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BILL MUNCEY: THE FIRST GOLDEN AGE
By Fred Farley - APBA/HYDRO-PROP Unlimited Historian

Prologue
In the long history of Unlimited hydroplane racing, no individual defined the sport more convincingly than William Edward Muncey. From 1955 until his death at Acapulco in 1981, Bill was the unchallenged superstar.

When the definitive history of 20th Century power boat competition is written, the two titans of the racing world will be the "Gray Fox" Gar Wood for the pre-World War II years and Bill Muncey for the post-war era.

This book focuses primarily on Muncey's tenure with the third MISS THRIFTWAY, which was built in 1959. It was with this boat that Bill's racing career shifted into high gear. These years were his first Golden Age.

Prior to taking the wheel of the third MISS THRIFTWAY, Muncey had been a very erratic driver. Not until 1960 did Bill ever win three heats in one day.

In the fifties, Muncey always seemed to have his act together at the Gold Cup race. Indeed, between 1955 and 1959, he won twice and finished second twice. But his Gold Cups aside, Bill's record was very mediocre. Arch-rival Jack Regas was the top driver of the decade and had a much higher winning percentage (45%) with nine victories in twenty races between 1954 and 1959.

In fact, Muncey won only two non-Gold Cup races during the entire decade of the fifties. And one of those, the 1958 Detroit Memorial Regatta, was a fluke on account of MISS U.S. I conking out and GALE VI jumping the gun.

In this volume, I have not tried to delve too deeply into the personality of Bill Muncey. Biographers Tony Hogg and Weldon Johnson have already done that. My emphasis is on what happened out on the race course. I have also tried to put Muncey's career into some kind of context. I talk not only about Bill but also about the other people and events that shaped his world.

The sixth chapter of this book deals with Muncey's so-called "lean years," following the retirement of the Associated Grocers team in 1963, when he handled the likes of NOTRE DAME, SUCH CRUST IV, $ BILL and two different boats named MISS U.S.

Although he won only four races between 1964 and 1969, I consider this time period to be an interesting contrast between Bill's first Golden Age, which began with the MISS THRIFTWAY, and his second Golden Age, which began when he signed on with Joe and Lee Schoenith's Gale Enterprises team in 1970.

The Schoenith years were a prelude to Muncey's becoming his own owner in 1976 with a new team under the sponsorship of Atlas Van lines, Inc. Bill kept his team in the forefront of Unlimited racing for six years-- until a "blow-over" accident with the ATLAS VAN LINES "Blue Blaster" brought the curtain down on October 18, 1981, at Laguna de Coyucca, Mexico.

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__________________________
Copyright 2002 by Fred Farley.
For reprint rights to this book, contact the author at <fredf@hotmail.com>

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