|Posted on May 18, 2012 at 11:15 AM|
The rebirth of George Simon’s U-36, Miss US IV
…..a Henry Lauterbach unlimited hydroplane from 1956
By Bill DeGlopper & Jay Armstrong
Organized boat racing on the Niagara River in Buffalo, New York became a full-fledged spectator event in 1903, when the Buffalo Launch Club was granted APBA’s first powerboat racing club certificate. In the decades that followed some of the most famous hydroplanes, boat owners, race teams and drivers made the annual treck to Grand Island to compete in numerous International Regattas. Legends like Gar Wood, Guy Lombardo, Edsel Ford, Horace Dodge, Bob Schroeder, Fred Alter, Bill Muncey, Mira Slovak, the DuPont’s, and all the contenders for unlimited titles and high points supremacy were regulars at Buffalo events.
With the creation of APBA’s Vintage & Historic division 20 years ago, race boat regattas once again made appearances at some of the famous racecourses of the past. However, these events featured restored race boats from by gone eras. Interest was renewed as more and more old boats found new owners that carefully restored these important boats back to their former greatness. Fans returned in great numbers to watch these boats perform on racecourses from coast to coast.
At the Buffalo Launch Club’s 33rd Antique Boat Show and Race Boat Reunion in 2010, Omaha’s Jay Armstrong visited with Fearless Fred Alter. Jay asked if Fred knew where he could buy a conventional, shovelnose unlimited. Fred directed Jay to Doug Morin who has a long time relationship with the Thomas Mittler family. Mittler was owner of the U-36, also known as Miss U.S. IV. A deal was struck and Jay purchased the boat in March of 2011.
The hull needed extensive work including removal of the aluminum bottom, replacement of some of the bottom wood structure and replacement of the aluminum bottom, transom and sponson skins. Doug Morin of Morin Boats in Bay City Michigan was commissioned for the hull rework at the time of purchase. (Doug also owns the Miss US V). Work was begun right away where in addition to the hull stripping, all system components and hoses were removed including fuel tanks, oil tank, oil cooler and surge tanks. All were cleaned, pressure leak checked and refinished, then reinstalled. The fuel tanks were a particularly challenging task as the boat is almost entirely built around the fuel tanks. After all other work was complete a completely new mahogany underlay deck was also fabricated and installed, then covered with fiberglass cloth and resin. All hull, deck, system refitting and structural work were accomplished at Morin Boats shop in Bay City Michigan.
The engine, a V 1710 -113 Allison and the gearbox, a Dan Arena 1 to 2:75 ratio, was transported to Omaha for tear down and overhaul. Central Cylinder Service accomplished all work, a certified FAA approved aircraft engine overhaul facility. Upon tear down it was discovered many valves were warped. CCS is not sure but it appears as though this engine had been installed in U-36. If so, it could not have been producing any where near rated power. If this engine had been installed and operated in U-36, the boat would have been very much down on power and speed. The engine overhaul and first test run was completed on January 12, 2012. The engine had no leaks and sounds very good with a nice crisp exhaust rapport.
Most plumbing is complete and we will be installing the engine for trial fit very soon. Testing is planned for the first week of May 2012, locally.
U-36 is the first of only three unlimited’s Henry Lauterbach built. It has been reported this boat is an upscale of a smaller successful Lauterbach but in visiting with Larry Lauterbach he indicates this is not altogether true. George Simon of US Equipment Co commissioned the boat in late 1956 or early 1957. It was a second boat to U-2 Miss US II that was also commissioned at the same time with Les Staudacher as the builder. So Mr. Simons team fielded two boats for part of the 1957 season. (U -36 didn’t hit the water till July of that year).
In Armstrong’s subsequent visit with Fred Alter last year, he said he only drove U- 36 one time for 15 minutes and didn’t care for it saying it was “squirrelly” at 120 mph. It is Jay’s understanding he never drove it again, opting for the US II boat instead. U-36 ran 6 or 7 events in 1957, and I believe only one or two events in 1958 with different drivers both years. It is reported Bob Rowland drove the boat at some of these events. Of distinction is the fact that while not the fastest boat on the circuit, U-36 never failed to finish a heat. She was at least reliable. She did attend the Elizabeth City event and won it by default since no other unlimited showed up due to a conflict with the Madison race the same weekend. After 1958 the boat was placed in storage in Detroit for about 40 years never to race again. History mentions that Jeff Magnuson bought the boat perhaps in the late 90’s and that it went to Maine for a while. Later it went to the Lauterbach shop around 2000 where it received new fiberglass cowling and cockpit shells. As far as is known, that was the only work that Henry did on the boat since building it. It is a 100% original hull. Evidence of the boats condition at time of purchase backs this speculation up.
Restoration plans include returning the boat to its original color scheme, which is red . All the original graphics will include Henry Lauterbach’s and Bob Rowland’s names. The boat rests on its original trailer which has a rear bumper with the H.L. initials boldly emblazoned in steel plate. The driver for vintage events Team Armstrong attends will be Jack Schafer Jr.
If plans continue on schedule, U-36 will hit the water in Buffalo and perform with 2 other fine unlimiteds on September 8, 2012 as featured racers.
Peacock Racing Enterprises
Link to engine test run video:
Categories: Boat Show