With all the buzz recently about the big Mecum Kissimmee Auction this weekend, and Gar Woods iconic Miss America VIII ready to cross the block with her twin V-16 Miller race engines… We thought it would be fun to learn what the folks in Sweden had planned for Gar Wood and Miss America in 1929. It took over 80 years to complete, but it’s going to be very cool when it’s done this summer. Here’s the story from fellow Woody Boater Anders Værnéus at Swedish Classic Boats. She’s a Biggin’ so grab a drink and get comfortable…

Anders wrote – It’s 1929. Here in Stockholm, Sweden some motorboat enthusiasts are discussing Gar Wood – ”The Grey Fox of Greyhaven (Michigan)” and his hunt for the world water speed record.

On the table, in the newest issue of the Motor Boating Magazine (1929) was a big picture of Mr. Wood was his riding mechanic Orlin Johnson beside him.

”Funny that the mechanic for Mr. Wood is a Swede”, one of the men said.

”Yeah, really, said another… We have a bunch of real good boating guys here in Sweden… Remember Frithiof Ericsson, when he drove the first racers here in Sweden before he leaped over to the United States… We heard that he’s working for Horace Dodge now”.

”Really”, said the first again… ”But guys, if we have the knowledge here in town – why not challenge Gar Wood for the Harmsworth?”

There was total silence in the room. The men were watching each other… And slowly a smile started to grow in there faces.

”Yes, why not? Lets challenge the Grey Fox with some Swedish engineering. The best guy for this must be Ruben Östlund. Wait a minute – I’ll give him a call.”

This may have been exactly how the Swedish challenge for the Harmsworth Trophy started, we have no idea.

But it is true that in early 1929, some very wealthy Swedish motorboat enthusiasts placed an order for a raceboat that could challenge for the Harmsworth International Trophy, from the very well known Swedish designer – Ruben Östlund. Östlund came back with a drawing of a 8.9 meter (29 ft) single-step hydroplane powered by two 1000 hp Packards.

Original Conceptual Rendering of the Swedish Raceboat - Sverige (Circa 1929)

At the Stockholm Boat Show that spring, Sverige – the name the team gave her – was the obvious star. She became the talk of the year in Sweden – in every harbor and in every summer water front house – people were talking about of Sverige, and her chance to beat Gar Wood for the Harmsworth International Trophy on the Detroit River in America.

But their ambitous plans for the raceboat suddenly changed. In October 1929 the Wall Street Stock Market Crash signaled the beginning of the 12-year long Great Depression which turned everything upside down for the project.

The plans for the Swedish challenger were put on hold… Maybe next year or the year after that, they argued. But then in 1932, the economic crisis struck Sweden hard, and Sverige fell into oblivion… Until now.

A couple of years ago, a team of Swedish Woody Boaters including myself, built a repilca of Ruben Östlunds most famous boat named Svalan (the Swallow). It’s an 11.4 meter (37 ft) single-step high speed commuter, built and designed in 1928 for fast trips in the Stockholm archipelago.

Original 1928 Commuter - Svalan, Capable of 52.3 Knots In 1928

The original commuter (Svalan) was powered by a 650 hp Wright Typhoon V-12 under the hatches, she reached 52.3 knots in 1928. After the original boat was destroyed in 1967, we thought it was time to recreate her, which was a fun project with a fantastic result. During the search for information, plans and documentation about Svalan, we discovered the old drawings and the plans from 1929 for Sverige, the Harmsworth raceboat that was never built.

Original 1928 Commuter - Svalan, Powered By A 650HP Wright Typhoon V-12

When Svalan (the replica commuter) was completed and re-launched, an idea started to grow in my head: ”If we managed to built Svalan, so why not Sverige… the raceboat?”

Here are a few images of Svalan the replica 1928 Commuter that we completed in 2000.

2000 Replica Of Svalan Commuter

2000 Replica Of Svalan Commuter At Speed

Once the commuter was completed, we began to make plans to finally build the 1929 raceboat – Sverige.

Today it’s a reality. With a huge amount of help from two modern boating enthusiasts, the beginning of the construction of Sverige took place in Holmsund, the northern part of Sweden. Here, at the Johansson & Son Boat Yard, the Svalan was built in one year – 2000.

The skilled carpenters Christer and Bengt Johansson together with Fredric Hulander are doing the work on the boat that was suppose to be built in 1929.

Below, the single-step hydroplane bottom on Sverige begins to take shape.

Today there will be no Packards used for power though… Instead we are using two supercharged Rolls Royce Meteors, producing approximately 1000 hp each.

After having the original 1929 drawings redesigned and computerized, we are totally convinced that when Sverige is completed in the summer of 2012, it will exceed the 89 knots record set by Gar Wood and Miss America in 1928.

If we challenge Miss America VII or VIII for a 1929 race on the Detroit River – do they dare to take the challenge… ?

Anders Værnéus – Swedish Classic Boats
Swedish Classic Boats.com

What a great story Anders, thanks for sharing it with us here at Woody Boater. The Detroit River is ready and waiting to stage the famous boat race that should have happened over 80 years ago.  Stay tuned for more updates from the Mecum Kissimmee Auction this weekend on Woody Boater.


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22 Responses to “The 1929 Swedish Challenger For The Harmsworth Trophy Is Nearing Completion. “GAME ON” Miss America VIII!”
  1. Randy Rush-Captain Grumpy

    What Im first today? What is it, everyone speechless? Pretty amaizing boats!

    • Texx

      Yes – You are first which means you get to be the riding mechanic on one of the raceboats during the Detroit River Challenge… Hope you have some white coveralls and leather cap!

  2. Rick

    Ok the potential throw-down here makes that X19/Arabian thing child’s play.

  3. The Central Scrutinizer

    Wow, a duplicate of a lost boat and it was done in one year! There are a lot of Kronor in that project 🙂

    • MikeM

      Yes, this is my favorite time in the morning. The Baby, Alex, is asleep and I can enjoy woodyboater for a little while.

      Dang…..I think I hear him….gotta go!

  4. Dick Dow

    Outstanding! Beautiful job. One concern: Note the guard for the driveshafts in the photo of the IX at the top of the story. Gar and Mr. Johnson sat behind the engines in their boats for a reason. I hope the seats in this one have steel bottoms…:0

    • Jimmuh

      Easily remedied today with CF undies…..

      Mmmm mmmm….. Love me some copper rivets!

      Good race craft; always have a spare V12 on hand ‘just in case’.

        • Jimmuh

          ….my kind of guy. Can always find something fun to do with big cubic inch motors!

          (other than tractor pulling….cringe)

          Technical: what is the weight penalty btw. Packard 1M and RR Meteor? Any idea?

    • MikeM

      How’s your wifi in the meeting room? I’ll send you a comment or two…..

  5. Tommy holm

    BK and PaulH are my new buddies here in happy town, as in “happy=gay=buddies having a swell time”
    The fog is so romantic, we miss Mikey


    Dick, you talk like someone who was standing at the dock when a big ole boat, like the VIII, for example, spit out a drive shaft. 🙂

    I read the WB headline today and thought “I didn’t know Sweden had an entry in 1929”. Guess that’s why we read here and get more smarter!

  7. Rabbit

    Great story. Amazing boat. What’s the guess on the cost to build it?

    I also love the Swedish ensign. I’m 75% stock, and even though I’m running a little Gar Wood on a lake in Wisconsin, USA, I’ve thought about getting one. Would that be wrong?

    • Texx

      Rabbit – I am not sure exactly what the rules are in regards to flying the Swedish ensign on your boat in Wisconsin, or how the “Ensign Police” would react…

      But I think it would be very cool and kind of personalize your ride… We have noticed that same Swedish ensign on boats in Minnesota in the past.

      Maybe we should do a story on the subject…

  8. Jeff

    Chad, do you still have that lawn mower,and other parts you were gonna trade for the VII th, tell the wife your definitly trading your mower for this boat. Also tell her this boat is brand new and will be very dependable unlike that 80 year old AMERICA VII , and fast , women like fast boats I know she’d go for it.
    Anders, do you or can you get any videos of the big commuter running. We all love to watch action videos. B T W VERY NICE BOATS.
    MATT, please keep us posted of possible race on detroit river.

  9. Harry Wilson

    I have to say that, even while I am buried in the restoration of Miss Canada IV and in the making of the film “Harold & Lorna”, I still have time to be very excited by what our friends across the pond in Sweden are doing. Sverige is an incredible project, a testament to the idea that a dream deferred is NOT a dream that has died.

    Good on you, Team Sverige! All the best from the Miss Canada IV Restoration Team!