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Unlimited hydroplane racing has had its share of unusual boats. Some have proved to be trend setters — innovations that bettered the breed. Others found fleeting fame as curiosity pieces — total failures in the racing business.
One of the most unusual — best-remembered — boats in recent years is Armand Swenson's Miss U. The boat appeared at only one event, the 1957 Gold Cup in Seattle, Washington. Miss U retains a special niche in unlimited racing's history and folklore.
Unlike many "backyard" boats of the 1950's, Miss U was anything but the hastily-conceived product of a hydro happy daydreamer. The U 24 was the result of .months of experimentation by its owner; designer-builder.
Swenson experimented with models. Initially, he toyed with a variety of objects, studying principles of aerodynamics. As hydromania increased its grip on Seattle in the mid-50's, Swenson concentrated on aquatic models.
Swenson compared three point hulls with Vee-bottom craft: He was skeptical of the three-pointers, feeling they tend to have too much lift, thus allowing boats to become airborne, a cause of accidents, Swenson prefers the Vee-bottom concept with modifications. "The Vee-hull develops tremendous turbulence because of the Vee-bottom. There's nothing but weight on it. So I decided to make a hull that had a lot of lift in the front end, as well as being streamlined," Swenson explains. He constructed a model of his concept: After six months of testing, Swenson was satisfied his idea was workable in a real boat.
Swenson maintained a low-key approach. Few visitors were allowed in the shop. A gunsmith by profession, Swenson admits he neglected his business while he built the boat.
According to Swenson, Miss U was originally designed for a gas turbine engine, one developing about 100 horsepower. No such engine was available, so he had to settle for something else. Del Fanning approached Swenson with an offer of a six cylinder Ranger aircraft engine. Fanning, a Ranger employee, had experimented with Ranger engines in his race car. Fanning experimented with the engine's compression ratio. In its stock condition, the 300 pound Ranger produced around 150 hp. By boosting the compression ratio to almost 10:1 Fanning had a much more powerful engine. The engine produced its maximum torque at about 4,000 rpm, when Fanning was finished with it.
Miss U’s gear box, designed by Fanning, used a 3:1 ratio. The Vee-drive gear box sat about a foot ahead of the engine, A universal point connected the engine with the gear box. The two propeller shafts exited under the forward third of the hull. The contra-rotating props turned to the outboard. That is, when viewed from the bow, the left prop turned clockwise, while the right prop turned counterclockwise.
Miss U sported both s vertical and horizontal stabilizer. To that extent, it was a step ahead of modern thinking. Swenson has never given up on Miss U. He remains convinced his concept can work. In 1984, Swenson brought his craft to San Diego to show her off , after rebuilding her.