1938 APBA Gold Cup
Detroit River, Detroit, MI,
Western Boys Are Heroes Of Gold Cup Race
Danny Arena of Oakland wanted to race for the Gold Cup at Detroit Labor Day. He had been racing inboards on the coast successfully since 1935 and had witnessed the Gold Cup classic last year and decided he and Miss Golden Gate had a chance in this 35-year old contest for the world speed boat title
At 21-year old Danny had little money to make the expensive trip to Detroit, and all summer long he shopped around the San Francisco area for a sponsor to finance the journey.
Sponsors there were none, but Dan was set ongoing anyway. So his folks helped him out a little and he sold his Ford to his 16-year old brother, Eugene, and he got a few more dollars by selling a motor. Many borrowed his mother's Ford coupe and he and his mechanic, Dan Foster, started for Detroit with Miss Golden Gate riding behind.
This Miss Golden Gate consisted of a 16-foot hull built this year by a E. A. MacLean, San Jose boat builder, and a Hispano-Suiza motor originally rated at 300 horsepower but souped up to do more. This motor had been taken from another Miss Golden Gate which Arena drove to victory for the Pacific Motor Boat Trophy at Long Beach last winter to win the Pacific Coast speed boat title.
Danny and his mechanic knew what they'd be up against at Detroit. The knew their $1000 rig would be pitted against $40,000 jobs and their 300-plus horses would be racing against 600 horsepower motors. But they were just kids and they prayed for luck and hoped to get out in front and stay there and at least make a good showing for the coast.
Came the races. There were six entries -- the pick of the world's speed boat drivers. Title holder was Herb Mendelson and his brand new Notre Dame. There were entries from Canada and from France and there was Count Theodore Rossi, Italian vermouth king, from Turin, driving his hydroplane Alagi with its Isotta-Fraschini motor.
In the trials the new Notre Dame went to the bottom of the Detroit River. Three others failed to start or went out in the heats and the final was between Arena and Rossi... 300 horsepower vs. 600 horsepower.
Danny did his best, but his best wasn't good enough. He was out-powered. Alagi won the race that Miss Golden Gate won the sympathy of the crowd of 75,000 lining the American and Canadian shores.
The finals were over a 90-mile course and were run in three 30-mile heats. On the first heat Miss Golden Gate did 56.319 mph and on the second heat got up to 61.809 mph. Came the third heat in the Oakland boat roared across the line with begun to make a perfect, cheer-bringing start.
She ran a lap and a half before the more powerful Italian crept past her. Then a throttle connection broke on Miss Golden Gate. The crowd saw Dan Foster stand up and reach both arms into the engine cockpit. They saw Danny, from the driver's seat, reach with one hand to support the mechanic until he could brace himself. For 24 miles of Gold Cup bouncing and jouncing, Foster stood there! He was holding the throttle open with his hands! The roar of the crowd drowned out of the roar of the mighty motors! The Oakland lads received a tribute few losers ever receive. They lost the race but they were the heroes of the Gold Cup!
Alagi said a new lap record of 72.7076 mph for three miles. Last year his lap record was 71.446.
Back home he Oakland the Arena family hung over the radio all day and into the night. They heard the race and the crowd and the heard their Danny come to the microphone after the contest, and congratulate the winner and tell what a grand time he and Foster were having.
Proud Mr. and Mrs. Arena devoured the newspaper reports. "I didn't like the reporters saying the boys drove east in a second-hand car," Mrs. Arena said. "It wasn't a second-hand car! It was my 1935 Ford coupe -- without a dent in it! And it wasn't a home-made boat, as the paper said. Mr. MacLean built the boat in San Jose and he has been building speedboats for a long time and he is an officer of the California Speedboat Association."
At Detroit Arena and Foster and Miss Golden Gate made friends rapidly and two of their warmest friends were two former competitors, Count Rossi and Herb Mendelson. Rossi had offered the boys a motorcycle each if they came in second -- which they did -- and Mendelson, wealthy Cincinnati sportsman, generously offered to send them on to the President's Cup race on the Potomac Sept. 24 and to pay their expenses home.
Miss Golden Gate flew the burgee of the California Speedboat Association, to which Danny belongs. Danny's 1937 trip to the Detroit Gold Cup was made with Gordon Graham, Secretary of the CSA. These two, anxious to see the classic, drove continuously from Oakland to Detroit and back. In one day they covered 1100 miles!
(Reprinted from Pacific Motor Boat, Oct. 1938, p. 34)
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