Slo-Mo-Shun V's Last Trip [1969]
For Sale: One Battered, Blistered Lady Complete with Nostalgia
By Betty Hopper, Associated Press

Slo-Mo-Shun V for sale at Gilliam's, 1969Her heart is gone, her ribs are broken and she's bruised and battered, but she's still a Gold Cup lady worth, a classified advertisement says, $3,500 including trailer.

That's what Bob Gilliam, the owner, is asking for the U-37 better known as the Slo-Mo-Shun V, winner of the coveted Gold Cup for unlimited hydroplanes in 1951 and 1954.

She and her more-stable older sister, Slo-Mo-Shun IV, flashed onto the unlimited scene in 1950 to revolutionize the sport with their radically different design. Between them they won five consecutive Gold Cups and swept Seattleites, who hadn't known a hydroplane from a hydrometer, into a band of feverish followers.

By the hundreds of thou-sands, fans lined the shores of Lake Washington for qualifying runs and the climactic Gold Cup races.

Their cheers as the roostertails rose higher when the Slo-Mos came flying out from under the spans of the floating bridge were muted only by the throaty roar of the hydros' 2,500 horsepower engines.

In a half-dozen frantic years, the Slo-Mos won several other national trophies and provided a thousand thrills and a handful of heartbreaks.

The two were born of a dream by a Seattle auto dealer, Stanley Sayres. Ted Jones, the designer, put the dream on paper and Anchor Jensen made it a reality in his boat shop.

The trio discarded the traditional cigar-shaped, deep-cutting, sleek design of the unlimited hydros. They chose instead a shallow-drawing saucer that skipped over the water like a flat rock, the sponsons barely tickled by the waves.

Veteran racers laughed at Sayres and the Slo-Mo IV, calling it a "backyard-built" boat. But they choked when he piloted her to 160 miles an hour in 1950, breaking an 11-year record for the straight-away mile. She later raised the mark to 178 m.p.h.

And when Jones drove her to victory in the 1950, Gold Cup on Detroit River, skeptics became supporters. Within five years, nearly every major racer had adopted the Slo-Mo design.

The Slo-Mo V came out of the shop to take the 1951 Gold Cup under the capable hands of the late Lou Fageol.

She was a bit wider than her sister, designed to corner better in the turns and to take a bigger power plant. But, says Jensen, she was always a "wild one."

She was inclined to kite her bow would come up and any gust of wind under that stub-nose could prove disastrous. Some said the V was "walking on water," others dubbed her the "Leaping Lena."

The first hint of disaster came August 1, 1955, when Fageol was tuning up the V for defense of the Gold Cup on Lake Washington.

The bow came up and the V skittered uncertainly on the waves. Fageol backed off, the nose slammed down, and he suffered badly bruised legs.

Four days later, the V became airborne and did a backward somersault. Fageol was injured severely. The Gold Cup champ was ripped from bow to stern and still bears the scars.

The race itself, in a way, marked the end of the glory days for Seattle's unlimiteds and the turn down heartbreak hill.

The famous flying start was banned. Sayres announced his retirement before the race. Then, when the Slo-Mo IV conked out during the running, he was accused of throwing the race.

Sayres, always more attached to the IV than her skittish younger sister and faced with the rising costs of racing, sold the V in 1955.

The next year, he took the IV his "old lady" out of retirement, in hopes of recapturing the Gold Cup from Detroit. But the boat disintegrated during a qualifying run on the Detroit River when she hit a wave from a patrol boat. Joe Taggart, the driver, suffered serious injuries.

The shattered IV came home to be viewed by hundreds of mourners. Hours later Sayres was dead a heart attack was the official ruling.

Cut loose by Sayres, the V became a wanderer. Sold and resold, she raced as the Miss Seattle, the Miss Berryessa and the Miss Tri-Cities, but she never regained her earlier prominence.

The rebuilt IV lies proudly In Seattle's Museum of History and Industry.

The V, without her power plant, with three ribs broken and her red paint blistered, appears destined to fade out like a blowzy dame who is past her prime.

Gilliam, bitten by the racing bug while stationed at Ft. Lewis in 1955, doesn't think anyone will pick up the V for future races. He's hoping someone with a feeling for her past will want to put her into a museum, too.

That would be one way for the sisters to skip into the past together.

(Reprinted from The Seattle Times, December 14, 1969)


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