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Virginia Dare II: 1920's America's Idea of an Ultra Luxurious Speed Boat
We bet you think people 100 years ago lived like savages compared to how most people in the developed world live in 2022. Our sports cars, leisure vehicles, and our engines have all advanced into what might look like witchcraft to anyone alive in, say, the 1920s. But based on Virginia Dare II, a one-of-a-kind antique speedboat/cigarette boat, not to all people.

Virginia Dare II: 1920's America's Idea of an Ultra Luxurious Speed Boat

Virginia Dare II Glenn H Curtiss MuseumVirginia Dare II Glenn H Curtiss MuseumVirginia Dare II Glenn H Curtiss MuseumVirginia Dare II Glenn H Curtiss MuseumVirginia Dare II Glenn H Curtiss MuseumVirginia Dare II Glenn H Curtiss MuseumVirginia Dare II Glenn H Curtiss MuseumVirginia Dare II Glenn H Curtiss MuseumVirginia Dare II Glenn H Curtiss MuseumVirginia Dare II Glenn H Curtiss MuseumVirginia Dare II Glenn H Curtiss MuseumVirginia Dare II Glenn H Curtiss MuseumVirginia Dare II Glenn H Curtiss MuseumVirginia Dare II Glenn H Curtiss MuseumVirginia Dare II Glenn H Curtiss MuseumVirginia Dare II Glenn H Curtiss Museum
In the present day, this nearly all-wood full-sized speedboat spends its days inside the Glenn H Curtiss Museum in Hammondsport, New York. A little town that's adjacent to the same Keuka Lake where it used to gallivant across the water, one of the larger lakes in a network of 11 encompassing the iconic Finger Lakes region of Central New York.

A system of lakes legendary for their stunning crystal-clear vastness and one-of-a-kind boating experiences. But back in the 1920s, it was this boat that was the king of those magic waters. It was commissioned by the Garrett family, with their patriarch, wine, and vineyard tycoon Paul Garret.

They were an affluent and aristocratic set of folks hailing only a stone's throw away from the production line for Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company in Hammondsport. For a gargantuan cost of $12,500 in 1920s money, or around $207,700 or so in 2022's money, the head of the table for the Garetts commissioned a boat built to his exact specifications.

A vessel that could win races and yachting competitions all while being stylish and comfortable enough to entrance just about anyone lucky enough to have a look. This devotion created the original Virginia Dare. Sadly, a fuel line fire caused the boat to burn up and sink.

This 33-foot all-purpose pleasure vessel was handcrafted to replace the stricken vessel by the Gar Wood company of Brant Lake, New York, in existence in its original form from 1921 to 1947. At the heart of this one-of-a-kind boat, the very item that links it to its modern-day home.

It's a Liberty engine, a WWI-vintage aero-engine most famous for its use in countless military aircraft during the Great War. In wartime configurations, this engine jetted 400 horsepower on a good day. In Virginia Dare II, it cranks out an impressive 550 horsepower. For some context, that's in the same ballpark power-wise as a brand new Jaguar F-Pace SVR. Not bad, not bad at all.

Couple this with a lightweight bonded wood hull, metal trim pieces, and comfortable leatherette material for seats front and rear. There's a reason residents of the Finger Lakes Region told tales of this boat near and far. It took home multiple yachting competition first prizes and a few further impromptu races to boot, including the iconic New York Governor's Cup one year.

All while traveling at a scarcely believable 60 miles per hour (96 kph). This speed was faster than what most passenger cars could achieve in the late 1920s. When approaching the boat from a distance inside the Glenn H Curtiss Museum, there's no mistaking what a special and prized ship this was.

Of course, it didn't reach this phase of its life unphased. In fact, it was purchased in derelict condition in 1970 by Mark Bennet of Connecticut. Bennet then spent considerable time and money restoring this prized boat to its former glory.

Every piece of bonded wood, polished metal, and hand-stitched seating required thousands of hours of labor and further thousands in parts. Even so, it can't be argued how gosh-darn pretty Virginia Dare II truly is. It's as if every marvelous design aspect of what we adore and cherish about 1920s design transferred themselves into a watertight ambassador for how great machines used to be built.

One can imagine themselves sipping on the finest Central New York wine and brandy as a set of well-to-do socialites schmooze each other between sips of top-notch booze out of the finest French crystal drinkware. The iconic thump of the Liberty V12 roars across the water as the wooden hull skips across its tensioned surface. What a sight it must have been.

Whoever was riding passengers in this boat belonged to a set of people of a higher social status than most of us could ever dream of. It must have been otherworldly. Virginia Dare II was a wonderful outdoorsman's toy for the jet-set of society two full devades before the advent of the practica jet engine. But it's just one of so many exhibits at the Glenn H Curtiss Museum that prove he was a man without equal, even today.

Check back soon for more coverage from our trip to the Glenn H Curtiss Museum here on autoevolution.

 
 
 
 
 

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