Mariners-Tigers game led to the return of Vintage Hydroplane to Seafair - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Mariners-Tigers game led to the return of Vintage Hydroplane to Seafair

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Hydro fans may remember the coming out party for the restored Slo Mo IV at Seattle's Seafair in 1990, but you may not know the story behind the story.

Mark Allen was the Race Director for Seafair in 1990-1991 & 1997-1998.  In 1990, he went to the Gold Cup in Detroit in early June. 

Here's what happened, in Mark's own words.

"By chance, the Seattle Mariners were playing a weekend series at Tiger Stadium on Gold Cup weekend.  Friday night was a double header.  Keith Peterson invited us - my Assistant Race Chariman and myself - to come down to the clubhouse between games and say hello, which we did. 

Keith came out and talked with us for awhile and then Ken Muscatel arrived also.  Keith had to go back into the clubhouse, so the three of us went back outside to the ball park and went out into the centerfield grandstand.  It was a beautiful evening, 80+ degrees and nobody around us for rows.  We kicked back to watch Ken Griffey, Jr. patrol the Mariners' outfield. 

At one point during the 2nd game, Ken Muscatel remarked that the Hydroplane & Raceboat Museum (of which he was President at the time) had just about finished the restoration of the Slo Mo IV, but really didn't know what to do with it show it off to everyone. 

It seemed obvious to me and I said " why don't we run it at Seafair?"  Ken's response was "Do you think we could?"  And I said, "hey, I'm the Race Chairman and it's my decision...if the boat's ready, let's do it." 

The Seafair folks were ecstatic."

The boat first hit the water back in 1950 as the U-27 and made an amazing debut.  It set the world water speed record on Lake Washington (160mph) and then went on to win the Gold Cup in Detroit that year.  That brought the Gold Cup back to Seattle for the next season and made the boat a legend.

Read more on the Speed Record in 1950 (including photos) >>

The boat's design was radical at the time.  It was a three-point hydroplane that delivered amazing speed.  You can find major elements of the Slo-Mo IV in every hydroplane that would follow.

Read How the Slo-Mo was designed (by Ted Jones) >>

See the original, hand drawings of the Slo-Mo IV >>

Slo-Mo IV went on to win three Gold Cups between 1950 and 1954.  In 1956, it was shattered in a wreck, back in Detroit again, and the pieces were put into storage.  Later, the boat was given some cosmetic updates to make it "show condition" and it was put on display at the Museum of History and Industry in Seattle.

Three decades later, a group led by Ken Muscatel put in countless hours - and about $60,000 in parts - to restore the boat to its original condition.

Read more on the Restoration Process >>

Mark picks up the story again in 1990:

"HARM did a practice run of the Slo Mo IV (George Woods driving) on Saturday and there wasn't a dry eye in the (huge) crowd.  The HARM volunteers all had Slo Mo IV coveralls just like the real Slo Mo IV crew wore. 

The Sunday run was a triumph (George driving again). It was the first of the "vintage" hydroplanes to run and led the way for the subsequent refurbishment of the Hawaii Kai, Miss Thriftway, Slo Mo I, Miss Bradahl and the many other that we've seen on Lake Washington and the Columbia River since then. 

And none of it might have happened if Keith Peterson had not invited us down to the Mariner's clubhouse between games of that 1990 Gold Cup weekend series between the Tigers and the Mariners!"

The restored Slo-Mo IV took laps around the course at Seafair, keeping the speed at just under 100mph that day.  Joe Taggert, the driver injured in the devastating crash in Detroit in 1956, took a few ceremonial laps as a passenger.

The Slo-Mo IV would make one last outing nine years later in celebration of Seafair's 50th anniversary.  Ken Muscatel drove the boat in 1999 and managed to hit 130mph.

SEATTLE TIMES ARCHIVES:  One last trip for Slo-Mo IV in 1999 >>