Most days in our lives seem to seamlessly slide by, one after another, nothing exceptional happens to mark a day forever in our memories. On the other hand, some days we will never forget, sometimes for the good, sometimes not. The day Bill Muncey, perhaps the greatest hydroplane driver of all time, was killed in Acapulco, Mexico, is one of those days that I, and many others, will sadly never forget.
But, there’s good news… a group of people who love the sport and loved Bill Muncey, have decided to restore Bill’s boat, the Atlas Van Lines (affectionately nicknamed, “The Blue Blaster”) to perfect aesthetic and running condition. This is a true labor of love for Don Mock (the project foreman) and his dedicated crew of volunteers at the Hydroplane & Raceboat Museum in Kent, WA.
Our segment, The Blue Blaster, is a snapshot of the long, slow, resurrection of Bill Muncey’s Blue Blaster. On the day we filmed, a real “live” 12-cylinder Rolls Royce aircraft engine was gently lifted out of my restored 1982 Atlas Van Lines and installed in Bill’s boat. This marks the first time a real engine was put in that boat since that horrible day in 1981 in Mexico. The boat was far enough along in its restoration that it was time to put an engine in it to get the prop shaft, gear box, and other systems lined up. I know it meant a great deal to those who have given so much of their time and effort to this worthwhile project to see the boat have a “heart” again.
That day in Mexico was bad for me, as well. We were racing into a setting sun and Bill was way out in front of the pack on the first lap of the final heat. I never saw him flip, but suddenly there was an upside down hydroplane right in front of me and I hit it at full throttle, about 160 mph! My boat was completely destroyed and sank to the bottom. I was relatively unhurt. Another boat turned violently to the right and it’s driver, Milner Irvin, was thrown from the boat and suffered minor injuries. It was a horrible day that will forever be in my memory.
Bill’s family and sponsor decided to continue racing the following year with a brand new Atlas Van Lines. I was hired to drive it and that is perhaps the proudest moment of my career. To be given the honor and responsibility to fill in for the great man. It turned into a Cinderella story for the team and I. We went on to win the Gold Cup, (the Indy 500 of powerboat racing) and the National Championship, which is based on points garnered at all the races throughout the year.
The plan is to finish the restoration of Bill’s boat and run it one time and one time only, in tribute to the great driver and fine person, Bill Muncey. This historic boat deserves to run one last time. I know it’s what Bill would have wanted and his family anxiously looks forward to it. It will be a fine tribute to perhaps the best driver ever and a man who was my friend.