Jack Schafer, Sr.

The Jack Schafer Story

Jack Schafer, Sr.
Jack Schafer, Sr.

The racing career of Detroit bakery executive Jack Schafer, Sr., began in 1947 with a boat that he had won in a poker game.

Named Hot Potato, the craft made a start in the 1947 President's Cup at Washington, D.C., with Al D'Eath as driver but failed to finish.

Schafer also briefly campaigned a 7-Litre Class hydroplane, the Schafer Special, in 1947.

The first in a long line of Such Crust Unlimited hydroplanes debuted in 1948. Schafer bought this one off of the assembly line at the famed Ventnor Boat Works of Ventnor, New Jersey. Ventnor had been the premier builder of three-point hydroplanes in the years just prior to World War II. Designed by Norman Lauterbach, the original Such Crust was one of the first boats to be built with an Allison engine in mind.

Jack's first full season as an Unlimited owner was arguably his best. He won three races and the National High Point Championship with Dan Arena as driver.

Such Crust won the 1948 Webb Trophy at Davenport, Iowa, defeating the likes of Guy Lombardo in Tempo VI and Ed Stair in Katy-Did.

Arena and the Crust went on to place first in the Percy Jones General Hospital Regatta at Gull Lake, Michigan. This was a race that Schafer helped to organize largely as a benefit for convalescing American servicemen. Arena cruised to a leisurely win after Tempo VI, which had bested Such Crust in Heats One and Two, failed to start in Heat Three.

After a second-place finish in the APBA Gold Cup at Detroit, Such Crust concluded the season in championship fashion with a victory in the President's Cup on the Potomac River. In so doing, the Jack Schafer entry set three world competition records for a 2-1/2-mile course with a lap time of 81.600 miles per hour, a 15-mile heat of 77.856, and a 45-mile race of 73.409. Second-place Lahala--another Allison-powered Ventnor creation--and driver Harry Lynn weren't far behind with a race average of 70.239.

Schafer added a Such Crust II (later renamed Gold’n Crust) to his team in 1949. Designed by Arena, the "II" was only sporadically competitive. It sported a distinctly flatter profile than was usual at the time. This was a design concept that did not gain wide acceptance until popularized by the Ed Karelsen hulls of the late 1960s.

The Crust boats won no races in 1949. Such Crust I, however, was definitely a major player at the Gold Cup in Detroit and placed a respectable third behind Bill Cantrell in My Sweetie and Stan Dollar in Skip-A-Long.

In August of 1949, Dan Arena and Such Crust I set a North American mile straightaway record of 127.063. This broke the long-standing record of 124.915, set by Gar Wood's Miss America X in 1932. Schafer regarded this as one of his proudest accomplishments in racing.

The decade of the fifties opened with a victory by Arena in all three heats of the 1950 Steel Cup at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with Such Crust II. It was an easy triumph over mediocre opposition, which consisted of George Sarant in Etta and Joe Van Blerck in Chaz.

The Schafer camp scored a much more prestigious win later in the season at the Silver Cup in Detroit with Danny Foster and Such Crust I. Chuck Thompson and Miss Pepsi had apparently won. But Thompson, in a sporting gesture, admitted that he had cut two buoys and was disqualified, although no official observer had witnessed the infraction. Such Crust I was then declared the winner in the corrected order of finish.

In 1950, two very different designs clamored for attention in the Unlimited Class. Both purported to be "the future of boat racing." Representing these designs were the twin-Allison-powered Miss Pepsi, the all-time fastest step hydroplane, designed by John Hacker, and Slo-mo-shun IV, the prop-riding three-point sensation, designed by Ted Jones.

The consensus was that only refinement of the three-point concept was all that stood between the time-honored step hydroplane and obsolescence.

Jack Schafer was impressed with both Miss Pepsi and Slo-mo-shun IV. Why not combine the power of the Pepsi with the design of the Slo-Mo? That became his goal.

After a winless 1951 season, Schafer retired both Such Crust I and Gold’n Crust and built two new boats for 1952: a twin-Allison Such Crust III and a single-Allison Such Crust IV.

The "III" proved to be a problem boat. Chuck Thompson had a chance to drive it while Miss Pepsi was temporarily off the circuit but refused. Walt Kade drove it to third-place in the Silver Cup, which was the only race in which Such Crust III managed to score points.

Such Crust IV was a virtual clone of Slo-mo-shun IV. Bill Cantrell drove it to victory in the Steel Cup, despite being rammed on the first lap by Al D'Eath in My Sweetie, the only other Unlimited entrant. The Crust won the initial heat at 67.050 and the next at 68.080, easily outdistancing second-place Gene Marentette in the 7-Litre Class Bon Voyage, the only other finisher.

The Steel Cup proved to be the only bright spot for the Schafer team in 1952. Test driver Roy Duby broke his back testing Such Crust III on the Detroit River. Such Crust IV pilot Cantrell was involved in a frightening mishap at the Gold Cup in Seattle when the boat exploded and burned to the water line during the Second Heat. An unconscious Cantrell, who spent many weeks convalescing in a Seattle hospital, was pulled off the flaming hulk by a course patrolman.

Not to be undone by a major setback, Schafer leased Horace Dodge, Jr.'s Hornet and ran it in two late-season races as Hornet Crust, using a gearbox and other equipment from out of the burned-out Such Crust IV.

Behind the wheel of Hornet Crust at the 1952 Silver Cup was the veteran Lou Fageol, who had briefly handled both Such Crust I and Such Crust II for Schafer in 1949. Fageol had won the 1950 Harmsworth Trophy with Slo-mo-shun IV and the 1951 APBA Gold Cup with Slo-mo-shun V.

In the first Silver Cup heat, Hornet Crust outran the eventual winner Danny Foster in Gale II, 78.001 miles per hour to 76.374, the fastest heat of the race. Fageol also posted the fastest lap of the contest at 81.082.

Hornet Crust, unfortunately, suffered a broken jack-shaft while making its way back to the Kean's boat yard, after crossing the finish line. This put Fageol on the beach for the rest of the day. Gale II went on to win the next two heats.

Jack Bartlow replaced Fageol at the President's Cup. He guided Hornet Crust to fourth-place overall behind Miss Pepsi, Miss Great Lakes II, and Gale II and finished last in every heat. Bartlow at least managed to complete all three heats. Neither Such Crust III nor Such Crust IV had been able to do this in 1952.

Undaunted, Jack Schafer made ambitious plans for 1953. He retired both of the boats that he had built in 1952 and ordered two more for 1953. Such Crust IV was later acquired and restored by Detroiter George Zigas who campaigned it between 1960 and 1962 as Thunderbolt.

Schafer still believed in the viability of twin-Allison power. Toward that end, he and Les Staudacher co-designed a second Such Crust III and hired former Miss Pepsi pilot Chuck Thompson as driver. A single-Allison Such Crust V was built for the now-recovered Bill Cantrell to drive.

Nineteen-fifty-three proved to be Jack's best all-round season since 1948. Such Crust V and Such Crust III finished second and third respectively in National High Points behind Lee Schoenith and Gale II.

Five Unlimited races counted for High Points in 1953 and five different boats won them. It was a very competitive year. Miss Great Lakes II won the Detroit Memorial, Slo-mo-shun IV won the APBA Gold Cup at Seattle, Gale II won the Silver Cup, Slo-mo-shun V won the President's Cup, and Such Crust V won the Imperial Gold Cup at New Martinsville, West Virginia.

Cantrell and Such Crust V finished first in both heats on the narrow Ohio River race course at New Martinsville and averaged 89.048. Schoenith and Gale II placed second overall with the Bud Saile-chauffeured Miss Wayne finishing third.

Such Crust V also finished second in the Detroit Memorial and third in the President's Cup. And in a straightaway mile trial at Windsor, Ontario, Cantrell and the "V" posted a speed of 164.290 miles per hour. This made Such Crust V the second fastest boat in the world. Only Slo-mo-shun IV, which had done 178.497 in 1952, was faster.

Thompson and Such Crust III achieved nearly the same level of success in 1953 that Cantrell and Such Crust V enjoyed. They were indeed a competitive presence. The "III" finished third in the APBA Gold Cup at Seattle and placed second in both the Silver Cup and the President's Cup. Moreover, Such Crust III posted the fastest lap, heat, and race of the Silver Cup with speeds of 100.887, 95.533, and 84.306 respectively. This was in the days when the Silver Cup consisted of five 12-mile heats on a 3-mile course.

After seven years in Unlimited racing--six years with competitive equipment--Jack Schafer was solidly ensconced in the upper echelon of the sport. With his two brand new boats, Jack had convincingly rebounded from his "down" year of 1952. He appeared poised for even better things in 1954.

Unfortunately, that didn't happen. A downturn in business and the financial strain of building four boats in two years took their toll. The Schafer Bakeries went into receivership. The racing team had to close its doors for a couple of years. The momentum built up between 1948 and 1953 was lost.

The Such Crust team eventually returned and continued in racing for another dozen years, starting in 1955. But things were never the same. Schafer's boats were only marginally competitive and seldom "in the hunt."

While the team was in legal limbo, local horse race track entrepreneur Fred Van Lennep leased the "III" and the "V" for the 1954 Silver Cup and renamed them Pace-Along and Trot-Along. Van Lennep posted a $15,000 bond as a guarantee that he would return the boats to federal jurisdiction in good condition.

Chuck Thompson sank Pace-Along during trials and had to withdraw. Roy Duby piloted Trot-Along to a fourth-pace in Heat One and a first-place in Heat Two but failed to finish Heat Three and was unable to continue.

Such Crust III and Such Crust V went under the auctioneer's hammer on June 14, 1955. The sale was by order of the U.S. District Court in the reorganization proceedings of the Schafer Bakeries.

Such Crust V was sold to local Limited racer Bill Stroh who renamed it Miss Detroit. The boat later competed as Muvalong and Hurricane VI.

Two of Jack Schafer's closest friends, Joe Schoenith and George Simon, owners of the Gale and Miss U.S. teams, stepped forward and bought Such Crust III. They then sold it back to Jack for one dollar. This paved the way for Schafer's return to racing, starting with the St. Clair (Michigan) International Trophy on July 17, 1955.

Throughout its history, the St. Clair race was attended mainly by boats from the Detroit area. This was at a time when the sport was very regionalized. Speeds were never very high at St. Clair on account of the river being very rough. Moreover, the boats had to endure the battering wakes generated by huge ocean tankers in the vicinity.

Such Crust III won the 1955 St. Clair International Trophy with crew chief Walt Kade at the wheel. Walt outpointed Bud Saile in Miss Cadillac and Bill Braden in the Canadian Miss Supertest II. The Crust's average speed was only 73.164 miles per hour for the 45-mile distance.

The next stop for the reactivated Such Crust team was the 1955 APBA Gold Cup in Seattle. This was at a time when the Gold Cup race location was determined by the yacht club of the winning boat rather than by the city with the highest financial bid. Slo-mo-shun IV and Slo-mo-shun V, representing the Seattle Yacht Club, had won the race five years in a row.

The Detroit Yacht Club delegation at the 1955 Gold Cup included Gale IV, Gale V, Miss U.S., Miss Cadillac, and Such Crust III. Thanks to Schoenith and Simon, Jack Schafer was able to join his fellow DYC members on the trip west in hopes of breaking up the Seattle monopoly of the cup.

And that's what they did. But the victory (by Gale V) was not without controversy.

Lee Schoenith and Gale V posted heat finishes of second, second, and third; Bill Muncey and Miss Thriftway, representing the SYC, ran third, first, and first, and had presumably won the overall race.

Then it was determined that Gale V had run the three 30-mile heats faster than Miss Thriftway--4.536 seconds faster to be exact. This entitled Gale V to 400 Bonus Points, which increased her total for the day to 1225, compared to 1025 for Miss Thriftway.

The announcement proclaiming Detroit the winner and Seattle the loser generated something akin to a cultural shockwave throughout the Pacific Northwest. Even persons not otherwise inclined toward boat racing were inevitably drawn into the debate over the invocation of a "technicality" in a civic-supported sports event of national significance. How could a boat that hadn't won a heat win the overall race? Lack of understanding by the general public of APBA "fine print" was partially responsible for the uproar.

The local press capitalized on the public's disenchantment with harsh criticism of the Gold Cup rules and expressions of sympathy for the crestfallen Muncey. The Seattle media even went so far as to accuse Such Crust III pilot Walt Kade with intentionally blocking Miss Thriftway in the last heat so as to slow it down, an allegation without basis in fact and absolutely denied by Kade in a 1965 interview with Fred Farley.

According to Kade, "I didn't even know Muncey was behind me. I was trying to get by the Breathless. I didn't know Muncey was there until he went by both of us on the outside."

The real reason behind Miss Thriftway's defeat had nothing to do with Such Crust III.

The inexperienced Muncey had a sizeable lead over Gale V in Heat Three but committed the costly error of reducing his speed on the last lap of the race. He allowed the approximate 38-second margin between him and Schoenith to dwindle, while Gale V maintained its same steady previous pace.

The bottom line was that Bill Muncey just plain "blew it" by forgetting or ignoring the critical total elapsed time factor. Conversely, Lee Schoenith kept going at top speed all the way to the checkered flag and reaped the benefits of doing so.

In many ways, the 1955 Gold Cup was essentially a "Last Hurrah" for the Such Crust team as a competitive entity. Never again would it truly be a factor against major opposition.

Such Crust III, driven by Fred Alter, did manage to qualify fastest for the 1956 Gold Cup at Detroit with a 3-lap/9-mile average of 108.163.

Alter won all three heats of the 1957 Detroit Memorial Regatta with Such Crust III, outrunning second-place Bob Schroeder in Wildroot Charlie and third-place Bud Saile in Miss Wayne. But none of the faster Seattle-based teams (i.e., Hawaii Kai III, Miss Thriftway, Miss Wahoo, Maverick) were in attendance.

At the 1957 Gold Cup in Seattle, Such Crust III with Jack Bartlow driving placed a dismal tenth.

Chuck Thompson took a turn behind the wheel at the 1957 President's Cup. He led for a few laps in Heat 1-B but failed to finish due to mechanical difficulties.

From then on--for the next three years--it was all downhill for Such Crust III. "The Old Lady", as Schafer affectionately referred to it, scored largely zero results: DNF (Did Not Finish), DNS (Did Not Start), or DNQ (Did Not Qualify).

Jack was finally persuaded to retire the aging "III" after it failed to qualify for the 1960 Detroit Memorial. He replaced it with Leo Mucutza's former Yeller Jacket, which he renamed Such Crust IV. (Six years earlier, Schafer had sold the Such Crust II/Gold’n Crust hull to Leo who had campaigned it as Crusty.)

The "new" Such Crust IV had started life in 1956 as the second Gale V. A problem boat, the Schoeniths had given up on it after a season and a half.

Surprisingly, with Fred Alter as driver, Such Crust IV turned in some very noteworthy performances at several races in 1961. While definitely not in the same speed range as Miss Century 21 or Miss Bardahl, the single-Allison-powered Such Crust IV wasn't very far off the pace. And she was reliable.

Alter guided the "IV" to third-place in the Detroit Memorial, fifth in the Gold Cup at Reno, and second in the death-shortened Silver Cup, the race in which Miss Supertest II pilot Bob Hayward was fatally injured.

At the Gold Cup, from the standpoint of accumulated points after two heats, Such Crust IV was not an illogical choice to win. Alter had 525 points for a third and a second in Heats 1-A and 2-B. At this juncture, the eventual winner Miss Century 21 had 600 points for two second-place finishes, Miss Bardahl and Gale V both had 569, Tempest had 450, Miss U.S. I had 400, and $ Bill had 352.

A lot of equipment damage occurred at the 1961 Gold Cup. And a couple of boats (Miss Reno and Miss Spokane) had flipped. Heading into the Final Heat, it was anybody's boat race. All seven finalists had a mathematical chance to win.

Miss U.S. I took first-place in the Final Heat and second-place overall; Miss Century 21 finished second in the heat and first overall. Then came Miss Bardahl, followed by Such Crust IV, Gale V, Tempest, and $ Bill.

The 1961 season emerged as the Schafer team's most respectable campaign since before the bankruptcy of 1954. Unfortunately, 1961 ended on a sour note. Such Crust IV crashed at the President's Cup and was wrecked beyond repair. The right sponson sheared off along with the entire right side of the boat during Heat 2-A.

For his final entry in Unlimited hydroplane racing, Jack Schafer re-affirmed his undying faith in the multi-engine concept and built yet another twin-Allison-powered "monster" for 1962.

Jack named it Such Crust IV. A more apt title would have been Such Crust III, because it was more of a step backwards than anything else. The "IV" was the last twin-Allison three-pointer to be built in the Unlimited Class.

The success of Schafer's single-engine boat in 1961 was apparently lost on Jack.

On the day it was christened, Jack himself took the new boat out for a test run.

With Alter at the wheel, the third Such Crust IV went the entire circuit in 1962 but only averaged one heat at over 100 miles per hour. Its best finish was a fourth-place in the President's Cup.

By the middle 1960s, Schafer was fully retired from the bakery business that bore his name and lacked the economic resources of his early days in the sport.

The "IV" won a couple of secondary races: the Spirit of Detroit Trophy at the 1964 Detroit Gold Cup with Walt Kade as driver and the South Shore Trophy at the 1965 Lake Tahoe World Championship Regatta with Fred Alter.

The final appearance in competition of a Jack Schafer-owned boat occurred at the 1966 Madison Regatta. With Ed O'Halloran at the wheel, Such Crust IV placed seventh in the Indiana Governor's Cup on the Ohio River. The "IV" ran fifth and third in the preliminary action and didn't make the cut for the Final Heat.

Throughout his long career, Jack Schafer, Sr., remained a popular boat racing figure. His many fans fondly recall Jack standing in his legendary pose as he watched his boat run--wearing his nautical cap, hands in his back pockets, and the ever-present cigarette dangling from his mouth.

Schafer's son, Jack Schafer, Jr., has continued the family's hydroplane tradition. Young Jack qualified as an Unlimited driver in 1975 with Bob Patterson's Miss Van’s P-X. His one race victory is the 1983 Tri-Cities (Washington) Columbia Cup with R.B. Taylor's American Speedy Printing.