Miss America VIII – The Brainchild of Garfield Wood and Designer Napoleon “Nap” Lisee

Today Mecum Auctions updated their 2012 Kissimmee Auction website to include a very well written description of Miss America VIII and her Twin Supercharged Miller V-16 Racing Engines, which is scheduled to cross the auction block on Saturday, January 28th around 7:30 PM in Kissimmee, Florida. Here’s an excerpt from the Mecum Auction website…

Miss America VIII – The brainchild of Garfield Wood and designer Napoleon “Nap” Lisee was built in 1929 to be the fastest boat in the world, and was considered by many to be the very best. Prior to his passing, Lisee was quoted “the Eighth was the finest boat he [Gar Wood] ever built, barring none… That’s my masterpiece – the Eighth. It’s even better than the Tenth.” Gar Wood himself once said in remembering “Miss America VIII” – “She’s the best boat we ever had.”

Gar Wood’s men fitted the custom-built, supercharged 1,113-ci V-16 engines from Miller, with his sights set on more speed. Weighing much less than the Packard V-12s, the radical Millers saw testing in “America VIII” on the Harlem River in the fall of 1931, where it was clocked at 104 mph. Nothing short of revolutionary, the Millers were designed to rev to 6,000rpm when the racing Packards, like most high-performance engines of the day had a maximum rpm of 2,500. The comparatively lightweight Millers were putting out an estimated 1,800-hp each. These Miller V-16 engines were the last to power “Miss America VIII” for competition with Gar Wood at the wheel.

Recently reunited after 70 years apart, the hull and the special engines designed for it are hitting the Mecum Auction block in Kissimmee, Florida is an unprecedented event. Perhaps more miraculous than the fact that this extremely famous one-off race boat and one-off engines have survived the last 82 years, is the level of restoration the two have received. While the hull is not quite completed the engines are finished and sound incredible! Over 75% of the hull in “Miss America VIII” is the original wood, for a wooden race boat, this is remarkable.

A brief history of “Miss America VIII” and the introduction of the radical Miller racing engines, along with a series of photos is now on Mecum’s website, which you can see by clicking here. Very cool stuff.

(Miss America VIII images courtesy of Mecum Auctions)


18 replies
  1. Dick Dow
    Dick Dow says:

    A significant part of the Eight’s history is missing from the website! The very original “Miss America VIII” was purchased from the Wood family and brought to Seattle by Dr. Ken Muscatel in the mid 1980’s. It had been stored in Florida at a speed musem, on display with a couple of different Gar Wood race motors installed, but otherwise untouched since 1931. Ken is the founder of the Hydroplane and Raceboat Musem, and still races unlimited hydroplanes every summer. The museum volunteers restored the Eight, installed two Packard 2500M (PT Boat) motors and took it to the Tahoe Concours in 1988, putting it in the water for the first time since 1931. While the plan was to run the boat at speed as part of the show, the motors were run at the dock with the propshafts uncoupled at the V-drives. During the show, the motors were fired and one of the driveshaft u-joints failed, resulting in a flailing driveline leaving a couple of holes in the deck and a scratched gas tank! Close call… We cancelled the run out on the lake. I think the boat is more than 75% original wood, but have not seen it for years. I hope the new owner does it right, fully restores it and goes for a boat ride!

    • Brian Robinson
      Brian Robinson says:

      Dick, any particular reason why Ken sold her? Seems like a perfect fit in his collection and/or the hydroplane museum.

  2. Scott Ales
    Scott Ales says:

    Telling the story of Miss America VIII in one page is simply impossible. There are so many specific stories around her and the extraordinary people who have helped with the creation and preservation, there just isn’t room. It really is an amazing piece of history. We will continue to create and release details as our research reveals more fun stuff! Feel free to chime in with your own like Dick did. Thanks Dick!

  3. Dick Dow
    Dick Dow says:

    Ken, Craig Magnusson, Joe Frauenheim and Ike Kielgass are the ones who know the whole story of the Eight’s coming to Seattle and the HRM – how the project came together and what all transpired – I was just lucky to be invited to participate in some of the restoration and to be part of the crew that went to Tahoe with the boat. That’s what happens when you hang around with the right people… Also, my memory skipped a bit – We had the boat at Tahoe in ’89 – not ’88.

  4. Tom T
    Tom T says:

    Looks like the steering wheel is part of the motor to me?? Turn left “what did you say” turn left “what did you say I cant hear you!!!! Garwood must have lost his hearing for sure.

    • Texx
      Texx says:

      Alex – Imagine the possibilities… With you so close to Detroit, if you owned Miss America VIII we could organize a “Miss America Shootout” with Chuck and Miss America IX on the historic Detroit River!

      It would be a Miss-tifying event…

      • Charles Bingham
        Charles Bingham says:

        This boat might be a little too impracticle for Alex…
        Now, if you made it more useful by adding a padded rear deck, a rear mounted ladder and a rectangular windshield off of an Arabian he might bite…

    • Texx
      Texx says:

      Tommy – The Miss America VIII never sold at the Mecum auction in 2012. We believe it is still with the current owner in Upstate New York. If you are interested you might want to call St. Lawrence Restoration in Clayton, NY – they may know the owner. – Texx

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