E-78  Double Eagle

280 class hydroplane built by Dick Sooy

Driver - Susan (Sooy) Elkins

Owner/Crew Chief - Forrest Elkins

In the fall of 2006, Double Eagle was delivered to the shop for a thorough survey, final rigging, and complete refinishing. This is the last hydro built by Dick Sooy, to run on the APBA vintage circuit with his daughter Susan. It is a replica/copy that Dick built in 1994 of his first cab-over and 1959 Champion "Double Eagle". But Dick left us way too early, and the boat was put away in storage, never completed. Many years later Susan (Sooy) Elkins and her husband Forrest finally had the Vintage Race Boat Shop  complete the project and prepare Double Eagle to run on the Vintage Race Boat Circuit. Then in September 2007, Susan actually drove Double Eagle at speed on a course at the Wolfeboro Vintage Race Boat Regatta. After some last minute thrashing, the boat, motor and driver performed very well and ran some pretty hot laps. What a fantastic project, we all had a great time !!!



Here are some photos of Susan (Sooy) Elkins in her racing days !!!




Our project began with a few phone calls and these photos sent by Susan & Forrest to give us an idea of the hull condition.



Then on October 22, 2006 Forrest & Susan hauled the boat to the Vintage Race Boat Shop. The first step was to hoist the boat off the trailer, setup on blocks, and perform a complete survey. Double Eagle was in excellent condition, but in need of refinishing and final rigging.





After a little cleanup, we put the cowling back on and took a complete set of "before" photos.







Because  Double Eagle has never been run, and was kept in good storage all those years, the boat was in excellent condition. These photos show the inside of the hull, the underside of the fore and aft decks, and the excellent workmanship of Dick Sooy.



Then it was time to start removing the hardware, including with the front cowling, steering wheel assembly, exhaust headers, thru-hull fittings and rudder assembly. We also had Jerome Holden from JC Signs trace the lettering before we started sanding. We started with 80 grit and spent quite a few hours sanding the weathered plywood deck and got the surface nice and smooth.






We then we spent another full day sanding again with 80 grit followed by 120 grit, to remove all the remaining varnish and paint. The final few hours were spent with 120 grit to ensure a very clean and smooth surface. Lots of hard work, but well worth the effort.


Then it was time for the first coat of Pettit Sealer, and we applied a nice thick coat using our Rolling & Tipping technique. This fills and seals the plywood grain, preparing the surface for the first coat of varnish.  


After the sealer dried, we hand sanded the surface with Scotchbrite Pads and then applied the first coat of Epifanes varnish. This is a very rich and very thick marine varnish from Holland that has an amber tint, and with every coat the wood takes on a darker and deeper finish, and after 8 thick coats, the boat will look like it was dipped !!!





After 2 build coats of varnish on the deck, it was time to start on the sides and bottom. We spent 2 days sanding to get all the surfaces real smooth, first with 120 grit paper and then with Scotchbrite Pads. The first coat of Epifanes varnish was then applied using our rolling & wicking technique, and the results - stunning !!!





After four coats of varnish on the deck, it was time for Jerome to reapply the lettering. First the mask was taped into position and the blue lettering paint was applied. Then the mask was pulled and the white outline was hand painted. Once the paint dried, we continued our varnish build coats, protecting the lettering under 4 thick coats of varnish.



After the many coats of varnish were just about done, we started working on the tail fin and the cowling. Our first challenge was to match the blue paint used for the lettering, and after several test boards we found our match - Interlux Brightside Largo Blue. After several days of prep work, lots of sanding and filling, we applied the first coat of Interlux blue paint, again using our rolling & wicking technique. This very thick marine paint covered very well and flowed out beautifully, three coats are planned.





Finally, the fourth and final coat of Epifanes varnish was applied to the bottom and sides.




And then the fourth and final coat of Interlux Largo Blue was applied to the tail and cowlings.





After 10 thick coats of Epifanes varnish on the deck, we were finally satisfied and decided to stop!!!




Next, while the paint and varnish were curing, we moved to lettering and the graphics on the cowling and tail fin. After many discussions with Jerome at JC Signs about the lettering font and size, we were very please with our choices,  and the gold graphic outlined in white on the tail fin was a knockout!!!




Then we moved inside the cockpit, where we had to make a new throttle bracket in order to move the position back a few inches - Susan has longer legs than her father - Dick Sooy !!!


Finally, it was time to re-install the hardware, including the edge trim, deck hardware and the rudder. The rusted steel screws were replaced with new stainless steel screws on the trim pieces, and new pop rivets were installed, just as Dick Sooy had used. We also painted the deck access fittings to match the blue cowling and tail fin. The boat is now really beginning to pop!!!





The final coats of varnish were applied to the dash and then the new gauges and steering wheel were installed.


Next, the original rope slings were strung up and measured. These were obviously not up to current APBA safety standards, so new slings were ordered that were load rated and date stamped. The new headers were also dry fit to check for clearances. They were close, but did not quite fit and would have required hacking away at the beautifully varnished deck. Not acceptable, so they were returned and another style was ordered. We also could not find a used prop to fit the 1 inch splined shaft, so we called Craig Dewald at Dewald props, discussed the project and Craig agreed to make a new prop for Double Eagle.  


While waiting for replacement headers, the new slings and the new prop to arrive, the 10 coats of fresh varnish continued to cure, and we began to fit the new windscreen. These projects all seam to have a life of their own, always taking way more time than ever expected. But we have learned to not rush the process, to take our time and enjoy the project, and share our progress on our hyperactive Vintage Race Boat Shop Website !!!





The new slings arrived but had to be sent back for smaller hooks, and after 3 different sets of headers that did not quite fit, we finally decided to cut, bend, and re-weld the third set to get the fit and "the look" that we wanted. The seat finally came back from the upholstery shop, and we also decided to change the font size and location of the lettering on the front cowling. We also spent some tine wiring the new gauges, making sure that everything was secured and would not rattle when Double Eagle hit the Vintage Race Boat Circuit !!!





And finally, on May 4th, 2007 Susan and Forrest Elkins arrived for final inspection, a celebration, our last batch of project photos, and to take "Double Eagle" home to Cape May, New Jersey. Forrest did a nice job restoring the trailer, evening match the Largo Blue paint on the front mounted tool box. Donnie explained some of the nuances of the exhaust headers and the rudder assembly, and then it was time to put Susan in the cockpit - to make sure the newly upholstered seat fit and to check the location of the relocated foot throttle.  Everything checked out just fine, and the smiles on all our faces made the many, many hours somehow seem worthwhile. We poured our heart and soul into this very special project, and when Susan and Forrest left the shop with "Double Eagle" in tow, there was not a dry eye in the house !!!





Many thanks to Susan and Forrest Elkins for sharing this very special project, and watch for "Double Eagle" this summer on the Vintage Race Boat Circuit, and check out all the fun we had at our Wolfeboro Vintage Race Boat Regatta.

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