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of the Ledgendary
1982 Atlas Van Lines
The 1982 Atlas
Van Lines unlimited hydroplane had a very long and colorful career since
its debut the spring of that year. The boat last ran as Ken Muscatel’s
U-14 in 1998. While heading into the first turn on San Diego’s Mission
Bay, during a test run, Muscatel lost the skid fin and barrel-rolled the
boat tearing off the left sponson among other major damage. Ken was OK,
but the boat never saw the water again. In 2001, vintage car racer and
hydroplane enthusiast John Goodman, of Seattle, purchased the hull with
the dream of restoring the boat to it’s original 1982 configuration.
of it’s reincarnations over sixteen years of racing, the ‘82 Atlas is probably
best remembered as the boat Chip Hanauer drove to his first two Gold Cup
wins. This also marked the last time a piston powered unlimited would be
victorious at the Gold Cup. The boat also set numerous records both in
competition and qualifying.
The ‘82 Atlas
was a “Phoenix” of sorts, rising from the sports darkest time following
the death of Bill Muncey in Acapulco in 1981. During that winter, Fran
Muncey struggled with question whether to continue racing. With the support
of her many friends, including Atlas Van Lines Chairman O.H. Frisbie, Fran
made the decision to honor her late husband and continue the Atlas tradition.
It was also
decided to not repair Bill’s famous “Blue Blaster” for racing, but instead,
build a brand new Jim Lucero designed hull. Fran’s easiest decision was
who to get as driver for the new boat. She knew Bill admired Chip Hanauer,
and everyone involved agreed he was the best choice. But time was running
out. It was already early 1982 and construction of the new hull had not
yet began. But in an amazing one hundred days, Jim Harvey, Jim Lucero and
the Atlas crew completed the boat in time for the season opener the first
week of June in Miami.
The boats design
was very similar to Bill Muncey’s “Blaster” with one unique difference.
The boat was the first “vented” unlimited featuring a spar/canard between
the sponsons and a much shorter center “ram wing” section. The design was
intended to move the hulls lift further aft to keep the boat from packing
too much air and possibly blowing over. Although Lucero’s theory was sound,
the boat was very loose early in the ‘82 season. Sometimes only Chip’s
driving talent kept the boat on the water.
Gold Cup, Harvey and the crew had made several careful changes to the boat
to tame it down. Although still frightenly loose, Hanauer’s stunning victory
on the Detroit River was a very jubilant and emotional win for the team.
It was the culmination of their exhausting dedication over the past six
months. Fran, Chip and everyone involved credit Bill Muncey’s spirit for
Over the remainder
of the 1982 season the Atlas Van Lines team won four more races, set several
qualifying records and walked away with the High Point and World Championships.
had become paramount following the death of Bill Muncey and then Dean Chenoweth
in 1982. Following the ‘82 season Jim Lucero and the Atlas crew re-fitted
the boat with another first, a safety cockpit. Driver Hanauer was lowered
down in the boat and strapped in with seatbelts. He was also surrounded
with a super-strong honeycomb and fiberglass cowl. When the Atlas
appeared for the 1983 season it sported a new look with it’s streamlined
“Indy car” like cockpit.
The 1983 season
was very competitive as the Atlas and the Budweiser, with new driver Jim
Kropfeld, went at each other at every race. But the Atlas again grabbed
the Gold Cup and season title.
For the 1984 season, Jim Lucero and the crew gambled on a new turbine powered
hull and sold the High Point champion to Bob Steil of the Squire Shop.
Jim Harvey was drafted as crew chief for the bright red boat. Mickey Remund
had a great year as the Squire’s new driver winning in Syracuse and finishing
2nd in High Points. And in a ironic twist, almost won the boats third Gold
Cup in a row at Tri-Cities. Making an incredible start, Remund held off
Chip Hanauer in the turbine Atlas Van Lines for three laps until a blown
Merlin forced the Squire to the infield.
Over the next
two years, the Squire Shop was a steady competitor driven in 1985 and’86
by Tom D’Eath. At the end of the 1986 season Bob Steil decided to leave
the sport and offered the boat to Jim Harvey. Jim was able to purchase
the hull becoming a first time unlimited owner. He landed Oh Boy! Oberto
as a sponsor and kept the piston powered boat in the hunt against a growing
number of superior turbine entries.
The boats career
almost went up in smoke in early 1987. While traveling to the season opener
in Miami, the teams truck caught fire and was destroyed along with several
engines and equipment. The boat, however, luckily escaped the flames.
the boat very well, to say the least, making several improvements over
the years and in 1988 added an F-16 canopy. Driver George Woods won two
races with the U-2 Oberto that year, proving that the aging Merlins could
still compete with the turbines. But the writing was on the wall and Harvey
was already planning a conversion to jet power. Knowing that both ‘88 wins
came on salt water, typically problematic for turbines, Harvey wanted to
somehow still run his trusty Rolls engines on salt water courses and switch
to turbines for fresh water. In 1990, the Oberto, with it’s new “day glow”
paint job became the first unlimited in history to be powered by either
piston or turbine engines.
for Harvey and the team, the Oh Boy! Oberto sponsorship came to an end.
They had to rely on a few pickup sponsors for the 1991 season including
The Brake Shop, Arc Construction and T-Plus.
The switching of
power plants also proved impractical, so the crew made the permanent move
Jim Harvey good news in the form of a multiple season sponsorship with
T-Plus, an oil and fuel additive company. This provided the funds to upgrade
the aging ten-year old race boat. New Ron Jones sponsons were added along
with rear tiplets and a striking new black, red and yellow paint scheme.
For three seasons the T-Plus was a crowd favorite on the race circuit with
Steve David at the wheel. In 1994 Jim Harvey’s long and close association
with the 1982 Atlas came to an end. His new two-wing hull had taken center
stage and it was time to sell his old friend.
stepped forward and purchased the famous hull and gave it the U-14 designation.
From 1996 to 1998 the boat served Ken well under various names including
Computers & Applications, Miss Northwest Unlimited, Jack-Son’s Sports
Bar and Tveten’s R.V. Mart.
the 20th anniversary of the ‘82 Atlas Van Lines. The restoration took quite
a bit longer than the original “100 days” construction, but the boat is
back better than ever. The Atlas project was the Hydroplane and Raceboat
Museum’s most exhaustive to date. Completed December 2002, a full year
after the initial demolition, the boat represents the highest level of
craftsmanship. Led by the skill and expertise of Ron Brown and Jim Harvey,
a crew of dedicated volunteers put in hundreds of hours each on the project.
From assembling the internal framework to the final touches of the paint
job every square inch of the boat was painstakingly attended to in fine
not a lot is left of the original 1982 hull. Over it’s long career, the
boat was rebuilt and updated several times. Nearly every component was
modified or revamped at some point. Jim Harvey points to a few frames and
sections of the rear airtrap as being original. Several hardware items
including the rudder and skid fin mount were also on the boat in ‘82. The
best news, however, is in the cockpit. The dashboard and some instruments
are original as is the drivers seat. But the best original piece of equipment
in the entire boat is none other than the guy sitting in the drivers seat;