We're racing through history!
By Fred Farley - Unlimited Hydroplane Historian
Over the past four decades, more than twenty boats have raced as the MISS BUDWEISER, owned by Bernie and Joe Little, at one time or another.
Some were unbeatable, some were mediocre, and some crashed in splinters. But the quest was always the same: to have a boat that represented the excellence of its corporate sponsor in a manner that reflected credit and prestige on the sport in which it was involved.
The following are the career summararies of four of the more memorable MISS BUDWEISER hydroplanes.
MISS BUDWEISER - 1965
The world famous four-seater "Beer Wagon" was the boat that introduced Bernie Little to Unlimited racing. It wasn't the fastest boat on the circuit, but the four-seater was an instant and continuing media hit.
Astronauts, politicians, television stars, and journalists were waiting in line for a chance to "go for a ride" at 150 miles per hour. Although a publicity bonanza, the craft lacked fire in the engine room. Providing four seats meant providing extra stregth and extra weight to support it. That slowed her down.
The four-seater nevertheless made its presence felt. She finished fourth at Seattle in 1963 as TEMPO and fourth at Ogden, Utah, in 1965 as MISS BUDWEISER, in addition to winning a secondary race at Detroit in 1965 as MISS BUD.
Having won the publicity championship, owner Little and sponsor Anheuser-Busch went searching for bigger game.
MISS BUDWEISER - 1966
The first MISS BUDWEISER to win a race was actually a last-minute addition to the team. Rushed into service in mid-season after a previous MISS BUD had crashed and been destroyed at Washington, D.C., the replacement hull ran well in its first race at Detroit in 1966.
Then, three weeks later, it achieved victory on the Columbia River at the Tri-Cities, Washington, winning all three heats of the Atomic Cup with Bill Brow driving.
It was an emotion-charged moment for Little as he accepted his team's first of many first-place trophies. The MISS BUDWEISER people had convincingly rebounded from their Washington, D.C., tragedy...and had done so in championship fashion.
And, later in the season, Bernie, Brow, and BUD put it all together to win the San Diego Cup on Mission Bay as well.
MISS BUDWEISER - 1968
MISS BUDWEISER, the 1968 version, proved to be the Bernie Little team's first superstar. Designed by Ed Karelsen, it raced for five years, won eleven races (including two APBA Gold Cups), and captured three straight National High Point Championships in 1969-70-71. Drivers Bill Sterett, Terry Sterett, Dean Chenoweth, and Tommy Fults all saw action behind her wheel at one time or another.
The BUDWEISER team faced one of its most difficult challenges at the Tri-Cities in 1970. The boat crashed and sank during the first heat. Driver Chenoweth escaped with minor injuries, but the National Championship appeared to be lost.
For eleven frantic days, crew chief George McKernan and his crew thrashed repairs to the battled hulk. When MISS BUDWEISER pulled into the pits on Thursday of race week in Seattle, the cheers could be heard all the way to Tacoma!
And just to prove that the work wasn't hasty, MISS BUDWEISER went on to score a heartstopper of a victory--her second straight Seafair triumph.
MISS BUDWEISER - 1973
For 1973, owner Little bought a proven winner as his standard bearer. This latest MISS BUDWEISER bore little resemblance to her predecessors. She was wider, flatter, less box-shaped, sported a pickle-fork bow configuration, a broader afterplane, and s-p-e-e-d.
As PRIDE OF PAY 'n PAK, the Ron Jones-designed craft had been the scourge of the Unlimited Class since 1971. And when her Rolls-Royce Merlin engine was running right, no one could touch her.
The years 1973-74-75 are considered by many racing historians to be the high-water mark of the sport's piston era in terms of pure boat racing.
Of course, MISS BUDWEISER garnered her share of the glory. Drivers Dean Chenoweth, Howie Benns, and Mickey Remund accounted for ten race victories, which included the 1973 APBA Gold Cup at the Tri-Cities.
With Chenoweth driving, on August 5, 1973, MISS BUDWEISER achieved her greatest fame by defeating arch-rival PAY 'n PAK in Heat 1-C at Seattle to become the first boat to average better than 120 miles per hour in a heat of competition.