The menacing cluster of chrome-plated nozzles above is neither the business end of a fancy 40-millimeter battery nor a new silver-toned steam calliope. It is the exhaust system of a jazzy new kind of motorboat dedicated to both speed and show. The view at the right shows a similar awesome apparatus ready for action in a $10,000 racing boat owned by Elmer Rossi of Bakersfield, Calif. who, like some 1,000 speedy citizens from Florida to the Pacific, has been seized in spirit—and pocketbook—by the expensive water-borne fad called drag-boat racing. The object of this pastime is simple enough. The drag-boat racer simply straps himself to his machine, points its polished bow at 1,320 feet of straight, flat water and, powered by a souped-up auto engine—usually a Chrysler—attempts to accelerate across this distance faster than anyone else wearing a similar machine. Most of the boats and engines were assembled or rebuilt by the drivers themselves, and their talk is as sprinkled with references to milled-down heads and compression ratios as that of their automobile counterparts. Like earth-bound hot rodders, the seagoing drag-boat racer is as much concerned with the esthetics of chrome plate, pleats, plush carpeting and paint as he is with the frantic urge to get not very far very fast. The boats shown on the following pages—owned by Don Burger, Bob Fine and Paul Stratton—are further evidence that, among California drag-boat racers at least, haste often makes for surprising taste.
Woodpecker, a $7,500 power package, has won 74 trophies in two years' racing. Chromed blower tops 700-hp Chrysler engine.
Draggin' Wagon, a modest $4,000 product, is also equipped with a Chrysler engine. Its 350 horses can drag up to 75 mph.
Sleekest of the drag boats, Mr. Pleat was built for both racing and water skiing. Replete with 2,000 reet pleats, its interior is upholstered with red Naugahyde. Plush rear seats face backward for viewing the skiers.
JACK FIELDS AND PHIL BATH