Mr. Garfield (Gar) Wood was a self trained engineer, inventor and savvy businessman. He invented the first hydraulic hoist for dump trucks, pyramiding its success into a multi-millionaire fortune by age 40. He was a self-professed engine fanatic, and used his personal resources to enter powerboat racing with a vengeance. He coupled innovative hull designs with brute power in search of speed.
In 1916 he purchased the 28-foot Miss Detroit from a failed racing syndicate, not for the boat, but the Sterling 250 HP engine! He then commissioned and concurrently purchased a controlling interest in the C.C. Smith Boat and Engine Company (precursor to Chris-Craft).
Gar Wood’s racing ambition carried him to England in 1920 to compete against European rivals with a hydroplane design christened Miss America I. He won the coveted Harmsworth Trophy. He successfully defended his trophy 8 times with new generations of the Miss America platform.
In 1931, Miss America IX became the first boat to reach 100 mph, topping out at 102.256 mph. Gar Wood’s quest for speed culminated in what is arguably his penultimate design feat, Miss America X. Engineer’s dubbed it a “madman’s dream.” Four 1800-horsepower, 12-cylinder Packard open exhaust engines powered Miss America X; and it hit an astounding 124.915 mph (two miles a minute)!
Money is the elixir of speed, and to compete against Gar Wood’s deep pockets and win became cost prohibitive. The Eastern power boaters reportedly were jealous of Gar Wood’s Gold Cup successes; not to mention he was a Midwesterner (salt to their wounds)! Gar Wood died in Miami in 1971 at the age of 90. He remains a powerful icon in powerboat racing and subsequent run about industry. His accomplishments are celebrated in this exhibit. His Gar Wood boats are highly collectible and the persona of design, performance and beauty.
Contributors to the Gar Wood exhibit include Jim Aamodt, Don Ayers, Kevin Desmond , Austin Gunning, Tom Juul , Carl Mammel , Charles Mistele, Anthony Mollica , Dr. Kim Muscatel , Robert Neal , Mark Proudfoot, Craig Risnes, “Texx” at Woodyboater.com, Lee Wangstad, The Antique Boat Museum – Clayton, New York, The Mariner’s Museum – Newport News, Virginia, Minnesota Historical Society – St. Paul, Minnesota.