Tomorrow “Fascination” Could Be Your Reality


Fascination U-88 on Lake Washington, circa 1961 – Photo Courtesy Kirk Pagel / Hydroplane & Raceboat Museum

Have you ever been fascinated by those glorious old Unlimited Hydroplanes from the 1950’s & 60’s with their huge fire breathing V-12 aircraft engines and lightning fast speed as they challenged for the prestigious Gold Cup back in the day? Well now is your chance to actually own one of those monsters thanks to our friends at eBay.

Earlier today we received an e-mail from fellow Woody Boaters Marten and Theresa Anderson to let us know about this classic hydroplane that is currently listed on eBay – But if you want it, you have to act fast, because the bidding ends on Monday morning.

According to the eBay listing, this rare Unlimited Hyroplane was purchased from Builder and original Owner Bob Gilliam about 20 years ago and has been in covered storage since then. It was originally raced by Bob Gilliam under the name of FASCINATION and although she appears (from the sellers photos – below) to need a complete restoration, it’s certainly a “One-Of-A-Kind” vintage hydroplane with some documented history.

I should mention that you also might need to find a vintage 3,000 HP Rolls-Royce Merlin V-12 engine to replace the one she originally used back in the day, but the our friends from Canada who are restoring MISS CANADA IV have proven that those old Rolls-Royce Merlins & Griffons are still available out there (for a price).

Vintage Hydro - 1
The interesting history of FASCINATION is noted on the website, here are a few excerpts from the story. To see the entire story you can Click Here.

THE COCKPIT WAS CRAMPED, but a somewhat pudgy Bob Gilliam managed to settle behind the wheel of his brand-new hydroplane, prepared for her maiden test on Lake Washington. The name painted on the boat was KOLroy I, but FASCINATION was her name in spirit. Sponsor KOL was the hot rock’n roll radio station in town.

Vintage Hydro - 3
Cramped, too, was the operation’s budget. Gilliam was not a high-stakes racer. His team was self-funded, and many laughed about the junk he routinely relied upon to get through a race.

Vintage Hydro - 2
In 1961 in a preliminary Seafair Trophy heat, Bob Gilliam pushed FASCINATION past Bill Muncey’s Miss Century 21. (Unsponsored, Gilliam had returned to his favored name.) For a lap and a half, he held Muncey at bay with his bubble-gum and bailing-wire boat. U-88 never won a Gold Cup, but it never lacked believers. –

Vinatge Hydro - 4
How about this idea while we are on the subject of FASCINATION… If you act fast (fascinatingly fast), you can grab this vintage Unlimited Hydro tomorrow from eBay, take it over to your favorite wooden boat restorer, place an order for a vintage Rolls-Royce Merlin from England and with a little dough and a little cooperation from your restorer, you could have this classic Unlimited Hydroplane ready to debut at the big “100 Years of Racing” show hosted by the Toronto ACBS Chapter in Gravenhurst, Ontario this July. It would be a FASCINATING experience and you would be considered a hero by your fellow Woody Boaters at the lake!

Here’s the link to the FASCINATION listing on eBay for all the info on this One-Of-A-Kind vintage hydroplane. Right now the highest bid is at $2,194.00.

Thanks to our friends at the Hydroplane and Raceboat Museum in Seattle, WA and Kirk Pagel for providing the vintage 1961 photo of FASCINATION on Lake Washington.

Good Luck – Texx

15 replies
  1. Doug P
    Doug P says:

    Hey Texx. Never have been to the Hydro Plane museum, So I am asking if they have any of Guy Lombardo’s boats…..or where are they?

  2. Sean
    Sean says:

    The Year is right for me…1960, KOLroy is close to Conroy, I’m a little “pudgy” just like Gilliam, It’s within driving distance of Toronto, I have a spare trailer, I’m self-funded and definately not “high-stakes”…this seems like just too good a fit.

    Other than no space (to fix, store, keep or display), no time and no budget … not to mention the small issue that my kids think they’re going to University soon….I’d have it…really I would. Do you think it could pull a tube?

  3. Texx
    Texx says:

    Doug – I believe Tempo IV (the famous Guy Lombardo winning hydroplane) is currently on loan to the Hydroplane and Raceboat Museum in Seattle by her owner Joe Frauenheim. But this should be confirmed.

    Not sure if there are any Guy Lombardo driven race boats on display at the Antique Boat Museum in Clayton, NY.

      • Texx
        Texx says:

        Thanks Randy.

        Based on your experience with these old Unlimited Hydroplanes – Any guesses (or a general range) on what it would cost to have one of these totally restored?

        I see that FASCINATION did not sell (make reserve) on eBay today.

        • Randy
          Randy says:

          Hello Texx,
          To do a running restoration on the hull (as opposed to just a cosmetic one for display ONLY — which would really be a waste of a piece of history) you are most likely looking at $150-175k. Also realize you really cannot take something like this to the typical restoration shop as this is NOT your average 50 mph runabout, but something that will take you down the lake at 120+ mph. Angles of attack/dihedrals/etc. in reshaping this hull are critical. The restoration shop at the Hydroplane Museum here in Washington is a great resource for rebuilding these ‘craft’. I know when the time comes I will bring mine there.

          A rebuilt well running Allison installed close to $50k. RR Merlins are pretty scarce, and would be closer to double that price, if you could even locate one.

          Then there is either a rebuilt or new hydraulic trailer $15-25k.

          That’s all it takes to join a very elite class of Woody Raceboat owners, but boy for the times you do run it WHAT an experience!

  4. Rick
    Rick says:

    Yes, well I was going to put my extra Allison in my 17 footer for a little extra zip over my B but now I’m not so sure. Think the family would mind riding up on the bow since there’s only 1 seat. Or maybe customize it with a forward passanger compartment…. yea…that’s the ticket.

  5. Bill
    Bill says:

    one of the tempo boats was bought by chuck thompson of miss pepsi fame and renamed short circuit used to watch her run in saint clair michigan chucks home town

  6. m-fine
    m-fine says:

    That thing would be as financially sound of a purchase as a cruiser. OK maybe not that bad. You can always cheap out and get the Packard built Merlin to get her on the water on a shoestring budget.

  7. Tyson K.
    Tyson K. says:

    Man, that would be a dream come true to own an actual operational one of those! Those hydros and that Melrin/Allison rumble were the Bell of The Ball. Still to this day!

  8. Steve Balcer
    Steve Balcer says:

    One thing to keep in mind as fun as they are but to keep these things running you need a 24/7 mechanic like they had in the old days. The downfall of owning one of these. After the war mechanics for the old war birds were a dime a dozen now hard to find. Dave in Seattle is the best source for anything old unlimited.

  9. don gaudier
    don gaudier says:

    I will be attending the Jet Aircraft Museum in London Ontario where both Miss Supertest I I I and Guy Lombardos Tempo V I I are presently stored August 8th 2015 with my brief history display . The J.A.M. is open Fridays and Saturdays . Would be glad to hear from anyone . Don Gaudier , Woodstock Ontario Canada .

Comments are closed.