Lou Fageol


Lou Fageol
By David Greene

Lou Fageol Retires [1953
Gold Cup Winner Fageol Dies [1961]
Lou Fageol by David Greene
Video of the Flip of Slo-Mo-Shun V, 1955

Lou Fageol started his racing career in the mid thirties on the West Coast having been raised in the Oakland area. After competing around Los Angeles for a number of years Fageol headed east in 1939 to attend the Gold Cup at Detroit with his Ventnor-designed So Long. This was the first of four east coast Gold Cup class events that Fageol participated in during 1939-40 and in none of these events did the So Long prove a contender. However, on the west coast So Long won the Pacific Motorboat Trophy in 1940.

In 1941 Fageol had the So Long Jr. built which was his first bus engine boat. At the time Fageol's father Frank was the head of the Fageol Twin Coach Company which manufactured buses. After the war Lou Fageol become the president of this company and started the 7-litre class in 1947 which was specifically accommodated to this type of engine. As a result Fageol sold his Curtiss-powered So Long to Henry Slocum and went to the 1946 Gold Cup with So Long Jr. The boat was not much of a factor in the Gold Cup, but did win the Silver Cup which was a one heat event for those boats that were not allowed in the second Gold Cup heat that year. The So Long Jr. continued into 1947 and won at Miami as well as at Davenport, Iowa in races that were attended by only one other Gold Cup boat. Shortly thereafter the So Long Jr. was sold with Fageol taking delivery on a new 7-litre from the Ventnor Boat Company. This hull competed unsuccessfully with the Gold Cup class for the balance of the year.

In 1948 Fageol continued trying to match the Gold Cuppers as well as the new Unlimited Class with his 7-litre, but to no avail although the So Long did defend the Webb Trophy against the Miss Cincinnati IV, a vintage Gold Cup craft. Fageol brought out a new 7-litre So Long in 1949 which qualified for the Gold Cup, but withdrew before the race. The next weekend So Long defeated Such Crust I in the initial running of Windsor's Maple Leaf Trophy. So Long made her final appearance against Unlimiteds and Gold Cuppers at Red Bank in 1949. Three weeks later Fageol got his first Unlimited ride in Jack Schafer's experimental Such Crust II. The only notable happening was Fageol's riding mechanic abandoning ship midway through the race. Fageol finished out the year with the Such Crust I, but could not match the all conquering My Sweetie until the final race of the season when Horace Dodge replaced Bill Cantrell for one heat.

In 1950 Lou Fageol came to the fore as an outstanding driver. His initial experience was in driving relief for the injured Bill Cantrell in My Sweetie. Fageol took over for Cantrell in the second heat of the Gold Cup and distinguished himself by leading the Slo-mo IV for nine of the ten laps before going dead in the water while turning the fastest lap of the race. The next weekend Fageol helped Cantrell win the Ford Memorial by driving the final heat in the My Sweetie. This was enough for Stan Sayres who selected Fageol to drive the Slo-mo in the Harmsworth Trophy when driver-designer Ted Jones was injured. Fageol responded by winning the race handily while turning in the first 100 m.p.h. heat in the history of the sport. Fageol and the Slo-mo failed to win the Silver Cup, but did defeat the new Miss Pepsi in the first heat.

The following year Sayres brought out a new Slo-mo-shun V, which was specifically designed for close course racing as opposed to the IV, which was designed for straightaway runs. Fageol and the V thoroughly dominated the competition in the 1951 Gold Cup by running in front for all laps being pressed only by the Miss Pepsi. The succeeding weekend Fageol had the IV with Ted Jones piloting the V in the Seafair Trophy. The V again bested the IV, but in the second heat Fageol in IV set a heat record of 111 m.p.h. with a lap of 112. This was on a five nautical mile course however.

The next four races of his career were difficult for Fageol as he had only a one heat victory assist to help Joe Taggart win the 1953 Gold Cup. Lou Fageol made up for this in the final three races of his career by winning the 1953 President's Cup as well as completely dominating the1954 Gold Cup in a grand slam win. Following this race it was rumored that Bill Muncey would replace Fageol in the Slo-mo V, but this was not to be as Lou Fageol came back to Seattle in 1955 for his final Gold Cup ride. The V had always been the faster Slo-mo but when Fageol tried to push her to a 122 m.p.h. lap to best Taggart's record in the IV, the Slo-mo-shun V flipped in Unlimited Racing's first blowover accident. Lou Fageol survived, but never raced again. After serving as the sport's elder statesman for a number of years, Lou Fageol died in 1961.

(Reprinted with permission from the Unlimited NewsJournal, May 1985, Excerpted from "Hydroplane Hall of Fame")


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