Thousand Horsepower in 20 Year Old Racer
During the hurricane of 1938, Davey Jones, a Liberty-powered 33-foot Baby Gar runabout, was washed ashore in Manhasset Bay and wrecked. With her keel broken amidship, the bottom planks splintered, and the port side crushed, her next logical destination was the scrap heap. It looked like the end of the career of Davey Jones. This runabout, built in 1930 and originally named Casey Jones, had passed through the hands of a number of owners since her first purchase by Caleb Bragg. For a time she was in the possession of Keenan Wynn, screen comedian, who with her had set a new record while winning the Round Manhattan Race. After this victory, Davey Jones again was sold and the proud owner at the time of the storm was Ben Bartell.
It seemed like a sad fate for a record-holding boat but, with the graveyard beckoning, Davey Jones was salvaged, rebuilt, and put back in service by two enterprising young men, Jack Kraemer and Bill Leiber of Port Washington, L. I. Davy Jones was purchased by her new owners for $50.00.
The story could end here with the boat's return to normal operation, but this was only the start of a great experiment.
Casey Jones was raced by Bill and Jack for several years prior to the war, competing twice in the Albany to New York Marathon, and in the New York State Runabout Championship at Northport and the Free For All Runabout Race at Red Bank, winning the latter two races.
During the war Jack Kraemer worked as an engineer for the Sperry Corporation, and Bill Leiber was employed in the radio division of Grumman Aircraft. Being mulled over in their minds during this period were plans for some vast changes to be made in Davy Jones as soon as hostilities ceased. These plans were inspired by the memory of an Allison aircraft engine that they had seen exhibited at the World's Fair prior to the war. It was obvious that, when the war ended, there would be available surplus aircraft engines, and it was their intention to put one in Davy Jones.
Once again the boat was towed up to the vacant lot in Port Washington for a complete face-lifting. At the time the boat was rebuilt after the 1938 storm, the problem was to replace the broken parts. This new plan, however, presented many problems as the Allison is longer and more powerful than the old Liberty. This necessitated changing the engine bed, putting on a new bottom, strengthening the hull, and a host of other improvements.
In December of 1946, a surplus Allison was purchased from a scrap concern in New Orleans. This was a Model F engine and, after undertaking the conversion from aircraft to marine use, it was found to be impossible because, when the reduction gear was removed, the crankcase was left open. To overcome this problem, it was necessary to buy a Model E Allison and remove from it parts to complete the conversion of the F Model.
In order to mount a clutch on the Allison engine, the tapered end of the Liberty crankshaft was sawed off and induction-brazed to the Allison power takeoff coupling. This enabled them to mount the flywheel and clutch assembly. After many other changes the engine was fitted with Van Blerck water-cooled manifolds.
The hull was made realm for repairs by building a sling between two trees and turning it bottom side up. Tile original bottom was double planked with ⅛-inch mahogany inside and ½-inch mahogany outside. To strengthen the bottom, it was decided to cover it with ¼-inch mahogany plywood. As no boat builder could be found to do the job, Kraemer and Leiber undertook this work themselves. Working at night with gasoline lamps for illumination, they completed the job of gluing and bolting on the new bottom in six months.
The hull was tightened and braced inside, and the engine mounts were enlarged by fastening 2½-inch oak timbers to the old bed with channel iron and lag bolts.
Although the Allison is larger than the Liberty, there was sufficient space in the engine room to fit it in. The clutch, however, now protrudes beneath the rear seat in the forward cockpit. To cut down on expense, the old gear box with a 1-to-l¼ step-up ratio was installed in its on final position below the driver's seat. The Liberty jack shaft, after being shortened, was also used.
On August 12 of 1949, two and one-half years after starting the conversion, Davy Jones was ready for launching. The skeptics and so-called experts predicted that, because of the torque and a beam of only seven feet, the boat would do snap rolls down the bay. After over twenty hours of running, however, we are happy to report that the boat is still upright and in sound condition.
Although it has been found that as the speed increases the boat tends to ride more erect, its performance has been improved by adding a bustle on the port side. This increases the riding surface on the low side and tends to lift it.
At 2,300 r.p.m., which gives a speed in excess of 50 m.p.h., control was not up to par, so a larger wheel, 21 by 28, has been installed. This has resulted in better steering. Gulf regular white marine 80-octane gas is used.
There is still a great deal of power left in the Allison that has nut been used but, as the tests progress, it will be tried. If all continues to go well, it is their intention to try to break David Gerli's class K record.
Unfortunately Davy Jones was not ready for this year's Round Manhattan Race which should be a natural for this boat, but it will be set next year and Bill Leiber and Jack Kraemer may further embarrass the skeptics by winning the Harwood Trophy.
(Reprinted from Yachting, November 1949)
History Home Page
This page was last revised Thursday, April 01, 2010 .
Your comments and suggestions are appreciated. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
© Leslie Field, 2006