History : The 160 Mile an Hour Whale Boat
Bob Silva's West Coast Report (from Tom D'Eath's Vintage & Historic Category Update)
Designed by Morlan Visel and built by California's Fred Wickens in 1948, the Hurricane IV featured a full-length air trap design that years later became known as a tunnel boat. Sans tailfin or cowling, the gray and black 2-G was nicknamed "the whale" by onlookers. The 28- foot hull had a wicked habit of lurching six feet to the right every time she hit a wake, causing driver Visel to give a wide berth to any competition. Design changes were made to fix her nasty habit. A tailfin and cowling were added, and the now red and white Hurricane IV was raced competitively in West Coast events. She almost scored an upset win over Slo-mo-shun IV in the 1952 Gold Cup until engine problems sidelined her.
In 1953 Bill Stead took over as owner/driver, racing under the Lake Tahoe Yacht Club banner. He placed second overall at the Tahoe Regatta behind Stanley Dollar Jr. in his Short Snorter. That same year, Hurricane IV broke into Hollywood films when she appeared in the opening scenes of "Magnificent Obsession" while Stead stood in for the film's star, Rock Hudson, during the racing scenes.
In the 1954 racing season, Hurricane IV repeated a second-place finish at Tahoe, this time behind Jack Regas in Henry Kaiser's Scooter Too.
On November 8 of that year Stead pushed the Allison- powered hull to a one-mile run of 164.910 mph at the Salton Sea (only 12 mph slower than Slo-mo-shun's record). Soon after, 14 feet of her deck were damaged by fire. Sentence to life on a pole as an outside display in Oregon, she was rescued by unlimited pilot Ken Muscatel and now awaits restoration in Seattle.
(Reprinted from Propeller, December '96)
Comments from Tom D'Eath: It is my belief that the Hurricane IV (which was my father's first unlimited ride in 1949) was located on the Stead ranch in Nevada, in Bill Stead's barn. Presently, the boat is in Seattle awaiting restoration. Scooter Too was the boat on the pole in Pasco, Wash. It was my understanding that this hull was taken down because it had badly deteriorated.
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Correction by Bob Silva: "Oops! I would like to correct a couple of items in the "Hurricane IV" story. As Tom noted, it wasn't Hurricane IV but Scooter Too that was on a display pole in Washington state. Also, it was Scooter, not Scooter Too, after whom Bill Stead placed second at the 1954 Lake Tahoe race."
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[A picture of the Hurricane IV accompanied this article, showing driver Morlan Visel and riding mechanic Fred Hallett at the Salton Sea; also pictured was owner/driver Jeff Magnuson of Alfred, Maine, in the restored It's A Wonder, a Gold Cup class unlimited from the pre-WWII era, at this past summer's vintage regatta in Clayton, N.Y. Riding mechanic Pete Kreissle is in the boat, too. Tom D'Eath notes that the original builder/owner and driver was George Davis of Vinegrove, Ky., and that the boat generally saw competition in free-for-all events on the Ohio River, circa 1938.]