1960 Miss Burien Restoration
By Peter Orton
lot has been written about the history of these wonderful raceboats, but not
much is said about what happens after a boat is retired and out to pasture
Burien also raced as Tempest and Savair’s Probe. She was one of the last
shovelnose hydroplanes still on the race circuit in 1980. I was first introduced
to the Hydroplane and Raceboat Museum and the Miss Burien as she was about 90%
restored under the name Spirit of South Park.
was at a boat show on Lake Union and Joe Frauenheim asked me if I knew anything
about Allisons. Being a bit of a smart add, I said, “If it has pistons, rods,
and valves, I can me it run.” Oop – open mouth, insert both feet.
told me the engine was out at Ike Kielgass’, and would I come out on Monday and
see if it would run. Ike has a wonderful shop. He was replacing the engine banks
on the Miss Thriftway’s Merlin, and his newly acquired Allison was an unknown.
So with the help of Joe, Ike, Barbara Carper, and George Greer, we checked out
everything according to the World War II repair manual. After a few evenings of
checking timing and adjusting valves, it was time to put this engine on Dixon
Smith’s engine test stand.
Museum Director David Williams has the job starting the engine. To say 1710
cubic inches of power roared to life is a bit of an understatement, but it ran
sooth and sweet. OK pressure. Let’s put it in the boat. The engine was
installed and late one night (normal, I was told) we started it again.
was my first PEMCO Classic and things mostly went great. The South Park ran
well (I thought). But when she got back to the dock there was a big hole in the
supercharger housing. Ken Muscatel did a great job of just keeping it running.
We wanted to go to Lake Chelan that fall, but with no supercharger it didn’t
look good. I turned to Bill McFadden, who still had some engine parts left from
his Oberto racing days, and we got the parts needed to get going again. At Lake
Chelan the Spirit of South Park ran well, but on the second day an oil failure
ruined the engine.
South Park sat for 17 months with no engine, but help comes in strange ways.
Someone told Randy Hoyle that he had heard there was a V-1710 Allison behind a
barn in Colorado – right, I’ve heard this one. David Williams found a phone a
number of a Steve Webb of Bethune, Colorado, and called. Yes, he had an engine
and would donate it to our project, but we would have to come and get it. It is
3004 miles to Bethune and back.
took three days of driving, but we had an engine.
During the time we were preparing the South Park to go to Lake Chelan, someone I
had known at Toastmasters, Larry Snyder, offered to help with our project.
Working on the boat one night he told me the story of the time his father, with
other Burien merchants, had sponsored Miss Burien in 1960. I told him the boat
he was standing on was actually the Miss Burien that his dad had helped sponsor.
Larry said the boat needed to run as the Miss Burien and he went at it. Come
Seafair time Miss Burien was her old self. Beautiful, red and white and hard to
tell from when she was new.
Back to the Engine
brought the engine back to the museum in May, but it wasn’t until the end of
summer that we would start work. First, we needed a shop. Ike, Randy, George
Greer, and Karen Senior cleaned out the storage room below the office and turned
it into an engine shop. Benches were built, windows were installed, and a parts
area was formed. We tore into our “new” engine to find it was mostly reparable
but …it was like the inside of a tar pit! So, Karen, Linda Thompson, and don
Bertellotti started cleaning parts and I looked for replacement parts. One thing
that became evident was the lack of special tools required to tear down and
build up a World War II airplane engine. Steve Hausske came to our rescue and
built most of the tools needed. Randy heard of someone in Southern California
who sold Allison parts. I soon had Mr. Joe Yancy on the phone. The phone bill
wend through the roof as I learned a lot of tricks the racers used to make a
V-1710 run better at the high RPM we ran in race boats.
took up six months to tear down and clean and clean and clean. Karen didn’t
think she would ever have clean finder nails again. During the last month, Bill
Meyer was found and turned out to be big help in the final assembly stage,
working five nights a week and all day Saturdays. In the wee hours of a Saturday
night, in June 1999, the newly re-powered and renamed Miss Burien came to life
great fanfare, the mayor of Burien christened the “new” boat with our sponsors
Lay-Z-Boy, Wizard’s, and other Burien merchants looking on. With David Williams
driving, Miss Burien returned where she belonged …Lake Washington.
the PEMCO classic that year, with Ken Muscatel driving, Miss Burien was ahead
out of the last turn but was overtaken by Dixon Smith, driving Miss Thriftway,
at the finish line.
Hollywood came calling, wondering if the museum had enough boats to film a major
motion picture. Well, we had the Miss Burien. Her stable-mate Savair’s Mist was
restored in jus two months. The Burien engine crew had built its second V-1710.
This engine “just overhauled” was a lot easier, and with the crew working
evenings and Bill coming in during the days, we had that engine ready in less
than one month.
Right after the PEMCO Classic we packed up and moved to Madison, Indiana to do
the movie. Most of the crew moved with the boats, as much as vacation time
permitted. I was there for most of the filming.
Burien was reduced to being a fast movie prop, painted no less than seven times.
By the time she headed west, she was a ghost of her old self. Gone was the shiny
red and white paint, replaced by rolled on latex blue, tan, and red, along with
many other colors. But through it all, the boat ran and ran, experiencing minor
problems that were easy to fix. With Jerry Hopp and Mark Evans driving, we all
enjoyed our trip to the Midwest. Next stop California, for last minute filming.
in Seattle the Miss Burien took on a new look for the last phase of movie work.
David, Jerry, and Mitch Blondin converted her into a two-headed monster. With a
working cockpit in front of the engine and the rear seat for the actors the
Burien was used to film the actors at speed. This two-headed cockpit was
highlighted by Mark and Mitch Evans. In a test run, they changed placed while
going over 100 MPH! It really happened, and Jerry has it all on videotape. After
the filming was over, the boats safely home, George went over it with a
fine-tooth comb. The hours and hours of running and her age took their toll and
the transom was in sad need of replacement. Of course there were a few other
little things – the cockpit and a zillion coats of paint. George, Darren Olson,
and Bob Pratt tacked the back of the boat while Jim Iverson, Steve Sorenson,
Dane Sorenson, and I removed the engine and cleaned and repainted it. Then,
everyone started to sand off the #%&* layers and layers of paint. This work took
another six months, but at the end Miss Burien was rewired, replumbed, and
repainted red and white, ready for the PEMCO Classic.
summer of 2000 was a busy year for the Miss Burien. Crew chief George Greer and
I had our first change to drive an unlimited hydroplane and what a thrill it
September we went to Lake Chelan to give our volunteers who have completed 200
volunteer hours their earned ride in an unlimited. George and I were able for
the first time to give a few of our crewmembers their rides.
fun! Make noise, and turn left, what fun! Thank you to all the volunteers that
made it possible. Crew Chief: George Greer. Crew: Karen Senior, Linda Thompson,
Darren Olson, Bob Pratt, and Carly Hanson. Museum volunteers: Steve Sorenson,
Dane Sorenson, Bill Meyers, Bob Jensen, Ray Jensen, Don Bertellotti, and Mitch
Blondin. Our leader: David Williams, who keeps herding us cats in the right