Sleeper M-2 The Legendary 1931 Chris-Craft F-Service Runabout Runs This Weekend!



Sleeper M-2 – Driver: Bill Burgess of N. Tonawanda, NY & Riding Mechanic: Fran Semenick of Buffalo, NY (Circa 1959 Elizabeth City, NC.)

As far back as 1955 “Sleeper M-2” has been racing in events up and down the east coast, impressing spectators and fellow racers. The original Chris-Craft built in 1931, was converted to F Service Runabout in 1955 and has raced in a number of configurations throughout her illustrious life.

And the best part – you can still see her perform on the water this weekend in the Vintage Speedsters & Runabouts Class at the Classic Race Boat Association’s Fall Thunder Regatta on Lake Dora, in Tavares, Florida. The history of this boat and her eventual restoration in 2003 makes up our story today, thanks to the informative Vintage Hydroplanes & CRA websites. Great information on a legendary race boat. – Texx

Sleeper M-2
Owner: Harold Bauer of Kenmore, NY
Driver: Bill Burgess of N. Tonawanda, NY
Riding Mechanic: Fran Semenick of Buffalo, NY

HISTORY – Years Raced 1955-1966

This boat was raced originally in local regattas. In 1956 the boat was registered with the American Power Boat Association as M-2, a “F Service Runabout” class. The Service Runabout class rules were based on cubic inches, length, weight, and had to carry a crew of two people (driver & passenger).


Sleeper M-2 (Lower left) racing in the Buffalo Launch Club event, Buffalo, New York 1957. (Driver – Bill Burgess / Rider – Fran Semenick).

In 1956, the hull was powered by a Buick engine, and was driven from the rear of the boat. We were competing in the Nationals in Buffalo that year and almost won. However, the Buick motor fell apart. Bill Burgess (driver) and Harold Bauer, (who was the owner at that time) decided to change the power to Ford 390 FE and make hull adjustments.


1963 Niagara River – 60 mile Marathon (Driver: Bill Burgess & Riding Mechanic: Mike Thompson Buffalo, NY)

In 1959 we added to the chine on both sides from the trip back to increase the hull width at the transom. Knee braces were added to all the stringers and original braces. A cavitation plate was built for more running surface and stability along with fins for tracking. Placement of the engine was moved to the rear and attached by a Borg Warner velvet drive 71C, coupled to a Casalle V-Drive via a jack shaft. Prop shaft angles and steering were changed. The seating arrangement was changed to two forward cockpits driving from the cockpit forward of the engine. Bucket seats were added. The entire hull was fiberglassed. We made prop changes and settled on a two blade, Cary propeller.


“Sleeper M-2” was an original F Service class boat of Chris-Craft. The 19′ runabouts were a racing runabout. To make the class, we added the cavitation plate to make the legal length. As always the class diminished because others sought to change the rules instead of moving up. There were a lot of first’s when we redesigned the engine, cockpits, etc. Harold Bauer acquired a Ford 390 FE V-8 directly from Ford and this boat was the first Service class to run that motor. When I brought the boat into Washington, DC for the Presidents Regatta, it spun a few heads. I made all the marine conversions including the manifolds. It was the talk of the East coast and it ran. I really love this boat….was my start to a boat racing career. – Phil Burgess

In 1961 it won the Buffalo Launch Club around Grand Island Marathon. Length & time – 27 miles in 22 minutes & 37 seconds, avg 73 mph. A local record, that still exists today. For years, we canvassed the boat, traveled thousands of miles from Valleyfield, Quebec to Miami, FL, including , Buffalo, NY, Washington, DC, Elizabeth City, NC, Millville, NJ, Rehovoth Beach, Norfolf, VA, Chestertown, MD, etc. It was definitely a crowd pleaser.

This boat today is owned by Bill Burgess, from Orlando Florida. The boat was bought and restored by Tom Frauenheim (Thomas Frauenheim, Inc. boat restoration & broker Buffalo, NY) who purchased it from the estate of Harold Bauer. The boat had been sitting for 36 years and needed extensive restoration.


Sleeper M-2 being restored at Thomas Frauenheim, Inc. boat restoration & broker Buffalo, NY. (Circa 2003)


Ford V-8 being installed at Thomas Frauenheim, Inc. boat restoration & broker Buffalo, NY

Bill Burgess had the chance to drive this boat again at the Buffalo Launch Club Antique Regatta in both 2003 & 2004.


Once again, Bill Burgess drives “Sleeper M-2” at the 2004 Antique Raceboat Regatta in Clayton, NY.


Bill Burgess driving “Sleeper M-2” during the Buffalo Launch Club Antique Regatta in 2003.


2004 Antique Race Boat Regatta – Clayton, New York. (Left to right Keith Holm – Bill Burgess – Curt Brayer)

As boat racing goes, a part of history many involved will never forget, especially people in Buffalo, New York. A pioneer area in boat racing.


“Sleeper M-2” as she appears today in her most recent configuration – as she prepares for the Classic Race Boat Regatta at Lake Dora. (Photo courtesy CRA)

If you are in the Tavares, Florida area this weekend, forget about mowing the lawn – head over and check out this huge classic race boat event, you won’t be disappointed.


29 replies
  1. Ed F.
    Ed F. says:

    So, based on recent talk, is this boat a classic? An antique? Restoration? Re creation? Did someone do a dis service to our hobby by ruining an old boat? Not a chance! This boat is living proof that there is room in the hobby for resto mods and that a resto mod can create a place for itself in history. This a very cool boat!!! Thanks for bringing it to our attention.

    • Greg Lewandowski
      Greg Lewandowski says:

      Ed F,
      I could not agree with you more. For our Michigan Chapter shows we have created a “Modified” class for boats like this. Sleeper would be a strong contender for an award.

      • Texx
        Texx says:

        Smart move Greg. Just a matter of time before we see more of these “modified” classics begin showing up at events. And why not? I think it’s great.

        I just feel (also being a car guy) it’s a good idea to stay away from the word “resto-mod or rat-rod” – That term belongs with the car guys. “Modified” works well.

        • Paul H.
          Paul H. says:

          I much prefer the term ‘modified’ as well. Though as a raceboat conversion built in 1931 and converted to raceboat in 1955, it is in a very small class of its’ own, not matter what someone wishes to call that class. Must have been some passionate racing guys that went to the effort and cost of doing that back then.

  2. Alex
    Alex says:

    Very nifty boat.

    But, with pipes, a scoop, and bright red and white paint… a sleeper? I think not.

    Ahh, wait, I see. It’s humorous. As in “Sleeper. NOT.”

    Wish I were there to see and hear it.

  3. Texx
    Texx says:

    Ed F. – Although the little boat was originally a 1931 Chris-Craft – “Sleeper” was transformed into a race boat in 1955 and has lived the best years of her life as a race boat. It’s now in her DNA – maybe destiny…

    While researching the story, fellow Woody Boater Bill Deglopper (who was of great help) noted:

    Texx, In regards to your inquiry about the M-2, it is a local (Buffalo, NY) boat & was raced many times over the years on the Niagara River. Spent a fair share of time upside down after flipping during contests. Bill Burgess now has it in Florida & runs it on the CRA circuit. – Bill Deglopper

    Bill Burgess also made history in this flat bottom monster back in the day. – Texx

  4. m-fine
    m-fine says:

    No matter how much history it has made since 1932, it is still far from factory original and probably darn close to a 0 point boat by ACBS and Tahoe standards is it not?

    Clearly many of us disagree and think she is anything but a zero. To Ed and Greg’s points, a boat like this screams for a modified category for judging. I fully agree, but how do you assign a score?

    I also think it is one of the coolest things to come out of B-Lo since chicken wings, Mike Mayer, and beef on weck.

    • Texx
      Texx says:

      You judge it by standing on the dock and base the decision on how much “cool factor” the boat has. Like a Captains Choice award. There are already too many complicated judging rules out there. Ditch the score sheet and agree as a group how it’s awarded. The beauty of being a local chapter is you can do whatever you feel works and do whatever you want.

  5. Sean
    Sean says:

    This is one very cool boat! Modified? Yes; and that is the proper classification as it was done so when the boat was contemporary and it is the boats history.

    However, I believe the “resto-mod” title is a good one as it represents an older boat that has been changed recently (during it’s resurrection, so to speak) to suit the wishes of its current, or recent owner.

    Still, I love the “Sleeper” M2… what a fantastic looking boat 🙂

  6. Wilson
    Wilson says:

    I note Curt Brayer in the 2004 Clayton RaceBoat event photo. He, Marg and the boys used to be regulars at the Mt. Dora/Tavares show as well as the Keuka Lake Hammondsport/Penn Yan race. Wonder how he is doing these days?

  7. Old Salt
    Old Salt says:

    Matt, Woodyboater needs to send a GoPro camera to florida to get some live point of view footage from the drivers seat during a race!

  8. Ed F.
    Ed F. says:

    Texx, I agree on your judging comments. Even when ACBS rules are used judging is somewhat subjective. Most judges have their own ideas of what is “correct” based on their personal experiences which aren’t always factory correct.

    • Greg Lewandowski
      Greg Lewandowski says:

      For all of our shows, boats are judged on quality of finish and craftmanship, not originality. Our judges are chapter members that have a high degree of boat and boat restoration personal knowledge. It makes the process much less complicated, and I think is appreciated by the participants.

      • MikeM
        MikeM says:

        Not to rain on the “judging” parade, but ACBS does have a score sheet for race boats. It’s pretty “loose”, too as it takes into consideration the harsh life these boats lead and the modifications necessary to stay competitive through the years.

        I agree about having a modified class, too. Some boats benefit from a modification or two. Especially if it keeps them from going into the burn pile!

  9. Tuobanur
    Tuobanur says:

    We all agree that the future of classic boating is in the next generation and the key to the interest of the next generation is in making it more interesting (did I say that right). A modified version of these old classics is essential in keeping the interest of our youth, for example, go to a boat show and watch what most of the younger crowd gravitate too, the modified, big horse power, pipes sticking through the deck, wild paint schemes. It is a necessary evil to some but to me it is just good old fashion hot rodding. Even though my boat is not to the extreme it is modified to my liking, it is exactly what I would have done back in the early 40’s if I had been around in those days, it’s what we humans have always done and there is not a damn thing wrong with it, it is about having fun.
    It is also the change that will be necessary for this sport, for a lack of a better term, to continue for generations to come and I like it. Just my two cents worth.
    BTW, like that Header 😉

  10. floyd r turbo
    floyd r turbo says:

    “Forget about mowing the lawn???” More like shoveling the snow or thawing the pipes. Now if I just had one of those turbo prop Cessna’s with a company fuel card and a pilots license…

  11. MikeM
    MikeM says:

    Bill Burgess was also one of the best hockey coaches I ever had. He was smart and very positive out on the ice. Back then we weren’t “as” into boats and I had no idea he was, either, until I ran into him at one of the buffalo boat shows many years later.

    Bill’s famous line on the ice at practice was “25, stay alive. 24, got no more”. I never knew what it meant but I still say it. A lot. Drives the kids crazy.

    Way to go, Bill!

  12. Texx
    Texx says:

    Exhibit A.

    Jason and Tasha Graham’s inovative Hemi powered Model A Sedan earned Goodguy’s “Best Bitchen” award at this years Autumn Get-Together!

  13. steve
    steve says:

    I am fine with Resto-Mod Wood Boat as a classification for all the reasons that make sense. I would probably even get involved and create some interesting boats.
    As an example the classic car crowd has been down this road for generations . Some modifications include Yenko , Shelby , COPO, and many others.
    Let the party begin!

  14. Brian Flaherty
    Brian Flaherty says:

    Does anyone else see “lake Oswego boat co.” Advertising all over Woodyboater instead of text? Or is this an iOS8 problem??

    • Texx
      Texx says:

      Brian – It’s an iOS8 issue which will be fixed when the new website is launched. For now, please search the Woody Boater site on Google.

  15. reddog
    reddog says:

    nobody mentioned that in every boat bill burgess is pictured in only the rear 1/8 of the boat is touching the water this guy must know you gotta run your boat at full tilt or nothing else.

  16. Robert Burgess
    Robert Burgess says:

    I thank you for all the great posts. My father yes its Bill Burgess.. Has put his heart and soul into this boat. He and I also restored a Ski Nautique which has been restored. I have done allot of work on this boat myself. When I worked on it after it sank at the dock.. The look on his face was just sad. My daughters help him and I all summer long to get it ready for the Mount Dora boat show. At his age and still putting his heart into it goes to show how much he loves this boat!! Ask him to take you for a ride of your life and bring a change of underwear with you..

    • Texx
      Texx says:

      Thanks for chiming in Robert – “Sleeper” is a great boat with an amazing history, and we are impressed to see what Bill and his family has done with the boat.

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