G-48  Obsession

Page 1 - The story begins...

Owner/Driver - William E. John III

1946 Gar Wood, hull number 7115, modified

Speedster design, single aft cockpit, 21 foot

Bottom modified to a shingled/stepped hydroplane

Honduras mahogany hull with Spanish Cedar steps

Chevrolet 510 cubic inch marine motor, 630 HP

Prop is a Menkens high rake 3-blade, 13x17 cupped

Tacked at 75 mph on GPS at the 2004 Detroit Gold Cup

Obsession video - let it load & crank it up!!!

Vintage race boats and boat racing are in my blood, and our fifth reproduction project will be a reproduction of my grandfather's Sally Ann Jr a 225 hydroplane that was an APBA national champion. My grandfather, William Edgar John Sr. was a naval architect, owned a shipyard in Rye, New York, raced in several inboard classes, and was inducted into the APBA's Honor Squadron in 1955, two years after my other hero, Gar Wood. My father, William Edgar John Jr. raced International-One-Design sailboats on Long Island Sound where he was Fleet Chairman for many years and was the first President of the IOD class, based out of the Larchmont Yacht Club where he was very active.


My grandmother was also active in the early days of power boat racing in this country. She actually drove and won quite a few APBA boat races, and I have two large trophies that she won in 1914. Both my grandfather and grandmother are in the above photo.

But alas, my mother moved us kids up to Lake Winnipesaukee when I was very young, and I spent my early summers at my grandmother's on Governors Island. She had a Century Coronado with u-shaped dock, canvas cover and electric winch - very cool. I also worked at the Goodhue Boat Yard in Glendale - on the gas dock - the best job I ever had. Speaking of landmarks, Tup Goodhue and I played in a rock band "The Fugitives" and we were the house band at Irwins Winnipesaukee Gardens during the summers of 1965 and 1966. Tup and John Goodhue used to race in the marathon water ski races on Lake Winnipesaukee, and I can remember the Tommy Bartlett Water Ski Shows on Paugus Bay and Boat-O-Rama at the Weirs. These are just some of my precious memories of Lake Winnipesaukee - that make it a very special place for me.  


Then, many years later while visiting on vacation during the summer of 1979, I read a Jerry Harper ad in The Laconia Citizen for a 1948 Gar Wood with a Chrysler Hemi motor. I remembered my Grandfather talking about Gar Wood and his race boats, so I went to see the boat and bought it on first sight. My life has not been the same since.


Now many years later, I still have my beloved Obsession, still trying to make it go faster, and still enjoy giving boat rides, especially on the Vintage Race Boat Circuit. In fact, at the Detroit APBA Gold Cup vintage event in 1999 I gave Tom Pakradooni, then APBA Jersey Speed Skiff national champion, a ride in my Obsession, and he was telling me stories of my boat when it raced in the marathon water ski events on Lake Winnipesaukee back in the 1950/60's. What a great boat ride that was, driving my Gar Wood Speedster on the historic Detroit APBA Gold Cup race course.

These gentleman's race boats were well built to compete on the rough water conditions on the St. Lawrence Seaway, in the 1000 Islands area of upstate New York. "Obsession" is of typical, one-design race boats produced by the famous Gar Wood boat builders in Detroit, Michigan during the 1920's-1940's. The motor was placed forward, under it's long foredeck, followed by a single aft cockpit for the driver and the required riding mechanic. Gar Wood built a fleet of these speedsters for Edward Noble and his friends to race on Sunday afternoons in the 1000 Islands area of upstate New York. Gar Wood also built many beautiful production runabouts and special-order race boats until 1947, when they ceased production.

Obsession's cockpit

Room for only the driver and his riding mechanic, tells us of this Speedster's racing heritage. "Obsession" is well known on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire and has been campaigned on the Vintage Race Boat Circuit since 1992, running in major events at Detroit, Madison, Valleyfield, Buffalo, Clayton, Lake George, Valleyfield and Wolfeboro.


The original power in the boat was a Chrysler Crown, 6 cylinder with 155 horsepower. By the time I purchased the boat in 1979, the previous owner had already replaced the original motor with a beautiful 1957, 392 cubic inch Chrysler Hemi, and actually raced the boat in the marathon water ski races in the early 1960's on Lake Winnipesaukee. To strengthen the hull, the previous owner also decked-over the center section of the utility hull, and essentially made it into a much stronger runabout design with fore and aft cockpits. 


I ran the boat for several years with that Chrysler Hemi and with that runabout design. But the hull was getting tired, the stem needed complete replacement, and the transom also needed complete replacement. So in 1983/1984, I worked with Harvard Forden to lengthen, reshape and rebuild the boat into a rear cockpit, Gar Wood Speedster design of 21 feet. We used top quality Honduras Mahogany and we built it real strong, to run at speed with the Chrysler Hemi.

The Gar Wood speedster design proved to be very successful, and I later replaced the tired 392 Chrysler Hemi with a George Johnson, Crusader/Chevrolet 454 cubic inch marine motor. This motor has run very well for many years and is still in the boat today, after several rebuilds. All the engine work has been done by Leo and his crew at R&L Engines in Dover, NH and after many years on running on the Vintage Race Boat Circuit this boat is dialed in!


On the last rebuild of the motor, the plan was to build a new Chevrolet 502/502 marine crate motor, but then Leo at R&L Engines recommended another option. We talked a lot about the time honored method of getting more power from a motor, to overbore the cylinders and increase the stroke of the crankshaft. The result is called a stroker motor, and Leo convinced me to use my seasoned Crusader 454 marine block and build a 510 cubic inch stroker motor. R&L Engines built a batch of them and they all dynode between 625 and 650 HP. Stoker motors also produce lots of torque, right in the midrange, perfect for a gentleman's vintage race boat. So we spent a lot of time and money into good machine work. We over-bored the cylinders .o6o inches, balanced the stoker crankshaft 4.375 inch and breathed more horsepower into the Brodix aluminum cylinder heads and tuned the ports of the matching Brodix aluminum intake manifold. We also used the best components, including a custom roller cam with roller rocker arms,  and a complete MSD marine ignition system. This  reverse rotation marine motor has a low 9.5 compression ratio and runs on 93 octane fuel through the modified Holley 830cfm carburetor. A marine bell housing connects the modified Borg Warner direct drive transmission. The current speed prop is a Menkens 13 x 17 with a super cup and lots of rake that lifts the bow at speed. The rev limiter is set at 5,400 rpm's to preserve the motor and to get another season before the next rebuild. This motor is a bullet and the sound through the IMCO exhaust headers and the 4 inch side pipes is pure magic. Obsession was tracked at 75 mph on GPS at the 2004 Detroit APBA Gold Cup.

Obsession video - let it load & crank it up!!!

 Page 2 - The new stepped bottom

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