|Following the second World War, powerboat
racing in Australia started to develop quickly as soldiers returned home
and industry and the general economy started to prosper. Materials developed
for the war effort were beginning to be used in boats and there was a great
demand for motor vehicles that saw a large number of previously unseen
engines coming into the country.
Most of the imports were from either England, Europe or America. The English imports were powered by engines ranging in capacity from 75ci to around 225ci. Manufacturers were Austin, MG, Ford (England), Riley, Hillman and Jaguar. Some of these were side valve while others were OHV models.
There were a few from France, mainly, Renault, and Fiat, which were of 50ci to 135ci.
The American models came from Ford, GM, Chrysler, Dodge, Pontiac, Plymouth and Studebaker. The Fords were mainly SV 8 cylinders or SV 6 cylinder's, followed in the late 1950's by 272ci and 292ci OHV engines. The Chrysler and Dodge were SV 6 cylinder models with a few small hemi versions specially imported from the Plymouths and Studebakers that were either 6 cylinder or small OHV 8's
Large capacity performance engines were not made available in large numbers as all were imported for special orders only. The largest engines available locally in numbers were either 351 Fords or 350 Chevs even through to 1960's and 1970's.
A few people imported engines from Ferrari and Maseratti in the late 1950's and there also the surplus war engines from planes and tanks such as Rolls-Royce Merlins.
The classes raced in Australia were intended to suit the engines readily available and were: 75ci, 95ci, 155ci, 266ci sv, 266ci ohv, 300ci and Unlimited (which were made up of anything and everything of more than 300ci).
The local speed industry was built up around
the large number of small capacity engines with most of the 8 cylinder
equipment imported at high prices from the USA which saw highly modified
small capacities run successfully against mainly stock larger American
Classes/engines used in the 1950's and early 1960's:
50 Cubic Inch:
75 Cubic Inch:
95 Cubic Inch:
155 Cubic Inch:
225 Cubic Inch:
266 Cubic Inch:
300 Cubic Inch:
"scratch races" or "handicaps" based on lap times
The population did not support the development you had state side. We had a number of classes developed from around 1947 on, previous to this, most racing was either "scratch races" or "handicaps" based on lap times.
Classes were developed from 75ci to 300ci then to what was called "unlimited unrestricted" in which you could run anything the main issue was being fast enough to be competitive.
This form of racing saw a mixture of both engine sizes and hull types in major trophy races, such as Hydros running against Displacement hulls. As engine sizes increased (e.g.. 350ci, 396ci, 427ci etc.) they developed classes for those sizes, however, any form or size could start in the Unlimited Unrestricted Races.
Today, we have a limited number of true Unlimited hydros, only 3 or 4, with designs ranging from the 1950's conventionals to the cabovers from about 5 years ago state side. They race against a number of recently designed GP Hydros. The same as you have today, e.g.. Jones, Stadaucher, Lauterbach and the odd local design.
A short background
on one of the unlimited unrestricted races:
The event in relation to the above photo was purely a Hydroplane Championship. The field was made up of a mixture of both hull and engine sizes from the Merlin powered Aggressor VS-50 to 350ci, 300ci, 266ci, 225ci even 155ci boats would enter this event at times.
The race pictured is the 1972 event held on Hen and Chicken Bay, part of Sydney Harbour in NSW. (were the Olympic games were held in 2000). Air New Zealand had been brought to Australia by owners John and Keith McGregor to contest both the Australian Speed boat Championships and the Australian Hydroplane Championship, the A.E. Baker trophy race. Aggressor was believed to have crashed after bending it's rudder possibly by hitting a submerged object.
Aggressor owner/builder/driver Dave
Tenny received bruised ribs and a chipped spine in the incident and made
a full recovery. Mechanic Les Scott was clinically dead when removed from
the water. However, he went on to recover to the stage of being a paraplegic
and is still involved in hydroplane racing to this day. As his son, who
was only a few months old at the time of the accident, races a Jones designed
1.5 litre hydro with great success on the Australian circuit and father,
Les, pulls the strings in the pits.
Air New Zealand went on to win the
re-run of this heat comfortably, however, the motor blew up in the second
heat and the trophy was won by a hydro called Ego, which was under
300ci capacity. Air New Zealand is also fully operational and owned
by Sydney racer, Peter Griffin.
I hope some of this information is useful
for you all now or in the future.
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