Current owner Randy Mueller (above) with 1971 Gold Cup Miss Madison several years ago.
Current owner Randy Mueller (above) with 1971 Gold Cup Miss Madison several years ago.
It has been nearly 50 years since fans have gotten to watch the “Gold Cup” Miss Madison run but a local group is making an huge effort to get the legendary boat back on the water.

The 5-to-the-5 vintage hydroplane group, which stages the Vintage Thunder event every September, has reached an agreement to purchase the boat which is currently undergoing restoration in the Seattle area. However, the volunteer group needs to raise $250,000 to get the deal done and has only a little over four months to do so.

“The current owner said that he feels like the boat belongs back in Madison and we agree,” said Cary Strouse of the 5-to-the-5 group. “We talked with him, agreed on a price and we’re ready to roll.”

The $250,000 price tag includes more than just the purchase of the boat. According to Strouse, the idea is to raise enough money to not only buy the boat and transport it back to Madison but be able to store the boat in a facility and restore it back to race condition.

The price for the boat on its own is $150,000, an amount that Strouse admits is “hefty.” But he also said he thinks the historic hull is worth it.

“It’s pretty hefty for the condition that it is but it can be a gem for the city,” Strouse said. “I don’t want to speak for the city, but I’ve talked with the mayor and several other people and they are excited about getting the deal done.”

The boat began life in 1960 as the Nitrogen Too, owned by Samuel Dupont and driven by the legendary Ron Musson. Musson drove the boat to victory at Las Vegas in the season finale that year.

It made its way to Madison in 1963 and became the second Miss Madison after the city’s first boat was destroyed in a test run at Detroit. In 1965, George “Buddy” Byers steered the craft to victory on Guntersville Lake in Alabama, the first-ever win for the Miss Madison team.

The boat’s finest hour was in 1971 when Jim McCormick drove the boat to victory in the APBA Gold Cup on her home waters, an event that inspired a Hollywood movie. Proving that win wasn’t a fluke, McCormick won the race at Tri-Cities, Washington, three weeks later and finished second in the 1971 National High Points standings.

Considered obsolete by the standards of the time, the boat was docked after the 1971 season in favor of a new boat and never raced again. For nearly 30 years it sat outside the Miss Madison boat shop, uncovered and open to the weather and slowly deteriorated as the team focused its efforts and resources on other boats Miss Madison raced on the circuit.

The boat did resurface in 1999 when it played itself in the movie “Madison” about that 1971 victory. But it was nowhere near race-ready and stood in as the “destroyed” Miss Madison in several scenes. A contemporary rival, the Saveair’s Mist, was refurbished to look like the Miss Madison and was featured in the movie’s racing scenes.

Dr. Ken Muscatel, a hydro owner and former driver, had purchased the Miss Madison from Miss Madison Racing in the mid-1990s with the idea of restoring the hull but never made any headway. In 2009, Randy Mueller purchased the boat from Muscatel and began his own restoration efforts, but the project stalled.

It was Mueller who contacted the 5-to-the-5 group offering to sell the boat. The local group has a six month right of first refusal agreement to raise the money, but more than a month passed before they decided to go public with the deal.

“We’re willing to do what we need to do to get it back here because we’ve got the guys that can restore it,” Strouse said. “We’re working on a facility for a museum right now so a lot of things have really fallen into our laps all at the same time. We’ve been trying to get ourselves prepared to handle it all and we’re ready to roll.”

The fundraising effort to purchase and restore the Miss Madison is separate from the 5-to-the-5’s operating budget. A 501(c) nonprofit group, 5-to-the-5 is under the umbrella of the Historic Hoosier Hills RC&D.

All donations to the project are tax-deductible. Checks can be mailed to 5 to the 5, c/o Historic Hoosier Hills RC&D, 1981 S. Industrial Park Road, Suite 1, P.O. Box 407, Versailles, IN 47042. In addition, the group is putting together a GoFundMe page and hopes to announce that in the next few weeks.