Miss Detroit III – As She Was Meant To Be

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Miss Detroit III sits silent at the dock as the residents of Lake Tapps, Washington adjust their earplugs. – Michael McBride photo

Saturday was a special day for Ken Muscatel and Ike Kielgass, as they re-launched “Miss Detroit III” with her remarkable Curtiss Model V-4 V-12 race engine, for a water test on Lake Tapps, WA. Legendary boat racer Gar Wood won the 1918 Gold Cup race with “Miss Detroit III” powered by a rare 1916 Curtiss V-12 aircraft engine. Beginning with our first report in April 2012, we have been following the story of vintage hydroplane enthusiasts Ken Muscatel and Ike Kielgass and their quest to one day reunite the Curtiss V-12 with “Miss Detroit III”.

Miss Detroit III Test 2 - Michael McBride photo

As you can see in Michael McBride’s photo, the race boats cockpit in 1918 was “strictly business” – not for the weak of heart. Look where the twin magneto’s are located in the photo below.

Although the original Christopher Columbus Smith / Gar Wood designed race boat is long gone, Ken Muscatel was able to purchase the beautifully built “Miss America III Replica” race boat at the Warner-Mecum Auction back in 2010. Over 20 years ago, Ken Muscatel (assisted by historian Craig Magnusson from Seattle) 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.

Miss Detroit III Test 3 - Michael McBride photo

Michael McBride captures the essence of the 1916 Curtiss race engines mechanical & electrical systems, all working as one to produce an estimated 400HP with a whopping displacement of 1,650 Cu.In., making it’s power at around 1,500 RPM

The restoration of the original 97 year-old Curtiss race engine was entrusted to vintage engine builder Robert Mishko at Rocky Summit Performance in Tennessee, which was completed and bench tested in August 2012.

Miss Detroit III Test 4 - Michael McBride photo

The exquisite Robert Mishko restoration leaves nothing to the imagination on the vintage Curtiss race engine… Art in motion. – Michael McBride photo.

Now, with the help of Ike Kielgass and some folks from the Hydroplane And Raceboat Museum, the ultra rare Curtiss V-12 has been successfully installed in the “Miss Detroit III Replica” race boat in Ike’s shop near Seattle, Washington – and on Saturday Ken & Ike re-launched “Miss Detroit III” on Lake Tapps, WA for her first water test with the big V-12 Curtiss. Just the way the original Miss Detroit III race boat would have appeared 95 years ago with Gar Wood at the controls. (maybe a bit more polish and varnish than in 1918…)

Miss Detroit III Test 5 - Michael McBride photo

The vintage Curtiss Model V4 V-12 engine still uses the early (and very rare) vintage M-4 Stromberg carburetors. – A wonderful photo by Michael McBride.

Fellow Woody Boater and local wooden boat restorer Robert DaPron was on hand at Lake Tapps for the re-launch, along with our friend and contributor Ron Stevenson. They captured some short video with their iPhones which has been posted below.

Rob DaPron commented – “It was an overcast day, but the water on Lake Tapps was perfect. They didn’t really run the boat that much – 3 runs perhaps 5-10 minutes each. Everything work flawlessly. Only issue was the motor ran a touch cool, but it is set up with a valve to control cooling flow so it is a simple adjustment. Seemed to be propped correct although they did not open it up.”

“They ran it up to about 1200 RPM and saw an indicated 40 MPH on the GPS. I would suspect that 1500 would put them right around 50. After that it is just a matter of how hard you want to push the old motor. The motor was built and tuned perfectly which helps greatly. Ken was very happy with how the boat performed.” – Robert

Miss Detroit III Test 6 - Michael McBride photo

Ike Kielgass watches carefully as Miss Detroit III returns to the dock on Lake Tapps. Ike is a qualified race boat pilot, this certainly isn’t his “first rodeo”. Both Ken & Ike drove Unlimited Hydroplanes in the 2005 film “Miss Madison” – Michael McBride photo.

Miss Detroit III Test 8 - Michael McBride photo

Heat waves as the Robert Mishko restored 1916 Curtiss V-12 warms up… With Bob in the riding mechanic’s seat, from the nearby Hydroplane and Raceboat Museum.

Miss Detroit III Test 9 - Michael McBride photo

On plane and getting up to speed – Michael McBride photo

Miss Detroit III Test 7 - Michael McBride photo

Ken & Ike returning from a successful test run with Miss Detroit III – Michael McBride photo

As we noted in the top of the story, we have had the pleasure of following this great story since April 2012, from the early days of the Curtiss engine restoration at Robert Mishko’s shop in Tennessee, right up until the engine was bench tested and installed in Miss Detroit III, including some history on Glenn H. Curtiss. To see those stories, we have provided links to the Woody Boater archive below. Also you will find a great YouTube video when the engine was fired up at Ike’s shop in Seattle, and finally a short YouTube video from the test day last Saturday at Lake Tapps.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Glenn H. Curtiss, Gar Wood And A Chris-Craft – A Winning Combination In 1918

Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Miss Detroit III Gets A New Set Of Jugs – Thanks To Robert Mishko At Rocky Summit Performance

Saturday, September 1, 2012
The 1916 Curtiss V-4 Is Alive! All 1650 Cubic Inches Of This Vintage V-12 Monster

Thursday, January 17, 2013
Miss Detroit III – Please Meet Mr. Curtiss

Miss Detroit III is now being prepared to make a visit to the ACBS International Boat Show in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho on September 17-23, 20013. After that, she will return to the Hydroplane and Raceboat Museum in Kent, Washington for everyone to see and enjoy this beautiful race boat.

Special thanks to Michael McBride for sharing his spectacular photos with us today.

Congratulations to Ken Muscatel, Ike Kielgass, Robert Mishko and the folks from the Hydroplane and Raceboat Museum on this remarkable project! I understand that there were two GoPro video cameras mounted on the boat on Saturday, so hopefully more video is on it’s way from this historic day.


8 replies
  1. Greg Lewandowski
    Greg Lewandowski says:

    It is evident from the results of this first water test that the people involved in this exciting project know what they are doing. The boat is beautiful, and truely a significant addition to the history of powerboat racing. Congratulations to all involved!
    On behalf of the Michigan Chapter, ACBS, I would like to extend an invitation to Miss Detroit III’s proud owners to bring her home to one of our shows along the St. Clair River some day. We would be thrilled to welcome her, and it would be exciting to see her run on the same water where she was initially tested and raced. I hope you will consider our offer.

  2. Sean
    Sean says:

    It’s always nice to see another project get splashed however, it this case it’s SPETACULAR with that beautiful unique engine singing (growling). A great looking boat with a high level of attention to detail. Boy, I’d love to see this one in person…..

  3. Troy
    Troy says:

    Amazing boat!
    What a piece of history.
    Wonder if there are any more of those engines hidden away somewhere unknown to all of us.

    • m-fine
      m-fine says:

      There were not many made to begin with. It was more of a prototype than a mass production engine which is why it was available and not in a military aircraft headed to France.

  4. m-fine
    m-fine says:

    It was quite an achievement for Garwood to be able to source an engine like that in the middle of the war and to be able to build Miss Detroit III. An even bigger achievement to replicate that 95 years later.

    I would love to hear that engine roar in person, perhaps a little further back than the driver seat.

  5. Paul H.
    Paul H. says:

    Gorgeous engine, and a lovely replica as well great eye to pipck that up at the sale. This really was an inspired project, and I am thrilled to read that it will be at the International next month. Are there any plans to run it at the show? I imagine it will be run sparingly, for reasons that must be obvious to everyone, but I sure would like to see and hear that spectacle.

    Congratulations on such a successfull test!

  6. MikeM
    MikeM says:

    Thats a great story. Can’t wait to see her in CDA. Will you bring her to Chelan for the raceboat show?

  7. floyd r turbo
    floyd r turbo says:

    What an amazing package. Congrats on the successful launch. That motor looks like it should be under glass at Tiffany’s. Hard to believe those “hairclip” exhaust valve springs produce sufficient closing pressure.

    There are some folks from Muskoka/Gravenhurst that might want to enlist your services.

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