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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.