mysteries and motorcycles

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

It's official.. sort of... I think, anyway

Back in the Summer of 1989 I emerged from my ten year hiatus as a hydroplane racer to compete in a regatta on the Detroit River. A friend of mine pulled his boat out of retirement to provide my ride. It was a 2.5 litre Modified Hydroplane built by legendary boat builder Henry Lauterbach in the great state of Virginia. What made the boat unique was that it was powered by a mid 1930's vintage Ford V8 60, an engine that was designed to produce 60 horsepower but became a favorite among midget auto racers who pumped a lot more from the little flathead. And this engine was heavily modified.

The "Flatheads" were pretty much gone by the late 1960's and as far as anyone in the boat racing world knew, this was the lone survivor and it had not seen competition in a decade.

The river was angry that day and there was a measure of concern about the pounding that the unforgiving Detroit River might inflict on an older hull. This boat was made entirely of wood and it was old wood. The driver was no spring chicken either.

I entered the course from a floating dock that was tehered to the seawall. I can't remember how many boats had been entered in that heat race but I was aware that at least two of them were state of the art hydros with big reputations and solid pedigrees. I knew that I couldn't challenge them. I made a less than decent start but as the laps fell behind me I began to feel that old adrenaline rush and started hunting for more throttle. The boat held together remarkably well, a tribute to its breeding. I barely felt the thump of the river and we crossed the finish line in third place. It gave the owner one last trophy for his brave little boat and sent me on my way to ten more years of driving.

Now that twenty some years have passed since that day, it can be assumed that I was the last person to drive a hydroplane powered by the once revered Ford Flathead in sanctioned competition. The old war horses live on as a part of the "Vintage" class of hydros but they're only driven in exhibitions these days. But as far as I know, I'm in the history books.

Posted by The Unreal McCoy :: 7:22 AM :: 0 Comments:

Post / Read Comments