We're racing through history!
By Fred Farley - Unlimited Hydroplane Historian
Fred, I know that former Unlimited driver Larry Lauterbach is the son of the late boat builder Henry Lauterbach. Is he any relation to Norman Lauterbach? Could you tell me something about Norman Lauterbach's career? - Rick Daniel
Larry is Norman Lauterbach's nephew. Norman is a long-time boat racer in his own right. In the 1970s, he owned a couple of very fast Grand Prix Class boats. One of them, named UNCLE NORMAN'S LAUTERBACH SPECIAL, won the 1977 Detroit, MI, and Madison, IN, Grand Prix races with Terry Turner driving.
Most people have forgotten that Norman Lauterbach was an Unlimited driver in the late 1940s and early '50s--and a pretty good one, too. He won the 1948 Cambridge Gold Cup and Emil Auerbach Trophy races with Harry Lynn's LAHALA. Although he did manage to flip Dan Murphy's DEE-JAY V at the 1950 APBA Gold Cup in Detroit.
Norman worked for the famed Ventnor Boat Works of Ventnor, New Jersey. He was in charge of construction of the two Henry J. Kaiser Unlimiteds of 1949: the HOT METAL and the ALUMINUM FIRST--a couple of non-propriding three-pointers.
According to Lauterbach, Kaiser had some set ideas about what constituted a viable contender and wouldn't be swayed. Kaiser knew just enough about engineering to be dangerous. Not surprisingly, the two boats failed as competitors.
Norman Lauterbach told me an incredible story one time. Henry J sent him a large supply of Kaiser Aluminum to be used in the contruction of HOT METAL and ALUMINUM FIRST. But the aluminum that Kaiser sent was inadequate for boat building purposes. Secretly and in desperation, Lauterbach used Reynolds Aluminum instead of Kaiser Aluminum in building HOT METAL and ALUMINUM FIRST. Henry J went to his grave never knowing about the substitution.