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Vulture 1970's


Pwer Boat & Yachting May 1970

 JOHN Lewis is the name and speedboating is his game. John Lewis, at 27, set the Victorian inboard world buzzing with the hairy and violent driving method he displayed in Vulture at the National Titles. The team of Vulture and Lewis, the newest speedboat stars in Victoria, have racked up an impressive collection of trophies in the short time they have been racing.

In one vigorous season John has taken home more trophies than many good drivers accumulate in their whole career. Flying his rear-engined 300 cubic inch runabout (half owned and sometimes driven by brother Geoff) he scored in one season the Victorian and Australian 300 cubic inch Runabout Title, Victorian and Australian Unlimited Runabout, second in Australian 300 cubic inch Open, second Australian Unlimited Displacement and Open, second Australian Unlimited Runabout, third Australian Unlimited Racing Runabout, third Victorian Unlimited Open and second to Stampede in the appalling conditions of the 1970 Griffith Cup.

John’s first boat was named Fireball. She was an ancient, heavy clinker fitted with a multiple-carburated 313 cubic inch VS Chrysler. Fireball could make it to 54 miles per hour, but this wasn’t good enough for John. After some months of learning the trade in 1968, John was ready to see Dave Gill about his new boat.

Construction began in, Dave’s Croydon boathouse early in 1969. Original plans called for the engine to sit right aft against the tuck. The boat had to be able to handle any water and be stable. After observing the movements of other rear-engined boats and thinking of the undesirable kiting of these boats, the 283 cubic inch Chevvy was moved forward about 18 inches with the result that the boat was better balanced and had a seven-degree shaft angle.
A small seat was fitted aft of the engine to allow a daredevil passenger to suffer during championships. Early trials resulted in the usual collection of broken quadrants and shafts, but the boat settled down well.

At the Victorian championships at Learmonth last year, Vulture showed up well by leading the way around the first lap nearly e v e r y time. Unfortunately, the throttle cable played up all day and at times John had to steer with his right hand while working the injection with the other.

At Yarrawonga last Christmas on his favourite course, John won the 300 cubic inch Open on Boxing Day, but while lying third in the Yarrawonga 600 John dropped his bundle. Trying to pass Assassin in the fourth lap John spun out in fine style. He smashed his visor and the seat and sustained minor facial cuts. This is the first and only time that John has pickled in his career so far. In the future John plans to graduate to a 300 cubic inch hydro with a Chevvy to help it along.

He doesn’t plan to sell Vulture as he is attached to this fine runabout. John’s biggest gripe in the sport is the back biting and grizzling that goes on. He would like to see drivers pull more together for their sport and not so much for themselves. In his opinion, circuit racing will only boom when it becomes more professional with larger purses and the resulting larger crowds.

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Vulture - Displacement

Andrews, G., 1970,'Whos Who in the Pits', Power Boat & Yachting, May, p. 49

Hang on, 'cause we're airbourne Vulture - displacement

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The fuel injected 580 bhp racer, Vulture, was only travelling at about 60 mph here – but while owner/driver John Lewis is unconcerned, I’m having trouble with the wind, trying to lift off my face visor and crash hat.

IT WAS the silences, the long smooth silences which were the most scaring parts of the 80 mph speedboat ride along Albert Park Lake past the Carousal Restaurant.
Because when it went quiet like that, the 17 ft. clinker built racer was airborne, completely airborne.

And when it came down, it usually came down at an angle because there was a strong north wind blowing. So one side would almost bury itself into the steep chop and the boat would skid before launching itself again.

Another two or three of those tall poplars would go past before the boat touched down again. My view of the water and waves rushing up was blurred by the vibration shaking the visor on my crash hat, the wind trying to tear the visor off the weight of the crash hat jerking my head at each hound.

There was no windshield on the boat because this would have increased aerodynamic drag. Behind, the 353 cu. in. Corvette V8 motor – all fuel injection and fury – churned out its 580 bhp with straight exhausts bellowing news of the power over at least two suburbs. There was a passenger’s grab handle on the dashboard of John Lewis’ Vulture and forever it will bear my fingerprints.

At more than 80 mph, the boat thudded, thumped and crashed its way down the lake with those short, terrifying flights in between. Part of the problem was my own 147lbs. In the cockpit with Lewis. He’s used to racing alone and my weight was causing too much of a nose down attitude.
After the first long run down the lake, Lewis said, “It’s misfiring a little. That was only about 85 mph.” He’s driven it at more than 90 mph.

For last week’s ride the boat had a new propeller and this wasn’t as good as expected.
With the form moulded fibreglass seats in the cockpit the ride wasn’t too bad, certainly not as bad as it must have looked from the shore as the boat leapt and roared along.
Up around 60 mph, there was a little of the porpoising often seen in clinker speedboats at high speed. Then the hull shape of Lewis’ boat took over and the ride smoothed out for the run up to the 80’s.

The boat handled in a rather similar fashion to touring car set up for racetrack work. There was either under or oversteer bends and there was always plenty of response to the helm.
Lifting off the accelerator killed speed faster that brakes on a car seem to and the boat could be slid round corners in the Albert Park Lake speedboat racing course.
The wind greatly affected the boat’s cornering since an exposed hull at those speeds created considerable lift and reduced stability.

But on a straight run the boat ran so true it hadn’t felt like more than 80 mph.
Just the same when I climbed out I was exhausted from holding my self in the seat.
Lewis now holds three Australian and five Victorian records with the boat apart from several championships. And all these have come in just one year’s racing.

The boat was to have made an attempt on the kilo records again at Eppalock last weekend but only reached 88.5 mph due to weather. “She should do about 96 mph flat out at 6000 rpm” said the 28-year-old who has been driving speedboats for 10 years.

Vulture will be the boat to beat at thee opening of the speedboat racing season next Sunday. More than 25 speedboats are expected at Albert Park Lake for the 1 p.m. opening of the Victorian Speed boat Association’s 1970-71 racing season.

The opening should provide thrills, for it will be the first time that the course has been raced anti-clock wise. The field should be bunched on the first turn at the end of the main straight, the tightest turn of the course.
Anti-clockwise racing will be the rule in Australia for the coming season.
“Wake piece: Suits me, the boat turns left naturally,” said Lewis.

De Fraga, C., 1970, 'Hang on, cause we're airborne', The Age, Saturday, Sept. 12, p. 66.
  John Lewis, the Griffith Cup runner up, Vulture, set five records at the kilo trial on Lake Glenmaggie last Sunday

Lewis sets

5 records

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That’s Vulture, above, showing her turn of speed.
With 90.36 mph Lewis shattered Alan Fordham’s long - standing Victorian and Australian Pan Unlimited Service Runabout record, set at the 89 mph mark in Venus
He is also claiming the Victorian and Australian Displacement and Service Runabout records in the new 400 cubic inch class
Vulture 90.36 mph also gives Lewis, Alan Fordham’s Victorian Unlimited Displacement record, and Glyn Graham’s, Victorian Unlimited Racing Runabout record which stood at 79 mph.
John Lewis was runner-up to the Bendigo champion, Lloyd Willian, in the 1970’s Sporting Medal

Madden, T., 1970, 'Lewis Sets 5 Records', Sporting Globe.

  John Lewis-the 'instant' champion

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SPEEDY.... John Lewis and his wife Joy with Vulture

Southport, Queensland in January 1971 SPEEDY ..... John Lewis and his wife Joy, of Boronia, Victoria, yesterday inspected their 102 miles-per-hour speedboat Vulture before the inboard boat championships at Southport today. Page 3

(left)SPEEDY ..... John Lewis and his wife Joy, of Boronia, Victoria, yesterday inspected their 102 miles-per-hour speedboat Vulture before the inboard boat championships at Southport today.

Yarrawonga Speed Boat Racing Poster

Yarrawonga Speed Boat Racing Poster

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Although at the time of writing I don’t know any details, I have heard that John Lewis won a championship but was disqualified for hitting a buoy. Now maybe John hit a buoy maybe he was bumped into it or maybe even the buoy hit Vulture, either way it doesn’t matter, the final result always turns out the same... disqualified. Johnny was not going to Queensland for the Championships but after Qld APBA Presidents pleading John decided to go at a total cost in excess of $500 for fuel, accommodation, time lost etc. Now I don’t care what the rules may be, but they need changing if what I have heard on the grapevine is correct about why Vulture was disqualified.

It would be far more correct to penalize a driver one lap for hitting any buoy, marker etc. during a race than disqualification. One lap behind is better than racing a boat to destruction, for nothing at the end of the chequered flag. Drivers its up to you, you can change rules if you vote as a group. Next time it may be YOU that gets rubbed out by an officious know nothing.

1971, The Prop Rider, February, p. 4.

The Prop Rider Vol. 3 No.3 February 1971
With Vulture racing on the front cover

The Prop Rider front page


With the temporary removal of the Aircraft Engined Hydroplane “AGGRESSOR” and “STAMPEDE” from unlimited open race meetings, the immediate future has been forecast by many as rather gloomy.
However a quick tally of racing boats, new and old within Victoria at this time, shows that it will be a good season with a lot of close spectacular racing.

The following is a list of Victorian boats, of which we hope will all appear this season.

PITSTOP (Hydro) Supercharged 426 HEMI CHRYS - DON PREECE

REDLINE (Hydro) Supercharged 500 CHEV - PETER WADE

BIGCAT (Hydro) (New) Supercharged 426 HEMI - BERT BRAUMAN

BLACKNIGHT (Hydro) Supercharged 440 CHRYS - PAT HAWTHORN


EXCITER (Hydro) (New) Supercharged 426 HEMI - TOM WATTS

VULTURE (Hydro) (New) Fuel Inj. 350 CHEV - JOHN LEWIS

HEMI (Displ) Supercharged 426 HEMI - WALLY KOEBECK

CHEETA (Displ) Fuel Inj. 300 Repco HGLDEN - LES RAMSAY

COMBINE (Displ) (New) Fuel Inj. 327 CHEV - HARVEY GUNN



HISTORY (Displ) Supercharged 427 CIIEV - KEN SMITH


If this rather impressive list of possible entries could face the starting flag it would provide a very spectacular season. It seems probable that “AGGRESSOR” will be back on the water again by Xmas time, this will give race personnel from the above boats time to have their machinery in excellent shape to clash with the Reigning Champ.

Other new boats that may make a possible appearance a little later on would be TREVOR MATHEWS in a Gillflite Hydro (picklefork) using a supercharged 426 HEMI engine, also from the same boat builder a new Hydro (picklefork) using a BRABHAM 4.5 litre racing engine owned by MAX RICHARDSON.

Other new boats will be a 300 Displacement boat from LEN HARRIS and a Tunnell- Hulled boat from Jackson Bros Marine, powered by the latest outboard racing engine.

An Unlimited Race Promotion Program to attract interstate entries to all Victorian Major Unlimited Races has been established. It will provide a Pre-Season Calendar of advent, including a personal invitation to all meetings, with as much pre-race information as can be compiled and will be mailed to all unlimited drivers and personnel throughout Australia.
The hopeful result is to attract as many interstate entries as possible, by providing plenty of information (including prize money) to all personnel, well in advance of all Major meetings.
If perhaps it attracts two, three even four interstate entries to clash with current list of 19 or so possible Victorian entries, it will make Unlimited Open Major Races an even greater spectacle than it has been in the past.

Well worthy of mention at this early stage, is—that the manufactures or the now famous Record Racing Jacket, which has now saved many lives, including my own, will be releasing a new jacket complete with parachute. Similar chutes have been compulsory in the Unlimited Racing and Drag Racing in the United States for some time.

It seems highly likely that if DAVE TENNY and LES SCOTT had both been wearing one of these chutes when “AGGRESSOR” cartwheelled at 120 M.P.H. then perhaps neither one may have been injured nearly so badly. The cost of these jackets with chutes will not be cheap, however considering the fantastic amounts of money spent on Unlimited craft, a few more bucks to save a neck would not go astray.

From my point of view with a new Hydro now complete and hearing in mind past experiences with my runabout, I will certainly be the first in line, regard less of cost.

Incidentally the numbers of racing drivers that now owe their life to a Record Race Jacket are steadily increasing; a quick count at this stage would show at least ten fortunate drivers to be in this category.

Lewis, J., 1972, 'UNLIMITED POWER TORQUE', SEACRAFT, November.

GARRY BARTON was invited down by Victoria’s Barefoot Club to make an attempt on the Australian barefoot speed record. John Lewis, owner of Vulture, Australia’s fastest runabout, readily agreed to tow Garry and immediately rebuilt his big Corvette motor to ensure a trouble-free run. Wind and water conditions were not ideal on the day but Garry and John were determined to beat the existing record of 75.35 mph. More than 5000 people lined the banks of the Barwon for the televised meeting and waited 10 minutes for the water to settle before they heard the roar of Venture’s motor flying down the river towards the surveyed stretch.

Halfway through the first run Barton bounced up to 4Oft through the air, landed on one foot, recovered and barefooted out at 76.61 mph Halfway to a new record.

John Lewis circled around Barton, waiting in the water and taking full advantage of the 5 minutes allowed between runs. Calling for more speed, Garry came down the river visibly faster than on first run. It was all or nothing, but just as Garry entered the course his 200ft rope broke in the middle at about 82 mph, and Australia was robbed of a new record. Hard luck Garry and John, but we - hope you team up again in the not too distant future. — TOM WYLD, VBC president.

Wyld, T. 1971, 'RECORD ATTEMPT', WATER SKIER magazine, January.

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This Vulture will scream over the water

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The hull of the new Hydro Vulture

ONE OF Victoria’s fastest skiff speedboat men, John Lewis, will race a hydroplane in the coming season. The new boat is scheduled to make its debut at the interstate Hydroplane meeting at Wagga on October 15. Called Vulture II after his 90 mph plus skiff, the new boat is a Dave Gill pickle fork design and should be ready for testing in two to three weeks. It will have the typical cutaway nose which is done to move the boat’s aero-dynamic lift centre farther aft.

The boat will be 20 ft. long and Lewis plans to use the 327 Chevrolet motor from Vulture his skiff. This should give the hydroplane a top speed of between 115 mph, and 120 mph.

Unlike a tunnel-hulled boat, the hydroplane must keep its cornering speed high to keep it floating on the three contact points with the water. A tunnel hull can turn far more sharply but its top speed is generally lower than that of the hydroplane.

The October Wagga meeting will see the Sydney Hydroplane Club throw out a challenge to any Victorian hydroplanes. Entries will be broken into three classes with three boats in each racing off against each other in elimination series. The classes will be 100 cu in., 155 Cu. in. and unlimited size of engine. Four boats will race in each heat.

De Fraga, C., 1972, 'This Vulture will Scream over the Water', THE AGE BOATING, Friday, Sept., 8th.

Power Boating's Man of Year - John Lewis
John Lewis (above) is the Sporting Globe’s Power Boating Man of the Year.
Lewis won this year’s E. C. Griffith Cup — the Melbourne Cup of powerboat racing — in his light-engined hydroplane, Vulture.
Lewis was in two accidents in 1971, the second of which put him out of action for six months.
When the 1972-3 season opened he faced another major obstacle - nerves.
Often when beaten in a race, he said frankly: “There’s nothing wrong with the boat. It’s me”
But Lewis went on trying and this year won the big Cup after a desperate duel with the runabout Chevvy.
Lewis deserves his award — for courage and ability.

Madden, T., 1975, 'Power Boating's Man of Year', The Sporting Globe.

Thunderboat duel fizzles out 1 Feb 1981 donated by Glenn Cox
Bud Fails - Villain Takes Hydro Title - Bob Cater 1980 donated by Glen Cox
Good Times in Speed Trials
donated by Megan Oates
Qantas Gold Cup 1977 Souvenir Programme donated by Glenn Cox
1975 VSBC Gold Cup Hazelwood Vulture All the Way by Ted Madden
NSW Speedboat Driver Injured on Eppaloch - 1975
1975 E.C. Griffith Cup Lewis Takes Griffith Crusher
John's great comeback 1975
1975 Yarrwonga 700 Solo Scores at Yarrawonga by Gordon Sinclair

Cup a SOLO for Stan? 1975
Seafair Magazine - Welcome Solo VS-41 and Crew 1974
Solo VS-41 Australian Challenger for A.P.B.A. Gold Cup and World Championship 1974
1974 Tommy Watts Jet Powered Exciter by Ted Madden
1974 Eppalock Gold Cup Mixups and Malfunctions by Ted Madden
Bad luck ends for Pitstop 1974
1974 Australain Inboard Championships Inboard Nationals by Ted Madden
1974 Vic Combined Inboard & Outboard Championships Paynesville by Ted Madden
Powerboating New Zealand Around Australia 1973-74
The Proprider, Victorian Speed Boat Club monthly magazine  - October 1973
PowerBoating New Zealand Australasian Unlimited Record 1973
Australian Power Boat Associations Records - 7th April 1973
1973 E.C. Griffith Cup A 'Stampede' Win - ALLSPORTS
1973 Kimbolton Cup Stampede Again - Easy Win
'Miracle win' by Stampede - Feb 1973
Cup should go to Stampede - 1973
Day at the Lake by Ray Laird 1973
Cup Boats Last Chance - Jan 1973
They're Set For Big Cup - Dec 1972
Stampede's our new Cup Hope by T. Madden 1972
Title Boost Medal Chance - Dec 1972
Good win at titles - 1972
Rob Hellyer reports, Seacraft Magazine, December, 1972
Formula Ford News - Ron Haylock reports 1972
1972: 150 mph than I was in the air by Dave Tenny, as told to Graeme Andrews
1972: Aggressor crash at 120 mph Article donation - Glenn Cox
1972 E. C. Griffith Cup Aggressor takes Griggith Cup
interview: George Babcock 'Record 7' - Aug. 1971 - POWERBOAT U.S.A.
SPEEDBOATS WILL ROAR the Sporting Globe April 1971
Fastest Outboard Rigs - 1971
1971 E.C. Griffith Cup Victorians Stampede in 1971 Griffith Cup
Victorians Take National Title by Graeme Andrews
Victorians May Break from APBA  by Ted Madden 1971
Thrills on Park Lake - Feb 1971
Vic's To Hold Top Cup - Feb 1971
Stampede Takes Unlimited Title - 1971 - Power Boat & Yatchting
Big Boats in Bay Clash - Jan 1971
Boycott, Breakdowns hit championships! - Jan 1971
Vic's Grasp on Top Titles - Jan 1971
Lake Boats in 'Reverse' by Ted Madden 1970-71 Season
Assassin may 'kill' them! - Nov 1970
Willain Leads - Nov 1970
Record Likely - Nov 1970
Top Outboard in Clash - Oct 1970
Speedboats ready for scorcher - Oct 1970
'Lewis Sets 5 Records' by Ted Madden 1970
'Monster' in the mood 1970
Jo Blo found on lake bed 1970
Stampede for Cup! - 1970
1970 Yarrawonga 600 Stampede at Yarrawonga
1970 Yarrawonga 600 by Graeme Andrews
1970 Melton Weir 1/4 mile trials Vulture gets the victims by Ray Laird
1969 Look Out Assassin by Ted Madden
NSW BOAT INVASION by Ted Madden 1969
They're all water record breakers - April 1960 - The Sun
Powerboat Racing in Australia Post W.W.II By Graeme Morley 

NB: ARTICLES have their dates, author, newspapers or magazine names mentioned when available
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