Arena Sets Record 126.588 M.P.H. [1949]

It has taken thousands of dollars, the advice and counsel of leading marine engineers and naval architects and the combined talents of at least three of the country's top motorboat pilots to realize a 17-year-old dream that of smashing the North American speed record for unlimited class motorboats, established in 1932 when Gar Wood drove Miss America X at 124.86 miles an hour. This was the dream which became a reality for Dan Arena, of Kent, Ohio. Arena, driving Such Crust I, owned by Jack Schafer of Detroit, established a new North American speed mark of 126.588 m.p.h. in a measured mile run Saturday, August 20, at Gull Lake, Mich.

In the quest for speed, three Americans and one Canadian over the past two years have attempted to better the mark established by the veteran Wood in his four-engine, Packard-powered craft on the St. Claire River at Algonac, Mich. In March, 1948, Guy Lombardo established a North American single-engine hydroplane record when his Tempo VI ran the one-mile Indian Creek course at Miami, Fla., at 114.7 miles an hour. One month later Lombardo broke his own record by driving Tempo VI at 118.24 miles an hour over a measured mile at Salton Sea, Calif.

Three months later, Harold Wilson of Ingersoll, Ont., bettered Lombardo's time by driving Miss Canada III at 119.009 miles an hour at Picton, Ont. Two assaults were made on Wood's mark early this year, the first by Harry Lynn of St. Louis, Mo., whose Lahala was forced to retire from trials on Indian Creek after repeated engine trouble. In June, Lombardo, driving Henry Kaiser's new, all-aluminum 32-foot hydroplane Aluminum First in time trials at Lake Placid, N. Y., failed again to equal the mark set by "The Gray Fox of Algonac." At the same time and on the same course, engine trouble stymied the attempt of Max Collins to break the record in a second Kaiser craft, the 28-foot Hot Metal.

For Arena, the new North American record came following his third try at the mark. In August 1948, Schafer's Such Crust I was shipped to Gull Lake, only to be put out of the running when a crane fell on the craft. Two months later, Arena made his second try and coaxed a top speed of 114 miles an hour from the boat. In Saturday's trials, sponsored by the Western Michigan Regatta Association, Arena, with his 25-year-old brother Gene, riding as mechanic, covered the north run of a measured mile at 127.797 miles an hour. Electric timing devices installed at the traps clocked Such Crust I on the south lap at 125.401 miles an hour, for an average speed of 126.588 miles per hour for the only two runs made during the day.

Such Crust I, the new North American record-holder, is powered by a single Allison 1710 cubic inch aircraft engine, has an overall length of 30 feet, a beam of 11 feet 6 inches, and was built early in 1948 by the Ventnor Boat Works, Ventnor, N. J.

(Reprinted from Motor Boating, October 1949)


Hydroplane History Home Page
This page was last revised Thursday, April 01, 2010 .
Your comments and suggestions are appreciated. Email us at wildturnip@gmail.com
Leslie Field, 2006