Fellow Woody Boater and New Zealand Correspondent Philip Andrew sent us this great story about a historically significant New Zealand raceboat named REDHEAD. Len Southward (shown above) in his famous raceboat REDHEAD, after retaining the Masport Cup in 1951. The logo of the Evans Bay Yacht and Motor Boat Club is painted on the side of the boat.
The term “Crack the Ton” originated in Great Britain in the 1960’s during the Mods & Rockers era and refers to breaking the magical 100 MPH barrier on a motorcycle.
Philip Andrew reported – There’s a Museum about an hour north by road from where I live here in Wellington, NZ. Its The Southward Car Museum bequeathed to the country by the now deceased Sir Len Southward. Sir Len Southward is a household name in New Zealand and through the legacy of his museum, his warm and chartitable nature continues to inspire. I drove up there last week and took these pictures.
Len Southward was a successful businessman, forming Southward Motors back in 1935, servicing motorcycles and the very popular Austin 7 automobile. Due to the continual shortage of engineering materials in New Zealand, Len created his own steel production company making extruded steel tubing and brackets called Southward Engineering.
Typical of many Kiwi blokes back then he had the attitude that if you couldn’t buy it – you’d just figure it out and make it yourself. He started collecting cars back in 1956 and the car collection today is the largest private collections in the Southern Hemisphere. (Which isn’t saying much as most of the Southern Hemisphere is water!)
Here’s a shot of just some of Sir Len’s collection and if you look to the top left of the picture you will see the raceboat.
Her name is REDHEAD and she was built by Len Southward back in 1947 / 48 to race in the Masport Cup and the Griffiths Cup. She is a 3 ton Hydroplane powered by a 1450 HP Allison V12 Aero 1710. Len enjoyed a long and successful race career in his homemade raceboat winning the Masport Cup every year with one exception 1948 through 1958. Together they also won the Australia and New Zealand Griffiths Cup ten years straight from 1949 to 1959.
Len Southward was the first New Zealander to “Crack the Ton” with REDHEAD on Feb. 22, 1953 exceeding the magical 100 MPH barrier with an average speed of 101.260 MPH on a two-way run over the measured mile. He then set the New Zealand and Australian Water Speed Record aboard REDHEAD at 109.900 MPH on May 8, 1956 at Port England in Auckland, NZ.
Whilst the hull is constructed of native Kauri timber, the top decking appears to be aluminium with a timber paint effect applied. Does that make her a Woody?
The boat features the original hand done graphics that look …. well hand done. No gold leaf here boys – “Anyone know a good sign writer?” – “Don’t worry about it I will do it myself… There you go, one Kiwi flanked by NZ.” Look closely and you can still see the pencil lines. Old School Cool…
As the sign-board describes, REDHEAD is displayed as she was lifted from the water in Picton at the head of the South Island, NZ. Metal fatigue apparently caused the prop to disintegrate at speed and it sure made a mess. (Maximum prop shaft speed was 9428 RPM)
Happy New Year to you both and to everyone at the Woody Boater Community! – Philip Andrew
[youtube width=”440″ height=”344″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=umv7ugBCGUQ[/youtube]
1956 MASPORT CUP – This YouTube video features Sir Len Southward and his famous powerboat REDHEAD. The footage is from the Masport Cup, New Zealand’s oldest and top powerboat trophy. Remember to adjust your computer speakers so you can hear this classic machine roar! – Philip
[youtube width=”440″ height=”344″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MJIBJoleaNo[/youtube]
Thanks Philip for sharing this great story with us here at Woody Boater. To learn more about Len Southward and The Southward Car Museum in New Zealand, you can click here to go their website.
There’s also a very informative story about the history and evolution of powerboat racing in New Zealand and Australia by our friends at the Hydroplane and Raceboat Museum in Seattle, WA. You can view that story “Thunderboats Down Under” on their website by clicking here.