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Dixie Baby restored to her former glory by Peter Breen.

TODAY WE ARE GOING TO CHANGE THINGS UP with a great story written by C.E. Lodge, highlighting a historic wooden race boat named DIXIE BABY. The 95 year-old boats original design, impressive racing history, recent restoration, and country wide 2016 debut is remarkable. And the best part, you may even get a chance to see this race boat in person at an event near you this year. – Texx

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DIXIE BABY
ONE OF THE GREAT HOUSTON BOATS
By C.E. Lodge

A piece of Houston race boat history will be returning to Texas for several days in April 2016. The historic race boat named DIXIE BABY has been fully restored and will be touring throughout the U.S. this summer.

She was a key player of the Mississippi Valley Power Boat Association (MVPBA) in the 1920s. She won major race boat competitions with prominent Houstonian, owner L.A. Layne at the helm. On the first leg of her tour this summer, she will be showcased at the Keels and Wheels event, April 23, 24, 2016 at Lakewood Yacht Club, Seabrook, Texas.

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DIXIE BABY will be honoured at an event at the Houston Yacht Club on April 20, 2016. Commodore Gordie Kennan and Fleet Historian Sam Akkerman of the Houston Yacht Club have organized a champagne reception and dinner to coincide with the visit of DIXIE BABY coming home to Houston. Proceeds for this event will benefit RASA, a non-profit foundation created to provide support to young sailors and all aspects of competitive amateur racing in the Galveston Bay area.

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Source: Pacific Coast Yachting 1928: “The Southern California Regatta at Long Beach. Over 175 yachts, both power and sail, participated in this festival of speed. The inside harbor was used for the powerboats, Limited and Unlimited, inboard and outboard. Note large sailing ships in the background.”

DIXIE BABY is a 1921 Ventnor design stepped hull powered with a Hispano-Suiza WWI Spanish aircraft engine through a forward V-drive. The “Hisso” engines were used for aviation during WWI and a surplus of them were eventually converted for marine engines.

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August 1926 Yachting magazine copy.

DIXIE BABY started her racing career as a 725 Class racer. She has been restored to her original gleaming glory by Peter Breen Antique and Classic Boat Company Ltd., in Rockwood, Ontario, Canada. Breen explains; “The restoration will be a year and a half or more when she goes out the door. This does not include Robert Mishko’s engine rebuild, which took almost another year.”

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L.A. Layne

The racing history of DIXIE BABY is indelibly tied with L.A. Layne, the “Flying Wildcat” from Houston.

DIXIE BABY was originally owned and raced by prominent Houstonian L.A. Layne of Layne and Bowler. It was his father, M.E. (Mahlon) Layne, a self-educated South Dakota farmer who lit the initial spark of what would eventually grow to become the Layne Foundation.

The fascinating history of the Layne Foundation and the family that built an empire is captured in the works of R.H. Mason in 1983. Mason’s chronicles detail the rise of the family empire from its humble beginnings: “At the turn of the century, M.E. Layne, with a small crew and his home-made drilling rig, traveled the prairie states, living in wagons and tents to drill shallow wells for the farmers. His slogan, “Water or no pay” attracted many farmers”.

The phenomenal success which ensued from those early days typifies the American dream of that dynamic era. L.A. Layne eventually assumed command of the Houston plant of the business where under his leadership it grew and flourished. He went on to be a general partner in the Layne and Bowler Well Services Ltd., and was the director of the Layne Texas Company. During the 1930s, he also engaged in oil production, playing a large part in the development of the Damon Field, near Damon, Texas.

Layne was a prominent member of the Houston Yacht Club. While in his twenties and racing DIXIE BABY, the news coverage clippings from the racing events of the day in the 1920s heralded him as the ‘Flying Wildcat from Houston’. A key player of the Mississippi Valley Power Boat Association (MVPBA), Layne raced her to victory at many racing events.

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Her ambitious tour schedule for 2016 begins in Texas at Keels and Wheels then ends at Lake Tahoe in September.

• Keels and Wheels April 23, 24, 2016 at Lakewood Yacht Club, Seabrook, Texas
• Houston Yacht Club April 20th
• Bay Harbour, Michigan – Vintage Car & Boat Festival June 25.
• Hammondsport, NY July 16
• Skaneateles, NY July 29.
• Clayton NY. Aug 5-7.
• Lake Tahoe, CA Concours d’Elegance, Aug 12.
• Lake Tahoe, CA ACBS International, Sept 21 to 23.

Written by: C.E. Lodge
(For more information about Dixie Baby you can contact C.E. Lodge at [email protected] or on Facebook at Dixiebaby Ventnor. They have also produced a nice video of the race boat, which you can see HERE.

Photo credits:
C.E. Lodge – Story photos / research.
Bill Fisk – Some of the old historic photos and news clippings.
Jim Hawver – Lake George last summer.
Peter Breen – Some photos during the various stages of restoration.

THE RESTORATION OF DIXIE BABY.

Noted wooden boat restoration expert and craftsman Peter Breen from Canada recently completed the extensive restoration of DIXIE BABY. Here are a few shots taken during the process, courtesy of Peter Breen and C.E. Lodge.

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The bottom of the 95 year-old Ventnor race boat was carefully replaced.

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Truly a “bottom up” restoration project.

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Lorne Leibel (shown above) owns Dixie Baby and made this all happen. He purchased the boat from Bill Fisk several years ago. Bottom woodwork completed and painted with period colors and design – the historic race boat is starting to take shape at Peter Breen’s shop in Ontario. Lorne is also a member of the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame.

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Flipping Dixie Baby over for the deck work.

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The symmetrical look of hundreds of fasteners on the decks looks amazing.

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The steam bent ribs were replaced as well.

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Getting her historic lettering in Peter Breen’s shop.

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The intricate race boat design and deck construction looks fantastic.

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The completed decks and hull sides proudly flying the colors of the Houston Yacht Club just like back in the day.

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Dixie Baby has a very sleek transom design that Ventnor used back in the 1920s & 30s.

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Another shot of the massive Hispano-Suiza V-8 wedged inside the engine bay in Dixie Baby.

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Period correct wooden steering wheel.

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The beautifully restored period correct instruments and steering wheel in Dixie Baby.

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The Hispano-Suiza WWI Spanish aircraft engine pre-rebuild.

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The immaculate Hispano-Suiza WWI Spanish V-8 aircraft engine after being completely restored by noted vintage engine builder Robert Mishko at his shop in Tennessee.

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Special thanks to C.E. Lodge for sharing this exclusive story with us today and to all the contributors who assisted in the research and preparation of the story.

Texx
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18 Responses to “After 95 Years, “Dixie Baby” Will Once Again Tour The Nation”
  1. J Funk

    Great story on this historic boat, thanks for sharing. I’ll get a chance to see her in person at K&W later this month. Better pack the Nikon.

  2. Dan T

    Congratulations Peter Breen and crew. That is truly the ART of boat restoration.

  3. Ed F.

    The Michigan Chapter of ACBS is displaying boats at the 100th Anniversary Of The Gold Cup in Detroit this August. This would be a great venue for Dixie Baby to attend.

    • Phillip Jones

      MFine will you be at Skeneatales or Clayton this year. Looking for some thick cut Beacon samwiches.:):)

      • m-fine

        I wanted to go to Clayton, but I have some family members that asked us to reserve that weekend for them to visit us on Keuka, so that is looking like a no unless their plans change. I might go to Skaneateles on Friday for a bit, but I can’t commit yet.

        When I make my next batch of bacon, I will make sure to slice some extra thick for you.

  4. Dennis Mykols

    Mr. Leibel, please contract me on the details of the 100th running of the Gold Cup, and the “Call for Classics”. We are looking to put together a large land and water display of vintage boats from each decade. This will be a huge media event. Dennis Mykols 616-638-1692

  5. Cobourg Kid

    Always exciting to discover that yet one more ancient race boat has not only survived but thrived , brought back to life by a dedicated owner and Breen’s gifted Boatwright’s; particularly so in this case considering that Dixie B very nearly met its end the result of an engine fire that erupted during a free-for-all event on Galveston Bay way-way back in July 1927 .

    Thankfully L A Layne had Dixie B back up and roaring again by summer 1928; ultimately capturing a first in the 725 hydro class at the Long Beach California. Regatta in August of that same year.

    The story of how she survived all those years in retirement would be facinating

    I’m not sure if Dixie B’s owners know that the photos of her, captured in the pages of the August 1926 issue of YACHTING, and also in MOTORBOATING are the work of Morris (Rosie) Rosenfeld.

    It’s my observation that Rosie never took just one shot of any subject, hence there is a very good chance that multiple images of Dixie Baby (in crystal radiance) are lurking deep in hold of the Mystic Seaport Museum’s , Rosenfeld Archive.

  6. m-fine

    BTW,

    Someone should verify the Skaneateles date. Their boat show is not until the next weekend, 7/29 through 7/31.

    • Phillip Jones

      If you make it come by the Shepherd “Purple Haze” and we will go out for a spin.

    • Texx

      We have confirmed that the Skaneateles show date is July 29, 2016. Thanks m-fine.

  7. floyd r turbo

    This was taken fall of 2014 at Breen’s shop at the very beginning of restoration.