Refurbishing Miss Vitamilk
May 19, 2021 - 12:46am
Refurbishing Miss Vitamilk
A Conversation with Doug Brow by Craig Fjarlie
Bill Brow was a top inboard and unlimited driver during the 1950s and ‘60s. A milkman by occupation, he named his 7-litre Miss Vitamilk to help promote his employer’s product. When the 1962 season was complete, he ordered a new boat from Ted Jones. In the following interview, his son, Doug, recalls the story of Miss Vitamilk and tells how he located the hull years later. A driver in his own right, including time in the unlimiteds, Doug now campaigns the boat at Region 10 vintage events. The conversation was conducted by Craig Fjarlie on May 8, 2021.
Miss Vitamilk was built during the winter of 1962-63. Ted Jones, Ron Jones, Sr., and your dad put it together, is that right?
Yeah, that’s correct. I’m under the understanding that it’s one of the last conventionals Ted Jones ever built. Ron Jones would’ve been, I don’t know, probably 18, maybe 19 years old. I’m guessing on that one. Anyway, the three of ‘em built the boat.
Some issues of Propeller magazine from that time period refer to the boat as Miss Vitamilk II. Is that the same boat?
Yeah, that’s the same boat.
It looks like your dad did pretty well with it.
He did real well with it. The boat was definitely fast. In fact in, like, ’64 when he was driving Miss Exide, they put nitrous oxide in the Vitamilk to give it a shot, and it worked. The boat was definitely fast. Then, when the Merion Bluegrass came out, of course, that was a big competitor.
Did the Vitamilk Dairy sponsor the boat in any way?
My dad was a milkman for Vitamilk Dairy. He put the name on the boat. Whether they financially helped him or not, I don’t know.
He was called the world’s fastest milkman.
That’s correct, yeah.
KING-TV sportscaster Bill O’Mara may have given him that nickname.
I think you’re right.
After your dad’s accident in Miss Budweiser at Tampa in 1967, what became of the boat? Did it stay in the family or did you sell it?
No, mom definitely got rid of it. She sold the boat. First of all, I believe it was sold to Bill Eacret, Mike Eacret’s dad. I’m not really positive on that, but I believe, yeah, it sold to Bill Eacret. He was my dad’s pretty good friend. Then it got sold around to some other people, of course. But yeah, mom sold the boat after he was killed.
Did you ever drive it when your dad owned it?
Oh, no, no. I was too young. I was only 12 years old when he was killed.
Your brother, Jack, is a little older than you. Did he drive the boat?
He was, like, 17 when dad was killed. He did drive it later on when Dale Burnison owned it. He did drive it.
In competition. It was called Miss Sea-Tac Mall. But he did drive it a little bit, sure.
When you put it back together as a vintage boat, who did you buy it from?
What pretty much happened is, a buddy of mine, a UPS driver, delivered some packages to a place down on Elliott Way, downtown to a warehouse by Blackstock Lumber. He’s a big hydro fan, been a buddy of mine forever, and he noticed the cowling, a Jones cowling, underneath a pile of garbage. You know, boxes and stuff. He saw the boat sitting there and he’d been thinking, “Wow, this could be it.” He knew I was looking for the boat. So I went down there and looked at it and told the guy the story behind it. Asked him if I could take the pile of garbage off the boat and check it out. He said, “Sure, go ahead.” So, I started takin’ the stuff off it and I knew immediately it was the boat. So, again, got a little bit deeper into the story. Told him the family story and the story of the boat. Asked him if he’d be willing to sell it. He said, “Well, I think you better just hook up to it and get it out of here before I change my mind.” (Laughter.)
So, Don Kelson, Jerry Kelson, and I hooked it up. We took it down to his shop and that was the start of it right then. We went through the entire boat. I wanted to keep as much of the original boat as possible.
About a year later we had the boat as it is now.
About what year was it that you started refurbishing it?
Oh, boy, I knew you were gonna ask me that. 2013 was the 50th anniversary of the Miss Vitamilk. I had it then, so I want to say 2012. I think I had it the year before that.
Who put the engine together that you use now?
Well, I picked up the engine from a friend of mine. When they did the boat, I wanted it exactly to the T, the way dad ran it. The same set-up, the same exact engine, the same everything. The engine that I’m running in the boat is exactly the same engine dad ran in the boat. A small block Chevy, fuel injected. But now days, the parts that are used compared to the parts back in the early ‘60s are so much better that the engine produces a whole bunch more horsepower than it did back then. It’s because the parts are so much better. The engine obviously produces more horsepower and the boat itself really didn’t like it. It wasn’t designed to go for that much horsepower. But, we’ve known each other for a while. It did come apart a few times but we put it back together to where it was holding together. Anyway, to answer your question, the main builder of the engine itself was Gus Foster. Then, lately, Marty Hack. He does some work with it, but Gus Foster was the original motor builder.
You take it to events such as the Hydroplane and Race Boat Museum’s Mahogany & Merlot on Lake Chelan. Do you take it to many other events like that?
Well, just to Region 10 races. I’m going to pick and choose which races we go to. The engine is starting to get a little tired. It costs money to keep a motor like that running.
It’s always great to see it run. Thanks for your time and for sharing the story of the boat.