Photo by Mark Sharley
1980 U-1 Miss Budweiser
Reprinted from Skid Fin Magazine, 2003, Volume 1 Number 2
Just how big is the Roll-Royce Griffon engine that powers the 1980 Miss
Budweiser? To simply say that it is 2,240 cubic inches is not enough. To get
a real feel for the size of this magnificent engine, think about this: the
Griffon is six times bigger than the 358 cubic inch engines that power
modern NASCAR racers. The engine in the 1980 Griffon Budweiser is bigger
than all the motors in the first three rows of cars at the Daytona 500 put
But raw horsepower isn’t enough. It has to be combined with a hull big
enough, strong enough, and stable enough to handle that power. The
“Juggernaut” (as the 1980 Bud was sometimes called) was a perfect boat for
the job. At 14’3” wide and 29’6” long, the Miss Budweiser weighted in at
over 7,000 pounds, making her the biggest, heaviest boat of her day. Her
honeycomb aluminum construction made her extremely strong, and her radical
design made her fast and stable. The Bud, designed and built by the
legendary Ron Jones Sr., featured a cockpit dramatically offset to the left,
deeply shingled sponsons and a massive skid fin. All three features worked
to produce a boat that could carry tremendous speed into the corner. The Bud
was driven by Dean Chenoweth, arguably one of the best drivers ever to step
into a race boat.
From the moment that the 1980 Griffon Budweiser hit the water, she was
almost unbeatable. She won her first five races, and it wasn’t until the
final head of the sixth race of the season (at Tri-Cities, Wash) that the
Bud even lost a heat!
While attempting to qualify in Seattle, the mighty Juggernaut lost her
rudder and cartwheeled end over end. Her season was done. But before the
accident the Bud had already won the Gold Cup and accumulated enough points
to coast home to the National Championship with the help of a few different
1981 was another record-setting year. The Bud won six of eight races,
including the Gold Cup and World Championship. She also brought home her
second straight National Championship.
1982 started well for the Bud team. They won the season opener in Miami,
Fla., but the team’s dominance was challenged when three different boats won
the next three races. By the time the fleet reached the Tri-Cities, the Bud
team felt that they have something to prove. While attempting to set a new
qualifying record, the Griffon Bud blew over backward, killing driver Dean
The “Juggernaut” continued to race for three more years with Jim Kropfeld at
the wheel. In 1983 and ’84 Kropfeld and the Bud won 10 races and the 1984
National Championship. By 1985 it was clear that turbine engines were the
way of the future, and the mighty Juggernaut was sold to Jerry Kenny, who
replaced the Griffon engine with an Allison.
Eventually the boat found its way into the hands of Eric Mann and Jerry
Fiorito, the owners of Unlimited Excitement. The turned the boat over to the
Hydroplane and Raceboat Museum restoration staff, lead by Gale Whitestine.
Museum volunteers have spent thousands of hours completing the most detail
restoration ever attempted on a race boat. If any boat deserved this kind of
attention, it has to be the Griffon Bud!
The 1980 Miss Budweiser Crew with Museum Director/Driver David Williams