Miss Canada IV Restoration Update – Playing In The Sawdust And Planning For Thunder

Framing on Miss Canada IV - From Bow

Since early 2011 Woody Boater has been following the story of a famous Canadian Unlimited Hydroplane named Miss Canada IV. The record setting 1949 Greavette multi-step hydroplane is currently being restored by Tom Adams in Port Carling, Ontario – Near where she was originally designed and build by the Greavette Boat Company in the winter of 1948/49.

Once the restoration work has been completed later in 2012, Miss Canada IV will be featured in “Harold and Lorna”, the upcoming television docudrama about the lives of its original owner/driver Harold Wilson, his racing mechanic wife Lorna and the amazing racing dynasty spearheaded by Harold’s father Ernest Wilson. Here’s the recent update we received from restoration team members Harry Wilson & Jamie Smith.

Playing in the Sawdust and Planning for Thunder
by Harry Wilson & Jamie Smith

When toddlers dropped into the same pen start playing immediately, the future looks good. Not much changes with age; give big boys a “playpen” with the right toys, step back and watch the fun.

And so it was in Muskoka, Ontario just before Christmas, when Tom Adams’ boat shop brought strangers from far-away places together – “England, meet USA and your Canadian cousins!” – to play with Miss Canada IV. Add to that the promise of a 3,000 HP Rolls Royce Griffon V-12 and, well, you can imagine the excitement.

Rolls Royce Griffon 58 - Image Courtesy of dbpedia.org

Damn the Sawdust; Full speed ahead! Despite being nattily attired (no doubt by absent wives, to make good first impressions), within minutes Seattle’s Peter Orton (from the Hydroplane and Raceboat Museum) and Peter Grieve (from Flight Engineering in the UK) joined Tom Adams crawling under and through Miss Canada IV’s partially-rebuilt hull pouring over blueprints, checking measurements and sharing experiences.

At the edges of the sawdust and offering insights were Jamie Smith (project co-ordinator), team members Norm Woods, Mark Wretham, Al Crisp, and Ernie and Harry Wilson (sons of Lorna and Harold Wilson, the original Miss Canada race team). Within hailing distance via telephone were owner Bobby Genovese in the Bahamas, David Williams in Seattle and Douglas van Patten Jr in Michigan.

In two days, the “dirty dozen” would have to map out the marrying of boat, engine and running systems. The challenges were numerous and weighty. Would a stand-alone gearbox fit with the Griffon in place? (Nope)… Or would they have to recreate the engine-mounted step-up transmission of 1949? (Yes)

Who would build it? (Peter Grieve)… What speed would the boat be dialed-in for? (140 mph)… Re-install the methanol / water injection ADI boost system? (Yes!)… What about the boat’s historic turning problems? (try a deeper, wedge rudder)… Guages? Controls? And what about prop shaft size and position? Thank heavens Tom Adams had salvaged the original keel!

The framing work on the bottom of Miss Canada IV is nearing completion; next up will be inlaying the battens and then roughing in the opening for the huge Rolls Royce Griffon engine, thanks to the supply of a framing jig coming from engine supplier Peter Grieve of Flight Engineering in the UK.

The first day, was spent measuring Miss Canada IV so that the engine and gear box could be fitted onto the stringers and the many other components, struts, propeller shaft, fuel tanks etc could be installed.

The location of the mounting brackets was determined using a copy of the original blueprints by Peter Orton from the Hydroplane and Raceboat Museum, Peter Grieve of Flight Engineering, Tom Adams and Norm Woods to locate the original mounting holes in the stringers.

In January a “jig” of the engine with the crankcase mounting holes, the crankshaft centre line, a reference point for the drive flange position and the positions and hole locations of the exhaust flanges is being sent to Tom so that he can “line up” the exact mounting location of the engine crankshaft and propeller shaft.

After a day of playing in the dust, the team retreated to Bracebridge for a working dinner and a good night’s sleep. The next day, in Gravenhurst’s Muskoka Boat & Heritage Centre, safety systems (scatter shields and fire suppression), start-up procedures (oil & water preheating systems, primer and fuel pumps – no single turn-key operation here!) and specifications (fuel, fittings and filters) were the order of the day.

By quitting time, a full spreadsheet covering everything from lifting the boat, trailer specifications, seat design, gear box & propeller rotation, fuel octane, batteries, gauges, exhaust system, fire and safety systems, a parts list, engine installation date a tentative test location and date were discussed. With target dates in mind, new-found friends prepared to go their separate ways to attend to engines, running gear, controls and the like – but not before Peter Orton inspired everyone with the best line of the session: “It’ll be quite a day when this “Big ole’ Canoe” comes rumbling down the bay!”

Basking in the Afterglow

Two days later, with excitement still hanging in the air, Tom Adams welcomed fans of the project into his boat shop in Port Carling (Muskoka), Ontario. Despite the first snowstorm of the year (14 inches in 4 hours!) over 60 people braved the elements to see for themselves the restoration work on Miss Canada IV, what one fan calls her “Beautiful Mahogany Whale”.

There is a cathedral-like reverence in her framing that belies the roar that will emanate from Miss Canada IV’s exhaust come late summer 2012. The youngest visitor was dressed in a snowsuit, while the youngest at heart could remember Miss Canada IV preparing for her assault on the world speed record in 1950. Significantly, a large number of 20 and 30 something’s showed up to marvel at the work and inquire about the story of this famous Canadian Unlimited Hydroplane, the first to use a Rolls Royce Griffon V-12 engine.

Now that the winter is settling in, the critical tasks of bringing all components together becomes paramount – no easy feat when team members reside in three different countries. Thanks to the wonders of the Internet age, however, conversations can be instantaneous and resources abound, leaving 2012 team members amazed at how the original Miss Canada IV team created her from scratch in the Greavette boat shop during the winter of 1948-49.

Miss Canada IV - Greavette Boat Company 1948-49

Confidence abounds that new Rolls Royce engine and systems installations will begin in late spring, and Miss Canada IV will be ready for her scheduled re-launch in September. Nonetheless, everyone understands how boats can surprise even the most expert.

Miss Canada IV - Detroit, July 28, 1949

The restoration of Miss Canada IV is a labour of love for more than just the restoration team and its owner, Bobby Genovese – It’s a restoration followed by thousands who follow its progress through the internet, facebook and our communications.

Stay tuned to Woody Boater for more updates, you can also follow us on Facebook by clicking here at Harold & Lorna and Miss Canada IV and thanks for your interest.

To learn more about Tom Adams Boat Builder and see more photos of Miss Canada IV’s restoration, you can click here to go to his website.

You can also contact the Miss Canada IV Restoration Team by calling Jamie Smith: telephone 705 645 1991 or by e-mail at jds470@sympatico.ca

Our Winter Harold & Lorna and Miss Canada IV newsletter is planned for late January/early February. We will have some exciting news to share with you about the film and Miss Canada IV… lots of interesting things are happening!! If you are in the area, don’t forget to plan on doing the ACBS Toronto Spring Tour on Saturday, April 21st, 2012. Who knows you might even see a 3,000 hp Rolls Royce Griffon engine waiting to be installed in Miss Canada IV! To all of you from all of us, we wish you a happy and prosperous 2012.

Harry Wilson & Jamie Smith
Miss Canada IV Restoration Team

Vintage 1944 Rolls Royce - Griffon Advertisment

Thank guys for the update on Miss Canada IV, it’s an amazing story and one of a kind restoration project. We are looking forward to seeing her next summer when we are in the Muskoka area. – Texx

8 replies
  1. Frank Miklos
    Frank Miklos says:

    Love the resto…. The question mentioned above. What about the boat’s historic turning problems? (try a deeper, wedge rudder)

    If you are restoring the boat you restore it with the original rudder… It is a historic piece and should be kept original… A bigger rudder does not always make things turn better… They can change the attitude in a turn and make the boat more dangerous to run… The designers of the time knew what they were doing… Douglas Van Patten was pretty smart… Love when today’s restorers think they are smarter than people of the past… In most cases they are not…

    • Douglas Van Patten III
      Douglas Van Patten III says:

      Dear Frank:

      Thank you for the kind words about my father, naval architect, Douglas Van Patten; and also for your many contributions to the sport and avocation of classic and antique boating. My father had great respect for your views and opinions, and was very fond of you.

      With best wishes, Doug Van Patten III

      • Frank Miklos
        Frank Miklos says:

        Douglass I met your dad back in the 1980s I was just a teenager…

        Your dad along with a number of other old-timers from Century treated me like I was an equal… I never had that from strangers before… It seemed to be more respect than I deserved at the time but I think I learned more because of their treatment of me… I try to do the same with young people that I meet today… I did love talking to your dad and the others…

  2. Jamie Smith
    Jamie Smith says:

    Just need to let everyone know the date of the ACBS Toronto Spring Tour of local Muskoka and near by boat restoration shops, is Saturday, April 21st, NOT April 28th as I had written. My mistake … sorry about that!

    The registration for the event will be posted soon at http://www.acbs.ca.

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