Saturday, March 17, 2012

1929 Gar Wood Miss America VIII Has Two Seats, 16 Cylinders, 2,000 Horsepower and Unlimited Awesomeness

You're looking at the motivation behind one of power-boat racing's most notable classics - a pair of V-16 competition engines built by one of the greats of American power sports, Harry Miller. Each of these engines displaces 1,113 cubic inches and produces more than 900 horsepower. With their original superchargers fitted, they're reputedly good for 1,800 horsepower each. All that power isn't much use without something to push around and here's where the beast variable is injected into the incredible beauty formula of this marine-monster equation.

The Beauty of a Simpler Era

Gar Wood built Miss America VIII in 1929 and what a boat it is: thirty feet of Philippine mahogany, three-quarters of it the original timber used by Gar Wood and designer Napoleon Lisee. Lisee is quoted as having considered this boat, the Eighth, the best he ever built.

Enduring Success

But Miss America VIII is more than just a zen-like beauty and testament to the passion for powerful performance. She's also an incredibly-successful boat, having won the Harmsworth Trophy not once but twice.

In 1929, some 400,000 spectators along the shores of the Detroit River and the island of Belle Isle, watched Gar Wood himself pilot VIII to the boat's first Harmsworth Trophy win, narrowly beating Gar Wood's own Miss America VII, with his brother at the helm.

The following year, VIII was beaten by yet another of Gar Wood's boats - Miss America IX. 1931 was again to be VIII's lucky year, however.

This time it was Gar's brother George, who sat behind the wheel of VIII as it crossed the finish line behind Gar Wood in Miss America IX and Kaye Don in Miss England II.

After the first two finishers were disqualified for having beaten the starter's pistol, Miss America the Eighth was declared to have won her second Harmsworth Trophy.

Those Miller Engines

Miss America VIII enjoyed all of that success from 1929 to 1931 before Mr Miller's incredible engines even entered the picture. Gar Wood had met Harry Miller at the Indianapolis 500 automobile race in May of 1931 and ordered up some of Miller's impressive motors for the Harmsworth race. An accident, however, had prevented them from being fitted in time for the 1931 trophy race in Detroit.

The Miller V-16s did arrive, however, and Wood had them fitted in order to aim for even higher speeds. VIII had been running with Packard V-12 engines. Though powerful, they simply weren't in the same league as Miller's revolutionary new V-16s.

The Miller engines, with their aluminum blocks and heads, were much lighter than the Packards. In addition, they were designed to rev much higher - as high as 6,000rpm. The era's other competition engines, were typically running at just 2,500 rpm.

Running with their superchargers, the two Miller V-16 engines gave Miss America VIII some 3,600 horsepower. Late in 1931, the boat was timed at 104mph on the Harlem River, proving the worth of this incredible pairing of beautiful hull and stunning alloy V-16 engines.

Miss America VIII Videos

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Miss America VIII is up for sale. For more great photos and plenty of information about the boat and/or the chance to become Miss America VIII's new owner, head over to Mecum Auctions.

All Miss America VIII photos in this post and the first video, courtesy of the fine folks at Mecum Auctions.

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