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Great Moments in Cat History


Great Moments in Cat History

Old 09-07-2001, 07:50 PM
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1955- Carl Kiekhaefer begins to experiment with multi hull designs at Lake X, mostly 3 point hydro derivations.

1956 Ted Jones (Ron's father)Builds a 17 foot wooden catamaran which , while ungainly, shows good performance and stability.

1958 Various builders take up the challenge PowerCat, Craig, CustomCraft, Stylecraft and a few others create molded fibreglass "symetrical" cats (each hull identical on both sides....

These boats are immediately entered in the brand new Outboard Performance Class of APBA.


1961 Dave and Bob Switzer create the "Wing" , which is so far ahead of its time we haven't duplicated it's performance to this day.......17'long, 8+ft wide, two 80 hp outboards... nearly 100mph (By the way it, and some PowerCats, had a "tunnel tab" which as you all know was "invented"... again.... in the 1990's). Sporting "four point ram wing technology" this thing initially tears up Lake X and is then seen on various race circuits under the exclusive control of the "Old Man". (God Forbid OMC should get their hands on one). It also featured the first "pickle fork sponsons

1963- Dieter Schultz uses outboard hydroplane construction techniques to craft the first tunnel hull (assymetrical sponsons)
.\_| |_/.

While small by monuhull standards, its ability to handle mixed chop is stunning and the boat turns better than any hydro, symmetrical cat, v bottom or the dreaded "wing". It has one major flaw, a tendency to "stuff" unexpectedly due to its lack of forward entry lift and low angle of attack.

1964.. Angelo Molinari solves the "stuff" tendency by designing and building the "banana" Molinari. The hulls on this tunnel hulled craft have a dramatic upswing toward the bow resembling a banana in profile . While solving the deadly stuff problem this over-compensating design had a frequent blow over tendency.

1965 Tunnel hulls invade the U.S. race circuit and immediately run away from mono hulls (V bottoms of all kinds). Checkmate, Glastron, Magnum, Baja, etc all enter into agreements with (and or "pop") Molinari or
Schultz designs. Since the tunnel hulls had limited pleasure boat (production)appeal (the average guy couldn't keep them right side up) the v bottom manufacturers lobbied for (and got) separate racing classes. This began a long tradition of v bottom manufacturers trying to beat the cats politically rather than in true competition.

1967 It becomes painfully apparent that the fibreglass replica tunnels cannot keep up with the original wood variants... and the wood designs are evolving so fast that molds are obsoleted in only a few months. At the same time outboard horsepower continues to rise with resulting periods when the hulls can't handle the power or the power can't push the hulls. Stock outboard drivers prove to be the best at handling these phenomenal boats and names like Sirois, Hering (yep the prop guy), McConnell, Hill, and (the best boat race driver of all time).... Seebold come out to play...... boy, could they play!
(But that's another story for another post)
Meanwhile, an obscure Florida builder named John McCall made a neat little tunnel of his own. This boat was "wider at the hip" than most others and spanned remarkably well. Sadly, lack of budget and factory backing limited this design to very few examples...but later.....


1970 Ted Jones' son, Ron, by now famous for building great hydros and gorgeous but mediocre tunnel hulls (It's a California thing....), is contracted by millionaire Paul Cook (Future star Betty's husband)to build an offshore tunnel cat. Sporting the name "KuDu" the boat ran okay, showing flashes of speed but had some handling woes.

1975 James Beard and Clive Curtis, two Englishmen with modest experience building Cougar outboard tunnel hulls (Fast ...but no match for a Molinari...or a Seebold) create a few wooden offshore cats.. first outboard powered, than graduating to magnificent 36-41 foot stern driven marvels. These boats had a small speed advantage over the veehulls of the day but lacked the strength needed to withstand continuous ocean pounding. A few variations are crafted in fibreglass. Observors scratch their heads wondering why the lighter, sleeker cats are not significantly faster than the Vees..... The Lion was sleeping

1980 Ex tunnel racer, Rich Luhrs, tears up George Linder's plans for a 28 foot, v bottomed Shadow when seeking an addition to the already remarkable 21 foot Challenger/Shadow and demands that they create a cat. The eventual design, 30 feet in length, is ungainly due to Linder's insistance that it be under 8'6" in width and legally trailerable. In spite of the slab sides it features more hydrodynamic lift than the Cougar, multidyhedral bottom design, and a spec that calls for drastically raising the "X" dimension. It is the latter change that frees the cat from lower unit drag and allows it to demolish existing speed expectations.

1982 Willie Diaz takes the small block powered Sport Class Shadow, "El Boss", through a variety of larger big block Open class fleets becoming the first boat to average 100 mph in an offshore race
leg. Other builders take note and raise drive heights. At the same time Howard Arneson debuts his Surface drive. ( Good speed, poor trim, b-a-a-a-ad steering).
The Cats finally run and hide from the vees .......with equal power.......Meow!

1982 Formula builds a Cat for Betty Cook and anyone else that cares to purchase one...never wins a race and is relegated to an asterisk in John Crouse's book. This emphasises the fact that legendery Vee manufacturers are painfully out of touch.

1983.. Construction techniques improve to the point where Aluminum, Fibreglass, and wood-fibreglass composite cats can stay together in the roughest conditions. This was a PURRRRfect situation for hull development.

1983 Douglas Michigan's Peter Hledin, owner of a small boat company building a full tunnel(no pickle forks) fibreglass version of the old "Dutchman" tunnel hull (descendant of the Schultz) hangs out at offshore races in nearby Saugatuck, Mi...and takes a lot of notes. Later he takes a clean sheet of paper and designs the remarkable 24' Skater....nimble, quick but a little fine in forward entry.....ahem! ..but back to the story.... Peter is a guy who Cat-ches on quickly.

1983. Mike Peters, creator of a near ruinous cat for Halter Marine (It sank in it's first and only race), collaborates with(hires) John McCall...remember him?... and the Apache Cat, and Maelstroms begin to take shape. Mike Peters becomes one of the hottest designers in power boating. John McCall takes his money and fades into obscurity. Later, Peters designed CUV's are notable for their spanning ability and "wide at the hip" proportions.

1984 Don Aronow splits a 28 Cigarette lengthwise joins the halves with a tunnel and makes the second worst cat of all time. (Later he split a 39 footer and makes the worst.) See the Betty Cook Formula cat above.

1985 Cat's become the undisputed champs of Offshore racing. Vee manufacturers put out various drivel "Cats can't turn", "Cat's can't take rough water", Etc.........and people believed them. Various attempts began to separate classes between cats and vees. Bottom line...size for power Cat's represented approximately 30% more speed than a comparable Vee...... This was Cat-a-strophic to Vee builders.

1986 Peter Hledin puts the finishing touches on his 32 footer. He captures the market abandoned by Linder/Luhrs after the Shadow Cat/Chris Cat era. This establishes him as a force to be reckoned with and creates a loyal following of owners who later trade up to bigger....Skaters

1986 After the tragic death of racing superstar, Mark Lavin, during a stuff, in a Linder/Luhrs/Adams Conquest, builders turned to the forward entry area of sponsons and created rebounding anti- dive lift areas to allow for better re-entry recovery. This was seen most notably on the final Conquest Cats, and Peter Hledin's Tour de Force...the 40' Skater.

1986 The Lavin Foundation is founded by donations from the Lavin Family and others in Mark's memory. The finest minds in Offshore design and Safety are tapped to create cockpit standards in an ever expanding work in progress that exists to this day. These standards, readily available to anyone, or any organization are widely ignored by people who "have a better idea" either for political, financial, or simple bone headed reasons......

1989 Peter Hledin begins work on a 46 foot hull that in some instances is nearly as fast as his 40 footer. Originally conceived as a 4 engine boat, the damn thing runs to max hull speed with only 2...... At about the same time offshore racing is embraced in Dubai and Peter happily sells lots of boats over there. He also supplies people to drive them for big bucks. One of these lucky souls is hired by the head cheese, stretches Hledins designs, calls them Victory's and kills the market for Skaters in the Middle East. He shall remain nameless but currently builds a design based on a stretched 36 Skater.... This, sadly, is not the only case of "splashing" that Skater has endured. We shall call this the "kitty litter" phenomenon..... It makes a mess but in the end all you've got is poop and a bad smell.

1990- present: Vee bottom builders lobby ,successfully, to prevent heads up competition. In some cases vees have triple engines while cats are limited to 2. In the more recent mode, Vees can be supercharged, Cats cannot. We emphasize Factory 2 (Vee) with all its ill handling adventures ( Mike A., alone, decorated half the race courses in the U.S. with stern drives, fibreglass , and his trusty sidekick, Adib). Factory 3 (Cats) is downplayed and avoided. Since Vee manufacturers sponsor TV and races, this is accepted as the norm. "After all Cat's have an unfair advantage........being faster, more stable and safer at speed. It just aint right to let them race even up.....is it? huh..well is it?"

1996 to present. Mike Peters and Peter Hledin rule the Cat world. Skater creates the 28, the 36, and the new 32 each with increasingly sophisticated hull features. Mike Peters designs the CUV and the TenCara (Swahili for "wildly overpriced").

2000-Super Cat, in spite of its anemic engine formula, showed a lot of promise until it got lost in a bewildering array of classes on the TV shows...and a lack of attention to cockpit safety..... But that's another story.....

Last edited by T2x; 05-23-2008 at 01:53 PM.
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Old 09-07-2001, 08:05 PM
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my god did you really type all that!!!!! ......
Old 09-07-2001, 08:07 PM
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Maybe I need to read this again? But where is Jaguar,Motion,Cobra and Spectre as well as others???
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Old 09-07-2001, 10:44 PM
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Bravo T2x! We appreciate the effort that went into this history lesson. Sure, there are pieces missing, which the rest of us can try to fill in.

After the Shadow Cat, George Linder goes on to design the very similar Chris Cat for Chris Craft. Excalibur Marine has some success with the Excalibur Cat; I don't know who designed it; anyone know? In 1984 Wellcraft buys Excalibur Marine. Both Chris Craft and Wellcraft stop making cats in 1986 due to "dangerous" image of cats.

Peter Hledin is a transplant from Canada. Initially made his mark building the fiberglass tenders used at Expo '67, Canada's 100th birthday party held in Montreal.

Can someone please fill in the details about Gary Armington and his 25' Talon, which has probably had more "kittens" than any other cat design.
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Old 09-08-2001, 12:05 AM
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Wonderful post,brought back a lot of memories. Wish there were old videos of Switzer wings running over 100 mph with ihline 6 cylinder Mercs before power trim even existed.To see them try to turn was a rush, because they wouldn't turn in a 10 acre field but on the straightaway nothing would come close.Bob Switzer is still around but long retired,if he were younger can you imagine what he could do with todays engines?Where is John McCall now? He build a couple of wood tunnel boats for us in the early 70's,absolute works of art.He told me a story then about a secret project he did for Carl K.,a boat that actually flew,problem was it did not actually touch the water much,was it a boat or a plane?Not much info on it,T2X,you probrably know about it.Share it with us. Kenny Kitson, the best Switzer wing driver of all time,where is he now? We had a few of his Kitson Craft fiberglass tunnels, deadly fast but so thin and so light you needed a backup boat to run the next heat.Thanks for bringing back some good memories and please keep posting.
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Old 09-08-2001, 01:05 AM
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T2x Hey! Now I know why Phil made those comments about suing a boat manufacture after an accident in AC at the table when you were at the table. I did not know your background was so involved. Ken
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Old 09-08-2001, 12:04 PM
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Hi KenP, as you might recall, the point I was trying to make was, most of these frivolous Law Suits are brought on by boat operators that are ignorant in the limitations of the boat they are operating, or just plain reckless operation of a 6000 or 7000 pound boat, traveling at 100 MPH. This is not limited to any one instance, or hull design in particular. True, some step bottom V’s are prone to erratic handling in high speed turns, just as some cats are prone to the dreaded “trip” and “stuff”. With pure production boats, both V’s and cats, approaching and exceeding racing speeds, the fact is, new buyers and operators have to do their homework, thoroughly research the model and manufacturer that is being considered, once they have purchased the boat, learn the boats limitations, good and bad traits. If any of us were to take our brand new “4 Paws” cat, or “stepping stone V” out in unfriendly water and run it like the World Championship is at stake the results might be tragic. I felt, how could the builder be held responsible for that. Plenty of good quality builders have been put out of business by Judge and Juries that have ruled “Boat flipped bad design, pay a zillion dollars”. If I took my Corvette out in a snowstorm, turned the traction control on, and ran into a bridge at 80 MPH I think I would be guilty of “operator error”, I don’t think my case against Chevy would hold much water.
Bravo! You figured out who T2x is, and his many years of knowledge and experience are more then evident. We are very fortunate that he decided to share it with us. I have learned more from these T2x posts, humorous and amazingly accurate and informative, then I did in 25 years of enjoying our high-speed hobby. I can only hope he keeps them coming. If you in fact do know the identity of T2x, keep it a secret, revealing this Info. Might put an end to future posts. I vote for T2x as contributing editor of this site. Learning and laughing is a good thing.
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Old 09-08-2001, 12:44 PM
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The knowlege that T2x has is another one of the things that makes this site so great.BTW,T2x was the code name for the final version of Merc's killer model in-line six before the V-6's took over.Is there a connection here?
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Old 09-08-2001, 04:35 PM
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Does anyone remeber Baja's ill fated offshore Cat? I think it must have weighed 100 tons...Ha-Ha. There are a few of these around has pleasure boats.
Old 09-08-2001, 10:24 PM
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If you would like to see some of the boats that T2x refers to, go to http://www.darrensoffshorephotos.homestead.com/ This is Darren Luhrs site which has over 100 old photos. Enjoy.
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