Inboard Racing, A Wild Ride by Bob Foley

Inboard Racing, A Wild Ride by Bob Foley
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Book Review by Richard Parks, Photographic Consultant Roger Rohrdanz

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Bob Foley is a long time boat racer and avid historian of the sport of motorized boat racing. He writes informative and interesting stories for websites on the history and heritage of boat racing. His latest work is called Inboard Racing, A Wild Ride. Foley researched the material and was assisted with the publishing, editing, layout and printing by AuthorHouse Publishing, in Bloomington, Indiana. Inboard Racing, A Wild Ride is a soft cover book with a glossy cover and is printed on high-quality, non-glossy mat bond paper. The cover shows two color photographs on a high-gloss heavy bond paper. The book is 287 pages in length and there are 103 black and white photographs in addition to the two color pictures on the cover. There were two short notices/letters and 41 charts showing racing outcomes and other data. The ISBN is 1-4259-0354-1 (sc) and the Library of Congress number is 2005910524. You can order the book through Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com, AuthorHouse.com and from the author. Inboard Racing, A Wild Ride has an introduction, 16 chapters, 8 appendices covering a large amount of information and a glossary, but no index. Foley kept extensive notes on his boats and racing career, much of which appears in the appendices. The text is full and detailed and gives a very good description of what it was like to go boat racing in the heyday of the sport. Foley raced during a period of time that will probably never be replicated again. His personal knowledge, combined with the research that he does, gives him a special ability to tell the story of inboard racing at its very heart.

Chapter One gives a brief overview of drivers, owners and designers of Unlimited Hydroplane racing in the middle of the 20th century. Men such as Bill Muncey, Stan Sayres, Ted Jones, Anchor Jensen, Lou Fageol, Les Staudacher, Danny Foster, Joe Taggart and many more fan favorites battled for those coveted Gold cups. The names of those boats conjure up the dreams of our youth. There was Slo-Mo-Shun, Tempo, Gale, Miss Thriftway, Miss U.S., Miss Pepsi, My Sweetie Dora, Breathless, Hawaii-Kai, Maverick, Shanty and other nostalgic names from the past. Foley grew up in this era and marveled at the excitement of this dangerous and enthralling sport. He and his father built their first boat while Bob was in high school in 1955, an outboard runabout. In Chapter Two, Foley tells us that he graduated from college in 1962 and went to work for General Dynamics Corporation in San Diego and this allowed him to continue to be near the sport of motorized boat racing that he loved so much. After watching the sport up close for five years, Foley decided that he needed to build his own boat and join the pursuit of speed. Chapter Three discusses how Mickey Remund gives Foley the sound advice of buying a good used boat instead of building his own. He took Mickey’s advice and bought John Lyle’s Full House Mouse, a 48 cubic inch hydroplane, powered by a Crosley engine. Chapter Three is written with a special love, because on July 4, 1967 Foley enters his first race in order to qualify for his APBA license as a certified boat racer. He takes the reader on the qualifying laps with the pathos of a first time novice and the understanding of a veteran reliving those pulse beating memories. 

Foley is a quick learner and pays attention to the men who have come before him in racing. These men would become his lifetime friends and on the shore they would do anything they could to help him learn and perfect his skills. On the racecourse they would try every trick in the book to beat him and this only served to teach Foley the finer arts of racing. His first victory in his class came just two months later on Labor Day, 1967 at Marine Stadium in Long Beach. Foley has a wealth of stories to tell about those exciting races. He also takes the reader on a mechanical tour of the boat, engine and the dynamics of racing. Chapter Four finds Foley a hardened veteran, just months into his boat racing career, finishing 3rd at the Parker Fall Regatta and winning the 1968 Southern California Speedboat Club (SCSC) Kickoff Regatta at Marine Stadium. Full House Mouse follows that up with a victory in the 1st Annual Arizona Invitational Powerboat Regatta six days later. The prize money totaled $75 and a case of STP additives. A week later Foley blows up the engine at Parker and is “on the beach.” The author shows photographs of the Crosley engine stripped down and patiently explains how he adapted the engine to give him superior performance. Chapter Five is detailed, long and thorough. He shows the reader that knowing the mechanics of the engine and the aerodynamics of the boat are just as important as driving skills in winning races. In Chapter Six, Foley breaks in his new engine and takes 2nd place at the San Diego Mayor’s Trophy Regatta in October, 1970. At the next race his luck turns sour as a broken strut allowed the shaft to whip and the propeller to chew a hole in the bottom of the boat. He beached his damaged boat and was fortunate not to have sunk on the course during the race itself. A driver in the water, unseen by the officials can be a harrowing experience.

At the start of the 1970’s, the 48 cubic inch class is struggling to find boats to race in their category. It is common to see only two or three such boats at a regatta. Full House Mouse, Chuck Dale’s Good Grief Too and Kenny Harman’s Tinker Toy are fierce competitors with Dale taking many of the early races, while Foley starts to dominate later. Chapter Seven discusses the changeover from the 48 cubic inch to 850-cc class of racing and the stimulus that had for several new owners to build boats for this category. The change wasn’t beneficial to everyone, for the Crosley engine would be giving up 67 cc (almost 10%) to the new engines. For a while, Foley stepped up to the 145 class and took excellent notes from those races to use in this book. 1972 was a difficult year for Foley, but the results changed once he got to Marine Stadium where he always seemed to do so well. He took all three heats and the trophy, six years to the day he first got his license. In Chapter Eight Foley tells us about the exciting 1973 season and Full House Mouse is doing well, considering her age. The Mouse had been built in 1954 for Sonny Meyer and had gone through five owners. While testing his boat on Mission Bay in San Diego, the engine blew and the Mouse swerved violently, throwing Foley into the water. The Western Divisionals attracted the best drivers and boats in their classes. There was Julian Pettengill, Paul Grichar, Gordon Jennings, Newt Withers, Leo Bonner, Wendell Page and Cap Selleck. Chapter Nine describes the other boats that Foley drove in the year after his accident. He tells how difficult it is to adapt to new boats, engines and classes. 

Foley and Chuck Dale find a good deal on used Bearcat outboard motors in Chapter Ten. Jack Schafer offers Foley the Hang In There De Silva hull that Schafer had crashed. Foley was back in the race again. The author was now the Inboard Race Secretary for the Pacific Power Boat Club and his family was growing. He tells us about the tragic death of Gordon Jennings on Utah Lake in 1974, an event that struck a deep chord in all of boat racing. By the end of the ‘70’s, Foley and the Full House Mouse had reached the end of their career. The boat was over twenty-five years old and the 850 class was struggling for contestants. Foley retired from racing but kept his love for the sport. In chapter Eleven, Foley tells us some interesting stories that he observed in boat racing and in his interviews, especially the battles between the Mr Bud and the Avenger. Chapter 12 describes the smaller hydroplane classes and their rules. Chapter Thirteen details the rules and regulations for the intermediate hydroplane classes and chapter Fourteen discusses the larger and more powerful hydroplane classes. In chapter Fifteen, Foley describes the racing runabouts and Crackerbox boats. Chapter Sixteen reverts back to the Unlimited hydroplanes and some of the stories he has recorded. The last part of the book is a series of appendices, footnotes and log book records that will be of interest to mechanics and drivers. There is also a glossary of terms that the reader will find interesting. Foley has written articles on the history of boat racing and has published two books. The author has a natural writing style and a warm feeling for the men and women he knew in boat racing. His stories are enchanting and bring back the glory days of a little documented sport.

Gone Racin’ is at [email protected]