Tahoe Miss Question

By Fred Farley - ABRA Unlimited Historian

QUESTION:

Could you summarize the career of Bill Harrah's TAHOE MISS team? -Jim Dunn

ANSWER:

Casino owner Bill Harrah entered the Unlimited hydroplane sport in 1962 when he purchased the former MAVERICK/MISS RENO and renamed it TAHOE MISS.

Harrah raced Unlimiteds between 1962 and 1968. For the last two seasons, the name was changed to HARRAH'S CLUB. He also sponsored the Harrah's Tahoe Regatta at Stateline, Nevada, between 1962 and 1964. He was a member of the Unlimited Hydroplane Hall of Fame.

Russ Schleeh was the first TAHOE MISS driver. (He had previously piloted the same hull in 1961 as MISS RENO.) He finished second in the Diamond Cup at Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, and third in the Spirit Of Detroit Trophy.

Chuck Thompson replaced Schleeh in mid-season 1962 and stayed until the end of 1965.

A new TAHOE MISS, designed by Ted Jones and built by the TAHOE MISS crew, appeared in 1963. As things developed, the Allison-powered hull was built too heavy and was retired after only a single season. Thompson nevertheless managed to win the 1963 Seattle Seafair Regatta at a world record average speed of 109.459 miles per hour for the 45-mile distance.

TAHOE MISS the second re-appeared in 1974 as Bob Murphy's KIRBY CLASSIC.

The famous "Gray Ghost" TAHOE MISS debuted in 1964 and was Harrah's flagship for the rest of his career. It almost won the 1964 APBA Gold Cup at Detroit. That was when a crew error slowed the boat down in the Final Heat after dominating the first three heats.

With Thompson driving, TAHOE MISS won the 1964 and 1965 Indiana Governor's Cups at Madison and the 1965 Spirit Of Detroit Trophy. "Champion Chuck" also drove to a third-place in the 1965 Gold Cup at Seattle with a broken rib. The man had guts!

Mira Slovak, "The Flying Czech," came out of retirement to drive for Harrah's team in 1966. TAHOE MISS emerged as National High Point Champion with victories in the Gold Cup at Detroit, the British Columbia Cup at Kelowna, the Diamond Cup, and the Indiana Governor's Cup.

Bill Harrah's last two seasons of Thunderboat participation were something less than an artistic success. With Chuck Hickling as driver in 1967, the boat entered five races and only qualified for one Final Heat. The 1967 season ended early when Hickling collided with Jack Regas and NOTRE DAME at the start of the Gold Cup race in Seattle.

Slovak returned in 1968 and arranged for the Allison engine to be replaced by the much more powerful Rolls-Royce Griffon. Mira, unfortunately, had to retire from the team after being seriously injured in a plane crash, two weeks prior to the start of the season.

Substitute driver Burnett Bartley, Jr., achieved mediocre results at the first three races and was replaced by Jim McCormick. All of a sudden, the boat was a front-runner again. And while it won no races, HARRAH'S CLUB was the only boat to defeat the National Championship team of Billy Schumacher and MISS BARDAHL three times in heat competition in 1968 (twice at Seattle and once at Phoenix).

Following Harrah's retirement from racing, his boat re-appeared in 1971 as Bernie Little's BUDWEISER MALT LIQUOR and in 1973-74-75 as Tom Kaufman's MISTER FABRICATOR.


The Hydroplane & Raceboat Museum
5917 South 196th Street - Kent, WA 98032
Phone: 206.764.9453 - FAX: 206.766.9620
info@thunderboats.org