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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 Phil Lampman on February 18, 2011 at 10:13am

Wow, what a job. Truly sorry I wasn't there to assist. I can't believe how badly I want to get back to work with you fellows. Please slow down so there's something left for me to do when I return.


BTW, no longer a need for white coveralls. I saved all the paper ones I had to wear every time I went into my wife's hospital room. They don't fit well, but they're very lightweight and I don't care if I get Hysol on them. I've written "Atlas van Lines" on the back using Q-tips and some weird sort of soap I found in her room. 



Chief Fabricator of small seldom used parts

Assistant torch guy and adhesives spreader

Member, "Team Hysol: - WE STICK TOGETHER

Comment by Don Mock on February 17, 2011 at 11:39pm

Although it might not look like it at first glance, we got a tremendous amount of work completed this past week. For the first time, we worked on details that “show” on the outside of the boat. We added the aluminum angle trim pieces along the inside and outside of the airtrap bottoms. The Blaster had very distinctive rows of philips-head screws every three inches along the outside bottom edge. We were able to track down exact replacements of both the screws and the blind-nut inserts originally used on the boat. It was a tedious job mounting the strips and 125+ screws. Gail and I drilled and filled the holes with Hysol while Bob and Randy teamed up to add the inserts and screws (which they “clocked” the same by the way) It looks pretty cool and will look perfect when painted white.

On Wednesday we also got all the doubler-plate strips glued and riveted over all the repair seams in the bottom. John got the holes drilled and counter sunk then came the glue team with the four 6” wide strips. We used abut 200 small countersunk rivets which gave us a couple of nightmare hours as all our air-and arm powered rivet guns kept getting jammed. We think the rivets were defective although Rich got them all in with pure will and a few words I can’t repeat here.

So I’m happy to report that the bottom and both rear non-trips of the Blaster are finished and ready for detailing and painting. Getting the bottom out of the way now allows us to concentrate on building the sponsons. We’ve already got the ball rolling by talking with our “wood angel” Steve Compton about the ash, oak and mahogany we’ll need. Next week we’ll get the sponson airtraps trimmed to their final shape and add their wood inserts. Also, doubler wood strips get  glued and screwed to the airtrap sides to support the sponson plywood sub-floors.

That’s it for now. We’ve really missed Phil this week as he has been attending to his wife who has been hospitalized with an infection in her foot following surgery. But he should be back next week not wearing any white cover-alls...............yet.

-Don Mock


(.....a few photos from Gail)


Comment by Don Mock on February 11, 2011 at 8:48pm

Here's more of the photos........it wouldn't let me post them all at once. See update below............

Comment by Don Mock on February 11, 2011 at 8:35pm

Work on the bottom of the Blaster got underway this past week. After getting the boat turned over last week, we’ve already got a lot of important items finished up including routing the bottom of the right airtrap and installing the wood insert. We had originally planned to rout the old wood out of the left side but once we got a good look at it we determined it was in great shape and decided to leave it.

All we have to do next week is add the new angle strips on both sides and and the row of distinctive round-head bolts along the bottom of the entire non-trips. This will finish up the rear portion of the hull.
We also decided that it was not necessary to cover the front part of the bottom with aluminum sheeting. It makes more sense add doubler strips similar to the several original ones glued to the bottom back further. So we now have those plates fitted in place and will glue them on next week.

So with the bottom of the boat likely finished next week, we’ll turn all our attention to constructing the sponsons. With the drawings, lots of photos and pieces we removed from the boat, it should be challenging yet straight-forward project. I’m sure it will take several months. During that time we’ll also start to bring together the parts for the wings and cowl and the many hardware items we’ll need.

Last night at the museum as we were cleaning up, Jim Lucero dropped by to see our progress on the boat. Jim had only seen the boat once since we began the restoration and you can imagine I had just a few hundred questions for him and was also pretty nervous about him seeing what we’ve done to his boat. He had lots of positive comments about the project and answered several questions, and thought the boat looked real good so far. I’m sure now that we are beginning the most difficult part of the project, building the sponson surfaces, we’ll be talking Jim into dropping by a lot more often.

Here are a few photos from the past two weeks of the project taken by Gail Richardson and Phil Lampman. We’ll be doing a little work tomorrow (Sat) during the Roger Newton Memorial R/C Model Boat show at the museum. Hope to see you there.

-Don Mock


Comment by Steve Compton on February 7, 2011 at 1:30pm

UPDATE - Feb 3, 2011 by Don Mock


It could not have gone better......today’s turnover of the Blue Blaster. I first want to apologize to several people for moving the time we flipped the boat up an hour or so. We had originally planned for it to take place around 2pm Thursday but by noon we had everything in place and after a short test lift, we decided to just go for it.

Our new turnover bar worked perfectly as did the transom bar and reinforcement plate the guys made yesterday. The boat lifted very easy and did not hardly flex. We quickly slid the jig out from under the boat and with everything clear we began to pull the Atlas around. It rotated on the shafts very easily even thought the left side of the boat is a bit heavier due to the off-set engine stringers and the extra material around the skid-fin area. Once all the way over we lowered it back down onto its new stand and landed very solid and level.

The crew went to work right away disassembling the jig and started in on the rear non-trip bottoms removing old bolts and aluminum strips. We’ll concentrate on sanding the entire bottom next week getting it ready for the .040 doubler sheets that will cover over the seams and repairs to the first 10 feet. Then we’ll let the Mr. Router loose to mill out the honeycomb along the bottoms of the airtraps to add the wood inserts.

Also today, right after we got the boat turned over, David and Parke returned from the museum storage area at Ken Muscatel’s shop with an amazing load of artifacts including photos, driver suits, uniforms and books. Nearly forgotten and in storage for several years,  David set one particular box on the back of the Atlas containing what we think is Bill Muncey’s actual driving suit, lifejacket and helmet he wore in 1981. The box also included some of Chip’s outfits including a Squire Shop driving suit that was cut off of him following one of his accidents. It looks to possibly be the suit he was wearing when he blew over the Squire on Lake Washington testing prior to the trip to Mexico in 1981.

Seeing all those amazing items topped off the day which was indeed a milestone for the Blue Blaster project. Finally seeing the bottom of the boat gave me, and I’m sure the other guys on the team, a renewed dose of enthusiasm after a long year of working on the top-side of the Atlas. And for me, today was also a huge relief. Not from the job of turning the boat over, but from finally seeing for the first time the airtraps and bottom. Things look surprisingly good and straight. The non-trips are dead flat and our new curved bottom looks like it did 35 years ago. I can’t thank the guys on the team enough for all their dedicated work. Over the past two weeks, gearing up for today, most of our “A” team guys put in lots of hours. Kent drove over from Ellensburg last week. Phil, Marc, Gail, Randy, Rich and Bob were there for most of the work days. John Leidle was back this week doing real well following his recent heart event and hospital visit. Wheeler is on a big-time trip to Africa. But we’ll draft him back on the job when he returns next week.  And as always, thanks goes to David and Parke and the other museum staff and to Mary and Steve Compton for the past, present and future wood needed for the boat.

The fun continues next Wednesday when we will kick up a cloud of dust sanding the entire bottom.

-Don Mock

Comment by Don Mock on January 27, 2011 at 7:28pm

Guys, the photo gallery workings here on the site are a little difficult but I think I figured out a few ways to quickly view the latest Blue Blaster photos. First off, here is a link to the newest shots this week from Phil Lampman.


Another way to find them is to go to the “Galleries” bar on the home page and find the “1977 Atlas Van Lines Restoration” gallery (on about page 3). When the page comes up, click on any of the thumbnail images. When the larger photo appears, click on the “View Photos” above the photo. You should then see thumbnails of the latest photos. Be sure to have the “Sort by” button set to “latest.”  Then you should be able to view all the photos in reverse order as they were added.

As far as our progress on the boat goes, next weeks photos should show the dramatic “turn over” event we have planned for next Thursday. We spent this week getting the boat ready to flip over including a new stand to hold the boat solid and level while it’s up-side-down. Credit goes to Gail and Randy for engineering the stand system which should work great. We now just need to mount the turnover fixture to the front of the boat and we will be ready to go.

I also wanted to see if I could add photos to these posts, so here are two shots of the Blaster taken about one year apart. They show the boat last January when we first got started removing the deck, and last week. Although they look similar, what went on over the months in-between has been a huge project. All the light green colored parts are the new honeycomb, so you can imagine that the boat had to be disassembled to replace those parts. 


Comment by Marc Connelly on January 27, 2011 at 8:46am

See you all this morning!




Comment by Michael J. Mackey on January 27, 2011 at 8:46am
I guess I'm missing something too. Is there a link on this page to the updated photos?
Comment by Steve Compton on January 27, 2011 at 8:22am

UPDATE - Jan 25, 2011  by Phil Lampman


Hi Steve,

A few snapshots from this morning. Highlight of the day was the surprise arrival of Kent Snowden who, despite the long drive from Ellensburg, has been a great help on the project over the last year. Note the non-white coveralls. Don tried to boost my spirits by telling me that my lack of proper uniform notwithstanding, he still considered me a full member of the "Observing and Conferring" team and then sent me off to saw some stuff.

We spent most of the morning finishing up some detail items on the frames, some clean-up on the sponson sheers and pulling a few more old fasteners from the bottom in preparation for turning the boat over. (Guess which second-tier member of the no-white-coveralls caste got that assignment?)

Don and I had arrived earlier to find that the shop was rearranged in readiness for moving the '58 Miss Bardahl alongside the 'Blaster. We added to the clean-up effort by relocating some of the power equipment to a new location. A big thanks to Steve Anderson and "Cowboy" Bob Jensen for installing 110v and 220v electrical power in the new location (photo 6). It should make things easier for us while Glenn and the Bardahl crew share space with us for a few months.

Oh, we put the cowling atop the hull only because we couldn't figure out a better place for it while the relocation activities continue.


Gold Panner in Training


Comment by Randall E. Roe on January 24, 2011 at 4:06pm
OK, where are you hiding the update photos at ?

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