Mary" Blown Fuel Hydro - The Restoration
Mary Rife was drag boat racing's
answer to her land counterpart, Shirley Muldowney. The only difference
is that not one female followed in Mary's shoes - at least in
Blown Fuel Hydros.
This page will chronicle the
restoration of a drag boat that was one of the most famous of
its breed from 1973 to 1985... "Proud Mary". The 1973
Howard hydro was sold in 1985 and found in 2004. It is currently
to its 1973 configuration with was a blown fuel 392 Chrysler
Mary Rife probably raced drag
boats longer (without an accident) than anyone who ever competed
in the sport. From 1969 to 1985 she drove a flatbottom, Unblown
Gas Hydro, Blown Gas Hydro (below) and finally the big dog -
a Blown Fuel Hydro.
Back when I started racing in
1968, I had a flat bottom that I ran in the 85 to 90 miles per
hour class. Around 1971 my friend Scotty McCally was telling
me that Bob Hendricks was going to sell his Blown Gas Hydro (Color
Me Gone) without the engine... which we renamed "Gone".
It was a baby Sanger Hydro.
I bought the Hydro and put my
427 Ford Tunnel Port in it and ran unblown gas Hydro. First time
out in the boat I was only 3 miles a hour from the record of
that class held by the boat called War Bonnet that was driven
by Jim Van Dyke.
I took the 427 Ford out of the
Hydro and sold it to my friend Scotty (who found it in the first
place) and he put it in a 56 Ford Pick-up truck. After a while
he sold that engine to some one in San Diego. After a lot of
years Scotty bought that engine back again and put in in his
garage with all his collector Fords. I then put this Blown Chevy
in the Hydro and ran Blown Gas for one season. That Sanger was
a little on the light side, the Boat wanted to fly.
Then in 1973 my late husband
and I bought the Howard Hull and put the PROUD MARY together
that took about 4 months. I raced top fuel for 12 years.
In 1990 I married my friend Scotty,
which i had not seen him in about 8 years, I was so surprise
to go in his garage and see that 427 ford tunnel port sitting
in the corner. So I got my engine back that my late husband put
together 20 years earlier . Small World.
Commentary from Mary McCally
Mary had a career best Top Speed
of 206.42 and Low ET of 6.11. Respectable numbers in anybody's
book as it wasn't until the 1990's that the "capsule TF
hydros" started running really BIG times. Her crew over
the years consisted of names like her late husband, Dwight (back
bone of this boat), Norm Rife, Paul Schavrien, Danny Ramilo.
Her engines were built by Jo Pat Williams (392), Jim Wright (of
Keith Black and Forgedtrue Piston fame) built the 426.
In August of
2004 Mary received phone call from a friend in California (Joey
"Spike" Amorelli). saying that he had seen the boat
on the cover of a Boat Trader Magazine. Without a second thought,
she and husband Scotty McCally went to California and bought
it back. They are restoring it just as it was in 1973. Here is
the boat when they got it home.
Here is a mock-up
392 fiberglass block being used to refit the hull that had been
set up for a late model hemi.
motor plate had to be machined.
parts ready for fitting.
Mike Kuhl and
Paul Schavrien are putting together a healthy 392 that will be
installed in the finished hull which is due at the paint shop
in May, 2005.
While the real engine
is being built, Scotty keeps busy in the shop mocking up the
mounts and other parts they will need to get the boat restored.
This is the hull
being prepped for paint. Obviously there was a lot of glass work
to do especially where part of the deck was cut out for a capsule.
Mary was real glad they saved the piece they cut out!
the best painters in Texas, Dickie Davenport preps the hull for
showing Mary how strong the deck is.
boat was painted and read for wet sanding and a buff out. Then
it will be time to start to putting the parts back in the boat
As the project
moves forward, the trailer is being made ready including this
slick graphic job.
Just 3 weeks
before the CHRR the blown fuel 392 is lowered into the hull.
How cool is going to be when it rolls into Bakersfield - the
long career was highlighted by:
the NDBA Nationals at Fire Bird in 1978.
on a TV show with Billie Jean King: "Women In Sports"
And her first
win in Top Fuel Hydro, holding the trophy with one hand and her
new three week old Granddaughter with the other.
highlight most remember was In 1975 when the most famous race car
driver in the world literally put his life in the hands of a
woman. At the Long Beach Marine Stadium, Mario Andretti climbed
into a Jerry-rigged second seat in Mary's Blown Fuel Hydro and
let the queen of boat racing take him for a 160+ MPH pass on
the water. When it was all said and done a gracious Andretti
thanked Mary and said he'd NEVER DO THAT AGAIN!
(left) and Mario get settled in for their big adventure.
and Mario at 170
In the late 1970's
"Proud Mary" was fitted with a Keith Black 426 hemi
and rear wing. Here is a shot of its first outing with a wing.
The boat wanted to fly - not the effect the wing was suppose
to have! They figured out that the exhaust was hitting the wing
so the boat was fitted with a new set of headers and the problem
Although pretty, thankfully this
is not the configuration it is being restored to.
22-24, 2005 Mary and Scotty made the tow to a NDBA race at Lake
Ming in Bakersfield where the engine was fired for the first
time. It sounded great so the put it in the water and Mary made
a short "burnout". They have been invited back for
next years race and are planning to attend the California Hot
Rod Reunion as the first "cackle boat".
02-18-06 at Tyler
TX. Mary McCally displayed her newly restored top fuel hydro.
Tyler is her home town and this was her first show with the boat.
She and her husband won best display. The boat is ready to run
with its blown 392 by Mike Kuhl.
Due to health
problems with Scotty the 2006 CHRR debut was postponed to 2007.
That was covered on Cacklefest.com soon after the event was completed.
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