Case of The Humpdays: Original ’87 Sea-Doo Test Market Unit For Sale

Oh, all the wonderful things you’ll find on Craigslist these days. We recently discovered this unusual bit of nostalgia from Northern Ohio; a real-deal 1987 Sea-Doo “test market” runabout that later was modded by Decker Racing. The “test market” 1987 “5801” model was the unit that heralded Sea-Doo’s return to the marketplace. A direct response to Kawasaki’s standup and Yamaha’s WaveRunner, the Sea-Doo was designed for the emerging market, and debuted in 1987 – eventually reaching a wider market in 1988.

Although drastically different from Sea-Doo’s original 1968 unit, the 5801 featured several key design features that would carry on for literally decades, particularly the hull and deck configuration, its 20-degree, semi-V hull, how “the seat extended all the way back to allow for two passengers, and the handlebars were padded and included updated grips. Still, there were similarities to the original, including the wide footwells and the positive curve on the bow,” according to an article written by Joel Johnson.

He continued, “The 5801 was powered by a water-cooled 581cc Rotax in-line twin connected directly to the pump by a driveshaft and designed specifically for the marine environment. That engine pumped out three times the horsepower of the original, and the horsepower was transferred to the water through an updated axial-flow pump.”

This particular unit was one of the original #5801 Sea-Doos sold to a limited 400 buyers. Here’s what the seller had to say: “This is one of the 400 test market boats made in 1987 model # 5801 with a 581cc Rotax engine.
I purchase this boat new from Ed Babbit of Babbit’s Motorsport in Muskegon, Michigan. The history of
the test market boats can be found online at under Roots / The Birth of a Seadoo.
In 1990, I had Decker Racing in Marshfield, Wi. modify the engine to include a custom tuned pipe, intake manifold with twin carbs, and dyno tested tuned ports. Boat needs a new starter, battery, carb and fuel system service.” This rare, historic Sea-Doo can be yours for $1,400.

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Kevin Shaw

Kevin Shaw

Editor-in-Chief – Kevin Shaw is a decade-long powersports and automotive journalist whose love for things that go too fast has led him to launching The Watercraft Journal. Almost always found with stained hands and dirt under his fingernails, Kevin has an eye for the technical while keeping a eye out for beautiful photography and a great story.

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