Garfield "Gar" Wood is considered the most important figure of the 20th century in power boat racing.
Wood's passion for racing began early. According to the Detroit Free Press, "his father operated a clumsy wood-burning steam boat on Lake Osakis in Minnesota. There was another ferry on the lake, and considerable rivalry existed between the two boats. As Gar told W.W. Edgar who chronicled much of his career for the Free Press: 'Our speeds were low but the excitement was terrific.'"
Wood broke into racing in 1915, when he bailed out a group, that had banded together to build Miss Detroit I. With his Miss Minneapolis he swept to the fore, then maintained his dominance with a series of great boats.
"The most satisfying victory I ever had," Wood said, "was winning the Harmsworth trophy in England in 1920 with my Miss America. It was the first time we ever brought that trophy back from England."
He won the Harmsworth trophy nine times, and in 1931 set a world record of 124.95 miles per hour on the Detroit river, a record which stood for 15 years.
Wood was the first to break the 100 mph barrier on the water. His Miss America X boat was the first boat ever to do two miles in a minute (124.9 mph). He won five consecutive APBA Gold Cups.
Wood retired from racing in 1933 to concentrate on his business interests. Garwood Industries continued to build wooden racing and pleasure boats until 1947 under the "Gar Wood" brand.
At one point, Wood reportedly held more U.S. patents than any other living American. In 1897, at the age of 17, he invented a downdraft carburetor. He later invited a hydraulic hoist for dump trucks. He used the money that patent earned to build racing boats.
According to the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America, "His innovative craft, highly maneuverable in addition to their record-smashing speed, gave rise to the famous American PT boat. He has been called the 'Father of the PTs.'"
He was inducted into to the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 1990.
GARFIELD (GAR) WOOD
Sport: Powerboat racing.