ACBS members gather with their Danbury Racer Speed Boats
It’s been 60 years since the famous Danbury Racers have been
together. Boat # 24 belonging to Bo Muller, #28 to Bob Harrity
and #38 to John de Sousa, New England ACBS Chapter members,
gathered at the Bay State Woodies’ spring get together on
Congamond Lake, May 1, 2010. Seeing these race boats together
was the highlight of the event.
The Danbury Racers were once raced at the Danbury State Fair
Grounds in 1950 where they created the nation’s first aquaway to
race boats. The flooded race course was constructed on the
horse-racing track which was flooded with water. The track was ¼
mile, 30 feet wide and 3 feet deep that had many problems just
trying to hold the water in the aquaway. Boat racing first
started on the evening of May 20, 1950 with time trials during
the day for six qualifying events. Boats raced for either 8 or
10 laps depending on their class of B or U designated by the
APBA. Two Danbury Racers also raced in a Z class with the APBA.
Fairground owner John Leahy contracted Harold Kohler to
design and build the Fair’s own race boats creating the Danbury
Racer. What documentation exists, 18 wooden and 2 fiberglass
boats where built and assigned numbers to each boat. Boats where
10’ 5” long, with a 55” beam powered by either 44 or 48
cubic-inch inboard Crosley engines with no clutches. Danbury
Racers reached speeds of 40+ mph. The first Crosley engines
where the tin block design and later replaced with the higher
cubic inch cast iron block engines.
At the end of the 1950 racing season boat racing came to an
end to give way to stock car racing that proved to be more
financially sound. The Danbury Racers were stored indoors on the
Fairgrounds for almost 30 years where fair employees regularly
oiled and turned over the engines annually. July 30, 1980 the
stored Danbury Racers went up for auction.
Today we’re not sure how many of the original Danbury Racers
exist. The only three boats that are in the water today were at
the Bay State Woodies spring event on Congamond Lake. Other
racers found; three boats Connecticut, two in New Hampshire and
four in Wisconsin with two of them presently under restoration.