This Week in SPEED: 1961 Marathon Rayson-Craft

Cream Puff was built in 1961 for the unlimited class of “Lake Marathon” racing, which was popular in California in the 1950s and 1960s. Races took place at Salton Sea, Parker Dam in Arizona, Clear Lake near Santa Rosa, California and Lake Berryessa in northern California.

The boat is powered by a 1710 cubic inch Allison engine, the same as that which powered World War II fighter aircraft including the P-38, P-40, and the early P-51 Mustang. After the war these engines were dumped into boats, drag cars, and land speed racers because they were cheap, exotic, powerful, intimidating, and there were aircraft mechanics still around who knew how to keep them running.

Housed in the back of an aluminum casting plant that they owned in Gardena, California, Rudy built Rayson-Craft pleasure boats and an occasional race boat.

Ramos created this 20-foot V-bottom to handle both an Allison Engine and the Salton Sea. Cream Puff has a V-drive developed with the help of Casale Engineering’s Ernie Casale. Casale fashioned a massive 300-pound, 18-degree split-case gearbox. The prop shaft is a stout 1-1/4-inches, and the whole assembly is water jacketed for cooling, utilizing a separate dry-sump oiling system.

During the 1964 Salton City 500, Ramos was 20 MPH faster than the competition and finished 1-1/2 hours ahead of the second-place finisher. The longer hull and Allison engine combo pushed the art of marathon racing beyond everyone’s expectations. For good measure in 1965 Ramos and Olsen repeated the win in the same boat.

San Diego Air & Space Museum

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