VIDEO: Vintage ‘Miss Burien’ hydroplane returns to the water at Lake Chelan


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At one time – in the 1950s-60s – the city of Burien had its very own mascot hydroplane – the aptly-named ‘Miss Burien.’

She never won a race, but for a scrappy boat with a relatively low budget, she was pretty competitive, and certainly helped increase the profile of our little town.

The restored, vintage U-4 hydroplane recently ran on Lake Chelan as part of the annual ‘Mahogany & Merlot’ event Oct. 5-7, 2018:

MISS BURIEN AT LAKE CHELAN, WA from john maio on Vimeo.

The story of this much-loved and historic boat goes back to the late 1950s, and involves an organization called “Greater Burien, Inc.,” a precursor to the current-day Discover Burien, which funded its own hydroplane.

According to the Hydroplane and Raceboat Museum:

The original Miss Burien became kindling on Lake Coeur d’Alene during the running of the Diamond Cup in 1959. Like all unlimited hydroplane aficionados, owner Peter Woeck wanted to see the legacy of his boat continue. Woeck and his supporting cast of Greater Burien Inc. commissioned Ted Jones to build a larger, more competitive Miss Burien.

The Burien remained the flagship of every person who dreamed of running with the big boys. While she never had the depth of financial or equipment resources that the well-heeled teams possessed, she still put on a good show. In her first race, the 1960 Apple Cup, she took third behind Miss Thriftway and Nitrogen Too, but out pointed Miss Bardahl. Chuck Hickling, a steady pilot, drove her in the Apple Cup and in a number of other races. Hickling later guided her to a second place finish at the Diamond Cup, winning the final heat but losing on total points. In 1961 Hickling and the Burien took second in the Seafair Trophy Race.

Also, in its first days, Miss Burien was driven by local boy Bill Brow of Burien, aka “The World’s Fastest Milkman” (he worked for Vitamilk):

Miss Burien, truth to tell, was a “backyard job,” built in 1956 as a hobby by original owner Norm Christiansen and maintained by a volunteer crew. The boat measured 27 feet 4 inches, which is now considered rather short for anything with an Allison engine. Brow demonstrated his potential in his very first appearance as an Unlimited driver. Midway through Heat 1-A of the Diamond Cup at Coeur d”Alene, Idaho, Bill and Miss Burien were running third behind Fred Alter in Miss U.S. I and Bill Muncey in Miss Thriftway. Then, while exiting the lower turn, Brow executed a daring maneuver. He drove through Muncey’s roostertail, took the inside lane away from him, and accelerated into second place, leaving Miss Thriftway far astern. Brow averaged 101.580 for the 15 miles, compared to Muncey’s 96.878. This was the first heat at over 100 miles per hour in the three-year history of the Miss Burien hydroplane, whose previous pilots included Bill Tonkin, Norm Evans, and Mira Slovak. There was no question in the mind of owner Peter Woeck. Bill Brow definitely had “the right stuff.” Indeed, much would be heard from this talented rookie in the years to come.

While most of Bill’s remaining appearances with the Miss Burien were hampered by mechanical difficulty, he made his competitive presence felt on several occasions. These included a sterling performance in qualification at the 1958 Gold Cup on Seattle’s Lake Washington. Brow posted a 9-mile average of 111.570 around the 3-mile course. Only the Maverick with Bill Stead and the Hawaii Kai III with Jack Regas ran faster with speeds of 119.956 and 113.445 respectively in an 18-boat field. Brow qualified higher than such well-financed entries as the Miss Thriftway, the Miss U.S. I, the Miss Supertest II, the Gale V, and the Miss Bardahl. Bill’s association with the Peter Woeck team ended on the same race course where it had begun in 1959. Miss Burien flipped upside-down and sank during Heat 2-A of the Diamond Cup. The boat was destroyed and Brow spent the night in the local hospital. Ironically, in the re-run of the same heat in which Bill had been injured, another craft–the “Green Dragon” Miss Bardahl–also had an accident. The Bardahl’s driver, Jack Regas, was critically hurt, although the boat was not badly damaged. When Miss Bardahl returned to action a month later at the Silver Cup in Detroit, Bill Brow was at her wheel and took an overall fifth.

Way to go Miss Burien and team!

The restored Miss Burien can be seen here:

Hydroplane and Raceboat Museum
5917 South 196th Street
Kent, WA 98032

Phone: 206.764.9453
FAX: 206.766.9620

Hours:

  • Tues & Thur:  10:00 am to 8:00 pm
  • Wed thru Sat:  10:00 am to 4:00 pm
  • Sun & Mon: Closed

Admission

  • General Admission:  $10
  • Seniors (60+) & Students under 16:  $5
  • Members & Children under 6:  Free

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