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1977 Atlas Van Lines

Construction updates as the famous "Blue Blaster" is restored to her original racing condition. Updates by Don Mock and Phil Lampman - Photos by Phil Lampman

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Comment by Marc Connelly on January 17, 2011 at 9:06am

I am so glad to get these updates- whether I am coming in tomorrow to work on the boat, or I am out on the road, a thousand miles away, wishing that I was coming in tomorrow to work on the boat.


Don, Phil, Randy, Gail, - these guys are crushing it!





Comment by Steve Compton on January 17, 2011 at 8:50am

UPDATE - Jan 17, 2011 by Don Mock

It was a whole different kind of week working on the boat. Instead of aluminum grinding and Hysol mixing we had sawdust everywhere.
We received four sheets of way-too-nice mahogany 3/4” plywood from Steve Compton on Tuesday and went to work laminating the four sheets into one huge 4’x16’ x 1 1/2” sheet. The plan was to make the two full-length sponson sheers which are 12.5 feet long. Thursday morning it took 5 of us to lift the super-stiff and heavy sheet off the floor where we assembled it. After wrestling the sheet to the table, we laid out the sheers from the drawing and the original wood parts off the boat. After about a few hours or jig-sawing and sanding, we had the two parts. They came out great and are super straight and strong.

Gail and Randy met me at the museum Saturday morning to get a jump on fitting the sheers to the sponson frames. We came up with a great attachment method which required Mr. Router to cut notches in the sheers where each frame attaches. Both sides are now clamped in place, look great and are waiting to be glued on this Weds. Gail took several photos on Saturday but had a mostly confused look when we asked him about getting them posted. Maybe they are coming soon, but I’m sure Phil will snap some shots Tues.
This week we’ll glue the sheers in place, then add small aluminum angles riveted to the side of each frame and bolted to the wood sheer. Then with everything attached, we’ll cut the sheers down a bit on the inside where we don’t need so much material and weight.

After this week, we are really on track to move to the next phase of the Blaster project which is to turn the boat upside-down. We’ll start engineering a stand mounted to the inside of the boat for it to rest solidly and level on the floor. We have the turnover attachment bolt holes and doubler plates in the sponson sides finished. And just need to get the fixture so we can bolt it to the bottom as well as the sponson sides. Everyone on the team needs to be there for the “Blaster Flip” party. It is a very un-nerving undertaking lifting one of these huge boats ten feet in the air and rotating it. We’ll also have one real nice jig to disassemble. Anyone building a deck onto their house?

See you Weds, 10:30-4, Thurs 10:30-6.

No work Saturday because Chip and I have a sailboat race. The race is being held at a location where the club has never raced before......but Chip has.....Stan Sayers Pits. We’ve got to have some kind of an advantage there don’t we? So if you want some cheap slo-motion entertainment on Saturday, come on down. We start about 11am.


Comment by Steve Compton on January 8, 2011 at 7:56am

UPDATE - Jan 7, 2011 by Don Mock

To say the least, this has been an exciting day and great week. First, a bit more on today's goldmine find. If you check out the attached photo called AirDam, from 1977, you'll see the parts we got today thanks to Phil and Russ.

Last week after getting the right non-trip finished up, we began working on the plates and reinforcement angles for the support struts that run from the sides of the sponsons up to the bottom. At home I've been reverse engineering from photos and bolt patterns, off the old airtraps and mangled bottom, the plates and dimensions of the struts. I actually made the doubler aluminum teardrop shape plates that glue to the airtraps and also made my guess at the shape of the stainless plates that are welded to the streamline tubing....making up the two struts. Just when we were about to start gluing the parts in place, Phil mentions that he had just met the guy who had the struts and even had the original airdam off the boat. I'm sure I yelled something like.."get them at all costs!! etc" What an amazing coincidence.

Phil arranged to have Russ Haag come down with the parts today. Phil and I got there early and did a few jobs nervously waiting to see if this was the real deal. It was. In walks Russ carrying the two struts. As you can see in Phil's photos, as expected, they are not in great shape. The left side strut is in pretty good shape with a few dents but the right-side one has a huge dent/bend in it. It is possible to repair them but regardless if we restore/fix them or duplicate them it was so cool to have them walk through the door. Either way, it will be a huge help having them in our possession.

Seeing and holding the pieces also drove home the reality of the crash in Mexico. I now know exactly how the Atlas flipped, landed upside down, turned around and was then hit stern first by the Squire Shop. Studing the films and seeing the damage to the boat, we now know Chip's prop first tore down the right rear non-trip then his rudder struck the back of the Blaster's right sponson, and then hit the right-side support strut which tore through the airdam under the nose. This also dispels the 30 year old rumor that Muncey had the crew remove the airdam before the final heat. It was on when the boat crashed.

On to other news to do with the project;

I am very happy to report that our covert non-trip project was completed Thursday. In a veil of secrecy, we rebuilt the bend and crooked first three feet of the left rear non-trip behind the sponson transom and skid fin area. Here’s the details just released from the crew:

The original front part of the non-trip was bent and repaired, not from the accident in Mexico, but probably from some sponson banging incident Mr. Muncey had during the Blaster’s career. The bent-in non-trip, behind the skid fin, was repaired years ago with a doubler plate glued over the outside. When we re-attached the old bent non-trip to our new sponson transom and airtrap a few months ago, things just didn’t line up very straight. So we rigged up a clamping system to hold the panel straight while the glue cured. There is some mystery surrounding the fact that after the area was glued up and riveted, things moved overnight while the glue was curing......over 1/4 inch. We came back the next day to find the non-trip had returned to it’s bent location. Now, if you have ever been to the museum at night alone, weird things go on including odd noises. So my guess is some hydro poltergeist thought it would be fun to shove the non-trip out of line just to mess with us.
So over then next few months, we debated about whether or not to attempt to fix the issue, besides it still looked pretty good and you would only really see the slight miss alignment from the back of the boat. But it bugged the hell out of me so I pleaded with the rest of the guys to let me tear into it. The question then was, do we just loosen the original panel from the sponson transom and re-bend it into position, or replace the entire front 3 feet of the non-trip with new honeycomb. We decided on the big fix. So Thursday morning, we went at the project like it was a race-site repair and in less than four hours we had the entire thing finished. What would have taken our team several days six months ago, happened in a flurry of activity in only a few hours. We were like a NASCAR pit crew.......everyone knew exactly what to do and after some quick cuts with the saws-all and a few hammer whacks and torches, we had everything ready for the new honeycomb piece. An hour later Hysol was mixed and applied and rivets were fired and the new panel section was in place looking much much better. Maybe to some, this seemed like a step backwards having to correct a mistake.....or ghostly prank, but to me it was a huge success and leap forward in the project.

The other big accomplishment this week was getting the wood inlayed into the top of the new right-side non-trip. We also got the turnover-bar plates and inserts/holes drilled and glued in the airtraps.

So it truly is time to start on the sponsons next week. I’ve ordered 4 sheets of 3/4” plywood from Steve Compton so we can laminate up our 4x16ft x 1 1/2” sheet for the new sponson sheers. The vote is in and the consensuses is to use full-length “model boat” style sheers like we made for the ‘82 Atlas. We have the drawing for the sheer shape so a pretty easy project to cut them out. Then we’ll need to cut some slots in each sponson frame for the sheers to attach. Next week is also time to start removing the old wood from the sponson frames.

Also want to say a quick get-well soon to John Leidle who had a mild but scary heart attack. Here’s more from John:

“I played a very long Tennis match last Wednesday night with my son. After the match I hung around for 20 minutes then sat in my truck & felt dizzy so I walked into the Boeing Tennis Center & laid on a bench & asked someone to call 911, went up to Valley General; & stayed as their guest for 2 nights, they put a stint in my blocked arterie & turned me loose. I was unlucky enough to have picked up a head cold too so I feel weak. He said very minor damage but I easily could have croaked. So I'm on blood thinners & snake venom. Please say hi to the crew for me.”

Hurry back John.....That’s it for now........Next week: Weds 10:30-4, Thursday 11-6, Sat 11-4.


(Photos added by Steve Compton Sat - Jan 8)



Comment by Steve Compton on January 8, 2011 at 7:51am

UPDATE - Jan 6, 2011 by Phil Lampman

Here's a few photos for the Blue Blaster archives. Once again, mostly for Don's records and to share with the construction crew.I've noticed my photos seem to be losing some resolution when compared to earlier photos. Nevertheless, here's what I took over the past couple of days.

Nearly everything we've done this week has been focused on the non-trips. The right side NT, pretty much all-new, never did quite fit the way Don expected. I could never understand why, but he's almost always right and so he and Gail and a few others set about yesterday realigning the right side. You'll see in photos 6 and 7 the clamps and aluminum extrusions they used to better align and straighten the non-trip.

The left side non-trip is an original piece as fitted to the hull when we received it. Overall, it appeared to be in very good shape, but like so many other areas we've tried to save from the original hull structure, we often find that the accident in Acapulco stressed the hull and caused some "monuments" to move themselves ever-so-slightly away from their original Lucero-assigned locations. The forward portion of the left side non-trip appeared to have acquired a slight outward "bow" at the juncture with the sponson transom. I've been watching Don keep looking at it over during the last couple of months so it came as no real surprise to have him put the team to work correcting that issue this morning. When I left, Gail and Randy were making a new panel to splice into the non-trip and Rich set to work with Don getting the section ready for the new piece.

Other photos show things like me and Bob Burd talking over coffee. Bob has so many stories it's easy for me to get sidetracked in conversation with him. I also included a shot of the inserts I made yesterday. I was just experimenting with my camera settings to see if I could create a photo that made them look much more precise than they looked to me after a lot of cutting and grinding.

So, we continue to move ahead. Sometimes, like this week, it seems like one step forward, two steps back, but I've come to expect that of Don and the results always seem to bear him out. Don't tell him I said that. It may go to his head and I have a feeling he'd be lost down the occasional rabbit trail without Gail's practical approach and guidance anyway. Just joking, but I'm thankful to be a part of a diverse team who all have the patience and experience to teach me something new every time I show up.


Comment by Gary Laws on January 8, 2011 at 7:42am
Don posted awhile back about asking us fans what configuration the Blaster should be restored to? As far as I can tell, I was the only one who commented (through the link anyway). Has a decision been made yet?
Comment by Don Mock on December 27, 2010 at 7:29pm
The plan for this week to work on the Blaster is Weds from about 10:30am to 4pm and Thursday from 11am to 6pm. Lots of new projects to start on to get the boat ready to turn over in the next month or two. -Don Mock
Comment by Marc Connelly on December 27, 2010 at 9:08am

Don would be the best person to ask about the weekly schedule, especially over the holidays. But there is plenty to see, so you should plan to stop by for  look, especially if you are coming from out of town.


As Steve noted below the crew attached the right non-trip last week, completing the replacement of all major parts that were seriously damaged in the blowover. So there is a complete framework sitting there, waiting for the fabrication of new sponson shears.


No question, the Blue Blaster is re-emerging. And witnissing that first hand is always worth a visit to the Museum.  

Comment by Randall E. Roe on December 27, 2010 at 8:56am
 Hope to take a look at the progress on the Blaster this week, I'm flying in for a few days. Are you guys working on the boat this week ?
Comment by Steve Compton on December 16, 2010 at 9:12pm

UPDATE - Dec 16, 2010 by Phil Lampman

Here's some photos I took, a few from yesterday and the rest from today. As you will see, we've finally mounted and affixed the new right side non-trip. It probably goes without saying that it was, truly, a milestone day, but in the event you can't tell, there are two easy clues: Don pacing and a lot of white coveralls.

Let me offer my view of several of the other photos.

The first 4 or 5 photos are from yesterday as we made the final dry fit of the non-trip (Don paces, as you can see, even when we're not doing using Hysol).

The photo with all the clamps shows the aluminum angle to support the final fitting of the air trap. We were fortunate to find these clamps a couple of weeks ago in a box under the work table when Don took a hand saw and, ah, modified the work table in order to give us more space to work on the hull. I think I sent the photos of that bizarre activity a couple of weeks ago. Interestingly, we discovered one of the clamps we had rescued from under the table seemed to be missing. Apparently we still had enough to get the job done this afternoon.

Oh, speaking of Don and hand saws, one of the later photos shows Don with a can of Hysol at the bench. If you look closely you might notice what looks to be — and is — the blade of a large handsaw. I was on the other side of the shop when I noticed Don trying to remove the thick plastic band sealing the new unopened can, with the saw (among other things). I grabbed my camera and started over there, but he saw me coming and tried to hide the saw. Too bad, the photo would have been a classic and the sort of thing I could hold over him and avoid having to sign my name to just about every part I make that doesn't meet his standards. Heck, I might have been able to trade the photo for a pair of white coveralls (but I don't need them, size L tall)

The photo of the band saw table simply tells me that it may be time for David and the board to consider adding a few new tools to the shop. Surely a real pencil sharpener can't be that expensive. It does't even need to be electric.

The photo of Randy and Gail is just one I took with the idea of a caption, "Two Nuts, trying to remove a bolt". But then I decided not to. They were successful I should add.

The next photo, I am embarrassed to admit, is Don pointing out where I may have made a slight miscalculation in hole placement on the spacer plate he had me make for one of the wing supports. To his credit, he no longer — at least some of the time — makes me sign my name to the parts I make that don't conform precisely to his standards of excellence. I think it might be because I was using up too much material and time to remake anything I didn't think would met with his approval and so now just made me take photos with his hand in the picture as a more subtle way of reminding me I'm not yet worthy of my own pair of white coveralls.

The rest of the photos "simply" show the installation of the air trap. I'd like to call attention to the seemingly immediate appearance of white coveralls. Marc was the first to arrive and quickly donned his coveralls — no doubt to provide a focal point for the frequent "Observing and Conferring" that is likely to occur as soon as the other team members with white coveralls come on scene. It's interesting to note however, that Gail, who had been wearing his plaid "Milestone  Day" shirt, quickly found his white coveralls shortly after Marc arrived. So did Don.

Notice, too, how Bob Burd has been quick to recognize the hierarchy in this team. He and Randy seemed to be having a nice conversation before Marc arrived and Gail started putting on his white coveralls. I suspect Bob is lobbying for his own membership in this not-so-secret society. Then Don put his white coveralls on and Rich arrived a little later, with similar uniform. You'll perhaps notice that the rest of the photos seem to reflect a lot more "Observing and Conferring" than in the earlier shots. A Hallmark activity of those so adorned. Take note that those without white coveralls appear, at that point, to have been relegated to simple tasks like cleaning up the oozing Hysol.

Oh, in the last few photos you'll see Don and Marc, ostensibly assisting Bob with installation of some transom bolts. C'mon Bob has been working on hydroplanes before some of us were even born. Do you really think he needs help. My guess is that they are conferring with Bob to make sure he understands the protocol and responsibilities before being allowed to wear white coveralls. In fact, i'm sure of it. Bob was a big help to me this morning while trying to locate those holes in the wing support. Later, after he'd been conferring with Don and Marc, I showed him how I had resolved the issue. Bob just looked at me and shook his head. I'l bet he already has white coveralls. Damn!

Oh, as you can see in the last photo, I found the missing clamp.

Ciao for now,


P.S. Steve, this narrative, if it isn't obvious, is really meant more for the amusement of my fellow team members, especially the ones in the white coveralls.
Perhaps not the most informative activity report. The photos are pretty good though, don't you think? Hey, it got me out of a lot of Hysol clean up duties.





Comment by scott carson on December 15, 2010 at 5:01pm

Nice to have you back at work my friend.  Hope to be able to join you this next year for some of the fun and for a chance to learn from the master!


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