The Dossins and Their Legacy
Dossin's Food Products began in 1898 by Ernest J. Dossin selling fresh grated horseradish from a horse drawn cart. The product line expanded through the years to include other food products as well as soft drinks. In the 1930s, Dossins received the Pepsi-Cola franchise for the State of Michigan and northern Ohio.
By the mid-40s, brothers Walter, Roy and Russell Dossin were calling the shots. They owned and sponsored several Gold Cup class race boats as public relations vehicles for their business.
During the nine seasons the Dossins competed, they campaigned four boats. They were the Pepsi Cola III built in 1938, the Miss Peps-V built in 1939, the first Miss Pepsi built in 1948, and the final Miss Pepsi constructed in 1950 by Les Staudacher from a John Hacker design. Among the drivers who drove for the Dossins were Chuck Thompson and Danny Foster.
The Dossins first got interested in racing in 1946 and entered a boat in the President's Cup of that year. Pepsi Cola III was the name of the boat. In 1947 Danny Foster came to the Dossins with the idea of purchasing So-Long, reconstructing the boat, replacing the engine and campaigning that boat. This boat was named Miss Peps-V because a ruling from the APBA did not allow commercial product names to be used on race boats.
The Dossins called their boat Miss Peps, leaving the "i" off, but brought the curly cue on the capital "P" out to look like an "i" so anybody looking at the boat would see Miss Pepsi. The reason for the "V" was that Pepsi Cola cost five cents at that time. In their first full season in the sport the Dossins captured the Henry Ford Memorial, the APBA Gold Cup, the Emil Auerbach Trophy, the National Sweepsteakes, the President's Cup, and the Imperial Gold Cup to complete on of the most successful seasons in the history of Gold Cup racing.
During the winter of 1947 Clell Perry approached the Dossins with a design for a two-step displacement boat. The first Miss Pepsi was built in Algonac, Mich., and first raced in 1948. This boat proved to be very disappointing. Chuck Thompson was hired to drive in 1949, and informed the Dossins that the boat wasn't going to be successful.
John Hacker approached the Dossins with a design for a three-step hydroplane with twin Allisons placed nose to nose with a v-drive gearbox in between. This second and last Miss Pepsi posted nine victories from 1950 to 1952, including back-to-back National High Point Championships. She sat out the years of 1953 and 1954, but came back for a last fling in 1955 and '56. The comeback Pepsi almost won the 1955 President's Cup and the 1956 Gold Cup, but controversial rulings at both races awarded the trophies to other teams.
After the Dossin family got out of racing, their admiration for the city of Detroit was expressed by the contribution that made the Dossin Great Lakes Museum on Belle Isle a reality. Miss Pepsi was brought to the Museum in a ceremony which included the Dossin family, her one and only driver Chuck Thompson, and her builder Les Staudacher.
(reprinted from the program for the 1996 Unlimited Hydroplane Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony Honoring Chuck Thompson, 5-30-96)
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© Leslie Field, 1999