Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Some of my Favorite Paint Jobs, 1988-2010

The news of expanded TV and internet coverage for the upcoming season has brought with it a number of new sponsors for th race teams and with it a number of great paint jobs.  It seems like every day brings the news of another team unveiling a new sponsor and/or an eye catching paint scheme for the upcoming season.  For this post I won't review the new paint jobs since it's likely that another team will unveil a new one between now and when the season starts.  Instead I'll focus on some of my favorite paint jobs in Unlimited Hydroplane racing starting in the late 1980's when I began following the sport up until last year.

Mr. Pringles (Turbine) 1988-1990
A striking multicolor scheme, Wurster Racing's U-8 Jif presents Mr. Pringles was instantly recognizable with its rainbow colors and its big name sponsorship.  Pringles was heavily involved in the sport during this time (remember the Pringles Family Fun center at the race sites?) and the U-8 was able to win at Madison in 1988 and in Miami in 1989.  The boat was also infamous for having three blowovers in 1989.  But hey, this boat even looked good while flipping.

Circus Circus (Turbine), 1988-1990
Yes, sometimes real men and even champions do wear pink.  The Miss Circus Circus, with Chip Hanauer at the wheel, triggered an intense rivalry between themselves and the Miss Budweiser for the High Point title in 1989 and 1990.  Circus Circus was an on again off again participant in Unlimited Hydroplane racing since the late 70's, but made their biggest splash in the late 80's, first as a sponsor of one of Fran Muncey's hulls then as owner when they bought out Fran Muncey's team a year later.  Their hot pink paint scheme was always a huge hit and always seemed to find itself in the front of the pack.  After winning the championship in 1990 the Circus Circus pulled out of the sport in a move that was highly controversial, but the team returned as a sponsor along with its hot pink paint scheme for Ron Jones' team for one year in 1993.

Winston Eagle, 1989-1993
RJ Reynolds sponsored Steve Woomer's U-10 team for a number of years and brought with it a large number of merchandising products, one of the most recognizable brands in America and especially American auto racing, and some of the most memorable paint schemes of the 1990's.  I liked the bright red-orange color of the Winston Eagle, but I loved the inclusion of the eagle head on the cockpit that gave the perfect profile to a very fast hydroplane.  The Winston Eagle paint scheme was included on a number of hulls, including the failed "lobster boat" experiment of 1990 and the former Circus Circus hulls after Steve Woomer bought that team out after the 1990 season.  While Winston made its name in NASCAR when it comes to auto racing sponsorship, for me they will be remembered for the day-glo hydro with an eagle's head on the side of the cockpit.

American Spirit, 1991-1992
I've always enjoyed patriotic paint schemes, and Ron Jones' American Spirit entry did the best job of catching the "American Flag racing down the water" look.  The stars and stripes hydro, carrying  a number of different sponsorships, was an instant crowd pleaser especially after its surprise victory at Madison in 1991.  Fred Leland largely copied this paint job in the 1990's and 2000's on a number of different hulls and even named his boat "American Spirit" in 1993 and "Pico American Dream" from 1994-1998, but to me the original paint scheme is still the best.

Miss Budweiser, pre-1994
From the beginning of Budweiser's sponsorship of Bernie Little's hydroplanes in 1964 until 1993, the Miss Budweiser was almost always some combination of red, white, and gold.  The gold made these boats beautiful and instantly set the Bud apart from every other boat in the fleet.  It was also fitting since the Miss Budweiser, almost always at the front of the pack, was quite literally setting the "gold standard" in Unlimited racing.  This combination, along with a white racing stripe along the side of the boat, made for a very attractive raceboat in the early 1990's.  Unfortunately it wouldn't last.  In 1994 the Miss Budweiser changed to an all red look that was more in line with Budweiser sponsored racing vehicles in IndyCar, NASCAR, and NHRA, thus bringing an end to a golden age (pun intended) of Miss Budweiser paint schemes.

Tide, 1992-1994
(sorry for the small size)
Another sponsorship of a Proctor and Gamble product for Wurster Racing brought another striking paint job for a universally recognized product.  This was the same hull that ran as Mr. Pringle's in 1988-1990 and continued its reputation of a boat that was successful but prone to accidents.  This was just an all around great paint jobs, with its bright colors and use oversized lettering on the sides of the airscoop that would be copied by a number of teams through the years.

T Plus, 1992
Jim Harvey's U-2 team secured major sponsorship in 1992 and with it came this beautiful boat that was red and black with yellow trim.  T Plus would continue as sponsor for the U-2 until 1995 with a black and yellow paint scheme, winning three races along the way.  But to me, this paint job from 1992 was the team's best.

Kellogg's Frosted Flakes, 1993
The Miss Madison team ran as Tony the Tiger in 1992 and raced with a rather conventional blue and white paint schme (although it did have tiger striped trim).  Then in 1993 the team, now running as Frosted Flakes, unveiled this outrageous dark blue and tigerstriped paint job.  The paint scheme was immediately a huge hit and brought the Miss Madison team a lot of attention, especially after winning in San Diego.

Miss Exide, 1993-1997
A perfect example of a "simple but elegant" paint scheme, The Miss Exide's largely white with blue and yellow trim hydroplane showed that a boat didn't need outrageous colors to be an eyecatcher.  The checkerd flag look on the vertical stabilizers was also a nice nod to the Miss Exide hydros that raced in the 1960's.  Although the boat never won a race while racing as Miss Exide in the 1990's, this was nonetheless a memorable paint scheme.

Smokin' Joe's, 1994-1996
Camel Powered Smokin' Joe's, another entry from Steve Woomer's U-10 team, was another eyecatcher with its purple and gold colors.  Much like its time as the Winston Eagle, the partnership of the U-10 and RJ Reynolds brought a huge involvement at every race site with merchandise trucks full of hydro gear and Joe Camel (I have never seen, however, the inevitible image of Joe Camel driving a hydroplane on any piece of merchandise.  If you have such a piece of merchandise please scan an image of it and send the image to me.).  This paint scheme also marked the end of an era in hydroplane racing, as congressional pressure of tobacco industry marketing led to a large scaling back of such sponsorships.  1996 was the last year of RJ Reynolds' sponsorship of the U-10 and a few years later the Joe Camel character was discontinued.

Miss Madison, 1999 and early 2000
The Miss Madison team was without sponsorship from 1998 to early 2000 but still turned out some great paint schemes that paid tribute to the team's history.  In 1999 the boat was white with gold trim and lettering that was an almost exact replica of the paint scheme that was used by Miss Madison in the late 1970's and early 1980's.  In 2000 the Miss Madison raced with a gold paint job with mahogany trim and lettering that recalled the Miss Madison that won the 1971 Gold Cup.  Oh Boy! Oberto came on board as a sponsor for the 2000 western tour and while this point of history for the Miss Madison didn't have much success, it did have some fine tributes to the team's long and rich history.

Miss Freei, 2000

This blue and gold boat owned by Ken Muskatel was a striking hull at a time when seemingly everything in sports from Unlimited Hydroplanes to College Football Bowl Games were being sponsored by a website.  The hull made headlines in early 2000 when it broke the longstanding mile straightaway record, but failed as a competitor and the hull was abandonned after the 2000 season.

Miss E-Lam Plus, 2000-2009
The Ellstrom family unveiled a striking flourescent orange painted boat in 2000 that saw immediate results with a victory in Tri-Cities.  In 2001 the team built a new hull but kept the same paint scheme.  With it's use of flourescent orange as a primary color, blue checkers on the sides, and liberal use of arrows, the 2005 and 2007 High Point champion was an immediate eye catcher.  It was also a nice change of pace in an era when seemingly every other boat in the fleet was using a bland solid red or solid yellow paint scheme.
Oh Boy! Oberto-Miss Madison, 2001-2004
Oh Boy! Oberto joined the Miss Madison team as sponsor in 2000 and in 2001 the team unveiled a red, green, and white paint scheme with checkerboard trim that was reminisecent of many classic Oberto hulls.  The Oberto Sausage Company has been sponsoring Unlimited Hydroplanes off and on since the 1970's and this paint scheme did a fine job of being true to the spirit of some of the classic Oberto paint schemes.  For 2005 the team switched to a more conventional red and green paint job but this one is still what I think of when I think of the Miss Madison V wearing Oberto colors.  Of course, it looked exceptionally good when winning Madison in 2001.

Superior Racing, 2007
When a team is without major sponsorship, they usually go with a  generic paint job where the boat is painted all white or some primary color.  Ken Muskatel bucked that trend in 2007 with this gorgeous light blue boat with red trim.  It reminded long time fans of the sport of the more colorful hydros that raced in the 1950's and 1960's

Miss Beacon Plumbing, 2007-2008
Another throwback paint scheme, this yellow and black checkerboard paint job immediately reminded fans of the "Checkerboard Comet" Miss Bardahl hydroplane driven by team owner Billy Schumacher in the late 1960's.  This made the U-37 an immediate crowd pleaser and Jean Theoret was able to drive the hull to a couple of fine seasons.

Oh Boy! Oberto-Miss Madison, 2007-Present
The sixth Miss Madison hull was already one of the most anticipated new hulls in Unlimited Hydroplane history when it was being constructed in the Winter and Spring of 2007.  When the new hull made its public debut on the Madison riverfront as sort of a sending off before the season opener in Evansville, that anticipation reached fever pitch as the fans got their first glimpse of the amazing shark paint scheme.  The amazing paint job with its fine use of color and a cockpit that resembled not only a shark but the nose of a World War II fighter plane was an immediate smash hit.  Everyone knew the new hull was going to up the ante when it came to competition on the water in Unlimited Racing, but few expected it to kick start a new era of striking and exciting paint schemes.  So many teams have gone with striking paint jobs since the new Oberto-Madison hull made its debut that it's almost easy to forget how outrageous this was at the time of its unveiling.  This classic look has stood the test of time, however, and is still an eyecatcher in the pits.

Freedom Racing, 2007

This small team out of San Diego made headlines in 2006 when their boat caught fire in Seattle and was a total loss.  For 2007 they debuted on the West Coast with a hull that was essentially a replica of the just completed Miss Madison VI and with it a bold multicolored paint scheme.  Although this team never got off the ground as competitors they did give the hydro world this striking paint job and a hull that continues to race to this day for Go Fast Turn Left Racing.

Spirit of the Navy, 2008
Another great patriotic paint job.  This Navy sponsored hull was painted blue and gold to resemble a Blue Angel jet, complete with  official looking "The United States of America" lettering on the side of the hull.  The look was an instant hit among th fans, including in Seafair where the Blue Angels perform every year and led to some great photo opportunities with this hull.
Peters & May, 2010
Schumacher Racing secured major sponsorship in 2010 and with it another bold paint scheme  The boat had an almost metalic look with its bright yellow and red and blue trim.  The look didn't last long, however, after the boat was destroyed at Detroit.  The team did do a fine job of recreating the look on a leased hull though and this look continues to be memorable although it only lasted a short time.

So there are some of my favorite paint schemes.  I left off the ones currently in use (except for the Oh Boy! Oberto) since I wanted to focus on the more classic looks of the past.  I'm excited to see a pits full of colorful boats this season.  Surely some of  these new paint schemes will soon become some of my favorites.

All images taken from the web.  Many thanks to Leslie Field's hydroplane history website, the Miss Madison website, HydroInsider, and other webpages for their fine work and collections of great hydroplane photography.

1 comment:

  1. nice article. When I was a kid I really liked the Pringles boat, I think I might still have a Mr. Pringles hat somewhere. To my knowledge it is one of the only, if not the only, boat in the modern era to be Mr. and not Miss. The Miller Beer boat was also pretty sweet, due to the all gold paint job.