This Is Soon To Be The Best Seat In The House – Miss Canada IV Raceboat Restoration Update

MCIV Seat 1 On Friday we broke the news that the Antique Boat Museum in Clayton, NY has arranged to loan the former World Champion raceboat “Miss Canada III” to the Muskoka Boat & Heritage Centre located in Gravenhurst, Ontario, Canada. “Miss Canada III” will be the centerpiece of the Centre’s “Race Boat Glory, Muskoka Legends Live On,” this summer’s leading commemorative exhibit.

For vintage boat racing enthusiast’s planning to attend the “100 Years of Racing” celebrations at the 33rd Annual Antique Boat Show in Gravenhurst this July, reuniting “Miss Canada III” with her younger sister “Miss Canada IV” and the other vintage raceboats is exciting news. Part of the celebrations the Toronto Chapter ACBS has planned for the July 5/6/7 weekend is the much anticipated re-launch of the historic “Miss Canada IV” raceboat after completing her massive restoration at Tom Adams boat shop in nearby Port Carling, Ontario.

As the restoration project nears completion, we thought today would be a good day to give you an update on how Tom Adams, his crew, and the “Miss Canada IV” restoration team are coming along with the project.

We checked in with Harry Wilson (from the MC-IV restoration team) who provided us with a detailed update and some great photos from Tom Adams shop. We have also been following the restoration teams updates on the Harold & Lorna / Miss Canada IV Facebook page. As you can imagine, with any restoration project of this magnitude (and with a deadline) there are a mountain of details the restoration team is currently dealing with in order to test the 3,000 HP race boat when the ice clears from the lake. Today we will focus on a few key areas of the restoration.

The “Miss Canada IV” team is committed to completing the restoration as accurately as possible, and we all know how important historical photos can be when restoring a vintage boat. However accurate, period correct photographs of the boats cockpit arrangement, dash board and original seats were just not available and the team was getting to a point where they had no choice but to make some calculated guesses on some of these areas. Harry notes – “For example, the seats that were in the boat during all those years on display in the Ingersoll Museum were not original. It appears they were fabricated in the 1980s or perhaps the 70s. The seatback angle was uncomfortably erect, and the cushions, well… let’s just say they would have contributed mightily to some buttock bashing!”

Then, as Harry describes it “The just-in-time surfacing of several critical cockpit photos in March 2013 have allowed Tom Adams & his team to tailor the cockpit for Bobby Genovese (the owner) and recreate the original design.”

“The objective is to make certain Bobby Genovese and all who drive Miss Canada IV are as happy and comfortable as Harold Wilson was in this 1949 photograph. — at Detroit, MI before the Harmsworth Trophy races.”

Harry notes – This photo of the unfinished cockpit taken during the first 1949 tests surfaced only a few weeks ago… and not a moment too soon! Not only did it finally reveal dashboard details, it also showed the foot throttle and, most importantly, the unfinished seatback. Tom Adams suddenly had information about how to replicate the seats nobody dared dream would ever be available. — at Gravenhurst, Greavette Boats, May 1949.

This shot provided a good idea as to how high the seatbacks were.

Although Harold looks saddened in this photo, we were delighted to see so clearly the shape, depth and mounting of the two seats.

First, Tom had to shape the base of the seats.

Tempered masonite was clamped in place to the base frame. This allowed Tom to draw a template for the wooden seatback.

After defining the seatback shape, Tom cut out the template and prepared to transfer that shape to the actual sheet of plywood to be used in the construction of the seat.

Bending plywood is no easy task. Tom figured out how much and where the plywood would have to bend and then cut kerfs into the plywood to facilitate the bends.

The kerfed and shaped seatback is glued into place on the seat base.

The kerfs that allowed the wood to bend also weakened the seatback substantially. Here epoxy is squeezed into the open kerfs which, when dry, will restore the strength of the wood and lock it permanently in shape. Next up will be additional framing for the armests and seat bottom.

The clamping continues: next up are the arm rest frames.

World Champion driver Norm Woods at the wheel, with master craftsman Dave Young beside him as they work out the positioning of the foot throttle, seat positioning and firewall/floorboard configuration. Note the output shaft coupling/generator cover resting temporarily on the forward deck.

The final deckwork is underway. Not only has the original varnish been stripped away, the covering boards and hard chines have been primed in preparation of her black paint trim — at Port Carling, Tom Adams Boatbuilder shop.

Even as Tom and crew are pushing to get all of the mechanical & electrical installations complete, refinishing of the decks is also underway. Besides the usual scraping/restaining/varnishing processes, Tom also decided he could not abide the fact that some of the deck screws & cinch nails were bright, and some were dark, so he undertook to remove all dark ones, buff them, and re-install or replace as necessary. There are literally thousands of screws and nails on that deck, and I’m glad I was not on site to join in on that particular bit of fun. The first coats of varnish will be applied this week.

Bow scrape old paint
Before the decks were stripped, Tom had local artist Pat Doran come in to trace and position the original artwork; Pat will be responsible for re-creating it to look exactly as it did in 1949.

Bow paint tracing paper
Hatches are now being stained.

Stained hatches & decking
And although the decks appear unfinished, it’s nice to see that all the mechanical, plumbing, wiring, etc under the decks is now mostly completed.

Stern plumbing longshot
Rudder Upgrade – The decision to lengthen the original rudder design was made only after a good deal of agonizing over the question of whether to mess with historical accuracy or act in favour of improving the boat’s legendary handling problems. In the end, safety trumped, and the decision was made to improve the rudder design.

Below – The original short rudder from Miss Canada IV and the beginnings of the plug for the new rudder. Note that the the trunion bearing is gone and that the new design is both longer and has the vital leading edge forward of the rotation axis that the old rudder was completely lacking. The leading edge is 4 times as effective in steering as the trailing (aft of the axis) portion of a rudder. The new rudder will reach 9 inches (23 cm) deeper into the water and should be much more effective than the original rudder.

Rudder 1
The Master checks his work. Tom is more than a scientific boatbuilder; he also possesses an artist’s sensibilities and instincts and brings these “fifth sense” insights to his work. — at Port Carling.

The plug after being sealed and before being sent out to be cast.

Rudder 2

Rudder 3

Once we were finally able to nail down the configuration of the dashboard (thanks to some just-unearthed photos from 1949), Tom was able to get to work on building one, while Mark Wretham & Norm Woods got busy running wires and connections for the guages, switches, and fuses. One of the interesting details revealed by those late photos was that the guages were not surface-mounted; instead, they were recessed into the dash from behind, presumable to reduce light reflection off the face of the guages.

Dashboard Rough reverse inset
The main switch unit top centre of the dash includes an emergency “kill bar”; in one pull, power to the magnetos, fuel pump, fuel primer pump and ADI would be cut off. Mark manufactured the unit on site.

Dash & guages before installation
In addition to the original layout, we also had to wire in the oil & water pre-heating systems. The breaker panel for those is mounted beside the driver.

Breaker panel portside
Key mechanical items required for the supercharged 3,000 HP Rolls-Royce Griffon V-12 to operate properly. – Here are a few photos of the Water Cooler unit. It is tee’d at the front of the engine to allow for regulated cooling water temperatures entering the engine. We will also have a pre-heater unit, the idea (thanks to the Seattle Miss Budweiser Griffon team) being that we don’t want to “shock” the Griffon one way or the other.

ADI tank & plumbing portside bow
We will also do the same with the engine oil, warming it up and recirculating it through the engine before flipping those switches and hitting the start button. After that, we will be cooling it via an external tank before the oil goes back to work.

Cooler unit installed
To balance the weight of the starboard oil cooler unit, we have installed the ADI (Alcohol Direct Injection) tank (40/60 methanol/water) opposite on it on the port side. That potent cooling/fueling mix will be sprayed directly into the eye of the supercharger by means of a spring-loaded toggle switch at speeds above 110 mph. The mix both cools and burns; as Dad asked in his book “Ever received an unexpected kick in the seat of the pants? Well, that will give you a faint idea of what we experienced every time we turned on the electric pump for that go juice.”

Harry Wilson – Miss Canada IV Restoration Team

Thanks for the update and photos today Harry – This is very exciting to follow and the attention to detail is outstanding. Also thanks to Tom Adams Boatbuilder for sharing many of his restoration photos with us here today.

And finally today – Here’s a great vintage photo of “Miss Canada IV’s” 1st shake-out run in May 1949: Harold Wilson at the wheel, with mechanic Charlie Volker (smoking his famous pipe despite the proximity of 150 octane fuel!) & designer Doug van Patten, leaving the Greavette marine railroad and heading out past the old Ditchburn boathouse and into Muskoka Bay.

The restoration team is planning to begin testing “Miss Canada IV” in late May or early June (64 years after this shot was taken in the same waters), with the official launch on July 6th during the 33rd Annual Antique Boat Show in Gravenhurst, Ontario which is hosted by the nice folks at the Toronto Chapter ACBS.

Woody Boater will be on hand providing live-ish updates from the entire event and we can hardly wait to see “Miss Canada IV” back on the water after so many years of hibernation.


12 replies
  1. Jim Staib
    Jim Staib says:

    I seen a documentary on public TV about Ken Warby breaking the water speed record in Australia. After going pretty fast they pull the boat from the water and take a cutting torch and remove a couple inches from the rudder. Looked crude even on TV. By removing the couple inches from the rudder they got the extra MPH to break the 300mph barrier. Seems like you have to find a happy medium between speed and handling. Safety wins these days. Can’t wait for some water shots!!

  2. Alex
    Alex says:

    Amazing that Warby did that in 1978. And that it’s never been surpassed. No amazement others have died trying to exceed it.

    • Texx
      Texx says:

      To me it’s simply amazing what the Wilson family achieved with MC III and MC IV hitting 200 MPH in 1949 with that technology.

      The team’s brave determination is remarkable.

  3. Randy
    Randy says:

    To get a feeling of what it is like to take one of these incredible racing machines out for a spin (be sure to expand the screen and turn the sound waaaaaaaaaay up):

    Truly inspiring if you are a fan!

    • Randy
      Randy says:

      … just wait a few seconds for the ride video to load — it will come up by itself. This will give you a good idea of what it is like to sit in that seat!

  4. m-fine
    m-fine says:

    Bigger rudder will give better steering authority which is likely safer a slow speeds, but at 200+ mph it could be too much. Also the larger portion in front of the axis will greatly reduce steering forces, making over steering much easier. I assume they made these decisions because they plan to keep the speeds well below what she did in the glory days, but the MW injection hints otherwise.

  5. Howie Benns
    Howie Benns says:

    Be very careful the amount of “leed”. The slightest angle will GREATLY increse the pressure on the leading edge of rudder.GUESS WHAT HAPPENS THEN??

  6. Tom H
    Tom H says:

    It’s hard to tell from the pictures but hopefully the made the rudder with a wedge shaped section instead of a flat plate type section as they will work better at higher speeds.

  7. Tommyholm
    Tommyholm says:

    I heard that they will be firing the engine this month of April in port carling. I believe April 26. The roar will be heard across the lake.

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