1953 Detroit Memorial
Detroit River, Detroit, Michigan, July 4, 1953

Detroit Memorial
By George Van

Photos courtesy Detroit Times

bullet Speed Boats Begin Trials Wednesday
bullet Detroit Memorial to be Test for Big Boats
bullet Foster Sweeps 3 Heats
bullet Detroit Memorial
bullet Statistics
The 135's hit the line. LOOK at that prop-rider in the lead.The 135's hit the line. LOOK at that prop-rider in the lead.
A broken oil line put Guy Lombardo's Tempo, Jr. out of the running in the Seven Litre Race. Driver Danny Foster accepts a tow.A broken oil line put Guy Lombardo's Tempo, Jr. out of the running in the Seven Litre Race. Driver Danny Foster accepts a tow.
Start of the Detroit Memorial. Such Crust III (2) in the lead followed by Miss Great Lakes II and Such Crust V.Start of the Detroit Memorial. Such Crust III (2) in the lead followed by Miss Great Lakes II and Such Crust V.
The winner  Miss Great Lakes II.The winner Miss Great Lakes II.
Don Wilson's Who Dat served up the fireworks for the 135 race. First in one head and tossed out of the boat in the second stanza.Don Wilson's Who Dat served up the fireworks for the 135 race. First in one head and tossed out of the boat in the second stanza.
Gale IIGale II

Ever since Stanley Sayres took the Gold Cup out to Seattle in 1950 the old mug has become sort of a holy grail to the local speedboat gang. They want it back so badly you can almost feel the tension whenever one of the local unlimited boats is taken for a trial on the Detroit River. It's really never been any different. They'll maintain the quest until it's back here. It's happened before. When it was taken East years ago, Horace Dodge brought it back after a strenuous campaign on the part of the Detroit gang. It happened again when Guy Lombardo took the mug East. Danny Foster returned it in 1947 with the Dossin Brothers' Miss Peps V.

Gold Cup Preview

When the Unlimited, or Gold Cup speedsters, made their 1953 bow in competition here in the Detroit Memorial Race, those who came down to the river bank were looking ahead to the Gold Cup at Seattle, August 9th. This was the Seventh Annual contest for the Detroit Memorial, conducted each year by the Detroit River Racing Association, which by the time this appears in print will be known as the Windmill Point Yacht Club.

Good Weather-Good Show

By all counts, it was a perfect regatta. The waters around the course were smooth. Just enough of a ripple in the light, downriver breeze to avoid an oily calm. The events were flawlessly handled. There was no confusion in the pits, in the press box or on the course at any time. There's a lot of know-how in the DRRA with guys like Ed Hiller, Jerry Gunn, Al Smith, et al., running the show. They've been at it for some spell.

There were all kinds of thrills out on the Detroit River for the speedboat bugs and the police estimate that over 75,000 attended the regatta. But most of the crowd went home in a bit of a funk. At least, that portion of the turnout who were looking ahead to the Gold Cup Races. The big boats didn't go fast enough. They didn't show speed that could beat a Slo-Mo-Shun.

Foster All the Way

Danny Foster, the "old pro" of speedboat racing, now 36, who has taken everything in Unlimited Class racing with the exception of the Harmsworth, won the Detroit Memorial Race with Albin Fallon's Miss Great Lakes [II], a 3-pointer, built by Danny Arena and powered with a single Allison. The old redhead of the race courses won practically as he pleased. He isn't one to bum up a boat. They say of Foster, "he makes the boat, the boat doesn't make Danny." He took the first 15-mile heat around the-3-mile course with a 90.18:3 mph average. His fastest lap was the second 94.987 mph. He won the second heat at 84.575 mph with a best lap of 88.867 mph, the first. The third gave him a winning clocking of 84.772 mph and his first lap again was his fastest: 84.772 mph.

Two New Crusts

Inasmuch as there had been no unlimited class racing anywhere so far this year, all entries had to turn in a qualifying time of 80 mph or better. Jack Schafer has two new Such Crusts. Chuck Thompson, who drove the now retired Dossin Bros. Miss Pepsi with her two Allisons is handling Such Crust III (2). This 3-pointer, built and designed by Les Staudacher of Bay City, Michigan, also has two Allisons in line. She's a whopper, 34 feet overall and has a beam of 14 feet. Part of her port sponson (18 inches) is removable so she can be trailered down highways legally. "Wild Bill" Cantrell is driving Schafer's other Crust, Such Crust V, a 3-pointer with a single Allison, also from the board and hand of Staudacher.


Wednesday before the Fourth of July, first trials were held. Cantrell coasted around the course with Such Crust V, and although he never raised his hand signifying that he was going to make his three mile run, was given a 70 mph average. Lee Schoenith, son of Joe Schoenith, with Gale II, buzzed around to qualify for the single 3-mile lap at 81 mph. Thompson brought out Such Crust III, but failed to finish a first lap. It was pretty choppy. Something went wrong with the "Third's" prop assembly. Foster took a gander at the rough water and said he'd make his trial just before the first heat on the Fourth. He qualified at 80.53 mph and Thompson put Such Crust III in at 71.179 mph.

Great Lakes by a Mile

The start, like most of the getaways for the juggernauts, was a thriller. Miss Great Lakes was first over ahead of Such Crust III, but Gale II and Such Crust V weren't 50 feet behind. Foster tramped on Miss Great Lakes going down the American side of the Detroit River opposite Belle Isle, and came out of the first turn nearly a quarter of a mile ahead. That was it! He made every lap a winning one and was more than a mile ahead of Cantrell with Such Crust V at the finish. Gale II, riding in second place until she reached the backstretch of the last lap, limped in third. She had engine and propeller trouble. Such Crust III with Thompson in charge lasted only until the end of the first lap when she lost her prop.

In the second heat Miss Great Lakes was again comfortably ahead of Such Crust V. Gale II and Such. Crust III both quit on the third lap and neither were in shape to come out for the third start. That left only Miss Great Lakes and Such Crust V in the 15-mile final heat.

A Thriller

Danny and Wild Bill put on a tremendous show for all five laps. Wild Bill had the start by 75 yards: but Danny closed the gap at the lower turn and they went up the backstretch like wild horses in tandem. The crowd loved it! Danny got around the upper turn a wee bit ahead and they roared downstream again .past , the judges' stand bow to bow. A giant roar from the crowd reverberated across the river. This was the stuff! The veteran pair continued in this fashion for all five laps. At each turn Danny would edge ahead and Bill would catch him on the straightaways. But at the end, Danny saw to it that he was across the finish line first, even though it was a photo-finish from both banks.  [Won by Miss Great Lakes II, driven by Danny Foster at 85.557 mph. --LF]

Crowd Pleaser

The Detroit Memorial was high drama on the river, but it still wasn't the high point in thrills for the day. The 135 cubic inch hydros just about stole the show just after the start of their final heat. Don .Wilson of Dearborn, Michigan, who had won the first heat with Who Dat at 63.185 mph, was thrown from his boat just after rounding the lower turn. The riderless boat slowed down, but still moved hither and thither around the lower end of the river as patrol craft tried to head it off. Then along came Snafu driven by Charley Willin of Detroit, who was trailing in the heat. He picked up Wilson and headed for the elusive Who Dat. Willin did an expert job of putting Wilson aboard. It was just like jumping from one horse to another. Wilson jumped into. his leaping steed and was off in the race again. But the rules call for disqualification if outside assistance is accepted and Wilson got the official heave-ho. The race was won by Bob Lueckenhoff of Detroit with Chromium, second to Who Dat in the first heat.

The 7 litres Broke Up

Detroit had twelve of the fifteen 48-cubic inch buzzwagons on the course, but a Cincinnati, Ohio driver, Charles Breen with Mis Led won both heats . . . the first at 47.402 mph and the second at 47.759 mph.

Gene Marentette's Bon Voyage lost the Seven Litre trophy to Jack Bartlow s Let's Face It when the former was disqualified for starting too late in the first heat. Danny Foster drove Guy Lombardo's Tempo Jr and Ray Fageol had his So Long Jr. out in the first heat, but both failed to finish. Let's Face It took the first heat at 48.556 mph and Bon Voyage the second at 82.039 mph.

266 to Braden

Bill Braden from Canada with Ariel IV and Stuart Wilson's Fo Mo Co of Dearborn each won a heat in the 286 division, but the latter won the prize with the faster time. Wilson had 70.901 in the first heat while Braden won the second at 89.971 mph. Gandy Brockman topped the "225's" with Ballyhoo taking both heats at better than 80 mph.

This was the shakedown, the trial under fire for the Motor City challengers for the Gold Cup . . . with just a month to go before the big race at Seattle. Watch out for the fireworks on Lake Washington.

(Reprinted from Speed and Spray, September 1953, pp. 26-29)

[Note: Let's Face It (a 7 litre), owned by Jack Bartlow and John Ban would race one time with the unlimiteds. It was added to the field of the 1956 Buffalo Launch Club Regatta (Conners Memorial) so that race could count toward National High Points. During his career Bartlow would also pilot the Hornet-Crust, My Sweetie Dora, the first Miss U.S., Miss U.S. II, the second Miss Wayne and the second Such Crust III. Ban drove the second My Sweetie, My Sweetie John Francis and Miss Cadillac. --LF]

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, 2001, 2007