Bill Muncey

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Bill Muncey

William Edward Muncey (November 12, 1928 – October 18, 1981) was an American hydroplane racing legend from Detroit, Michigan. The International Motorsports Hall of Fame and hydroplane historian Dan Cowie described Muncey as "without question, the greatest hydroplane racer in history."[1] Muncey was nicknamed "Mr. Unlimited" and won 62 races, which was the most races in the history of the sport until Dave Villwock broke his record in 2011.[1][2][3]

Racing career[edit]

Muncey began his boat racing career in 1949 by sinking in front of a hometown crowd on the Detroit River. Muncey's first attempt to drive in an American Power Boat Association (APBA) Gold Cup event began by blowing up the engine. Muncey went to Gar Wood’s riverfront mansion, and asked Wood for help. Muncey got an engine from Wood, but the bottom of the boat fell out during the next race.

Muncey had his first win at the Gold Cup in 1956 in Miss Thriftway. He followed that with another Gold Cup win in 1957, again in Miss Thriftway. In 1960, Muncey won fourteen races between 1960 and 1962, including six of seven in 1962.[1] In 1976, at age 48, he won five races in his boat Atlas Van Lines to silence the critics that said that he was too old to win. He moved to a new Atlas Van Lines boat in 1977 and won twenty times in the next three seasons. Muncey attributed much of his success to his close friend and an accomplished aeronautical engineer, D.J. Nolan, Sr. of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. He followed up with four wins in 1980.

In 1981, Muncey won his last race during the Thunder on the Ohio race at Evansville. On October 18 in Acapulco, Mexico, he was leading the final heat of the World Championship race,[4] but was killed in a blowover crash while travelling 175 mph (282 km/h).[2][5][6][7] He was buried at Glen Abbey Memorial Park in Bonita, California.[8]

In more than three decades of hydroplane racing, Muncey had claimed eight Gold Cups (1956, 1957, 1961, 1962, 1972, 1977, 1978, 1979),[9] seven U.S. National Championships (1960, 1961, 1962, 1972, 1976, 1978, 1979),[10] and four World Championships (1968, 1969, 1972, and 1980).[11] He was named the driver of the year seven times.

As owners, the Muncey family won six High Points Champions (1976, 1978, 1979, 1982, 1983, 1985), with his widow Fran retaining the team with the Atlas Van Lines "Blue Blaster" brand until the end of the 1984 season, when Miller Brewing Company took over sponsorship in 1985 as the Miller American, with the 1988 season being branded as Miller High Life, as part of a deal between NASCAR driver Bobby Allison and his friend Sam Bass where Miller rebranded all motorsport under the High Life brand using a Bass-designed livery for all motorsport sponsored by Miller. Chip Hanauer drove the Muncey operation throughout her control before the team was bought out by Circus Circus at the end of the 1988 season.[12]


Personal life[edit]

Muncey graduated from Royal Oak High School in Michigan in 1947.[16] He attended Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, where he was initiated as a member of Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity. He was twice married and had four children.


  • Hogg, Tony (1979). Thunderboating with Bill Muncey. ISBN 0-931570-01-8. OCLC 78050492.
  • Garey, Stephen A. (1982). Bill Muncey: Boat Racing Legend. Unlimiteds Detroit. LCCN 91-672. OCLC 10601864.
  • Muntz, A. J. (2013). At the Ragged Edge. ISBN 978-1-48194-905-7.


  1. ^ a b c d Biography Archived July 3, 2007, at the Wayback Machine at the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, Retrieved May 23, 2007
  2. ^ a b Biography Archived September 28, 2007, at the Wayback Machine at the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America, Retrieved May 23, 2007
  3. ^ "Spirit of Qatar Clinches 2011 High Points Championship". H1 Unlimited. Archived from the original on December 21, 2012. Retrieved January 7, 2013.
  4. ^ "Death ends career of a racing legend". Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington). Associated Press. October 20, 1981.
  5. ^ "Muncey dies in hydro crash going 170 mph in title race". Toledo Blade. (Ohio). Associated Press. October 19, 1981. p. 19.
  6. ^ "Boat driver Muncey dead after big crash". Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington). Associated Press. October 19, 1981. p. 15.
  7. ^ "Muncey killed in accident". The Bulletin. (Bend, Oregon). UPI. October 19, 1981. p. D2.
  8. ^ Find A Grave, Retrieved May 23, 2007
  9. ^ Gold Cup winners Archived 2007-05-07 at the Wayback Machine, Retrieved May 23, 2007
  10. ^ U.S. National Champs Archived 2007-05-07 at the Wayback Machine, Retrieved May 23, 2007
  11. ^ "UIM World Champions 1938 – 2013". H1 Unlimited. 25 October 2014. Archived from the original on 6 September 2015. Retrieved 31 January 2022.
  12. ^ Haskin, Brad. "The Circus Circus Story". The Hydroplane & Raceboat Museum. Retrieved September 23, 2016.
  13. ^ Bill Muncey at the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America
  14. ^ "3 Women Highlight 9-Member Motorsports Hall of Fame of America Class For 2021". Autoweek. 30 January 2021. Retrieved October 26, 2021.
  15. ^ "New Trophy Honors Bill Muncey".
  16. ^ "Class of 1947: Bill Muncey". Royal Oak, Michigan: Royal Oak High School. Retrieved May 12, 2020.

External links[edit]