1953 Marine Derby Regatta
It's A Wonder
It's A Wonder's most memorable performance occurred in the 7-Litre Class event at the 1953 Marine Derby. Then the oldest Inboard registered with the APBA, It's A Wonder was allowed to compete by a vote of the other drivers in the race. This was in spite of having an engine size larger than 426 cubic inches in piston displacement.
As George Davis recalled, "We had an awful good day of racing, and I won the first-place trophy." It was George’s first major victory since claiming the Eggers Memorial Trophy at the 1947 Marine Derby with Hermes V.
To take the top honor, It's A Wonder had to outpoint a tough contingent of 7-Litres, which included the nationally ranked Gangway and Wildcatter, owned by Burnett Bartley, Sr. and Jr., the father and son driving team from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Davis made a picture-perfect start in the Final Heat, led out of the first corner, and left the Bartleys far astern. As the partisan crowd cheered approvingly, It's A Wonder settled into a safe second-place behind Sam Guarino and Water Bug II to win the race on accumulated points. The victory has been compared to the 1971 Miss Madison Gold Cup triumph when an underrated sentimental favorite came through when the chips were down before the hometown crowd.
[Reprinted from "The Saga of It's A Wonder" by Fred Farley]
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The last man to ever use a Hisso engine in Unlimited competition, [George] Davis was hampered by a modest budget and the necessity of having to forego all but those races scheduled close to home in deference to his job as a civilian aircraft mechanic at Fort Knox, Kentucky.
One of George's favorite recollections was his 1953 Marine Derby performance. It's A Wonder was then the oldest inboard hydroplane registered with the APBA and was allowed to compete in the 7-Litre Class event by a vote of the other drivers in the race in spite of the 719 cubic inches in her 39-year-old engine.
The field included a couple of nationally ranked 7-Litres from Pittsburgh—the Gangway and the Wildcatter, owned by the father-and-son driving team of Burnett Bartley, Sr., and Burnett Bartley, Jr.
"We had an awful good day of racing," Davis recalled, "and I won the first-place trophy. We had a real close race-real close. They were all running real fast. Burnett Bartley, Sr., was driving Gangway and he didn't know it but his sponson went right over the top of my sponson. And I thought I was gone.
"I came around for the start and he was running real fast. So, we went down to the first buoy. He didn't see it and passed it up. I was lucky enough to see it. Then I made my turn and, before he got around and got straightened out, I had half a lap on him.
"The reason I won was because he and I had the start of the day. It was a timed start on a clock. That was after the days of the flag starts."
[Reprinted from "George 'It's A Wonder' Davis" by Fred Farley]