Garfield Arthur Wood

"The gray fox"

Gar Wood.jpg

Garfield Arthur Wood was only 5 feet 6 and weight 130 pounds, but this man had an large appetite for speed. His predilection to airplanes and boats would make the international speedboat king. Without any education in engineering what so ever he developed the first speedboat to do 100 miles. Later on he became the first man to do two miles a minute in a boat. When Gar was thirtyfive and moved to Detroit in 1915 he was still unknown to the world. The first thing he did was to buy the "Miss Detroit"-boat, an already proven winner and went on to win a record five straight Gold Cup Races. But Gar knew that a boat could go faster so, in 1917 he took the new "Miss Detroit III" and decided to put a motor from an airplane into her. All the experts said that it would'nt work.

Gar Wood

They all ment that the airplane engine had to many delicate parts and would end up in pieces running in a speedboat. But Gar had a different opinion, he figured that the airplane engine was more relieable than boat motors. He chosed a Curtiss 12 engine, did some modifications and put it into the boat. It worked absolutly perfect and won the 15th Gold Cup Race on Detroit River.

Gar kept on working on his engines and boats. He designed many boats, each more powerful than the last. One of the first invention he came up with aws the hydrolic hoist, which helps a boat to turn or back up. The patent of the hydrolic hoist made him a millionaire by the time he was forty.

In 1920 vent to england with his "Miss America I" to compete for the Harmsworth Trophy. Gar won. Others tryed to challenge as Gar defended the Harmsworth Trophy no less than eight times.
In 1921 Gar Wood built the "Gar Jr. II" at the time, the fastest express cruiser. The "Gar Jr. II" was a 50 footer with an 11 foot beam and would be adapted by the military as the PT boat of World War II fame. In a feat that captureed the hole nation's imagination 1921 Gar Wood raced the "Gar Jr. II" against the Havana Special train, up the Atlantic coast from Miami to New York. Gar Wood's boat made the 1,250 mile trip in 47 hours and 23 minutes, beating the train by 12 minutes. Four year later in 1925, he raced up the Hudson River to beat the famed Twenteith Century Limited in a match race between Albany and New York by 22 minutes.

Miss America X Miss America X
"Gar Jr. II" 1921
"Miss America X"

As Gar Wood kept on develop his boats and engines, "Miss America IX" became the first boat to reach 100 mph in 1931.
Perhaps Gar Wood's geatest design feat was the "Miss America X", called a "madman's dream" by engineers. Powered by four 1800 hp, 12-cylinder packard engines, the big boat smashed the world record, becomming the first to do 2 miles a minute, 124.915 mph. It's a speed that, sixtyfour years later, remains a respectable time for the Gold Cup Race on the Detroit River.
After his final successful race with "Miss America X" in 1933, Garfield Arthur Wood retired from racing. He died at age 90 in Miami 1971, just a few days before a gigantic celebration in his honor was to been held in Detroit, celebrating the 50th anniversary since his first Harmsworth victory. Men like Garfield Arthur Wood just dont't exist anylonger....

Information and photos taken from The Detroit News reference files.


© 1999 Anders Jelving - Classic Wooden Boats - SWEDEN
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