Getting The Word Out 
Promoting V&H
By Alan Radue

One thing I have noticed in the years I have been a member of the Vintage & Historic
division is the incredible amount of human interest stories there are surrounding what we
do at every event. Whether it is the history of the hull through it racing career, the
individuals brought together who one day decided they wanted to be boat racers, the story
behind the builder of the hull, the reasons on how the hull survived the elements before
being rescued or even the actual restoration work itself – there is always an interesting
story to be told. This got me to thinking about the little promotional gold mine we are
sitting on and wondering why we are not using it to its fullest potential. Here is a quick
test each V&H member can take and I will warn you up front that I failed by not
answering each question ‘Yes’.

After getting your vintage hull to an event and satisfying the incredible goal of
experiencing a little of what racing was like back in the day, did you attempt to
completely document and understand 100% of its history?

While most of us can tell the basic stories about each hull in our division (who owns it,
who built it, sometimes even the year of construction, sometimes even the trophies it
won) did you meet any of the former owners/drivers and write down the stories they told?
Did race fans walking up to your hull have the opportunity to understand what a 280
Class hydroplane means or what a Jersey Speed skiff even is if you were not standing

Can anyone looking at your restored little gem of a race boat comprehend that 3 years
ago it was a rotting pile of wood behind a farmers barn in Pennsylvania?
If you are not standing next to your hull does the casual onlooker know what it is made
from or how it is constructed?

Many of these hulls look fast but how fast did each of them really go in their day?
Did you answer all of them yes? Congrats if you did but try the next one on for size.
Another observation I made last year is a very small percentage of each event is taken up
by exhibition runs. While we like to think we have 100% water time at every event most
of the time your hull is sitting on the trailer except for the 10 minutes it is on the course.
So when your hull is sitting on the grounds at the beautiful Buffalo Launch Club for 95%
of the day is it a self promotional machine? The unfortunate answer is no.

My point in running through all of these questions is we are just barely scratching the
surface on our largest marketing tool available to us. I’ll state it even one better yet…it is
the largest FREE marketing tool available to us. We don’t have to restore it, we don’t
have to change the oil in it, we don’t need a tow vehicle for it……all we need is a pencil
and paper or as they say these days a laptop, an ISP, Microsoft Word and a laser printer.
What I have found out by putting this thought to the test last year in Detroit is we are not
connecting with our fans nearly as good as we could. While I know some tid bits about
each hull I’m finding the basic facts we take for grant it are a complete unknown to a
person viewing your hull. However, when he or she learns something about it their facial
expression changes from curiosity to a genuine interest in what they are looking at. Case
in point on how this works: I’m standing in front of my hull watching two gentlemen
read the sign I have in front of it. One of them gets down to the point where it says this is
the first hydroplane ever owned by Unlimited racing legend Ron Snyder. So he bumps
his friends shoulder and says “Check this out….this is Ron Snyder’s first
hydroplane”…..and they find this a very cool fact just as I do. So what have we created
here? A knowledgeable fan who will point out during an exhibition run every piece of
knowledge he knows about this obscure little racing hull. This IS the absolute building
block of creating a fan base isn’t it? When you go to a NASCAR race you don’t say
“Hey look at the Jim Beam red/white car with a #7 on it” you start downloading facts at a
nauseating pace to your friends about the racing team, the performance set up, where the
driver was born and anything else you can think of. To some it becomes a way of
speaking and in some cases a way of life (i.e. The car you drive to work being covered in
Nascar stickers). While I’m not sure why anyone would really care where I was born and
I am positive that I am not going to see a ‘I love the Agitator’ sticker on a bumper any
time soon……somebody will appreciate the fact I have an all original matching numbers
1956 265 Chevy V8 in my hull and the reason why it is in there is something worth
knowing. When I look at the virtual laundry list of items (some people now call this ‘hull
pedigree’) I shake my head knowing that only a select few actually know them.

Have I not convinced you documenting your hull is something we all need to do? Try
this reason on for size. It is not at the top of my list but it may be at the top of yours - the
history of your hull is actually worth cold hard cash. What in the world do you mean it is
worth cold hard cash?! Case in point: I have a hydroplane up for sale for X dollars or I
have a 5 time national champion, straight away record holding, first hull built by Dick
Sooy, original race set up, a scrap book of its racing history, painstakingly restored, etc.
etc. etc. up for sale for X dollars. Do you see the gigantic difference between the two
sale prices?

So after wasting a little bit of your time reading this silly article I hope it inspires a few of
you to trace back the history of your hull, tell everyone you know and get those history
boards and restorations boards rolling. You say you are now inspired but don’t have the
money or time to make the boards? 

So typically the sequel is never as good as the original but when it comes to the APBA
Vintage & Historic Division things (hulls and even old racers) get better the second time
around! So here it comes ready or not. Part II of promoting our little division. Making
your history and restoration boards.

So you are at the point you have an incredible restoration of a vintage race boat sitting
right in front of you. You make a mental checklist of all the critical items you need to be
a Vintage & Historic participant. I need a new helmet, I need a new life vest, I need load
rated lifting slings, I need history and restoration boards. Gottcha! That is right! Your
history and restoration boards should be part of you critical items checklist. But how do I
create them and what should they contain? Let me help you get started.

After completing your restoration you probably have a shoebox full of items you
collected or were lucky enough to receive when you purchased your vintage racing hull.
Even if you don’t have this information be ready at your first event to start collecting it
because people will be coming out of the woodwork with information on your hull. It
doesn’t really matter how you receive this information the key is understanding how to
use it to promote our division.

What should each history board contain? The most obvious thing to include is the
statistics of your hull. Racing class, engine size, length and a few others will give the
reader the basic understanding of what they are looking at. The next obvious thing to
include is any historical photos you have while your hull was actively racing. Capture
names, places and if possible the hulls and drivers in the background. There is pretty
good information available to see if your hull captured a national championship or world
speed record so be sure to highlight these facts as well. This is a great start but I
encourage you to keep going because you only just completed the ‘easy part’. Now for
what I consider the ‘fun part’. Finding out the exact date your hull was built, who built it,
where was it built, who supplied the first motor, where did the hull first debut,
personalities of previous owners and drivers, etc. Many of these little facts probably
surfaced during your restoration and if you were not astute enough to write them down
they will be lost forever. These are the little historical gems that make even a non-race
winning hull extremely interesting from a historical standpoint. Case in point. My
hydroplane was once raced by Roy Kuhnhoffer in the mid 1960’s. Roy was a one-legged
hydroplane racer and actually had a prosthetic leg fabricated to simulate himself sitting in
the hydroplane so he could race with two legs! I learned of a crazy story about Roy after
flipping out of the hydroplane during a race…but before he climbed into the rescue
boat…handing his leg first to the closest rescue crewman who promptly fainted on the
spot. He obviously thought Roy was handing him his severed leg! The race wins and
trophies are obvious historical facts to document. However, a collection of these little
human interest stories are just as interesting and in some cases even more interesting!

Another avenue to document is the boat builder. While there is more information
available on the mainstream guys such as Lauterbach, Staudacher and Jones very little is
known about others. You may find out you own the last existing example from a builder
who produced only 5 hulls - what a great fact!

What should each restoration board contain? When it comes to the restoration boards
don’t forget to take pictures of your hull during the various stages of its restoration. The
key is to take many pictures before you begin any work. Some of the transformations a
hull incurs are not even believable if you don’t have a picture taken before all of the work
was started. Without these photos the final restored version is going to look like a
miracle has happened. Photos capturing the hard work and dedication of the
transformation process are of great interest to be viewed. A nice clear set of before and
after pictures is worth a 1,000 words that will never be able to fit on your restoration

When should you start to work on your history and restoration boards? A funny thing I
have noticed is they are the last thing thought about during the restoration process. The
typical thought is there is not one more penny to put into this project or there is just no
information on my hull. I have found that as you take your hull from show to show
people will be adding to its history. When this happens you feel like you need an
inexpensive updateable board. Here is a solution. Forget the hundreds of dollars for
custom signs at your first event and how about investing in a $6.00 frame (I got them on
sale) which fits 8.5 x 11 sheets of paper as shown below.

A very inexpensive way to show off your history and restoration information
– 100% updateable.

They look really nice and if you have access to a color printer they can look even better!
So now when you show up at the next event without any boards saying you couldn’t
afford the $6.00 frame and 5 sheets of paper in it totaling $6.05, you better have another
excuse! When new information becomes available simply change the sheets of paper.
When my girlfriend who was noted as such on the board became my wife the change can
be made immediately before she gives me a disgusted look while viewing the outdated
board. From my experience this nifty little paper shuffle severely reduced the chance of
me being struck repeatedly with a frying pan.

If you have more than $6.05 to spend and you have gathered every possible known fact
on your hull – great job! There are many other options such as office supply stores that
for about 75 bucks will take a graphics file from CD and print a color glossy 36”X24”
and mount it on hard board which is very professional looking. You can even go another
level higher and get a custom piece of acrylic and have vinyl lettering done as shown

The classic museum quality display board.

The key here is to get the board completed no matter what method you choose. I can’t
tell you how many times somebody has stood in front of my boards for 10 minutes and
was fascinated by what they read. I have had comments like “Hey that is Dad racing in
the picture”, “I remember the exact day this photo from 1959 was taken”, “I’m going
home to pick up and give you the trophy I won with this hull”. There are so many things
that make creating the boards worthwhile.

So what have you accomplished after creating these boards? You have preserved the
great racing heritage of our sport and attached it to your hull which is the foundation of
our division. Unfortunately so many of us take this seemingly simple task for granted
and think this job will eventually be done by someone else. If you are lucky enough to be
part of the Vintage Family then look in the mirror because that someone else is YOU!