Notable hydro designer/builder & Highline alum Ron Jones Sr. passes away

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Notable hydroplane designer and builder Ron Jones Sr. passed away on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017.

Jones was a 1950 graduate of Highline High School in Burien, and went on to continue his Dad Ted’s work of designing and building hydroplanes.

Hydros ran in the Jones family – his father designed such legendary boats like the Slo-mo-shun IV, Shanty I, Maverick, Hawaii Kai III, Miss WahooMiss Thriftway and many others.

Ron started building limited hydroplanes in 1950 while still in high school.

One of his Dad’s creations was the U-4 Miss Burien, built in 1960 and now restored and on display at the Hydroplane & Raceboat Museum in Kent, which said this about Ron Sr.:

Unlimited hydroplane racing owes a lot to Ron Jones, the Seattle area boat builder, who has revolutionized the sport so dramatically over the years.

If anyone has any doubts about the contribution of Ron Jones, to big-time boat racing, the outward appearance of the hydroplanes themselves should suffice. The boats of yesteryear were, for the most part, rather narrow, quite box-shaped, and less streamlined. They had forward engines and rear cockpits and rode awfully rough through the turns. Today, thanks to Ron, the boats are generally wider, flatter, have forward-mounted (or cabover) cockpits, and corner a whole lot better.

Click here to watch a video that was presented at Ron’s induction into the Unlimited Hydroplane Hall of Fame in 2004.

According to Historian Fred Farley, Ron was responsible for a revolution in hydroplane design – the “cabover” picklefork model, which put the driver in front of the engine rather than behind it:

Between 1971 and 1974, Ron built a total of eight unlimited hulls, including the 1972 Notre Dame, the 1973 Pay ‘n Pak and the U-95 turbine entry, and the 1974 Country Boy, Valu-Mart, Miss U.S., and Lincoln Thrift.

By far the most successful of these was the famed “Winged Wonder” Pay ‘n Pak, which ranks among the all-time great Thunderboats with 22 race victories. It stands with Ron’s other big winner, the 1980 Rolls-Royce Griffon-powered Miss Budweiser, which likewise captured 22 first-place trophies.

Perhaps the most eloquent showcase of the talents of Ron Jones occurred at the 1973 World’s Championship Race in Seattle. Despite mist and rain, the competition was superb and unforgettable. The honeycomb Pay ‘n Pak and its 1970 predecessor (renamed Miss Budweiser) ran side-by-side. Drivers Mickey Remund and Dean Chenoweth shared the same roostertail en route to becoming the first boats in history to average better than 120 miles per hour in a heat of competition.

Here’s a video of Jones’ two innovative hydros – the Pay ‘n Pak and Miss Budweiser – racing against each other on Lake Washington in 1974 (imagine the thrill of watching two of your creations race neck-and-neck like this!):

Everyone at South King Media – and we’re sure all hydro fans worldwide – share their deepest sympathies to Ron’s family and friends.

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4 Responses to “Notable hydro designer/builder & Highline alum Ron Jones Sr. passes away”
  1. Out here on the edge... says:

    Condolences to the Jones family and friends.

    Thank you B-Town Blog for everything you have included in story. These were the boats of my early years. Back in the 50’s, we could hear the SloMo’s and others boats practicing for the race on Lake Washington all the way to 8th Ave S. What memories that 1974 Gold Cup clip brings back! What a race it was! I remember how proud King 5 was of the cameras they devised for covering these races. These boats and races were something we were all proud of.

  2. Mike E says:

    Ron Jones was the most gifted designer/builder of all time. He was just in a league of his own. There will never be another man like him. Godspeed Ron!

  3. Joanne Jones says:

    Ron Jones was not only the world’s best boat designer/builder but a great brother to me for years.
    He truly cared deeply for everyone and loved Jesus as his Lord and Savior.
    Jesus welcomed him into heaven with open arms and said “well done my good and faithful servant.”
    The Christian walk is self-paced and we all stand on level ground at the foot of Calvary’s cross looking up.
    Let us be destination-sensitive prior to our eternal departure.
    God loves you all and so do I.
    Joanne Jones

  4. G Michael Muller says:

    I met Ron by chance about 4 1/2 years ago. He was wearing a Miss Wahoo jacket and when I asked him where he got the jacket he introduced himself. I was a huge fan of unlimited hydro’s back in the ’50’s & ’60’s. 1 1/2 years later I met his sister JJ on a dating site. We were married in Aug 2014 and I became part of the Jones family. Got to know Ron very well and really enjoyed our time together. I was privileged to take Ron and his sister JJ to the last event at the hydro museum on Dec 10th, 2016. Ron you be missed greatly by but JJ and I will be with you in the blink of an eye. God Bless you Ron!

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