Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Post War Hydro Power

With the end of World War Two, thousands of tons of surplus went on the market at pennies on the dollar. Fighter aircraft such as the P-40, P-51 Mustang and the British Hurricane and spitfire all used liquid cooled engines. This led to the unlimitred Hydroplane owners of the late forties to power their boats with Allisons and Rolls-Merlins, most of which were manufactured under license by the Packard Motor Company.

The early efforts were in the Detroit and Ohio River areas in the upper Mid-West. The hull designs were what was called stepped hulls. About half way up the bottom and step up made it easier to plane on the surface, much like the float planes we see on our lakes.

The climax of every race year is the Gold Cup which is held at the last winner's designated course. The 1950 Gold Cup Regatta in Detroit had some surprises in store that shook up the entire industry. Stan Sayres, a car dealer in Seattle, Washington hired a marine designer, Ted Jones. He wanted a high powered boat with less drag than the prevailing boats.

Prior to that race, boats like Such Crust, Tempo, My Sweetie (Bill Cantrell, driver) Miss Pepsi and others dominated the sport with stepped hydros. Jones designed a boat the touched the water at three points. an area of about two inches at the rear of each sponson and the bottom half of the ;propeller. Sponsons were a little like twin hulls, but racier. From a TV rear view you can see all the way through to the bow. The boats were not any longer in the water, they were essentially flying.

The Jones designed and driven boat in 1950 was misleading. It was called Slo-Mo-Shun 1V. It wiped out the field even lapping several boats. The Gold Cup was coming to Seattle. During that winter, another boat was built. Slo-Mo-Shun V. At that point, Ted Jones separated from the Sayres camp and started building boats for other owners, mostly in Seattle.

I mentioned Bill Cantrell in the previous paragraph because he was a power to be reckoned with once he had a competitive boat. He later piloted the Gale boats, the camp that Seattleites loved to hate. Lee Schoenith, owner and Bill Cantrell driver would be the only eastern boat to contest the Seattle boats of the fifties.

New craft showed up named Wahoo, Miss Bardahl, Thriftway, the beer boats, with Budweiser and Miller slugging it out, Rebel Suh, Shanty, Hawaii Kai and Oh Boy Oberto. Drivers were Bill Muncie, Chip Hanauer, Jack Regis, Mira Slovak, Rex Manchester, all legends of their time, but their time was coming to a close. Too many drivers killed, three in one season spelled the end of the open rear cockpit boats. One, Thriftway too was a front cab over, but was designed for two engines but only ran with one. It was un-competitive.

Now a days, we call these boats "Vintage." They will be present at Diamond Cup 2013 along with a new class called H1, Turbine powered. All enclosed cabs with escape features that were faster, but without the Rolls-Merlin roar that we all loved. The H53 turbine powered Helicopter that did yeoman service in Viet Nam had a jet engine that was adaptable to the unlimited Hydroplanes. A new generation of boats were born. Hey, without war surplus we wouldn't have a sport.

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