The Mystery Boat gets restored by local boat builder

Episode 334

October 11, 2020

The mystery Scat Cat is restored

In parts 1 & 2 the last three weeks, we looked at the background of the barn find hydroplane racer and the restorer Fran Cyr of Caribou. My desire is to eventually find the name of the original builder of the Scat Cat hydroplane as featured in the April 1957 Science and Mechanics magazines that was designed and written about by Naval architect William Jackson.

The original magazine cover with Scat Cat featured on the cover. Restorer Fran Cyr was able to acquire the original magazine on Ebay. (HTF Motorsports photo)

The “Barn Find”

Fran explained how he became interested in the outboard powered side of boat racing. The last two episodes have showcased his abilities to scratch build lightweight and fast cedar strip racing canoes. Those skills would be put to the task in the process of rebuilding Scat Cat.

Cyr recalled, “My recollection of seeing my first hydroplane was probably when I was about 8 years old. It was in a shed (that still exists) at Don McDermott’s camp at Long Lake. I also remember seeing Don’s motors in his basement, but I don’t recall ever seeing him run his hydros.”

Greg Cyr, Madawaska, weighed in on his idea about the original builder, sharing this with Fran Cyr in Facebook Messenger recently “My dad (Pee Wee Cyr a hydroplane racing pioneer in the County), built one from scratch. Don (McDermott) and he did all manner of repair and modifications on their and other boats. Don had a “B” hydro and had both A and B Mercury motors.”

“If Don built a hydro from scratch I do not know, conjectured Greg Cyr. “When we often visited as kids, my dad and he would always kibitz and work on all that stuff. My dad was the motor man, Don, more the carpenter”.

Fran Cyr continued with his background in outboard racing mentioning some of those early races. “The first hydroplane race I saw was at Monson Pond (Glenn Campbell, whose story was featured in UpNorth Motorsports episodes 308-310 in March/April 2020, was most likely racing there that day).”

“It was most likely around Potato Blossom Festival time and there was a large crowd. In the mid-to-late 80’s, I went to watch the races at Long Lake and Van Buren.”

How did Cyr get his hands on the Scat Cat? “Matt Griffeth is married to my niece, Dannielle. She is Dave and Debbie Cyr’s daughter. The story on the hydroplane that I know is he bought a potato house in Fort Fairfield and in it was the hydroplane.”

“We were talking at a family gathering and he told me about it. He knew I built canoes and had an interest in boats too. I had thought about building a hydroplane someday but that’s as far as it ever went. (Note I ordered plans for Hal Kelly Jupiter earlier this week).”

“Matt told me he planned to restore it and showed it to me one day where it was stored in the corner of another potato house in Limestone. Over a few years when I would see him, I would ask him how the restoration was going.”

“Being a busy farmer, he never started on the project and always had the same answer ‘No’. He said to me the last time I asked him about it and nothing had been done.”

“He asked me ‘Fran do you want it?'”

“Of course, I said ‘Yah!……”!

“That’s how it all started. It ended up in my garage in October 2017, a couple of months after I got the 240Z running and on the road.”

 

Fran Cyr with his vintage 1972 Datsun 240Z after restoration. Of course a vintage early 70’s car requires a driver wearing a J.C. Penney Towncraft suede leather jacket from the same era. (Fran Cyr photo)

“Thanks to the internet and Facebook groups, I was able to determine it was a Scat Cat built from the April 1957 issue of Science and Mechanics Magazine. To date builder is unknown, but I’d say they had decent skills and built a good boat.”

The restoration photos

October 2017 front view of Scat Cat hydroplane after being removed from storage for an unknown number of years. The quality of original work is visible and the craft looked rough but restorable condition despite years of neglect. (Fran Cyr photo)

A view of the stern showing the plywood rotted yet mahogany still retaining its integrity. All plywood had to be replaced. (Fran Cyr photo)

A closer view of view of sponsoon and canvas cockpit cover and what was at one time probably a mahogany type plywood which was somehow destroyed. Part of the story is to see if the builder can be traced to answer some of that type of question. (Fran Cyr photo)

View of Scat Cat after rotten and broken parts were were painstakingly removed. Loads of ring shank nails and staples had to be pulled. Note the basic framework was mostly intact. (Fran Cyr photo)

The pieces of rear transom plywood that were able to be salvaged were used to draw a cardboard template for shaping the new parts. (Fran Cyr photo)

The cardboard template shape was copied onto the plywood, cut and fitted to the stern where it was eventually attached and fiberglassed. (Fran Cyr photo)

The steering wheel that came with the boat. This was not a practical shape for a hydroplane racer since a complete round wheel was needed to help hang on and stay in the cockpit. Cyr only used this wheel for photos to help someone who knows the original boat or builder to recognize it. The cables are part of the steering mechanism that attaches to a special bar on the outboard motor. (Fran Cyr photo)

Scat Cat gets reskinned with new plywood. The boat was slowly returning to her old glory. (Fran Cyr photo)

The cowling area restored and awaiting the covering of aircraft cloth. (Fran Cyr photo)

When Cyr was not satisfied with his first attempt at a fabric cowling cover, that material was removed and a new cover was made. He was very satisfied with the result. The cowing was later painted a green similar to that found on the Kiekhaefer Mercury Marine race engines. (Fran Cyr photo)

The Scat Cat awaits its second voyage after being restored. The event took place at Monson Pond in Fort Fairfield where more than likely it made its debut originally. Note the round steering wheel which was a necessity in these types of race boats. The original was removed to make way for the more practical type. This engine was now attached to the dead man throttle and a fuel tank from one of Cyr’s old riding lawnmowers provided the fuel. (Fran Cyr photo)

Video of second test of restored Scat Cat with throttle and steering hooked up.

https://www.facebook.com/fracyr/videos/10158692177128530

1950 Kiekhaefer Mercury Marine KG 7 before it was sent to Reggie Thibodeau at T.W. Willard in Caribou, for repairs. This engine was typical of what powered the racers in that era. (Fran Cyr photo)

The Kiekhaefer Mercury Marine KG 7 mocked up into position with new steering bar fabricated by K-Pel in Fort Fairfield. Cyr hopes to have this setup running by spring for pond trials in 2021. (Fran Cyr photo)

Look for more on this project in future episodes of UpNorth Motorsports. In the meantime if someone has leads as to the original builder send me an email. My email thale@reagan.com

I talked to Glenn Campbell today about the origins of the craft. Glenn said that he was one of the original builders of Scat Cats in the County, however, not this one. He recalled that three or four were built locally.

He will be contacting his fellow racer, Hardy Ketch to see if he or his brother Hudson might recall the name of the builder. Campbell did mention that the Scat Cat was a fun boat which he and others raced informally on Monson Pond and Long Lake as their race careers blossomed.

I want to say a big thank you to Fran Cyr for photos and answering multiple questions as this three part story unfolded. Stay Tuned

Fran with his wife Carol Park-Cyr. (Fran Cyr photo)

North Woods Off-Road Excursions Club Loring event a success

When one thinks about Aroostook County and four wheel drive they are synonymous with roads and woods trails which pepper the area north of Bangor. In July 2020 Justin and Johanna Ficket created the North Woods Off-Road Excursion Club. Originally the name was Jeep club, however, the couple felt a need to include all off road vehicles in the club.

On Saturday October 10, 2020 the group met at the former Burger Boy parking lot in Caribou to form up for the Loring excursion.

Some of the 30 plus vehicles that gathered at former Burger King parking lot in Caribou as they readied for their Loring tour. Though these were Jeeps, Don Rideout said there were, “1 Chevy full size truck, 1 GMC full size truck, 1 Ford Raptor truck, 1 Chevy S10 truck (me) and the rest are all Jeeps.” (Don Rideout photo)

Co-founder Justin Fickett described the event saying, “We couldn’t have asked for better weather as our group of just shy of 30 Jeeps and other off-road vehicles pulled out of the old Burger King parking lot in Caribou.”

“Our destination, the former Loring Air Force Base for a full access vehicle tour. Upon arriving we met our tour guide, Wayne Selfridge a former military police officer stationed at Loring when the base was operational. Selfridge led our group across every inch of the 15,000 acre property including the nuclear weapons storage facility, runway, hangars, and countless other former support buildings.”

“The knowledge and stories Selfridge shared with us was vast and painted a complete history of the base in a way none of us had ever experienced. At the conclusion of the event, everyone drove away grinning ear to ear for this was an amazing and unique experience we would not soon forget.”

The North Woods Excursions Off-Road Club lined up in front of the nuclear storage bunkers at Loring Air Force Base in Limestone. Members were able to explore the interiors of the bunkers and imagine that most of the United States nuclear weapons for the Air Force were stored in those bunkers at one time. (Fickett photo)

Lined up in formation on the huge runway at Loring. The runway remains one of the largest in the United States. It now plays host to the Loring Timing Association speed trials and the Cumberland Motor Club Mega-Autocross. (Fickett photo)

In the parking lot of the US Fish and Wildlife headquarters which now oversees much of the 15,000 acre former Strategic Air Command  (SAC) facility. (Fickett photo)

Sting Ray Robb is now CHAMPION

Regular readers know that UpNorth Motorsports has been following the career of Sting Ray Robb from Payette, Idaho. My interest in Robb was piqued when I noticed he was from Idaho. There are not a huge number of drivers from Idaho in major race series.

I also noticed one of his sponsors was Idaho Big Potatoes which definitely caught my eye since I live in potato country in northern Maine. Plus he is a humble committed Christian young man.

Throughout this season Robb, has had an extraordinary season in the Road to Indy Pro 2000 Series Presented by Cooper Tires. He not only got his first win in the series this season, he added four more and a points championship to boot.

That championship was sewn up in the penultimate race at New Jersey Motorsports Park(NJMP) in Millville, New Jersey October 9-11. The series held a triple-header at NJMP which would be the final three races before heading to St. Petersburg for the last two races of the season October 23-25th.

Sting Ray Robb in prayer before the Road to Indy Pro 2000 Presented by Cooper Tires race at New Jersey Motorsports Park. With a first, second, and a third in the triple-header he was able to clinch the points battle. (SR 2 photo)

Sting Ray Robb finished second in race one on Saturday, started on the pole for race 2 held on Sunday and won that race. A third place finish in race three on Sunday put him out of reach for the championship in 2020.

The win gives Sting Ray Robb a scholarship to help fund a season in Indy Lights in 2021.  The Indy Pro 2000 scholarship, which had an original value of $609,245 for the champion to move up to Indy Lights, has been increased by approximately 40%.

That will cover a full season on the top rung of the Road To Indy, with the team of the driver’s choice. It includes all series race events and tests, along with entry fees and the maximum allowable number of sets of Cooper tires.

Also, as a bonus, the 2020 Indy Pro 2000 champion will receive a test with an NTT INDYCAR® SERIES team after the completion of the 2021 Indy Lights campaign.

Emotions overcame Sting Ray Robb when he clinched the 2020 Pro 2000 series title thus earning the over $800,000 scholarship to help him contest the 2021 Indy Lights Series. (SR2 photo)

Let’s go racing,

Tom Hale

Soli Deo Gloria (Matthew 5:16)

Tom Hale

About Tom Hale

Tom wrote 14 years as freelancer for the Bangor Daily Sports covering motorsports in Maine. Now blogging and concentrating on human interest stories about people and places in racing. He races Champ Karts and owns HTF Motorsports in remote Westmanland, Maine