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History of Pay 'N Pak Racing

The first boat associated with Dave Heerensperger was originally the Miss Spokane. This Ted Jones designed boat was purchased by Bob Gilliam in 1962 -- the boat was sponsored by Heerensperger's Spokane-based Eagle Electric and Plumbing for the 1963-1964 seasons. The first Miss Eagle Electric was not very competitive, and was sold to Jim Herrington at the end of 1964. She would run as Herrington's Detroit-based Miss Lapeer through 1967.

Heerensperger became a boat-owner himself when he purchased the second $-Bill during the 1967 season. The Staudacher designed boat, originally built in 1962 and campaigned as the $-Bill from 1962-1967 was renamed Miss Eagle Electric after the August purchase and completed the season as an also-ran with Norm Evans driving. Over the winter the team rebuilt the boat, and when she emerged for the 1968 season, the second Miss Eagle Electric was a top contender, challenging for the 1968 National Championship with retired Air Force Colonel Warner Gardner behind the wheel. The "Screaming Eagle" as this boat was nicknamed scored victories at the Dixie Cup, the Atomic Cup, and the Presidents Cup. Unfortunately, Gardner was killed in September during the final heat of the postponed Gold Cup in Detroit. While attempting to gain the lead from Miss Budweiser on the third lap, Gardner drove the boat deep into the roostertail turn. The boat got out of attitude and the left sponson began to lift, resulting in a slow roll and the boat crashing back into the water upside down. The boat was destroyed in a shower of splintered wood and water, the crash also taking the life of popular Colonel Gardner.

Heerensperger made the difficult decision to press on, ordering a radical outrigger hydroplane which eliminated air-traps between the hull and sponsons, reducing lift and chance the boat might take flight. This design marked the first of several significant departures from mainstream boat design, exemplifying the innovative character of Heerensperger. The boat also had a new name, the "Pride of Pay 'N Pak" named after the Northwest "Pay 'N Pak" hardware store chain which Heerensperger had purchased. Perhaps the outrigger was a little too radical to be successfully developed during the heat of battle -- after struggling with the boat for the first half of the 1969 season, the first Pride of Pay 'N Pak gave way to a conventional Staudacher Hull which ran for the first time at the Gold Cup in San Diego. The first Pride of Pay 'N Pak was retired after the '69 season.

The second Pride of Pay 'N Pak was a conventional Staudacher Hull which competed in the 1969 San Diego Gold Cup, replacing the first outrigger "Pride". While the team was constructing a new Hull for 1970, the Staudacher Hull underwent a significant overhaul. David Smith applied his unique design talent to the cowling and tail of the boat, including a truncated headrest. The boat was renamed "Pay 'N Pak's 'lil Buzzard and was intended to be a backup to the new automotive cabover boat. As it turned out, the automotive boat was not as competitive as hoped, so during the season primary driver Tommy Fults switched to the U-00 Buzzard, winning the 1970 Atomic Cup to earn his second career victory. Unfortunately, Fults was killed during qualifying for the Gold Cup in San Diego when he was thrown from the boat during qualifying. The Buzzard was scrapped following the accident.

The third Pride of Pay 'N Pak was built over the '69/'70 winter and was another innovative and radical design. Powered by two Keith Black Chrysler 426 cu-in supercharged Hemi engines with the cockpit ahead of the engines in the cabover configuration, Heerensperger was again expanding the limits of conventional Hydroplane wisdom. The boat was designed and constructed by Ron Jones, marking the second unlimited design for Jones. However, the boat gained considerable advantage from the advances Jones had been making with a number of very successful 7-liter limited designs. Crew Chief Dwight Thorne is regarded as one of the best engine men in the business, but even he and his talented crew were unable get enough power and reliability out of the Hemi's to compete with the Aero engines of almost twice the displacement. The engines had to be pushed too hard to move the big boat around, resulting in disappointing results. After two races Fults switched to the "backup" U-00 Pay 'N Pak 'lil Buzzard, and Ron Larson was brought aboard to campaign the struggling Hemi Pride. Most of the crew focused their attention on their primary driver and the 'lil Buzzard, so perhaps some of the potential performance improvement left in the Hemi boat went unrealized despite Larson's attempts.

Jim Lucero was named crew chief of the Pay 'N Pak team in prior to the start of the 1971 season. One of the most successful crew chiefs of all time, and one of the true pioneers advancing the art of Unlimited Hydroplane engineering, Lucero shared the same spirit of innovation with Heerensperger. With Heerensperger's support, Lucero would introduce several successful innovations, but first he had to start small. During the off-season, the cabover Pride of Pay 'N Pak was reconfigured with a Rolls Royce Merlin engine and the driver behind the engine. New cowlings were constructed, including a very distinctive David Smith headrest which extended from the cockpit to the tail in a cone shape. The tail included vestigial horizontal elements for aesthetics. This beautiful "new" boat made her debut in 1971 with Billy Schumacher at the wheel. The boat showed promise early in the season, but experienced the normal setbacks as the team worked to dial the boat in. Her promise was realized when she won three consecutive wins races at the end of the 1971 season.

The team had high hopes for 1972 and got off to a great start, winning the season opening Presidents Cup. The team could only place second in national high-points, however, as the Bill Muncey and the Atlas Van Lines won the rest of the events in 1972, winning 6 of 7 races and the national championship. Heerensperger released Schumacher at Detroit when Billy refused to race in terrible conditions present on the Gold Cup course, Billy Sterret Jr. replaced Schumacher for the rest of the season. After just 4 wins in 2 seasons, Heerensperger decided he would need a bigger hammer to be competitive in the 1973 season, so he commissioned a new Ron Jones boat to replace the third Pride of Pay 'N Pak.

Bernie Little learned the Pay 'N Pak team was building a new boat, and persuaded Heerensperger to sell him the Pride. The seventh boat to wear the Miss Budweiser banner, Little campaigned the boat from 1973-1975 winning a total of 10 races including the 1973 Gold Cup with Dean Chenoweth at the wheel. The boat finished second in National Points in 1973 and 1974. While owned by Little, the boat was driven by Chenoweth, Howie Benns, and Mickey Remund. Bernie had a new hull built for the 1976 season, and sold the boat to Ron Burton of Australia, where she campaigned as Miss Bud until 1998.

In 1976 Bob Saniga drove the boat to victory in the Australian Griffith Cup at Lake Eppalock, which is the Australian equivalent of the Gold Cup. Thus this boat became the first (and so far only) to win both the American Gold Cup and Australian Griffith Cup. She also won the Eppalock Gold Cup, the Morwell Hazelwood Cup, the Yarrawonga Cup, and the Glenmaggie 500 for various owners including Burton, Joe and Steve Cooper, Vern White, and Ken Warby. The boat returned briefly to the United States in 1978, competing in the Tri-Cities and Seattle with Bob Saniga driving.

This boat is currently owned by Eric Mann and is part of the Unlimited Excitement collection. It returned to the United States in August 2001, and is retired from competition but is still run and exhibited at various classic and historic Unlimited Hydroplane events. It is the oldest existing Pay 'N Pak boat.

For the 1973 season, a new Ron Jones designed and built Hull was constructed, with Crew Chief Jim Lucero's oversight. Originally designed as a cabover, Heerensperger insisted the boat be built as with a conventional layout due to the teams experience with the '70 cabover. The boat's revolutionary horizontal stabilizer lead to the nickname "Winged Wonder". The boat was also constructed from honeycomb aluminum, marking the first use of this aircraft material in an Unlimited hull. Soon this construction technique would replace the traditional wood construction methods. This boat was simply named Pay 'N Pak, becoming the first boat with this name.

This boat was an immediate success, scoring victories in 1973 at Miami, Madison, Seattle, and Toledo for driver Mickey Remund. She would have won the Gold Cup that year but for a lost prop while leading the last lap of the final. The Winged Wonder did win the first of three consecutive National Championship for Heerensperger, setting a number of competition records along the way. 1974 was similarly successful with George Henley driving to victories at Owensboro, the Tri-Cities, Seattle's Gold Cup, Dayton, San Diego, and Madison on the way to the second National Championship. For 1975, some major changes were made to the hull and the handling was off, particularly in the corners. Henley retired at the end of the '74 season, so Jim McCormick was hired to drive for the 1975. McCormick was unable to be competitive with the poor cornering of the boat, causing him to be replaced after the second race by Henley who was brought out of retirement by Heerensperger. After Henley also was unable to control the boat, the boat was reconfigured to the '74 settings and after mediocre results in the first four races of the season, the boat was back to her old self winning the next 5 of 6 events, including another Gold Cup and the National Points Championship. Having risen to the top of Unlimited's Racing ladder with few mountains to climb, and tiring from criticism he was becoming too successful, Heerensperger chose to sell his entire team to Bill Muncey. Heerensperger did sponsor the Winged Wonder at the Northwest events in 1977.

Muncey drove the Winged Wonder, now the eight boat known as Atlas Van Lines, to another National Championship in 1976. Thus in the first four seasons of competition, this boat won four national championships! Muncey concentrated his effort on the new 9th Atlas Van Lines hull for the 1977 season (the cabover "Blue Blaster", an unfinished hull included in the Heerensperger team sale), with the grand Winged Wonder competing at only two races thanks to the sponsorship of Heerensperger and Pay 'N Pak. Ron Armstrong piloted the boat at both the Tri-Cities and Seattle Washington with the familiar Pay 'N Pak name on her sponsons.

Following the 1977 season, Muncey sold the boat to the Miss Madison organization. She was converted from Rolls-Royce Merlin power to turbo-Allison, and performed reasonably well for the limited-budget team amidst tough competition in 1978, finishing 4th in National points including second place at the Gold Cup and Columbia Cup. The boat was retired after the 1988 season, and is now in Detroit, owned by Dave Bartush of the Detroit Hydroplane Museum.

The second (and last) Pay 'N Pak again revolutionized the sport. Heerensperger had been out of the sport (except for briefly sponsoring the old Pay 'N Pak in 1977) since 1976 but Jim Lucero had come to him in 1979 with a proposal for a Turbine-powered Unlimited. Several years earlier the star-crossed U-95 had shown brief moments of brilliance, but had not established turbine-powered hydroplanes as truly viable. Heerensperger with his forward thinking and inventive character decided to back Lucero's effort. Lucero tried to continue as crew chief for the Atlas team while building the boat -- this proved too difficult and he resigned from the Atlas team at the end of the 1979 season to concentrate on building the Turbine Pak and serve as crew chief.

Construction delays resulted in the boat missing the early part of the 1980 season. The boat managed to qualify at the Tri-cities, but was very difficult to drive with a lot of dialing-in yet to go. While testing the morning of the race, the boat flipped during a quick lap, the boat sailing above the water, ultimately performing 1-3/4 somersaults. Driver John Walters was injured, and the boat was out for the remainder of the season. It was clear from video and other evidence that the horizontal wing had failed, buckling upwards at the center which upset the boat's center of lift. It was later determined that exhaust heat from the turbine had weakened the wing.

The boat showed promise in 1981, with a second place finish at the Gold Cup in Seattle, but never managed to find the winners circle. Damage to the boat in the Midwest required significant repairs that limited the boats competitiveness. 1982 marked a milestone for Turbine power -- the Lycomming T55 became the first turbine to win a race when Walters drove around Dean Chenoweth and the Miss Budweiser at the season's second race in Romulus, NY. Various mechanical problems kept the boat out of the winners circle again until the team's season came to an abrupt and early end at Seattle. The Executone boat lost control and collided with the Squire Shop at the start of a heat race. Walters was at full speed when the boats suddenly crossed in front of him -- he was unable to avoid the inevitable collision and impacted the other boats, being violently catapulted from his boat after it sailed high in the air and crashed heavily into the water on its side. Heerensperger was so shocked at what he had seen he suffered a mild heart attack. Walters was revived and after several week in the hospital and months of physical therapy largely recovered. He suffered leg and back injuries which result in a permanent limp. Heerensperger decided to retire for good, selling the team to Steve Woomer of Competition Specialties.

In 1984 when Woomer's primary Miss Tosti Asti was seriously damaged at Evansville due to a propeller failure, the crew worked around the clock to press the former turbine Pak into service for the following week's Madison Governors Cup race. The hard work paid off, with the boat finishing a respectable third in Madison. The boat was again idle until 1987, when the boat was purchased by Rick Sutphen, who campaigned it in 1987 and 1988 at the Sutphen Spirit with Mike Evans driving. The boat is now owned by Dave Bartush, and is awaiting restoration by his Detroit Hydroplane Museum.

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