1975 Seafair Trophy
Hydros: Tradition, Rich With Hassles
Part II of another chapter in Seattle’s sometimes-stormy history of unlimited-hydroplane racing will unfold this afternoon.
The first part already has been recorded — the year 1975 has been an off-again, on-again story for Seafair, which ended a hassle with the Unlimited Racing Commission over which race site to use just in time to engage in another argument over how much city money would be available for public-services expenses.
Today’s race, back at Stan Sayres pits after a one-year attempt at Sand Point, continues a rich tradition spiced with occasional fist-shaking arguments, an inter-city rivalry and thrills aplenty.
It all began on June 25, 1950, when Sayres drove his Slo-Mo-Shun IV to a world straightaway record — 160.323 miles an hour — on Lake Washington.
Sayres and the Slo-Mo caught the city by surprise — few knew what a hydroplane was until then. But by the time the starting gun fired a year later, Seattle’s love affair with the thunder-boats was solidified.
Lou Fageol took the Slo-Mo IV to Detroit after Sayres’ straightaway run and took the Gold Cup away from the Motor City. That brought the big boats to Seattle in 1951.
From then until now here’s how it’s gone:
1951 — Fageol piloted the Slo-Mo V, sister ship to the Slo-Mo IV, to victory in a Gold Cup marred by the deaths of Orth Mathiot and Thompson Whitaker. The driver and riding mechanic went down with the Quicksilver, a home-made Portland boat, when it crashed during the third heat. Ted Jones, who designed the Slo-Mo boats, drove the V to a Seafair victory on a five-mile course.
1952 — Stanley Dollar drove the Slo-Mo IV to victory. The IV was the only boat to finish. Such Crust, from Detroit, burned on the south turn, seriously injuring Bill Cantrell. Prior to the Gold Cup, Sayres upped the straightaway record to 178.497 m.p.h. with the Slo-Mo IV.
1953 — The Slo-Mo IV won another Gold Cup. Joe Taggart and Fageol shared driving duties. The Slo-Mo V, with Fageol driving, sank during a test run and did not compete in the race.
1954 — Bill Cantrell grabbed the headlines away from the race winner — Fageol in the Slo-Mo V. Cantrell’s boat, the Gale IV, went out of control and ran aground near the Mount Baker pits. The boat jumped a flower bed and came to rest on the edge of a fish pond in the middle of a family picnic.
1955 — The Seattle-Detroit feud heated up when Lee Schoenith captured the Gold Cup for the Gale team. But it wasn’t easy. Schoenith placed second, second and third in heats. A youngster named Bill Muncey in the Seattle-based Miss Thriftway scored two firsts and a third. Schoenith was awarded 400 "bonus" points for faster elapsed time and won on points, 1,225 to 1,025.
Fageol was seriously injured in a spectacular somersault flip of the Slo-Mo V during qualifying. Mel Crook, referee, ruled against the "flying start" from under the Floating Bridge, a trademark of the Slo-Mo boats. The ruling was protested, and counter-protested, and Crook resigned as a result of the tiff.
1956 — Muncey and the Thriftway went to Detroit to win back the Gold Cup for Seattle. They did it, but it took 86 days of closed-door hearings. Course officials said Muncey hit a buoy and awarded the trophy to Miss Pepsi. From Seattle came the cry of "Detroit trick" and the fight was on. Taggert was seriously injured in a test-run accident on the Detroit River. The Slo-Mo IV was rebuilt and now rests in the Seattle Museum of History and Industry.
1957 — Muncey and the Thriftway won the Gold Cup in Seattle, setting a race record of 101.979 m.p.h. Muncey was injured in the Madison, Ind., race and Col. Russ Schleeh was hurt in a President’s Cup accident. Jack Regas pushed the Hawaii Kai to 187.617 m.p.h. to up the straightaway record.
1958 — Regas won the Seattle Gold Cup in the Hawaii Kai. Muncey’s Thriftway lost a rudder and rammed a Coast Guard utility boat during the race. Muncey and five Guardsmen were injured. The Coast Guard boat, with the Thriftway protruding from its hull went down in a few seconds.
1959 — Bill Stead, driving the Maverick, won the Gold Cup on Lake Washington on his way to the national championship. The Maverick and Muncey’s Thriftway finished the Gold Cup with 1,325 points each, but Stead won with a faster elapsed time.
1960 — Muncey won the Seafair race on a Monday. The final heat on Sunday was called off after two accidents — Don Wilson was severely burned in a fire aboard the Miss U. S. and Schleeh bailed out when the Thriftway Too caught fire. Muncey upped the mile mark to 192.001 m.p.h. The Gold Cup was declared "no contest" when winds swept Lake Mead for two straight days.
1961 — Ron Musson won the Seafair event in the Bardahl. Muncey took the Gold Cup on Lake Pyramid in the Miss Century 21 (renamed Thriftway).
1962 — Muncey won another Gold Cup — his fourth — with the Century 21 on Lake Washington. Dalla s Sartz was injured as the Miss Seattle Too nosedived during the first heat of the Gold Cup. Roy Duby, driving the Miss U. S., set the mile mark at 200.419 m.p.h. on Lake Guntersville, Ala. The record still stands.
1963 — Elapsed time again decided the outcome of the Seattle race. Chuck Thompson in the Tahoe Miss and Ron Musson in the Bardahl tied in points, Thompson got the Seafair trophy. The Gold Cup went to the city submitting the highest bid. Detroit got the race for $36,250 and it was won by Musson and the Bardahl.
1964 — The Bardahl took the Gold Cup and the Seafair. Again it was elapsed time that decided the Seattle event. Musson edged Bill Brown in the Exide by two tenths of a second.
1965 — Musson won the Gold Cup on Lake Washington in the Bardahl. He won three other races and the national title.
1966 — Tragedy struck as five race drivers died — three in one race. Musson, Wilson and Rex Manchester were killed in the President’s Cup. A week later, in the Detroit Gold Cup, Chuck Thompson was killed. Stead was killed in an airplane crash. Jim Ranger and the My Gypsy won the Seafair and Mira Slovak won the Gold Cup in Tahoe Miss.
1967 — Death continued to stalk the hydro family. Bill Brow died when the Budweiser flipped in Tampa. Bill Schumacher, in a new Bardahl, won the Seattle Gold Cup and easily carried off the national title.
1968 — Death again. Col. Warner Gardner died in a Gold Cup accident in Detroit. Muncey won the World’s Championship race in Seattle and the Schumacher-Bardahl combo took the national title.
1969 — Bill Sterett, Sr., in the Budweiser, won the Seafair, the Gold Cup and the national title.
1970 — The Budweiser crashed and sank during the Atomic Cup in the Tri-Cities. After a rush-rush repair job, Dean Chenoweth piloted the Bud to victory in the Seafair two weeks later. Tommy Fults was killed while testing the Lil’ Buzzard for the Gold Cup in San Diego. Chenoweth won the Gold Cup and the national crown.
1971 — The Budweiser edged the Miss Madison and Pride of Pay ‘n Pak for the national title. Jim McCormick in the Madison was a surprise winner in the Gold Cup in Madison, Ind. The Pay ‘n Pak took the final three races of the season, including the Seafair, but couldn’t overtake the Bud.
1972 — Muncey, the winningest driver of them all, had his best year. At the helm of the Atlas Van Lines, Muncey won six of seven races, including Seattle’s Seafair Trophy.
1973 — Two Seattle boats, Pay ‘n Pak and Budweiser, each won four races, but the Pak won the national championship by less than 300 points. Mickey Remund and the Pak took the world record overall average speed of 117.391 m.p.h.
1974 — After 23 years of racing at Seward Park, the hydros moved to San Point for a Gold Cup gathering marred by complaints over the new site, the sinking of the U-95 and the burning of the Miss U. S. George Henley took the Gold Cup in Pay ‘n Pak and finished the season with a record seven victories in 11 races.
(Reprinted from The Seattle Times, August 3, 1975)
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