Vintage Hydroplanes


The 1977 Atlas and 1980 Budweiser renew their rivalry on the Columbia River this year.

Vintage Hydroplanes – Gold Cup Style

This year’s vintage exhibition features a quartet of hulls that represent two different eras of hydroplane racing.  Between them, they lay claim to ten Gold Cup wins.  From the shovel-nosed era, we have the 1955 Thriftway and 1962 Bardahl.  From the pickelfork era, we have the 1977 Atlas Van Lines and 1980 Miss Budweiser.

The 1955 Miss Thriftway is a replica of Bill Muncey’s original Thriftway that was destroyed at Madison, Indiana in 1957.  This was the hull that first brought Muncey to prominence in the sport of Unlimited Hydroplane racing.  After narrowly losing the Gold Cup in 1955 due to a dubious bonus points system, Muncey rallied and drive the Thriftway to two Gold Cup wins in 1956 and 1957.  The Thriftway also managed to win the President’s cup in 1956, before its early demise.

The group Vashon Unlimiteds eventually came together with the goal of building a replica of the 1955 Miss Thriftway.  From 2002-2007, they labored to produce the beautiful replica you see today.  They have been a frequent performer at the Tri-Cities.

The 1962 Miss Bardahl, driven by Ron Musson, was a picture of consistency for three years.  Between 1963 and 1965, it finished fifty seven consecutive heats.  Along the way, the Bardahl won 12 races, including three straight Gold Cups and three National Championships.

Restored by longtime Bardahl crewman Dixon Smith, the Bardahl has been thrilling fans from Seattle to Couer d’alene.

The 1955 Thriftway and 1962 Bardahl at Tri-Cities in 2014

The 1955 Thriftway and 1962 Bardahl at Tri-Cities in 2014

The 1977 Atlas Van Lines, the original “Blue Blaster”, is the newest restoration the Hydroplane and Raceboat Museum’s vast collection.  Completed last year, the boat will run on the Columbia River for the first time since 1981.  Nearly unbeatable between 1977 and 1979. It carried driver Bill Muncey to twenty-four victories, including three straight Gold Cups and two National Championships.  Only in 1980, with the emergence of the griffon-powered Miss Budweiser, would Muncey and the Atlas be challenged.

Muncey’s nemesis and the hull that he lost his life pursuing was the 1980 Miss Budweiser.  This was the second of Bernie Little’s Griffon powered hydroplanes, the first being destroyed in a speed record attempt in 1979. To house the huge Griffon engine, the new Miss Budweiser had to be larger and heavier than its contemporaries.  The new hull was an intimidating sight, earning the nickname ‘The Juggernaut.’

This boat was part of the blackest day on the Columbia River, when driver Dean Chenoweth was killed during a qualifying run in 1982.  Over the course of its racing career, it won 21 races, two Gold Cups and three national titles.

Prepare for the roar of the pistons as these vintage Gold Cup winners perform a series of exhibitions on the Columbia River during the 2015 HAPO APBA Gold Cup.