E-78 Double Eagle
280 class hydroplane built by Dick Sooy
Driver - Susan (Sooy) Elkins
Owner/Crew Chief - Forrest Elkins
In the fall of 2006,
Double Eagle was delivered to the shop for a
thorough survey, final rigging, and complete refinishing. This is the last hydro built by Dick
Sooy, to run on the APBA vintage
circuit with his daughter Susan. It is a
replica/copy that Dick built in 1994 of his first
cab-over and 1959 Champion "Double Eagle". But
Dick left us way too early, and the
boat was put away in storage,
never completed. Many years later Susan (Sooy) Elkins and her
husband Forrest finally had the Vintage Race Boat Shop
complete the project and prepare Double Eagle to run on the
Vintage Race Boat Circuit. Then in September 2007,
Susan actually drove Double Eagle at speed on a course at the
Wolfeboro Vintage Race Boat Regatta. After some last minute
thrashing, the boat, motor and driver performed very well and ran
some pretty hot laps. What a fantastic project, we all had a great
Here are some
photos of Susan (Sooy) Elkins in her racing days !!!
Our project began with a few phone calls and these
photos sent by Susan & Forrest to give us an idea of the hull
Then on October 22, 2006 Forrest & Susan hauled the boat to
the Vintage Race Boat Shop. The first step was to hoist the
boat off the trailer, setup on blocks, and perform a
complete survey. Double Eagle was in excellent condition,
but in need of refinishing and final rigging.
After a little cleanup, we put the cowling back on and took a complete set of
Because Double Eagle has never been run, and was kept
in good storage all those years, the boat was in excellent
condition. These photos show the inside of the hull, the
underside of the fore and aft decks, and the excellent
workmanship of Dick Sooy.
Then it was time to start removing the hardware,
including with the front
cowling, steering wheel assembly, exhaust headers, thru-hull fittings and rudder
assembly. We also had Jerome Holden from
JC Signs trace the
lettering before we started sanding. We started with 80
spent quite a few hours sanding the
weathered plywood deck and got the surface nice and smooth.
then we spent another full day sanding again with 80 grit followed
by 120 grit, to remove all the remaining varnish and paint. The
final few hours were spent with 120 grit to ensure a very clean and
smooth surface. Lots of hard work, but well worth the effort.
Then it was time for the first coat of Pettit Sealer, and we
applied a nice thick coat using our Rolling & Tipping
technique. This fills and seals the plywood grain, preparing
the surface for the first coat of varnish.
After the sealer dried, we hand sanded the surface with
Scotchbrite Pads and then applied the first coat of Epifanes
varnish. This is a very rich and very thick marine varnish
from Holland that has an amber tint, and with every coat the wood takes on a darker
and deeper finish, and after 8 thick coats, the boat will
look like it was dipped !!!
After 2 build coats of varnish on the deck, it was time to
start on the sides and bottom. We spent 2 days sanding to
get all the surfaces real smooth, first with 120 grit paper
and then with Scotchbrite Pads. The first coat of Epifanes
varnish was then applied using our rolling & wicking
technique, and the results - stunning !!!
After four coats of varnish on the deck, it was time for
Jerome to reapply the lettering. First the mask was taped
into position and the blue lettering paint was applied. Then
the mask was pulled and the white outline was hand painted.
Once the paint dried, we continued our varnish build coats,
protecting the lettering under 4 thick coats of varnish.
After the many coats of varnish were just about done, we
started working on the tail fin and the cowling. Our first
challenge was to match the blue paint used for the
lettering, and after several test boards we found our match
- Interlux Brightside Largo Blue. After several days of prep
work, lots of sanding and filling, we applied the first coat
of Interlux blue paint, again using our rolling & wicking
technique. This very thick marine paint covered very well
and flowed out beautifully, three coats are planned.
Finally, the fourth and final coat of Epifanes varnish was applied
to the bottom and sides.
And then the fourth and final coat of Interlux Largo Blue was
applied to the tail and cowlings.
After 10 thick coats of Epifanes varnish on the deck, we were
finally satisfied and decided to stop!!!
Next, while the paint and varnish were curing, we moved to lettering
and the graphics on the cowling and tail fin. After many
discussions with Jerome at
about the lettering font and size, we were very
please with our choices, and the gold graphic outlined
in white on the tail fin was a knockout!!!
Then we moved inside the cockpit, where we had to make a
new throttle bracket in order to move the position back
a few inches - Susan has longer legs than her father -
Dick Sooy !!!
Finally, it was time to re-install the hardware,
including the edge trim, deck hardware and the rudder.
The rusted steel screws were replaced with new stainless
steel screws on the trim pieces, and new pop rivets were
installed, just as Dick Sooy had used. We also painted
the deck access fittings to match the blue cowling and
tail fin. The boat is now
really beginning to pop!!!
The final coats of varnish were applied to the dash and then the new
gauges and steering wheel were installed.
Next, the original rope slings were strung up and
measured. These were obviously not up to current APBA
safety standards, so new slings were ordered that were
load rated and date stamped. The new headers were also
dry fit to check for clearances. They were close, but
did not quite fit and would have required hacking away
at the beautifully varnished deck. Not acceptable, so
they were returned and another style was ordered. We
also could not find a used prop to fit the 1 inch
splined shaft, so we called Craig Dewald at Dewald
props, discussed the project and Craig agreed to make a
new prop for Double Eagle.
While waiting for replacement headers, the new slings
and the new prop to arrive, the 10 coats of fresh
varnish continued to cure, and we began to fit the new
windscreen. These projects all seam to have a life of
their own, always taking way more time than ever
expected. But we have learned to not rush the process,
to take our time and enjoy the project, and share our
progress on our hyperactive Vintage Race Boat Shop Website !!!
The new slings arrived but had to be sent back for
smaller hooks, and after 3 different sets of headers
that did not quite fit, we finally decided to cut, bend,
and re-weld the third set to get the fit and "the look"
that we wanted. The seat finally came back from the
upholstery shop, and we also decided to change the font
size and location of the lettering on the front cowling.
We also spent some tine wiring the new gauges, making
sure that everything was secured and would not rattle
when Double Eagle hit the Vintage Race Boat
And finally, on May 4th, 2007 Susan and Forrest Elkins
arrived for final inspection, a celebration, our last
batch of project photos, and to take "Double Eagle" home
to Cape May, New Jersey. Forrest did a nice job
restoring the trailer, evening match the Largo Blue
paint on the front mounted tool box. Donnie explained
some of the nuances of the exhaust headers and the
rudder assembly, and then it was time to put Susan in
the cockpit - to make sure the newly upholstered seat
fit and to check the location of the relocated foot
throttle. Everything checked out just fine, and
the smiles on all our faces made the many, many hours
somehow seem worthwhile. We poured our heart and soul
into this very special project, and when Susan and
Forrest left the shop with "Double Eagle" in tow, there
was not a dry eye in the house !!!
Many thanks to Susan and Forrest Elkins
for sharing this very special project, and
watch for "Double Eagle" this summer on the
Vintage Race Boat
Circuit, and check out all
the fun we had at our
Wolfeboro Vintage Race
For locals, please join our:
Saturday Morning Gatherings
Monthly Fun Run &
Florida Vintage Race Boat Circuit
Some related vintage race
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