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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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Latest Activity: Nov 14, 2020

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Comment by Phil Lampman on April 1, 2011 at 5:12pm

Great progress report, as always, Don. I suspect though, you may have overlooked the real reason for Edward Muncey's visit. As an executive with the UFC, I suspect he may perhaps heard from Chip about some of the "friendly" discussions we've had on the eventual configuration of his father's most famous ride and possibly have thought he may have had the makings of one of those "free-for-all" over-the-ropes WWF-type bouts with the winner getting to choose the final layout and then toss you into the crowd over your never-ceasing demands for complete accuracy and homage to this project. As one of a number of volunteers who have been working alongside you for well over a year on this restoration, I am constantly amazed at how well you have managed to guide us along, using but some old photos and a few ancient loftings.


Seriously, though, I think if the people following this project knew how little we have had in terms of plans and drawings to bring this icon back to some semblance of original condition - probably better once we're done, actually - they would better understand what a difficult job this is and how hard it would be without the enthusiasm of the team you lead so well, yet still harbor the idea of tossing you over the ropes in a UFC match.


Thank you for your leadership, your talent and your amazing ability to find the resources to keep this effort going.I even forgive you for all the shirts and jeans and jackets I've managed to glue together or otherwise destroy as a result of your assignments.

Looking forward to getting back to work next week. 





Comment by Don Mock on March 31, 2011 at 11:26pm

It’s a good thing Phil taught me the correct spelling of “battens” cause today was a full-day of Blaster battens. We test-fitted every single 1x1 ash batten used in the boats sponsons. We’re not far off now from attaching the plywood.

Yesterday Marc made some great custom fitting blocks for the chine/sheer junction while Randy and Pete sanded the battens rounding over the sharp corners. This morning Phil, John, Randy and I laid out the locations of the side battens and continued leveling and sanding the shims and blocks glued to the honeycomb frames. The sheer lines and chines are nearly finished. We made a few more shims for the forward battens and more blocks for the sponson plywood sub-floor.

Wheeler and Pete showed up for the evening shift so we went ahead and fit and drilled all the forward battens. The Blaster has a bit of a complicated maze of battens outlining the forward sponson bottoms. Five on each side that support the sub-floor which has a slight bevel for the outside secondary recoveries the forward six feet or so. Once the plywood is attached and fiber-glassed, new battens are placed on top that create the final recoveries and primary ride surfaces. Aluminum sheeting gets screwed down to those battens. Next week looks to be a busy one of gluing and screwing all the battens in place.

Below are some photos of the progress taken by Phil. They include a shot of Tim Clark from Maryland who was in town and spent a day working with us on the boat. We've also missed Gail who is on an RV adventure for a few weeks. Bob Burd has also been gone for a few weeks traveling but look forward to Bob and Gail both getting back next week. We have sanding blocks with their names on them.

On Saturday, Chip and Edward Muncey dropped by to see the boat. We have so many photos and videos of Edward as a little kid hanging around his dad and the Blue Blaster. Almost weird to see him now standing next to the boat. But he was thrilled with the progress and really looks forward to seeing it complete. Edward has become a very intelligent and articulate business man heading up marketing and promotions for the Ultimate Fighting Championship. He was in town for the sold-out event at Key Arena.

Edward and Chip are two of the most important people in the legacy of the Blue Blaster. When talk came up about running the boat, it was clear that Chip, giving Ed a ride in the Blaster, would be a very meaningful and emotional event, to say the least. One that makes our mission of restoring the boat all the more significant and exciting.

-Don Mock

Comment by Don Mock on March 4, 2011 at 11:18pm

Randall, you a right about the sponson change. Probably around 1980, they widened both sponson outside secondary's by an inch or so by steepening the sponson non-trips or sides. You can see in photos that the secondary recoveries got wider and they may have widened the ride surfaces a bit too. It probably helped the boat in corners and certainly must have helped it get on plane easier too. We see the evidence of this modification in the sponson frames. We were trying to figure out why there were so many weird shims and blocks added. Didn’t make sense that those things were original. I don't think they ever tried dihedral/anhedral primary angles on the Blaster like on the '82 and '84 Atlas'. Both sponsons used the same traditional dihedral angle.

So our dilemma now is; which sponsons do we make while restoring the boat? The original 1977-79 versions or the widened ‘80-81 ones? Knowing how hard these hulls are on Merlin’s, we’re opting for the later versions to help get on plane easier. Visually, the difference is slight unless you know what to look for. By the way, we asked Jim Lucero about the mod but he did not remember the details. But at that point, Jim was a lot more involved with the Turbine Pay ‘n Pak than the Atlas.


-Don Mock

Comment by Randall E. Roe on March 4, 2011 at 9:07am
Don, I remember a conversation with Jeff Neff back in 1981 where he talked about the Atlas guys converting the Blasters sponsons to "Outside Primary" and how impressed he was at the time that since they had started running the boat in '77, they had increased the lap times 10 mph, and he didn't have any idea what they would do to the Bud Griffon to accomplish the same thing
Comment by Don Mock on February 24, 2011 at 9:01pm

As we begin constructing the sponsons on the Blaster, I thought I would toss in a few inspirational shots for the restoration team. Here's some photos from early 1977 thru 1980. The crew made a few minor changes to the sponsons over the years but the basic shapes remained the same. 

-Don Mock


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


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