In the first season of Miami Vice, James "Sonny" Crockett used a 1984 Chris Craft Stinger 390x when his law enforcement activities required the use of high-speed aquatic transportation, before it was replaced with a Wellcraft SCARAB in Season 2.
Owing to Miami’s extensive waterways and close relationship with the ocean, Crockett’s undercover work often led to the need for high-speed transportation over water. Drug dealers in the city also often utilise cigarette boats for their smuggling operations, and the best way to combat them was to issue undercover Vice officers with their own powerboats.
As with the cars of Miami Vice, several popular music scenes in the show featured the Stinger, including:
- ”Miami Vice Theme” -- Tubbs trying to evade Crockett in the pilot episode.
- "Voices" -- travelling to the Caribbean to take down Calderone in "Calderone's Return (Part II)".
- "Born To Be Wild" -- taking part in a boat race around Miami in "The Great McCarthy".
- "Heartbeat" -- Crockett considering the clash between his personal and professional lives in "Nobody Lives Forever".
Owning an expensive cigarette boat fit well with Crockett's undercover personality as a high-earning drug dealer. On a more practical level it also gave him the capability to pursue drug runners over water, and allowed him to impress dealers who often organised powerboat races as a means of recruiting new talent to their organisation. It was in this last regard that it was used in perhaps its most taxing operation, when Crockett, Tubbs and Zito took part in a boat race run by Louis McCarthy that was both a cover for his drug smuggling operations and a high-stakes winner-takes-all competition.
Crockett acquired a new powerboat from the beginning of Season 2, although he never gave an explanation as to why this happened. However, the Stinger did reappear in Season 4's "Baseballs of Death" in a continuity goof, as a result of the production team using old or unseen Season 1 footage in a boat chase sequence.
In reality, Crockett used two different models of Stinger during the first season. In the pilot episode he used a 1984 Stinger 390 with the model name printed along the sides, close side by side bolsters (seats), and no arch; as the episode required the boat to pass under a very low bridge, the common arch feature could not be fitted. When the show was later picked up the boat changed slightly to an updated 390x model, having a different paint scheme without the model names, and separated bolsters. Owing to the fact the low bridge stunt was no longer a requisite of the design, the new boat was also fitted with an arch.
There were actually two copies of this second boat used for the filming of the show. One was a “hero” boat used for static, long-distance and racing shots, while the other was used for on-board filming and consequently had holes drilled in the hull and deck for the mounting of cameras. Both boats were fitted with stock MCM 370 Mercruisers and could top 60mph.
For the episode “The Great McCarthy”, the hero boat was further modified. Most powerboat races require a driver, a navigator and a throttle man, and consequently a third bolster was installed between the existing two to allow Zito to ride on board and control the throttle. This third bolster was subsequently removed and not seen again.
Both of the boats used for the majority of the first season were leased by Universal but cost around $127,000 when new at the time.
- Despite the fact the Stinger only appeared in the first season of Miami Vice, footage of it appeared in the opening credits for the show's final three seasons.
- Crockett's Stinger appears as the "Squalo" speedboat in the video games Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories, both of which were heavily inspired by Miami Vice and can be seen as homages to the show.