Hydroplane and Raceboat Museum

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1977 U-1 Atlas Van Lines

By Marc Connelly

On Thursday, January 7th, the 1977 Atlas Van Lines unlimited hydroplane began a long journey back to glory in the restoration shop of the Hydroplane and Raceboat Museum in Kent, Washington. The first small step was to remove half of the decking that had been tacked in place after she was wrecked in Acapulco in 1981. A careful survey of her hull interior will follow. After three decades of waiting for resurrection, the magnitude of the restoration project will be determined, in large measure, by the condition of the hull underneath the old cosmetic repairs. Eric Mann, President of the Museum Board of Directors, knows from past experiences that a hull survey will bring focus to this important and historic restoration project. One sure way to create excitement for the project among our restoration contributors and work crews, is to actually launch the restoration project with the hull survey. With the survey complete, we should be able to formulate an accurate budget and begin the all important fund raising effort with a fairly clear picture of what we are up against.

As the work crew, led by restoration veteran Don Mock, carefully cut away the decking, Executive Director David Williams supervised with considerable anticipation. Removing the decking is a bit like like opening a surprise package. The question is, will it reveal badly decomposing frames and stringers, or a reasonably sound hull? The difference, in terms of restoration cost and time investment is quite substantial. By the end of the evening, with the work completed for the day, the initial news was very good. The Blue Blaster seems to be in remarkably sound considering five seasons of hard racing ending in a bad blow over- and thirty years of waiting for this evening to arrive.

The 1977 Atlas Van Lines was the most successful of the early cabover style unlimited hydroplane designs. Representing the perfect marriage of design innovation and the best driver in hydroplane racing history, the Atlas Van Lines dominated unlimited racing through three seasons before being dethroned by the Griffon powered Miss Budweiser in 1979. Bill Muncey was fond of calling the Blue Blaster his office and in it, he did some of his most spectacular work as a driver, winning three National High Point titles consecutively.

The 1977 Atlas Van Lines restoration schedule will be announced once the hull has been thoroughly assessed and restoration plan is in place and approved by the Board of Directors. Individual contributions towards the restoration of the 1977 Atlas Van Lines are appreciated. For direct donations and patronage support programs, please contact David Williams at the Hydroplane and Raceboat Museum during regular hours of operation.

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