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  < Back to Table Of Contents  < Back to Topic: Automotive … Planes and Trains Too

article number 462
article date 07-02-2015
copyright 2015 by Author else SaltOfAmerica
“MAVERICK” America’s No. 1 Racing Hydroplane, 1959
by Description and drawings by James Moynihan
   

From September 1960 American Modeler magazine.

* * *

• Unlimited hydroplane racing is one of the most spectacular sights in the world of full-scale racing. Proof positive of this is the half million attendance, an all time high for a single sports event, at the last running of the Gold Cup in Seattle in 1959.

But what does it have to draw a crowd of this magnitude? Ostensibly, it is merely boat racing. But it is more than that. The cost of being an unlimited contender can easily run into six figures annually. This alone makes the circuit very exclusive, and in general, an elite fraternity.

Some thirty boats and ten races a year comprise the whole circuit. What brings people to look is the same thrill that those of us in the crews experience. Very few events compare and most pall by comparison.

The average unlimited hydro at rest is an awkward, half immersed object, colorful in racing trim but unwieldy. The whine of boost pumps, the hesitant coughing of a highly tuned Allison or Rolls Royce engine changing quickly to the authoritative thunder of power utterly transforms the boat.

In seconds it is no longer plowing the water . . . now it is touching lightly on the sponson runners and prop, alive and clean.

As six of these boats jockey for a start the suspense builds . . . and builds! As they come down the straightaway for the start, averaging 160 miles an hour, six rooster-tails stream high and white against the blue water and six Allison and Rolls’ engines wide open hurl thunder from shore to shore.

Spectacular is hardly the word for it! Speaking as a participant, the many long hours of toil and testing are reimbursed at this point.

Our subject here is the high point boat of 1959, the Maverick. One of the most successful unlimited campaigns in the history of the sport came to a close at Las Vegas, Nevada, in late fall of 1959 with the running of the Lake Meade Cup race at Maverick’s home port. Although this home town race once more eluded her, she did spectacularly well during the season.

   
U-00 Maverick Hydroplane.

Finished only a few days before her first race at Lake Chelan, Washington, she had bugs as all new ones do. They showed up in the form of improper steering ratio, causing driver and ex-jet pilot Bill Stead to spin out on a turn.

Bill was thrown clear, but the boat was holed and sunk.

Her next race revealed more running troubles although she took a third at the Detroit Memorial regatta on July 4th.

By now the ailments were both clear and cured. She won the Diamond Cup on Lake Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, on July 19 and followed this with the capture of the fabled Gold Cup on Lake Washington in Seattle on August 9. Running the fastest heat at the Gold Cup also netted the Martini and Rossi trophy.

Late August saw her gather in the famed Silver Cup at Detroit with fastest lap and heat times as well. On September 6 in Buffalo, New York, the competition on the Niagara River yielded her the International Cup.

In a dramatic duel for first on the Potomac course for the President’s Cup with Bill Boeing’s Wahoo, Maverick flipped on a turn and trapped Stead inside.

He fought clear and was not hurt seriously but the boat required major shop repairs so they skipped the Governors Cup on September 20 at Madison, Indiana, and went on to win the next race. This was at Pyramid Lake outside of Reno, Nevada, on September 27th.

Thus she became the national unlimited high point boat of 1959, entitled to wear the red, white and blue shield on her fin, emblematic of U. S. #1.

Maverick is owned by W. T. Waggoner Jr., of Phoenix, Arizona, and driven by Bill Stead of Sparks, Nevada. The crew chief and chief engine mechanic is Ricky Iglesias of Las Vegas.

The U-00, second Maverick bearing the red, white and gold of the Waggoner camp, is the successor to the U-12 Maverick, which while a sometimes winner, never led the season.

The U-12 was destroyed by fire when the engine blew up during test runs in the fall of 1958, hospitalizing Bill Stead with painful burns acquired while waiting for the flaming hull to slow down enough so he could bail out. This boat was the proving ground of the power setup perfected with the U-00.

   
U-12 Maverick in 1958; Bill Stead in cockpit.

Late word has it that both Mr. Stead and Mr. Waggoner have retired from racing so the current season should see Maverick with a new brand.

The boat itself is fairly typical of the late design "unlimiteds." It follows the basic "three point suspension" design pioneered by Ted Jones and is both his design and a product of his shop.

To those unfamiliar with the phrase, the three point suspension refers to the two sponson trailing edges and the prop. The main hull is free and clear above the water, a combination of water surface angles, prop rake and air lift on the hull as well as air ground effect under the hull achieving this attitude.

Combining these factors with the power setup and cornering ability requirements results in the smooth running race boat which half flies. The familiar soaring rooster-tail of foam behind these boats at speed could well be called the Ted Jones autograph.

Maverick has a thinner profile when viewed from the side than most boats. Exhibiting the purely functional aspects of the newer unlimiteds, it is run without engine cowling, and the engine is removed during traveling, with a tarpaulin snapped in place over the engine and cockpit openings.

The hull is all wood basic construction with trip chines, sponson runners hull sides, transom and bottom clad with heavy dural aluminum plating, varying from .072” to 3/16” depending on the location.

Main stringers about 21” deep form the backbone of the hull and carry the dural angle engine mounts, cockpit, shaft log, shaft strut and transom.

Frames are sawn oak in the hull and aluminum ply-wood sandwich construction in the sponsons.

   
U-00 Maverick Hydroplane side view with details of installations.
3116x799 size available. to open in new window.

Sponsons are “wet” which means that they act only as dynamic running surfaces and flood when the boat is at rest. The openings are for lightness, inspection and to allow complete drying between runs.

Since the sponsons are the main running surfaces, they are most subject to failure structurally, so they are beefed up with aluminum surfacing, sandwich bulkhead construction, angle reinforcements and compression struts.

Hull sides, deck and bottom are premium marine and aircraft plywood dural clad as mentioned above. Cladding is bolted and screwed to the frames and bulkheads on 6” centers both ways. Edges are very carefully mated.

Water at high speed is very tough. It will and has peeled the dural skin off of these boats, curling up .072” hard ST grade dural as you would an apple peel.

The rudder is cast or forged steel and offset to port as shown on the drawing to remove it from the destructive turbulence behind the prop and to help compensate for torque. Water is thrown against the side area of the rudder blade creating a force which acts through the running surface point as a pivot producing a torque reducing couple.

Torque tends to pull all unlimiteds to port—“left” to landlubbers. The fin on the hull acts as an aerodynamic stabilizer with fixed rudder offset to further compensate for torque. The water rudder has a razor sharp leading edge and triangular cross section, reminiscent of the X-15 tail. Dynamic similarity is evident here when one considers the water-to-air density ratio.

Steering is by worm and gear to a push-pull tube connecting to an adjustable steering link at the rudder post.

The steering wheel is a sprung stainless steel racing type.

   
U-00 Maverick Hydroplane.

The fuel and water alcohol tanks are built into the boat and are located on each side between the main hull stringers and the hull sides.

Total tankage is approximately 160 gallons of 115/145 octaine Mobil aviation special gasoline and 60 gallons of methyl alcohol and distilled water mixture. A 30 gallon fuel surge tank is located behind the driver’s seat.

The oil tank is forward of the engine and holds approximately 20 gallons of Military Grade 1120 Mobil special oil, viscosity about SAE 60.

All plumbing in the hull follows aircraft practice using standard Aeroquip hose and AN connectors.

The electrical system is also standard 24 volt DC aircraft type, and the main power source consists of two heavy duty aircraft 12 volt batteries in series in a common holder mounted under the seat, utilizing a Cannon quick disconnect for rapid changes between heats.

Generators are not used in any of the boats.

Two electrical motor driven and one engine driven fuel boost pumps supply fuel at about 18 pound per square inch (gauge) to the injection system. A similar system supplies alcohol water mixture to the A/W regulator and then to the supercharger scroll. More on this later.

   
Crew Chief Rick Iglesias points out hot competitor to driver Bill Stead prior to test run at Las Vegas Lake Mead Cup race (Iglesias pix).
   
U-00 Maverick Hydroplane.

Power is supplied by an Allison aircraft engine of the general type used in WW2 in the P-39, P-63, P-51, P-40 and P-38. At this point the resemblance ends and Rick Iglesias takes over.

In aircraft service, this engine developed 1325 HP at 3250 RPM and 72 inches of mercury manifold pressure using the maximum War Emergency Rating, wet. That means A/W (alcohol/water) injection. What Rick squeezes out has not been dynamometer checked.

He highly modifies the engine in the accessories drive section and utilizes a continuous second stage blower with very high rates of water alcohol injection to peak out at 4200 RPM and 148 inches of manifold pressure. He is very close to 3100 HP! With 1710 cubic inch displacement, he is very close to 2 HP per cubic inch . . . phenomenal, and the engine is reliable at these power settings.

To digress for a moment, a brief rundown is in order for the uninitiated. The Allison or Rolls Royce engines used are too complex to modify the cams or valving sufficiently to promote high outputs. They are aircraft power plants most readers of this periodical have heard much about in the fighters enumerated above and as such, represent a high state of the art in liquid cooled design.

They are supercharged, which is the answer to high light weight output and is the least expensive way to increase their output. Once 4200 RPM is reached, and it’s not hard to do, the engine will not turn faster without coming apart. The Rolls will turn faster reliably but in general, this is it. Since an engine is basically a big air pump, the more you can squeeze in per rev, the more power you get. This is where the supercharger comes in.

They simply compress air and fuel mixture and ram more of it in per rev per cylinder. The hitch is first, the physical limitations of the drive system geared up from the engine to turn the blowers and second, and most important, is adequate cooling of the mixture in the intake manifold, necessary due to the heat of compression absorbed from the work done by the blowers.

Here, on the Allison, the fuel is deriched by an automatic system of switching and a mixture of alcohol and water in precisely metered amounts is fed into the blower scroll. In becoming a vapor, the mix absorbs some heat and safely cools the mixture and is known as an internal coolant.

The Rolls is equipped with an intercooler and using 180 octane can operate without A/W injection.

The Allison is a physically more rugged engine and much cheaper to own and run so has been thusly developed into a potent and reliable racing engine by many.

Incidentally, lack of mixture cooling at high power settings in either engine results in an explosion that blows the whole front of the engine off. This has happened many times to all of us in the circuit. This subject is quite complex but the foregoing serves to illustrate the point.

And now, as the announcer says, back to Maverick. A special gear box is bolted to the engine which increases the engine RPM 2.75 to 1 to the prop. A special three or two blade Hi-Johnson or Gary prop is used varying from 20 to 23 inches of pitch and 19 to 20 inches diameter. Selections are made to suit the course shape and water conditions since the prop choice greatly affects the running trim.

   
Running at 175 mph during her victorious Seattle debut, Maverick travels on lower half of prop and tips of sponsons. Short stacks wee changed to exhaust collectors. (Bob Carver pix)

Instrumentation is very complete and very similar to a P-51D Mustang aircraft panel. Among them are water speed, engine RPM, manifold pressure, fuel pressure, fuel and air mixture temperature, oil pressure and temperature, A/W system pressure, engine coolant jacket temperature and a large red warning light which lights when the A/W system is inoperative.

Driving this setup is quite a challenge to any driver in the heat of competition and Bill Stead’s masterful handling of it has made history.

The seat, a quickly removable type commonly used, is padded and bowed in at the sides so that one must wedge oneself in. Seat belts are not worn since the drivers salvation in the event of a flip is to be tossed out. Salvation as used here is a relative term as may be appreciated but surprisingly, nothing worse than painful bruises or burns and an occasional broken arm has been the case for many years.

A foot throttle is used on the right floorboard with a similar footrest on the left. The mixture control is on the right side of the cockpit, a standard hand operated aircraft quadrant type. Fuel and A/W boost pump switches as well as electric primer and starter switches are on the left front of the panel with the magneto ignition switch on the right.

The deck and tail fairing and fin are red and gold with a white dividing stripe on the deck. A gold fin flash separates the fin colors. The sides and aft faces of the sponsons are gold. The trip chines are highly polished natural aluminum as is the transom. The rudder support bracket is chromed as are natural metal parts on the engine and the intake air scoop on the carburetor.

The carburetor is black, the valve covers white, the rest of the engine and auxiliary stage supercharger is red. The unique Waggoner brand is a white “W” on a red circle with gold trim. Exhaust stacks are a dark brown.

Some photos show short stacks. These continually broke off and were replaced in mid season by the collector pipes shown on the plans. The U-00 and the name Maverick are red with white outlines. If further data is desired, the writer will gladly oblige if you will write him care of A.M. and include a stamped self addressed envelope.

(Note: 1” to the foot scale drawings of Maverick are available from Mr. Moynihan . . . contact him for details.)

   
3-view drawing of U-00 Maverick Hydroplane. (imperfect since it crosses 2 pages)
2924x2269 size available. to open in new window.

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