Lee Taylor  – Hustler

Outright Water Speed Record Achieved: 285.21 mph – 30 June 1967 Lake Guntersville, Alabama, USA

Hustler (photo courtesy of Doug Ford)

The Hustler was built by Rich Hallet of Downey, California, of oak, aircraft quality birch plywood and aluminium. Hustler was another three point hydroplane and was very streamlined with a superstructure of hand‐formed sheet aluminium. Rich designed and built the air‐riding hull, without plans, for $82,000 which was sponsored by Harvey Aluminium. The craft weighed 5000 pounds with the fuel and driver, at the highest point was 3ft 10ins, 30 ft. 6ins long and 8 ft. wide. The power plant was a J‐46 Westinghouse from a Navy Cutlass with 10,000 hp.

Hustler running fast and true (photo courtesy of Doug Ford)

On Lee Taylor’s first runs at full throttle the boat ran straight and true, skimming over the water supported by an air cushion, as was designed. At mid‐course, the boat was still accelerating and travelling well over 250 mph Lee cut the power off, as he had apparently misjudged his speed the amount of distance the air‐riding hull required to slow down and to come off the plan. At about 100 mph, Lee ran out of water, the boat mounted the bank and he jumped out and landed on the rocks sustaining many injuries further compounded when his rescue helicopter also crashed during take‐ off.

CAD drawing of Hustler – courtesy of Will Babington

At this point, Taylor lost his sponsors and seemed to be considered the has‐been of the boating world. Lee finally went to a long‐time friend of his dad, John Beaudoin, who had confidence in Lee and his ability and financed the final successful assault on Lake Guntersville in Alabama.

Hustler with Lee Taylor (photo courtesy of Doug Ford)

Lee’s first run was an outstanding 299.1810 mph. On the return run, a spectator’s boat slipped past the Coast Guard and wandered across the course ‘goofing up’ the timings for the return run time. Lee’s next two runs in Hustler averaged a new mark of 285.213 mph, finally taking Donald Campbell’s precious record away from him by 8.88 mph.

The Hustler was later sold and driven by Johnny Beaudoin to make attempts on the record at Lake Isabella and Lake Havasu in Nevada during the 1970’s but was unable to beat the existing record. The craft was then bought by Jim Deist and Bill Dunlap in 1977 where she was re-named Captain Crazy and taken to Walker Lake in Nevada where she was driven by stuntwoman and land speed record holder Kitty O’Neil. It is reported Kitty did a one way pass through the traps at 275mph but that was it saying the boat was by then too old, too hard to control and too scary to drive at those speeds.

CAD drawing of Hustler – courtesy of Will Babington

The craft was kept stored for many years and after the death of Jim Deist her fate became unknown until recently when she was located and this will hopefully lead to this iconic craft being fully restored.

As for poor Lee Taylor, he was killed on November 13th 1980 in the rocket powered US Discovery II on Lake Tahoe, whilst still chasing the Outright Water Speed Record.

Lee Taylor’s US Discovery ll – the jet in this case being a rocket engine (photos courtesy of Doug Ford)

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