height: 23"
  • Maximum HP: 145
  • Seating: 2 Buckets and Rear Bench (1978 and older models had back to back front seats and no rear bench)


The Vector was originally rated for 165 HP but was later downrated to 145. Pipkorn wanted a hull that would handle more horsepower than what he had available at the time, so essentially he took the Viper and added two feet onto the nose to get the Vector and a higher HP rating.

The Vector was designed for the "Tower of Power", Mercury's popular inline 6 at the time. Many Vector's from the '70's were rigged with 115's, 140's, and 150's. Nowadays, they are often re-rigged with V6 motors: 150's, 175's, 200's, and even 225's and above. To say the Vector is a handful with this kind of power is an understatement. It is an accomplished V-pad pilot who can drive the overpowered Vector at top speeds. Proper setup is a must for a good handling and safe ride.

Inevitably, comparisons are made between the Vector and the Viking. To the casual observer they look the same. Deckside they are very similar with a slight difference in the gull-wing area. It is underneath where the differences are really apparent. The overall length of the Vector being 8" shorter than the Viking is fairly imperceptible, but what is noticeable is the overall hull configuration. The Vector has a concave pad, more strakes, and a sharper deadrise while the Viking has a flatter hull with a different width pad (with no hook) and a different shaped frontal hull area.

How do they compare performance-wise? People often ask which model is faster. There are some that may disagree, but I believe that the Vector is the slightly faster boat, though a Viking can be made to run almost as fast. However, the Viking is more forgiving, much more stable, and carries the weight of the heavier V6 better resulting in a better ride with less porpoising. You walk a fine line when driving a Vector fast...it does not tolerate mistakes

The question always comes up about whether to remove the "hook" or not on a Vector to try to improve speed and handling. There are many misperceptions out there and conflicting information regarding the hook and its intended purpose. The following information was told to me directly by Ron Baker Sr. who designed the Vector II (and has been confirmed to me by Howard Pipkorn). I consider this the definitive word on the subject.

Prior to 1975, the Vector (and Viper as well) had problems planing, especially when trying to pull skiers. They were good for racing, but Pipkorn wanted to make them into better family recreation boats for broader marketing. At the time, HydroStream factory drivers and racers usually drove the boats with no windshields on them. Because of the bow angle sensitivity, driver's had to be judicious with the trim, and its effects on boat trim angle was easily seen from the shoreline. However, when customers started running these boats with windshields at increasingly faster speeds, Pipkorn became very concerned with how high these boats were being hanged. As a result, he designed in a 5' wedge so that the deck of the boat would have a lower angle of attack while running. But the wedge that everyone asks about and seems to be at the center of great controversy, is a second wedge at the end of the boat. As an employee of HydroStream, it was Ron Baker's assignment to change the hulls so the boats would plane quicker, porpoise less, and turn better, especially with a load. Ron added a 24" wedge in the trailing edge of the bottom (see pictures below) and dropped the outside corners of the bottom of the boat from the transom to the outermost edge of the wing of both models. He widened the strake going forward from the outside corners of the transom. With the 150 Merc inline 6, just dropping the outside corners increased the boat's speed 3 MPH in testing. It acted like ground effects on an airplane. It also helped in corners as the boat tended to bank a lot in the turns with the old design whereas the dropped wings helped keep the boat flatter. They called the new models Vector II and Viper II for a couple of years in-house and with dealers and boat racers. Some racers wanted the I's, but soon the II was all that was available.

At the time of the new design in 1975, the largest engine being used on HydroStreams was 150 HP. Top speed on the Vector was around 70 MPH (80 MPH on the Viper). When Ron made the plug with the 24" wedge in the pad and the adjacent strake, the mold came off the plug with a good reproduction of the original wedge. However, as it cured the wedge turned into a hook. The first boats out of the mold were good, but the older the molds got, the worse the hook became. Making the situation worse was that customers started using the newer 200 - 260 HP motors trying to go 100 MPH. The hook did not give the boat enough surface to stabilize itself at these speeds. At high speed the boat could not find a flat surface to ride on as long as it needed to when trimmed out. Ron has straightened out a lot of Vector and Viper bottoms, and said they always handle better and go faster after he has done it. I have heard from owners who have successfully performed this modification, but I have also heard from others who regretted it. Some have said that the boat becomes unpredictable at higher speeds, some say it becomes slower, and some say that it porpoised worse (though some of the problems may have been a result of the work not being done properly, starting with a hull that had additional problems, or not balancing the boat properly). Note that the hull's hook could be a real problem on these boats due to their age, possible core saturation, and improper trailer support. So should you remove the hook or not? Of all the questions regarding HydroStreams, that one is by far the most controversial. There have been so many varying results that I can not make a flat-out recommendation. It can be done successfully, but it must be done properly. If you're seriously considering doing this, probably the best thing to do is to contact Ron Baker and review the do's and don'ts and find out if it is really something you want to do. Just filling in the pad won't do it. Attention must be paid to the strakes and area next to the pad as well. Also, once the work is done, keep in mind that the boat's previous setup may need to be altered.

What was the purpose of the concave pad? Some say it was to aid in cornering. I have also heard that it was an early attempt at air entrapment. The real reason: a gimmick. Pipkorn wanted everyone to think that it improved the boat's operation. At first, he had thoughts of the design working like a slalom ski, but it came to be that it was simply his signature - and one that would make any competitor's splashing of his hull really stand out. So in the end, he really just wanted to make the boats different and to cause comments. It obviously worked since people still comment on it today. The real truth is, though, that HydroStream found the boat to turn better when they filled in the concave and made the pad flat. And that is the way Ron designed the Viking which was a definite improvement.

The Wedge 

These pictures are an attempt to show how the bottom of the pad in the rear was supposed to be. Pictured is an original and unaltered '75 Viper which is the ideal candidate for viewing the original pad design since the Vector molds developed problems over time. Transition areas are circled in blue. We always talk about the pad having a hook (a gradual curved shape) since that is how most of these boats' pads are these days, but the pad was originally designed and made with a wedge as explained above - two straight planes joined at an angle.



81 Vector - Powerboat Magazine