We're racing through history!
Reprinted from Skid Fin Magazine, 2003, Volume 1 Number 2.
Just how big is the Roll-Royce Griffon engine that powers the 1980 Miss Budweiser? To simply say that it is 2,240 cubic inches is not enough. To get a real feel for the size of this magnificent engine, think about this: the Griffon is six times bigger than the 358 cubic inch engines that power modern NASCAR racers. The engine in the 1980 Griffon Budweiser is bigger than all the motors in the first three rows of cars at the Daytona 500 put together!
But raw horsepower isn’t enough. It has to be combined with a hull big enough, strong enough, and stable enough to handle that power. The "Juggernaut" (as the 1980 Bud was sometimes called) was a perfect boat for the job. At 14’3" wide and 29’6" long, the Miss Budweiser weighted in at over 7,000 pounds, making her the biggest, heaviest boat of her day. Her honeycomb aluminum construction made her extremely strong, and her radical design made her fast and stable. The Bud, designed and built by the legendary Ron Jones Sr., featured a cockpit dramatically offset to the left, deeply shingled sponsons and a massive skid fin. All three features worked to produce a boat that could carry tremendous speed into the corner. The Bud was driven by Dean Chenoweth, arguably one of the best drivers ever to step into a race boat.
From the moment that the 1980 Griffon Budweiser hit the water, she was almost unbeatable. She won her first five races, and it wasn’t until the final head of the sixth race of the season (at Tri-Cities, Wash) that the Bud even lost a heat!
While attempting to qualify in Seattle, the mighty Juggernaut lost her rudder and cartwheeled end over end. Her season was done. But before the accident the Bud had already won the Gold Cup and accumulated enough points to coast home to the National Championship with the help of a few different backup hulls.
1981 was another record-setting year. The Bud won six of eight races, including the Gold Cup and World Championship. She also brought home her second straight National Championship.
1982 started well for the Bud team. They won the season opener in Miami, Fla., but the team’s dominance was challenged when three different boats won the next three races. By the time the fleet reached the Tri-Cities, the Bud team felt that they have something to prove. While attempting to set a new qualifying record, the Griffon Bud blew over backward, killing driver Dean Chenoweth.
The "Juggernaut" continued to race for three more years with Jim Kropfeld at the wheel. In 1983 and ’84 Kropfeld and the Bud won 10 races and the 1984 National Championship. By 1985 it was clear that turbine engines were the way of the future, and the mighty Juggernaut was sold to Jerry Kenny, who replaced the Griffon engine with an Allison.
Eventually the boat found its way into the hands of Eric Mann and Jerry Fiorito, the owners of Unlimited Excitement. The turned the boat over to the Hydroplane and Raceboat Museum restoration staff, lead by Gale Whitestine. Museum volunteers have spent thousands of hours completing the most detail restoration ever attempted on a race boat. If any boat deserved this kind of attention, it has to be the Griffon Bud!