Tempo VI
by Craig Fjarlie

Tempo VI
Tempo VI

A boat from the past has been gracing the water near Seattle lately. Tempo VI, carefully restored by Joe Frauenheim, has been seen on Lake Sammamish and Lake Washington. The craft is one of the few with a prewar history that has survived this long.

Tempo was built in 1938 as My Sin, G-13, for mattress magnate Zalmon Simmons. It was designed by Adolph Apel and constructed by the Ventnor Boat Works. The two-seater was powered by a V-16 Miller. In its first season, the boat was unable to run in the APBA Gold Cup. All that changed a year later when Simmons won the Gold Cup in straight heats. The engine had been rebuilt by Charles Zumbach.

My Sin may have hit debris in the water during the 1940 Gold Cup, as there was damage to the running gear of an unknown origin. The craft was second in the President's Cup and won the American Speedboat Championship with Jack "Pop" Cooper driving. In '41 with war looming, all forms of racing was being curtailed. My Sin won the Gold Cup; it was the only entrant. Simmons ran one heat at a leisurely 52 mph.

Following the war, the boat was sold to bandleader Guy Lombardo. He renamed the hull Tempo VI and converted it to one seat but left everything else the same, including the G number. Lombardo won the National Sweepstakes and the Gold Cup in '46. Lombardo's celebrity status made the boat famous, and it was featured in movie theater newsreels. In '47, it won at Red Bank and finished second in several other events.

Tempo was re-powered with an Allison for the '48 season. Lombardo set two mile records but had little else to cheer about. During the Gold Cup Hurricane IV lost its steering directly in front of Tempo. Lombardo maneuvered out of the way, causing Tempo to flip. By this time, it was clear that Tempo VI — like all prewar boats that ran after the war — was being eclipsed by newer designs. The boat won two minor events in '49. Joe Van Blerck Jr. drove in a couple of heats that year, one of the few times someone other than Lombardo was behind the wheel. Tempo carried the number G-1 in 1949.

Dan Arena added five feet to Tempo VI before the 1950 season. Lombardo earned second place in the Gold Cup. Much of Arena's work was removed before the '51 season. The boat only went to three races that year, but Lombardo did win the National Sweepstakes. Van Blerck drove one heat at Red Bank. Rumors circulated that the boat was for sale.

Lombardo sat out the ' 52 season but came back in '53. Phil Maresca was in the cockpit when Tempo VI won the Red Bank Gold Cup. Lombardo made his final appearance as a driver at the National Sweepstakes. The boat's last race was the President's Cup, where it finished eighth.

Tempo VI and Miss America VIII rested in the Museum of Speed adjacent to the Daytona, Florida, race track for about 25 years. When the museum went out of business in the mid-1970s, NASCAR moved both boats to Taladega, Alabama. Ken Muscatel eventually made arrangements to rescue them from oblivion; they were taken to Seattle and added to the Hydroplane and Race Boat Museum's collection.

Tempo VI is one of the classic Ventnor hulls of the late '30s. As a three-time Gold Cup winner, it certainly has a distinguished place in unlimited history. Thanks to the work of the Hydroplane and Race Boat Museum and Joe Frauenheim, contemporary fans are now able to appreciate first hand a boat that represented state-of-the-art technology 60 years ago.

(Reprinted from the Unlimited NewsJournal, June 1998, p.7)


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