Miss Detroit III Replica - Photo Courtesy Mecum Auctions

One of the greatest things about Woody Boater is our viewers, and the remarkable amount of knowledge and history that they have. And fortunately for us, those same viewers are willing to share that information with us, which in tern, we then share with the Woody Boater community. Our friend and Hessel Correspondent Alex Watson recently compared reading Woody Boater like this – “It’s like opening a can of mixed-nuts every day – You never know what your going to get until open the can…”

For us, the diversity and history within the antique & classic boating hobby leads us down many different paths, and we appreciate that not every story stimulates everyones interest. But based on the feedback we receive (and we receive lots) our viewers enjoy learning about the different aspects of the hobby. Often, after we do a story, our viewers respond by sharing their knowledge of the original story subject with even more information – and we all learn together – and in some ways benefit from that knowledge.

This is a perfect example. Last week we ran a story about the history and accomplishments of Glenn H. Curtiss, the development of the Curtiss series of engines, how that led to Gar Wood winning the 1918 Gold Cup with a Curtiss powered “Miss Detroit III” and the development of the “Miss Detroit III Replica” race boat. (If you missed that story – you can click here to check it out)

Fellow Woody Boater Craig Magnusson from Seattle is certainly one of most knowledgeable people in the hobby when it comes to the early days of North American power boat racing and vintage engines. Craig has done some significant research on the subject and works closely with Dr. Ken Muscatel who purchased the “Miss America III Replica” raceboat at auction in 2010.

Over 20 years ago, Ken Muscatel purchased one of the two remaining 1916 Curtiss Model V-4 engines known to exist from an antique car museum. The only other example known to exist is on display at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum in Washington, DC. With the help of fellow Woody Boater and hydroplane enthusiast Ike Kielgass, Ken is now in the final stages of restoring the ultra rare Curtis V-12 to be installed in the “Miss Detroit III Replica” race boat later this summer. The engine restoration work was entrusted to Robert Mishko at Rocky Summit Performance in Tennessee.

After seeing our original story on Glenn H. Curtis, Craig Magnusson shared some of his knowledge of the Curtiss engine development and the history of the Curtiss V-4 (V-12) engine that is now in the final stages of it’s restoration at Robert Mishko’s shop – with some new photos of the amazing Curtis engine as the new cylinder liners (referred to as “Jugs”) were being installed.

Craig Magnusson writes –

Through Bob Neal’s research, we have learned more about the “big cylinder” or Model “V” Curtiss’s. See, LIBERTY, Neal, pages 3, 14.

“A TECHNICAL & OPERATIONAL HISTORY OF THE LIBERTY ENGINE” , By Robert J. Neal, Copyright 2009, 616 pages, published by Specialty Press. Robert also wrote Packards At Speed, Master Motor Builders, and just published the new book on 1948-1950 Packards. He lives locally in the Seattle area, and also has completed extensive research on Gar Wood the person.

All were built under US Army contracts; the first versions were the eight cylinder V-8’s in 1915. With 5 x 7 cylinders, they were the same size as the Hall Scott A-5 (1915) and A-7. The “V”, “VX”, and “V2” were produced in small numbers 1915 – 1917. The Model “V4” was apparently the fourth version, a 90 degree V-12 using all the same cylinders, valve train, etc from the V-8 model, built in early 1917. I don’t recall the details of the project, but it was experimental, as a proposed large 300-400 HP motor for the Army.

By early May, 1917, Hall Scott had also constructed the first “A-8”, experimental V-12, using the 5×7 cylinders from the A-5 and A-7. Both used 5×7 “Mercedes” type fabricated cylinders, and were 1650 CID.

The Model “V’s” were basically an enlarged copy of the Curtiss Model “O” engines, with exposed valve train, push rods, hairpin springs, etc, but with a 5 in bore and 7 in stroke. No parts interchange, but they look a lot the same. In today’s terms, the Curtiss “OX” was the small block V-8, and the Curtiss “VX” was the big-block.

In comparison to the Hall Scott “A-8”, the Curtiss “V4” was crude and essentially obsolete, and with the 90 degree v angle it was wide. Not the best design for a narrow fighter; the 1917 Liberty was a 45 degree design to keep it narrow.

Neither experimental V-12 entered production. Instead, the Liberty program got underway late May, 1917, also based on the individual 5×7 fabricated cylinder, and you know the rest of the story. A far superior 1650 cid V-12, over 20,000 Liberty V-12’s were built for the war effort between 1917 and 1919. Most became surplus after the mid 1920’s.

By June, 1917, it was clear that no further development of either the Curtiss V4 or Hall Scott A-8 would occur. The experimental motors became surplus. It is my understanding that neither ever flew. The story re: British military order cancelled makes little sense – the Brits had the Rolls-Royce Eagle, a far more sophisticated 300+ HP V-12, plus other options.

My understanding is that Glen Curtiss then used one of the few experimental “V4” engines that had been assembled to power his own “Miss Miami”, probably late 1917 or early 1918, after the Liberty program started. Somewhere I found pictures of “Miss Miami”, but they are filed away right now.

It is not true that Gar Wood’s use of the V4 in 1918 was the first use of a lightweight aircraft motor in a race boat. Curtiss Model “L” and Model “O” motors had been in use since 1915; so had Hall Scott A-5’s and A-7’s; at least a few showed up in boats before 1918. Not, however, in the Gold Cup.

Liberties and other military aircraft engines were not available for non-military use during the war period thru 1918; all production and distribution was strictly controlled. However, as an abandoned project, the Curtiss V4’s would have been available for private use.

The story goes that Gar Wood was aware of Glen Curtiss’s use of the V4 in “Miss Miami”, and sought to purchase a V4 for his own use. The photos seem to indicate that Curtiss sold Wood the exact motor out of Miss Miami.

In any case, Miss Detroit III was completed for the 1918 Gold Cup with the Curtiss V4, and of course won. The motor has the distinctive center straight pipes, with four outside carburetors. The as – designed V4 aircraft motor used one or two inside carburetors and outside stubby exhaust pipes. I don’t know if Curtiss or Wood made the conversion; they both had the capabilities to design and make the changes. Gar Wood did call the motor a “ Curtiss – Smith”, suggesting that the manifolding changes were Wood – Smith in origin.

The only photos of the Miss Detroit III powered by the V4 that I have seen are those from the 1918 Gold Cup. The package may have run again; I don’t know. In any case, the Miss Detroit III was powered by a “surplus parts” Liberty in 1919 and the Gar Wood Curtiss V4 stored away. In hibernation, until 2012

In 1955, Gar Wood either loaned for display or donated for display a large collection to William Tuthill for his Museum of Speed located just outside Daytona Beach, Florida. Included was “Miss America VIII”, the two 1927 V-12 Gold Cup motors, the Packard 2025 #09, the Curtiss V4, exhaust stacks off of the Packard 2500’s from “Miss America  X”, various misc World War I era aircraft engines, gearboxes, and – yes – a Miller 91 Marine Racing Engine. All of the motors and “Miss America VIII”  had been in storage at the old Gar Wood location in Algonac, apparently as Gar Wood’s personal property. As I recall, in 1990 Kenny actually tracked someone down who helped with the loading of the truck / trailer in 1955.

The Tuthill / France / Wood / Nascar connections would fill a whole book, but at some time in the late 1950’s or 60’s Tuthill owed Big Bill money, and France took ownership of the Museum Of Speed and all the collections. Later, the old Museum of Speed building was closed down, and all the boat stuff was moved into storage on the grounds of the Daytona International Speedway. Although many collectors were aware of the “Miss America VIII” in storage, knowledge of the other Gar Wood items was lost after the items were placed in storage by Bill France.

Ken Muscatel approached the ISC (International Speedway Corporation) late 1987 with an interest in “Miss America VIII.”  We were directed to ISC’s lawyer, Doyle T., who was very helpful. Over an 18 month process, we were able to clear and acquire title to all the “Gar Wood Loan” items, including “Miss America VIII” and various itemized engines as originally loaned to Tuthill in 1955.

Missing was the Miller 91 Marine Racing Engine (Gar Wood’s 1925 1 ½ liter class race engine). Kenny and I still hold paper title to that piece; anyone seen it lately?  The papers say that it was still in Tuthill’s possession when France took over, but it was long gone by the time we started looking in 1988.

In any case, after we cleaned up the Gar Wood Loan papers, Doyle offered us the opportunity to simply purchase the remaining marine and aircraft motors in storage at ISC, and Ken Muscatel took up the offer. Included in the list was (one) “Antique V-12 Marine Race Motor”, no other information.

After Ken took pictures, it became clear that the motor was the Gar Wood “Curtiss – Smith” from 1918. In addition, the motor came with a brand new, Curtiss V NOS 5 x 7 cylinder. Try finding one of those at NAPA.

The motor was trucked to Seattle in 1988, and has been on display unrestored since.

The chain of ownership is something:

1) Glen Curtiss, builder / sportsman (Miss Miami) (1917-1918)

2) Gar Wood, Miss Detroit III (1918 -1955)

3) William Tuthill, display, Museum of Speed (1955 – 1960)

4) Bill France (Sr.), Nascar, ISC (1960 – 1988)

5) Dr. Ken Muscatel, display, restoration to run 2012 (1988 – 2012+) .

Quite a history, yet only just begun.

Craig Magnusson

The next step in the amazing Curtiss V-4’s restoration process in to install the valve train, pushrods, rocker arms, etc as shown below.

Thanks Craig – We apperciate your contribution to this story and look forward to seeing and hearing the beautiful Curtiss V-4 when she is installed in “Miss Detroit III” and re-lauched hopefully later this year.

Also special thanks to Ken Ken Muscatel, Ike Kielgass and engine builder Robert Mishko for sharing these cool photos of the Curtis V-4 engine restoration project with us here at Woody Boater.


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7 Responses to “Miss Detroit III Gets A New Set Of Jugs – Thanks To Robert Mishko At Rocky Summit Performance”
  1. randy rush-Captain Grumpy

    Way too much information. I feel I just did a title search for a real estate transaction, with issues for action to quiet titel.
    But all in all pretty neat story!

  2. Tim

    In your “can of mixed nuts,” these stories are the ones I specifically tune in for! Keep ’em coming!

  3. m-fine

    Was Alex implying that the Woody Boater community is comprised of a bunch of nuts?

    That engine looks awsome BTW!

  4. Ron

    Good to see Craig’s work here. Having known him and being a friend for many years, and seeing the stuff when it arrived in 1988; one thing I have learned is Craig’s mind is an archival museum of history in itself. You only just opened the door….

    • Texx

      Thanks Ron – We really appreciate Craig’s contribution to the Miss Detroit III / Curtiss story and look forward to hopefully squeaking that door open a little more in the future.

  5. chad

    Today’s story is a salty cashew.

    Some stories are like Brazil Nuts.

  6. Cobourg-Kid

    All this talk about Glenn Curtiss brought to mind an episode of American Pickers that appeared last year. In one segment the boys went out spelunking in an old Indiana shed that was owned by an ancient dude named “hobo-jack” In addition to unearthing an excelsior motorcycle (built by the Robie family of Chicago original owners of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House) Frank and Mike found a v twin 1906 Curtiss engine. To get the whole story check out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W1d1tMg9VNY&feature=player_detailpage#t=1843s