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  1. #76
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    Smile Miami Race

    Hay Steve can help with info on on that turbocharged rayson-craft and your right that boat was gorgeous and meticulous,,,,,Anyway Bakos took the boat down to Miami Marine Stadium for the 9-hour, I dont think Bill co-drove with him as he had his own rig I think it was Buddy Boyle teamed up with John,,,,,About half way through the race a stud in a turbocharger let go effectivly eleminating the boost dropping the horsepower to about 250 the boat @wot wouldnt do more than about 40 miles per hour,,It was tragic watching these guys do their laps at that speed,,,,But asthat class had such few entries a decision was made to keep running to the finish,,,,,,,,,,After the race will never forget Bakos explaining That for a while he was side by side with some fellow in a Boston Whaler with a 50 merc on it But the guy cut him off in a corner and he couldn't catch it,,,,,,,,Later upon tear down at X the broken stud was found. Mr. K had it mounte on a piece of wood and displayed it in the shop with the message this inferior product is what cost us victory at the 9-hour marathon, it is why we dedicate our work here to researce to eliminate these products. As usual he hit the nail on the head,,,,,,,But man that boat was a thing of beauty,,,,Go fish 7070

  2. #77
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    Sometimes I get Cornfuzzled

    Thanks Jim - Now that you mention it, waaay back in my brain I vaguely remember something about that plaque. I only started two 9 hours and I get a little confused about who ran what and when. However, I do remember that one year we ran a practice 9 hour at the Lake to test the durability of lower units (super speedmasters?) on fiberglass Switzers. We ran several of them and I had the pleasure of participating. I remember the change in sound as the flap was lowered thus changing the shape of the airfoil and the boat began to fly. As it became airborne the sound of the hulls on the water would just cease. It was also really neat to go around the South end of the lake flying slightly sideways all the way around. Before we finished there was a large pile of units on the concrete next to the old tower. We popped quite a few. I don't remember who ran them at Miami except that I think Jim Harkins ran the only one that had a cockpit in the wing instead of the sponson. I think it was brown and white whereas the others were more colorful. I think that was the year I ran a Glastron /Mercruiser#1. I blew the blew the side out right at the chine and could see through it until I had to come in for gas. I was sinking at the fuel dock so I ran it up on the beach. Once again Mr. Kiekhaefer was not pleased as I had been leading inboard Class A by a wide margin and should have been running a little more conservatively. Consequently, a Volvo Penta won the Class. I guess I only knew one speed.....HAMMER DOWN! -Steve

  3. #78
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    I have worked around two guys here in NC, John Stenback and Marty Businger. I grew up at my dad's Merc dealership since I was five and have heard them tell stories about lake X. Do you remember them?

  4. #79
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    John Stenbeck

    I absolutely remember John. He was a good friend and outstanding race driver. One night we all went to a party in St Cloud and I got a little crazy on the dance floor. The girl I was dancing with ran off screaming. So, John named me Taz after the Tazmanian Devil. The name stuck for awhile. I think he also had a brother that worked at the lake for awhile. The last time I saw John was at a tunnel boat race here in Jacksonville. If you see him, tell him I said Hi. I think I remember Marty but I don't have any stories about him. Maybe my memory will produce something eventually.


    Best Regards -Steve Sirois

  5. #80
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    I was always curious to know how you Factory guys got your driving assignments for the various races?

  6. #81
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    2us70 - Interesting question....I'm not sure I ever knew how it happened. I was pretty young and naive at the time, so I never had a clue about the internal politics of who got assigned which race boat. However I can lend some insight to what I did see. When I got there in 1962(?) I was there only to drive endurance along with 10-15 other guys. Eventually, I got off of endurance and worked in the boat shop with Jim Harkins. Odell Lewis, Johnny Bakos, George Thompson, Roy Ridgell, and my Brother were the primary race drivers. I know I am probably missing someone and will hear about it later. Joe Anderson was the Shop Boss but I don't think he had much control over the race operations. Those guys seemed, to me, to be pretty independent. However, I suspect that Mr. Kiekhaefer himself directed which of them would do what. I do know that they did not always get along real well with Joe and that was probably because of their direct connections to Mr. K.. As I remember, Odell and Johnny were primarily the inboard guys, while George, Roy and Bill were primarily outboard guys. Eventually Bill crossed over and ran both inboard and outboard. Also, it depended on whether they were running closed course, marathons, or offshore races.....When the Company went to a race with a large contingent, others got the opportunity to get in a race boat. That was usually the big races like the Gold Coast Marathon, Miami 6 and 9 hour, Miami-Nassau, and Bahamas 500. I think the GCM was my first factory race. As for offshore, one would first be assigned to be a co-driver. Which basically meant that you would hold on for dear life while the experienced guy drove. For my first offshore race, I rode with Wayne Vickers in a twin outboard Seacraft. That was the first Bahamas 500. Eventually, if you didn't screw-up too bad, you would get a boat of your own and some other poor sap would have to hold on for dear life. One of the most gratifying aspects of the whole process was the rigging of the boat. Often one would start with a bare hull, and I do mean a bare hull. I remember working with Jim Harkins in the boat shop on a small Glastron that I ran in a couple of races. We were presented with a drastically lightened hull that had only logitudinal stringers. We first cut the sides down some, then fabricated and installed bulkheads, installed fuel tanks, decked the boat and painted. Then I worked alone (with plenty of guidance from my brother and Odell) to install a Mercruiser 1 drive and 4 cylinder inboard engine as well as all of the controls and steering gear. Instead of the normal through prop exhaust, the manifold simply had a short (6") slanted open hot stack at the end. I don't know if it added any horsepower but it sure sounded neat. In some later races we ran the same exhaust setup with the 6 cylinder inboard in several small Donzi's. Alot of the rigging process was standardized, and yet we were allowed to innovate some. The experienced guys were allowed to innovate a whole lot. I think that there was very little secrecy amongst us. If someone came up with something that worked well, they almost always shared their idea. Also, we always helped each other with the actual work. I cannot tell you how many times I worked 24, 36 or even 48 hours straight. Sometimes you would finish rigging and propping out just in time to put the boat on a trailer and head for the race site. I had several drives to Miami with wet paint still on the boat. Just before leaving Lake X we were given boat, trailer and truck ownership papers in case we had any problems along the way. Or maybe it was so we could be entered as owner and driver in the race. Please remember that most of these memories are of events that occured 40+ years ago............I know that I have not answered you initial question of how we were assigned boats and races....I think my best answer would be, "I'll be damned if I know!". -Steve Sirois

  7. #82
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    Doofus?

    It has occurred to me that, thus far, my stories have depicted me as a complete doofus. As I have said before, I was young and naive. I recently had the opportunity to drive the Old Narcoosee road from Orlando to Ashton and was amazed to see the roadside bar where I celebrated my 21st birthday (40years ago) was still there. However, I did manage to do some things correctly while a Lake X-ite. In 1969, I completed the Bahamas 500 in a 32' Cary w/4 BP's. Dale Thayer won the outboard class in that race in a 28' Memco w/4 BP's. In July of that year I got to run that Memco in the Sam Griffith Memorial. Once again Jerry Langer had convinced Mr. Kiekhaefer that it would be a good idea for an OMC dealer to run the Mercury Factory boat that he had run in the Bahamas 500. And, once again, I was determined to not let him win outboard. Somehow, I managed to talk Chet Strickland, who was much more experienced than I, to come along as my co-driver. As I remember, the Memco ran about 68mph. I knew we had a couple mph on Langer and we immediately took the outboard lead. This was a 200+ mile race and at about the 100 mile point one of the BP's developed a loss of a couple hundred rpm. At this point Langer was 2 or 3 miles behind us and was now gaining on us. We could keep running or stop and troubleshoot with the hope we could fix it and catch Langer if he got past us......OR we could try to fix it on the run. While I continued to drive, Chet climbed into the well and managed to remove the wrap around cowling while we were still running about 65mph. He then climbed onto his belly on the top cowling and noticed one spark plug wire was loose from the plug. A word to the wise...do not grab a plug wire on a BP running at 5800rpm. Somehow he signalled to me to shut down the affected engine just long enough to reattach the plug wire. When I restarted it we were back on speed. We finished 1st outboard and 3rd overall behind Bill Wishnick and Peter Rittmaster. Langer finished 1 minute behind me. Mr. Kiekhaefer was not happy that we crossed the finish line sans the wrap around but was pleased that we had set a new course record for outboards of 62+mph. I can still see Chet stretched out on top of that engine and hanging over the water. One slip and he would have been shark bait, but he didn't hesitate for even one second. Winning was satisfying, but not nearly as satisfying as beating Langer. Read the post called "3rd Bahamas 500"(?) and you will understand. -Steve

  8. #83
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    Hey Mabry, how do you get to fly those jets?

    In the summer of 1968, after 6 years of alternating between working at Lake X and going to college, I finally managed to barely eke out my Bachelor's Degree at the University of South Florida. Instead of attending graduation, I immediately went to Lake X to prepare for the Bahamas 500. Shortly after that race, Mr. Kiekhaefer sent Ralph Seavey and I to Jacksonville to work on a boat at MEMCO, which stood for Mabry Edwards Marine Company. I had met Mabry previously at the Lake. The amazing aspect of this tasking was that we were to work with a legend of Unlimiteds....Ted Jones! The project at hand was to cut a vee bottom (don't remember brand) in half longitudinally and install a tunnel between the two halves.....Rather interesting way to "build" a tunnel boat for outboard offshore. I think John Stenbeck ran the boat at Lake X later. As I remember, it ran fairly well, but I don't know if it ever actually ran in a race. Anyway, Ted had some really neat stories to tell. I will attempt to relay one of them here. It seems that a wealthy industrialist tycoon (might have been Henry Hudson) had invested a great deal in an Unlimited race boat but the darn thing wouldn't even get up on a plane. So he called on Ted for advice. Ted arrived at the guys office but the boat was across town (Chicago?) somewhere. They take the elevator to the basement and climb into the back of a hot rod limo. The tycoon slaps a $100 bill on the seat next to the driver and says, "GO!". Turns out that the driver was a well known Indy 500 driver and they had a standing bet that he couldn't beat his previous time between the office and the boat shop. Driver blasts out of the basement garage, turns 90 degrees in mid air and is off to the races. Meanwhile Ted's hanging on for dear life. I think you all know that feeling when someone else is driving and you're scared s..tless, but when you are driving, everything is hunky dory. Also, when you are on the race course, you know everybody around you is just as crazy as you are, but when you are busting through downtown traffic at 100mph, you don't know anything about the other drivers. Needless to say, the driver collected the $100 and Ted survived. Turns out the Tycoon's boat had an enormous prop shaft that created an extrodinary amount drag.......Back to MEMCO......Mabry's boat shop was located at Imeson airport and the Florida Air National Guard (FANG) was flying F-102's out of there. Mabry was a LtCol and pilot in the FANG. Every day the Fighters would taxi past the shop on their way to the runway and I would watch them blast off with the incredible boom of their hard afterburner light. Finally, I asked, "Hey Mabry, how do you get to fly those jets?". He said, "Well, you need a college degree and have to pass a series of tests." I replied, "What the Hell, I've got a college degree. Where do I take the tests?". I enlisted in the FANG the next weekend. I continued to work and race for Kiekhaefer while attending monthly Drills at FANG until early 1970. At that time I recieved a commission as 2Lt and went to Craig AFB in Selma AL for a year of Undergraduate Pilot Training followed by 6 months of Fighter/Interceptor training in the F-102. Except for a 6 month stint working for Brother Bill and Doug Janisch in Miami, I spent 30 years full-time with the FANG!!!! I flew my last sortie the morning after Bill died in January 1997 and finally retired from FANG in 1998. WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED? One minute, I'm cutting a boat in half with Ralph Seavey and Ted Jones.....and the next minute, it's 30 years later.......and that was 7 1/2 years ago. A friend of mine once told me, "Life is like a roll af toilet paper. The closer you get to the end, the faster it goes." The amazing thing about it all is that the 5 most fun things in my life have just kind of happened. I didn't plan any of them. 1-racing boats, 2-flying fighters, 3-meeting & marrying Iris, 4-becoming a Father, 5-becoming a Grandfather. By the way, 1-5 is the sequential order of events....NOT an indication of level of fun.......WOW! I really got off on a tangent this time! The next time I post, I promise I will get back to Lake X. -Steve

  9. #84
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    Don't stick your nose in there

    Somewhere along the way, Mr. Kiekhaefer bought a mold (might have been from Aranow) that was basically the same as the 28' Magnum and sent it to Mabry Edwards in Jacksonville. Mabry laid up several very light hulls and sent them to Lake X. They were very light and with reduced freeboard. We installed a 50(?) gallon ballast tank in the very nose and ran a pickup line from the right afterplane all the way to the top of the tank with a ball valve in the cockpit. A drain line went from the bottom of the tank, through another ball valve and out a thru-hull fitting. The pickup was welded to a hole in the afterplane. We could open the intake valve and lower the afterplanes just enough to pickup water. Man, you could fill that tank in nothing flat and drain it nearly as fast. Obviously, the ballast tank was meant for rough water to keep the nose down and could be used in conjunction with the hydraulic afterplanes to control pitch attitude. We ran triple BP's on these boats at somewhere between 65 and 70mph. I don't remember what the race was, but we were at Dave Craig's Skyway Marine in Miami and Wayne Vicker was running his (pink) Memco through some pretty good lumps when he stuffed it and broke the nose off of the boat. I think he might have nearly broke his own nose off in the process as well. Anyway, Wayne's experience made the rest of us a little gun-shy when it came to putting any water in the ballast tank or using too much afterplane. Shortley thereafter, we ran another race from Palm Beach to Grand Bahama Island and back. John Stenbeck finished 1st outboard in a triple BP Magnum(?) and I finished 2nd outboard (and 3rd or 4th overall) in triple BP Memco. It was probably the biggest water I ever ran a race in. At times I could only barely stay on a plane and run back and forth while quartering the waves. When I was in the troughs, I would be looking way up at the peaks. I honestly believe that I was looking at 14'-18' seas in the Gulfstream, and some of them were breaking. Meantime, Mabry was overhead taking pictures. Afterwards he told me that I should have used more ballast and/or afterplane to lower the pitch. All I could think of was that I did not want to stuff this thing 40 or 50 miles offshore, break the nose off and end up as shark bait. The bright side was that I had Ray Dowling riding with me. Ray was a round guy and I very skinny, so I figured that he would be more attractive to the sharks and they might leave me alone while they ate him. (Some other time I will try to tell the story of Brother Bill and Chet Strickland having to abondon ship while one of them was bleeding and they only had a single one man liferaft which only partially inflated when they fired the bottle.) Anyway, while having zig-zagged through the Gulfstream mountains for hours, I was amazed to see the smokestack next to the inlet emerge from the Atlantic dead ahead. You have to realize that we navigated by whiskey compass and every time you hit hard it would spin like a top. You might not see anything but water on the horizon for a couple of hours. It still amazes me that we ever found the finish line in some of those races. -Steve

  10. #85
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    Here Sharkey Sharkey!

    Here's my Memco in the Gulfstream. That's Ray Dowling behind me. Good shark bait...-Steve
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Click image for larger version. 

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  11. #86
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    One more

    Wow! I finally figured out how to attach pics.
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  12. #87
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    I was at Skyway maine before the Miami to Nasau race in 68 or 69 and Stenback was there with a tunnel boat. Might have been the one you mentioned. I don't recall it doing anything in the race though. It was the year Rocky Marciano rode in one of the factory Thunderbirds and I got to meet him.

  13. #88
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    I was at Skyway maine before the Miami to Nasau race in 68 or 69 and Stenbeck was there with a tunnel boat. Might have been the one you mentioned. I don't recall it doing anything in the race though. It was the year Rocky Marciano rode in one of the factory Thunderbirds and I got to meet him.

  14. #89
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    Rocky Marciano

    I was probabaly there at that time. However, I met Rocky at a cocktail party Freeport before one of the Bahama 500 races. He was very nice and talked to me for nearly an hour. He rode with Dick Genth in a Thunderbird. When they got to the fuel stop at Nassau, Rocky was so beat up that he got out and wouldn't get back in the boat. -Steve

  15. #90
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    Jim Harkins, Dave Martin, Gene Wagner

    Those are the great names that I know personally. I had the pleasure to work with Jim Harkins down at Placida before the base closed. He was one hellava teacher. His nikname was "The Teacher". That guy could drop a weld across a aluminum plate on a transom like nobody I have ever seen. I used to run endurance down in Placida when I first started. I remember one time a driver was comming to the dock as Harkins would say "to hot". Needless to say, the smartcraft technology was in the pliminary stages of testing and the engine would not shift to neutral. You guessed it, he smashed the wall. Out of no where, Here comes Jim from his shop screaming at the guy across the lot. " You dumb MF". I see him the next day with the grinder in his hand and Jim supervising as he did so well. It was a sad day to see Jim retire. Jim Still lives down the road from me and I see him from time to time. I used to hide out in his shop and just listen to all of his stories from days past. He had a bunch of old pictures that I wish I would have saved before they threw them out once he retired.
    The Last One Across The Lake Has A Small Johnson

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