|Evening Tribune, San Diego, Saturday September
STRANGE SEAFARE - They’re calling it Knudsen’s Folly
and it will be unveiled for racing tomorrow during the Jack-In-The-Box
Unlimited Regatta on Mission Bay. It is a twin-Ford powered
engine built by Walter Knudsen of El Monte. Powerful aviation engines
will be pitted against it.
Photo by Larry Armstrong, Evening Tribune Staff
|Bizarre boat makes regatta debut
By VERN GRIFFIN
Most of the thunderboat owners here for tomorrow’s Jack-in-The-Box Unlimited
Regatta came to race. But Walter Knudsen owner of the Miss ONeal &
Knudsen, is a bit different. He came to start a revolution. And while
it will be a very friendly and good-natured one if Knudsen has his way,
make no mistake about it.
His automotive-powered boat still could start a revolution that could
turn the unlimited racing’s world upside down.
“You might see lot of boats like mine around in a few years” said the
55- year-old El Monte machine shop owner.
‘I’m trying to prove that a country boy can succeed in racing just
like the rich boys. Some day you might not have to have a boat nine feet
tall to win a race.’
Knudsen’s effort to bring automotive power in a smaller package to
the thunderboat circuit is only the latest of several attempts.
Up until now, the race circuit has run almost exclusively on aviation
engines but Knudsen pulled into the race pit area on Mission Bay Thursday
with a twin-Ford engine installation. Instead of the enormous Allison or
Rolls Royce World War II engines, Knudsen has two 427-cubic-inch, fuel-injected
engines with overhead cams sitting in his boat.
They were built by Louis Meyer Jr., son of the first three-time Indianapolis
500 winner, and Knudsen came to San Diego for his boats racing debut. Knudsen’s
arrival here with his hand-built hydro comes at the end of 12 years of
I wouldn’t want to tell you how much I’ve invested in this boat,’’
noted the owner as he worked feverishly on getting ready for tomorrow’s
race that will start at noon on Mission Bay.
“If I had a dollar for every hour I’ve worked on her, I’d have as much
money in my boat as any of the other owners. The creator of Miss O’Neil
& Knudsen said this week really is only a test for his boat, an
initial step toward getting her prepared for serious competition next year.
‘I figured I’d come down and let the big boys know that I really do have
a boat,’ he said. His reception has been mixed. Some were even calling
the small, Ford-powered hydro Knudsen’s Folly but the boat might just fool
them all. Knudsen started designing the boat in 1962, using the 850-cc,
record-setting limited hydra Piranha as his model. He has used alot
of innovations on his scaled-up version of the boat, however. His low-profiled
hydro, in fact, is loaded with new ideas. One of them is an unusual fire-fighting
system that includes CO-2 nozzles over each of his engines an idea that
the Unlimithd Racing Commission has passed on to owners. The light, 5000
pound, 28 foot hull also has a fuel tank or each engine with fuel weight
concentrated on the centerline of the hull. And the engines themselves
are placed back to back with the gear box in the middle. “If this all doesn’t
work, I’ll just-have to sit down under a tree somewhere and try to figure
something else out,” said Knudsen who has brought out the the first challenge
by an auto- powered boat since Dave Heerensperger’s twin Chrysler hull
in 1970. But if you don’t try something new, you’ll never know if it will
Eleven unlimiteds in all are in town for tomorrow’s race. Regatta officials
say the best viewing areas for the East Mission Bay race, will be from
Fiesta Isle, East Vacation Isle and Crown Point. Admission and parking
fees will be charged with proceeds going to the Boys’ Clubs of San
Boat motors suffer a lot of torsional vibration with the prop loading
....build a grenade motor for a boat and that's what you'll probably
I think Walt spent 1964-76 building it, and 1976-1982 tinkering with
it trying to get it to run properly.
One heck of a lot of work went into that rig, too bad it's sitting
out in the desert!
Thanks to Bob Foley for providing photos & the newspaper article
for this webpage!