We're racing through history!
By Fred Farley - Unlimited Hydroplane Historian
One of the most significant boats in Gold Cup racing history was bandleader Guy Lombardo's TEMPO VI from Freeport, New York. A product of the famed Ventnor Boat Works of Ventnor, New Jersey, TEMPO VI won the 1946 APBA Gold Cup at Detroit, Michigan, and went on to generate a lot of favorable press for the sport of boat racing in the years following World War II.
Built in 1938 and named MY SIN by original owner Zalmon Guy Simmons, the future TEMPO VI was one of the world's first successful three-point hydroplanes.
MY SIN was a lengthened-out counterpart of Jack Rutherfurd's JUNO, which rode on the tips of two pontoon-like running surfaces called sponsons and a fully submerged propeller. In 1937, JUNO set a Gold Cup Class mile straightaway record at better than 84 miles per hour. This bettered the previous mark, established by EL LAGARTO, a step hydroplane, by nearly 12 miles per hour.
There could be no doubt that the era of the sponson boats had arrived. The days of the step hydros, which had held sway for a quarter century, were numbered. (Although, the fast-steppers continued to be a factor for another twenty years.)
The first three-point Gold Cuppers to follow JUNO's lead were MISS GOLDEN GATE, EXCUSE ME, and MY SIN, all constructed in 1938, Of the three, MY SIN/TEMPO VI was by far the most successful. MISS GOLDEN GATE finished second in the 1938 Gold Cup with Dan Arena driving. EXCUSE ME, on the other hand, was a complete failure and defied the efforts of her driver, the respected Bill Horn.
Designed by Adolph Apel , MY SIN had a slightly concave underbody. The 16-cylinder Miller engine developed 650 horsepower. It had previously powered John Shibe's MISS PHILADELPHIA and had been used in Gold Cup boats since as far back as 1924.
Before leaving the Ventnor plant, MY SIN was given a trial run and reached a reported speed of over 100 miles per hour. At Detroit, however, engine trouble developed that could not be remedied in time for participation in the 1938 Gold Cup.
For the 1939 race, MY SIN was the lone East Coast entrant and represented the Indian Harbor Yacht Club, which had won the 1926 and 1927 Gold Cups with GREENWICH FOLLY.
The hull of MY SIN, which carried the APBA registration number G-13, was unchanged from the year before. The Miller engine, however, had been extensively revamped by Charles Zumbach.
Not wishing a repeat of 1938, owner/driver Guy Simmons had MY SIN ready to run well in advance of the race. Simmons logged many hours of testing time on the Hudson River during the months of July and August, 1939, in anticipation of the Gold Cup event at Detroit, scheduled for Labor Day weekend.
The other three-point hydroplanes in attendance were Bill Cantrell's WHY WORRY, Lou Fageol's SO-LONG, Marion Cooper's MERCURY, and George Davis's HERMES IV. WHY WORRY and SO-LONG were Ventnor hulls., while MERCURY and HERMES IV were home-built.
All of the pre-race preparations paid off. Of the six starters in the 1939 Gold Cup, only MY SIN lasted the 90 miles. Simmons won all three heats. MY SIN thus became the first three-pointer to finish first in a heat of Gold Cup competition.
MY SIN's victory signaled a complete sweep of the Detroit River by the Ventnor Boat Works. In addition to the Gold Cup, the Ventnor three-pointers won the top prize in each of the 135, 225, and 725 Cubic Inch Class races at the Detroit Yacht Club-sponsored meet. (The winning boats in question were Andy Crawford's EDNANDY, Jack "Pop" Cooper's TOPS III, and "Wild Bill" Cantrell's WHY WORRY respectively.)
In the 1940 Gold Cup, at Northport, Long Island, MY SIN suffered damage, apparently from some floating debris, and was unable to finish the race.
In 1941, MY SIN repeated as Gold Cup champion-this time at Red Bank, NewJersey. But due to the imminence of the war crisis, over in Europe, the Guy Simmons team was the only one to show up for the event. MY SIN ran one 30-mile heat all by herself and was awarded the trophy by forfeit.
After World War II, Simmons sold MY SIN to Lombardo who had been a champion 225 Class driver before the war.
Simmons originally had a much higher dollar figure in mind when he announced that MY SIN was available for sale. He settled for a substantially lower price, because he wanted Lombardo to have it.
Renamed TEMPO VI, the boat retained the G-13 racing number and also the Zumbach/Miller engine. Although, in later years, an Allison V-12 would be substituted. Lombardo modified the hull from a two-seater to a single-seat configuration.
In its first race under Lombardo's ownership, the G-13 scored an easy win in the 1946 National Sweepstakes at Red Bank. She was the only Gold Cup Class boat there and ran against a fleet of 225s.
Also in 1946, TEMPO VI raised the Gold Cup Class straightaway record to better than 113 miles per hour at Miami, Florida. This was the fastest speed ever recorded by a 732 cubic inch "G" boat of pre-World War II specifications.
The race for which TEMPO VI is best remembered is the 1946 APBA Gold Cup on the Detroit River. This was the first major Unlimited event to be run after the war. The 732 cubic inch piston limitation was abolished. And virtually all hull restrictions were abandoned. For the first time since 1921, the Gold Cup was truly a wide-open race.
But Lombardo chose to stay with the same Miller engine set-up that had worked so well before the war.
Guy had his hands full on race day. Indeed, Dan Arena in the new Allison-powered three-pointer, MISS GOLDEN GATE III, made TEMPO VI work for it.
But the old MY SIN would not be denied. She became the first boat since EL LAGARTO (in 1935) to win three Gold Cups. And, in so doing, TEMPO VI broke the long-standing Gold Cup heat record of 70.412, set in 1920 on a 5-mile course by Gar Wood in the Liberty-powered MISS AMERICA I, with a mark of 70.890 for the 30-mile distance on a 3-mile course. It was a long time in timing!
In 1920, Lombardo had been a youthful witness when Wood set the record. Now, twenty-six years later, their positions were reversed, as the cup was presented to Guy on the Judges' Stand by none other than the great Gar himself.
Following the 1946 Gold Cup, it wasn't long before the newer, larger, more powerful Allison-powered boats rendered TEMPO VI obsolete. Nevertheless, the G-13 managed to win one more major race-the 1948 Ford Memorial Regatta at Detroit. TEMPO VI also won close to a dozen "free-for-all" races, which do not count in today's records.
Owner/driver Lombardo was one of those rare individuals who could generate newspaper headlines by his mere presence at a race site. As a result, TEMPO VI became one of the most photographed race boats of all time.
Guy never came closer to meeting his Maker while driving a hydroplanethan he did at the 1948 Gold Cup in Detroit. That was the time he crashed the boat at the start of the race. Lombardo described the near-tragedy in his 1975 AULD ACQUAINTANCE autobiography.
"I had TEMPO in a favorable starting position for the first heat, nursing it along, planning to get up to 125 mph before we hit the first turn. In front of my boat was Morlan Visel's HURRICANE IV from California, untested in major racing, a big humpbacked affair that seemed perpetually airborne. My plan was to hit the starting line at full speed, cut across his wake and go inside at the first turning buoy."
"And so it went as the starter's gun went off. I was flying at 125 mph at least, heading for Visel's wake, when his boat's rudder and prop suddenly failed and veered into the path of the oncoming TEMPO. If I kept going, I would have crashed into him at tremendous speed; if I swerved in the opposite direction, I would have hit a pier that jutted into the river at that point. Hundreds of spectators crowded the pier and my boat would surely have killed some of them. Hardly thinking, I spun my wheel and shut off the engine, sending TEMPO into a broadsiding stall."
"For a moment, it seemed my beautiful boat would achieve a miracle of stability and stay right side up. That was the last thought I can remember."
"TEMPO dug her port sponson into the churning wake, whirled on her side, and flipped over in a huge cascade of spray, splotched with debris and the floating form of a forty-six-year-old orchestra leader turned racing driver."
Lombardo suffered a broken arm in the accident, TEMPO VI was beached for the year, and the Royal Canadians band had to make do with a one-armed leader for several weeks.