SEATTLE – While the hydroplanes kick off their 2002 season this weekend in Evansville, Ind., Seattle's Hydroplane & Raceboat Museum is scrambling to prepare five vintage boats for the PEMCO Classic vintage-hydro heat on Lake Washington Aug. 4.
The PEMCO Classic features the Miss Burien, Miss Madison, and Miss Century 21 piston-powered thunderboats from the 1950s and '60s, plus two boats currently being restored: the 1980 Miss Budweiser and the 1982 Atlas Van Lines. The Aug. 4 event, which takes place just before the final heat of the General Motors Cup at Seafair, includes a warm-up lap followed by a three-lap exhibition race.
Miss Thriftway won the 1999 PEMCO Classic, while Miss Bardahl finished first in 2000 and 2001 with former national champion driver Billy Schumacher at the helm.
The 1980 Rolls-Griffon-powered Budweiser is arguably the most dominant piston-powered boat in hydro history. Dean Chenoweth throttled her to two National Championships, two Gold Cups, and 11 race wins in 1980-81. Jim Kropfeld later drove Bud to 10 race wins in 1983-84 and the 1984 national title.
The 1982 Atlas replaced Bill Muncey's revered "Blue Blaster." Though powered by the less-powerful Rolls-Merlin engine, Atlas and driver Chip Hanauer held their own against the Griffon Bud in 1982-83. Hanauer steered the blue boat to eight race victories, including two Gold Cups and two national titles.
The Hydro Museum faces a challenge in completing the Atlas restoration before Seafair. Two of the project's key leaders suffered non-racing injuries this spring, and progress slowed. If Atlas – which the Museum is courting Chip Hanauer to drive – isn't ready in time, look for Hawaii Kai III, the 1967 Miss Budweiser, or the 1958 Miss Bardahl to take its place.
Race sponsor PEMCO Insurance, established in 1949, provides auto, home, boat, life, and umbrella insurance to Washington residents.