Miss Canada IV Returns Home After 61 Years – In A Tale Of Two Towns For “Harold And Lorna”

Can you remember the last time that you heard of two towns celebrating the next chapter in the life of an old wooden race boat? Well, this isn’t just another old wooden race boat, it’s the historic world record setting “Miss Canada IV”. In 1950 with Harold Wilson at the controls, powered by a 3,000 HP Rolls-Royce Griffon V12, the unique 34′ Greavette two-step hydroplane was clocked at almost 200 MPH.

Harold Wilson was the first Canadian speedboating pilot to make his mark on the international racing scene. His father, Ernest Wilson, was president of Greavette Boats Ltd., the Ingersoll Machine and Tool Company, and the John Morrow Screw and Nut Company. With all the necessary tools, materials, and knowledge at their disposal, father and son were able to build the “Miss Canada” and “Little Miss Canada” series of speedboats, an entire dynasty of championship vessels. With his fiancé, and later wife, Lorna Reid on board as mechanic, Harold Wilson claimed three world championship titles and set numerous speed records over the course of his 20-year competitive career.

Miss Canada IV - Emerging from under the Belle Isle Bridge in Detroit

Wilson began his racing career in 1928 with a victory in the 25 horse power runabout class at the Muskoka Lakes Association race. Between 1930 and 1934, he collected numerous victories in Ontario regattas aboard Little Miss Canada I, II, and III, as well as outboard hydroplanes. (Excerpt from the Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame Archive – for the full story click here)

Harold Wilson Career Highlights

1933-34 – World Speedboating Championship Title, 225 cubic inch class, with “Little Miss Canada III” and “Little Miss Canada IV”
1939 – Winner, President’s Cup with “Miss Canada III”
1942 – Awarded Official World Championship Title, 7-litre class
1947 – North American Gold Cup Class record of 119 mph with “Miss Canada III”
1949 – North American record of 143 mph with “Miss Canada IV”

(Photo courtesy of Ingersoll Cheese & Agricultural Museum)

On June 25th, 2011 the Town of Ingersoll, Ontario (population 12,000) will be bidding farewell to “Miss Canada IV” by hosting a farewell ceremony and BBQ at the Ingersoll Cheese & Agricultural Museum, where the boat has been on display since 1992.

On July 9th, 2011 The Town of Gravenhurst, Ontario (population 11,000) will be hosting a “Welcome Home” event for “Miss Canada IV” in conjuction with the Toronto Chapter ACBS Antique & Classic Boat Show in front of the Muskoka Boat & Heritage Centre. It will be proclaimed as “Miss Canada IV Day.”

Fellow Woody Boater Jamie Smith sent us the following two press releases for the upcoming “Miss Canada IV” events. Jamie Smith is the Executive Producer of the TV Docudrama “Harold and Lorna”, is serving as a consultant on the “Miss Canada IV” restoration team, and is the Past President of the Toronto ACBS Chapter. A busy fellow…

Press Release No. 1 – The Town of Ingersoll, ON

World Record Holder Miss Canada IV Leaves Ingersoll, Ontario.

Ingersoll, ON – The Town of Ingersoll will be bidding farewell to the world famous Miss Canada IV speed boat on June 25th at the Ingersoll Cheese & Agricultural Museum starting at 11 a.m.

The Miss Canada IV will be leaving Ingersoll to go to Gravenhurst where the boat will be restored and become a feature 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.

“As a community, we are sad to see a part of our history go,” said Ted Comiskey, Mayor of Ingersoll. “But we are happy to see that Miss Canada IV is going to be restored and returned to her natural element the water once again. Allowing the boat to be restored and cared for by professionals means that the boat will be seen by and around for generations to come.”

Miss Canada IV was built by the Greavette Boatworks in the winter of 1948 – 1949 by Ernest Wilson to represent Canada as challenger for the Harmsworth Trophy; emblematic of absolute world supremacy in powerboat racing. In 1950 she was clocked at nearly 200 mph in a straightaway speed record attempt. .

Harry Wilson says “this is an exciting time for the Wilson family as this project brings back together two communities, Ingersoll and Gravenhurst which were so close to my parents’ hearts. It will continue to revive and preserve our history and heritage.”

Miss Canada IV has been acquired from the Ingersoll Cheese & Agricultural Museum by Mr. Bobby Genovese of Lake Rosseau (near the Gravenhurst / Muskoka region). The boat is returning to Muskoka for restoration after an absence of sixty one years.

“We look forward to receiving Miss Canada IV back in Gravenhurst and once again reviving our ties with Ingersoll. The Wilson Family touched many people over the years and we are thrilled to be part of this rich history. It is very exciting for our community to welcome a family member back home.” says Mayor Paisley Donaldson, Mayor of Gravenhurst.

On Saturday, June 25 starting at 11 a.m. the Town of Ingersoll will be honouring the Miss Canada IV by hosting a farewell ceremony and BBQ. Representative of the Town of Gravenhurst will also be present at the event to receive the speed boat. Following the ceremony, the speed boat will be escorted out of Ingersoll by the Ingersoll Pipe Band along Thames Street, starting at approximately 1 p.m.

Above – “Miss Canada IV” on her way to the Muskoka Museum (circa 1986)

Press Release No. 2 – Town of Gravenhurst, ON

Gravenhurst proclaims July 9th, 2011 “Miss Canada IV Day”

Welcome Home Event at The Muskoka Boat & Heritage Centre
at 1:30pm, July 9th, 2011

Commissioned by Ernest Wilson, Miss Canada IV was built by Greavette Boatworks in the winter of 1948 – 1949 to be Canada’s first challenger for the Harmsworth Trophy, the symbol of absolute worldwide supremacy in powerboat racing. The boat, a unique two-step “keel knuckle” hydroplane, is 34 ft long and 10 ft wide and was powered by a Rolls – Royce Griffon 3,000 h.p. engine.

Miss Canada IV challenged for the Harmsworth Trophy twice, in 1949 and 1950. The pre-race favorite on both sides of the border, she failed to win either race with propeller problems in the first andsteering failure in the second attempt.

After setting a North American speed record in 1949, the Wilson Racing Team attempted to break the World Water Speed record of 160 mph in Picton in October 1950. Miss Canada IV completed the first lap at over 173 mph. On the required return run at close to 200 mph, the transmission failed. The boat coasted to a stop 100 yards short of the finish line. This attempt marked the end of the Wilsons’ racing career.

In his autobiography Boats Unlimited (Boston Mills Press, 1990), Harold wrote “My first race was in 1927 and my last was in 1950. I had won three World Championships and set two speed records, one North American and one World Record. I had been made a member of the Gulf Marine Hall of Fame – the only Canadian, I believe, to be so honored. A few years after my retirement, I was greatly honored by being made an Honored Member of the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame.”

Harold and Lorna Wilson’s racing career brought world-wide fame to both Ingersoll, where the family owned the Ingersoll Machine & Tool Company and to Gravenhurst and Muskoka where they have cottaged since 1925. Why they came to Muskoka is another story; you will need to wait until the summer of 2012 to learn the answer at a world premier of the two part television docudrama, “Harold & Lorna” at the Gravenhurst Opera House.

Miss Canada IV has been acquired from the Ingersoll Cheese & Agricultural Museum by Mr. Bobby Genovese of Lake Rosseau. The boat is leaving Ingersoll on June 25th and returning to Muskoka for restoration after an absence of sixty one years. The boat will be an actor in the closing scenes of “Harold & Lorna”.

The Miss Canada IV Restoration Team has worked with Amy Taylor and Amanda Lomas to plan a “Welcome Home” event hosted by the Town during the Antique & Classic Boat show on July 9th at 1:30pm in front of the Muskoka Boat & Heritage Centre.

An exciting event is in store for town residents. Guests will include council members and staff from both Ingersoll and Gravenhurst. The boat will be paraded down Bay Street by the police and fire departments, past the Antique and Classic Boat Show, and displayed for the afternoon in front of the Muskoka Boat & Heritage Centre.

Speeches by the Mayors of Gravenhurst and Ingersoll and by Mr. Genovese to welcome the boat home are planned, followed by a reception for guests and attendees.

Jamie Smith

Thanks Jamie – This is a great story which just continues to evolve – Texx.

Miss Canada IV Framing - Greavette Plant in the Winter of 1949

Below are a few images of “Miss Canada III” taken at The Clayton Antique Boat Museum’s Quest for Speed exhibit. The predecessor to “Miss Canada IV”, “Miss Canada III” is a 1938 25′ Greavette Boatworks stepped hydroplane, designed by Douglas Van Patten.

Miss Canada III, Clayton Museum 2010 - Woody Boater Photo

“Miss Canada III” was also owned by Ernest Wilson and driven by his son Harold. The boat made a strong showing in her first outing at the 1938 Gold Cup placing third overall, and won the 1939 President’s Cup Race. The boat was placed in storage during WWII, and returned to racing afterwords and competed in the 1946 Gold Cup.

Miss Canada III, Clayton Museum 2010 - Woody Boater Photo

In 1947, again with Harold Wilson at the controls, “Miss Canada III” set the North American Gold Cup Class record of 119 MPH.

Miss Canada III, Clayton Museum 2010 - Woody Boater Photo

Thanks to Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, Ingersoll Cheese & Agricultural Museum, The Antique Boat Museum in Clayton, and the Hydroplane History web site for their assistance in preparing this story.


Story Update – Today I asked Harry Wilson (son of Harold & Lorna Wilson) about when / why “Miss Canada IV” was re-named “Miss Supertest” and received this response – Harry said…

Texx – When the Wilson team called it a day after the 1950 world record attempt (where the gearbox blew up at close to 200 mph), Grandfather EA Wilson sold everything to Gordon & Jim Thompson, the owners of the Supertest brand of gasoline. Gordon, with Jim driving, renamed IV “Miss Supertest” and campaigned her with reasonable success as they learned the ropes of the unlimited game. She was shelved when they designed and built Miss Supertest II; we were told Miss Canada was subsequently destroyed in a warehouse fire, but Harold & Charles Mistele found her in a farmers’ field near Windsor in the very early 80s, bought her and rebuilt her sufficiently to run her in a few ACBS shows in the States. They renamed her Miss Canada, as Harold Mistele had watched Dad campaign her in ’49 & ’50.

I have included a photo of her running under her Miss Supertest colours in 1951 or 52; I think you will agree she was certainly up and flying!

Thanks Harry – Texx

19 replies
    • WoodyGal
      WoodyGal says:

      You could start by watching the “Red Green Show”! You will get to see Possum Lodge and learn a lot about creative home repair with duct tape. Let’s all recite the men’s pledge………..”I am a man, but I can change, if I have to, I guess.”

      • m-fine
        m-fine says:

        Oh, I know the Red Green Show, I have lived my entire life in the northern border states, close enough to pick up Canadian TV and radio over the air. The stuff sticks with you after a while. I even dress like Don Cherry now!

  1. Frank Miklos
    Frank Miklos says:

    I knew Douglas Van Patten the designer of Miss Canada III and Miss Canada IV. He also re-designed Miss Canada II originally a Hacker design.

    I knew Doug in the Early Days of the Century Boat Club … Doug would talk at our functions about his many experiences… I was only in my late teens at the time… I remember him talking about the Miss Canada boats… Somewhere I think we have a video of one of his talks…

    Later he also consulted on the restoration of Liberty The Second. A 1922 Race boat that Sunk on Conneaut Lake, PA in 1922… It was raised from the lake in 1985 and Restored over the next year…

    Antique boating was a little different back then… There were old timers around that were a wealth of knowledge… My favorites were Ed Greve, Doug Van Patten, Radar Rohrstaff, and Bill Wittig… They all had great stories.

  2. John Kadimik
    John Kadimik says:

    The bottom of Kim’s 1949 Globe “WIKI-WIKI”was designed by Douglas Van Patten for George Getz’s Globe Corp. The bottom features non-trip chines and allows for sharp turns without the tendency to skip or slide.

  3. steven balcer
    steven balcer says:

    much history with the boat. I believe it was miss Canada III or the IV was the first Miss Supertest witch is another Canadian race boat story.
    25 years ago when I worked for a famous raceboat builder in kawkawlin MI. I got the bug back than as a youth and still build.
    I love this stuff
    More race boats!!!!

    • Texx
      Texx says:

      Steven – I took you question about “Miss Supertest” directly to Harry Wilson, and you can see his response at the bottom of the story.

      Very cool stuff, made even cooler when you can get the information right from Harold Wilson’s son the same day.

  4. Chris / Hagerty
    Chris / Hagerty says:

    Will be heading to Gravenhurst for the show. Looking forward to seeing all the great Canadian boats. The race boats of that era are just incredible in what they were stuffing into wooden hulls to push the speed envalope

  5. steven balcer
    steven balcer says:

    It’s amazeing how you can reconstruct a tree add an engine and make it go fast on water. Years ago I cut a bunch of sitka spuce for Warby who holds the water speed record at 317 mph. he was building a second boat because he thought his record was going to be bumped up. 317 mph on water with a jet powered wood boat. They don’t make people like that no more. The ultimate woody race boater.

  6. Texx
    Texx says:

    This morning we received some remarkable period photographs of “Miss Canada IV” from Harry Wilson’s archive, so we added two of the photos to today’s story.

    “Miss Canada IV” Emerging from under the Belle Isle Bridge in Detroit during the Harmsworth Races and a very rare shot of “Miss Canada IV” being framed at the Greavette Boatworks plant in 1949.

    Harry is the last son of Harold & Lorna Wilson, and proudly bears his name. Harry was also invited to be involved in the “Harold and Lorna” project by Jamie Smith and film maker W.A. Plumstead, which he accepted.

    Thanks Harry!

  7. Alex
    Alex says:

    Hey fellow Canadians… Imagine how quickly you could get from Tim Horton’s to Tim Horton’s in a boat like that! However, think of the doughnuts it cost to make and the Timbits it burns per minute at 150+ plus. Beaver Damn!

  8. Gayle Van Patten
    Gayle Van Patten says:

    Doug Van Patten, son of late designer Doug Van Patten, and I will also be heading to Gravenhurst for July 9th event. (Doug was born in Bracebridge in 1942). We are very excited about the project.

  9. Paul
    Paul says:

    What a breath of fresh air to read about the find and the restore of Miss Canad IV so good to see a part of Canada heritage restored to it’s former glory,glad to see this was not decommsioned like the Avro Arrow.Good work to all the people who made this happen thanks for the memories,hope to see this come to Sarnia,Ontario

    Cheers! Paul

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