16-17 August 2013

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Lot 148

1938 Ventnor K-2 Unlimited Runabout "GEN-VI"

  • Hull K-6

$600,000 - $700,000

520 bhp, 1,497.5 cu. in. DOHC Packard V-12 engine, and V-drive. Length: 26 ft.

  • Offered from the Thomas Mittler Estate
  • Holder of K-class speed record for 14 years
  • Winner of the Harwood Trophy
  • Powered by the original Packard V-12

“Unlimited” has always been a stirring name in any motorsport, and it certainly applied to the runabouts that competed in late 1930s K-class racing. David Gerli’s Ventnor-built Lady Gen VI, commonly known as just Gen VI, certainly lived up to the name, with a marinized Packard V-12 aero engine of the same family that spawned World War II’s legendary Merlin.

On September 23, 1939, Mussolini was making noise about entering the war and the French were still holding Germany, but American manufacturing had not yet been converted to war production, and our young men were still able to have fun. So, on the 23rd of September, instead of fighting, David Gerli was in Gen IV at the President’s Cup in Washington, D.C., setting a new one-mile class record of 61.7 mph.

Builders Ventor Boat Works, in New Jersey, were at the cutting edge of racing boat design. They were known for an unusual combination of beauty and innovation and were responsible for some of the fastest boats of the time, including Sir Malcolm Campbell’s famous Bluebird K4, although that has been disputed. Not in question is their crucial role in developing the three-point hydroplane, along with many other important marine inventions.

The late 1930s were Ventnor’s heyday, when the small shop was swamped with orders—you really had to be someone to get one of their boats. E. Mortimer Auerbach, racer of the immortal Emancipator series of boats and the era’s most famous speedboat racer, certainly qualified. Ventnor founder Arno Apel designed the hull, and they sourced an engine from Melvin Crooks’ Gold Cup winning Betty V. The Ackersly-Packard V-12 was nominally rated at 500 horsepower at 2,000 rpm, with period reports rating it as high as 800. Today, 520 horsepower at 2,200 rpm is the currently accepted figure.

Mortimer Auerbach died before he was able to compete, and racer David Gerli purchased her to become the next in his line of rough-water boats, after the very successful Lady Gen V, which had been raced by Melvin Crooks. In the true spirit of the gentleman racer, Crooks both piloted Gen VI and, at times, competed against it.

In competition from the time of its launch, Gen VI’s peak came between 1939 and 1941, notching up both individual speed records (peaking at 68.70 mph) and head-to-head competition. Ironically, what may be Gerli and Gen VI’s most significant moment was overshadowed by another boat.

The big story of the 1940 Gold Cup race off Long Island was the huge upset victory of Hotsy Totsy III. Almost lost in the uproar was the realization that in a separate five-mile heat for inboard runabouts in the Unlimited class, David Gerli’s big, heavy Gen VI won with a faster time than any recorded by Hotsy Totsy III in the main event.

Gerli continued racing Gen VI right up to the war. Class wins included the 1940 New Jersey Governor’s Trophy, the 1940 APBA Gold Cup, and the 1940 President's Cup in Washington, D.C., where he set his class world record, while 2nd place finishes included the 1940 American Speedboat Championship and the 1941 Gold Cup.

She was back on the water immediately after the war and purchased by Baltimore’s Harry Link in 1946. The Rudder reported that Gerli had topped 71 mph by that point, thanks to continual refinement of the boat.

Eventually, she ended up in storage at a marina on Lake Champlain, where she was long a target for acquisition by collectors. Ultimately, a well-known Massachusetts dealer was able to acquire her and begin restoration, but the partially-restored Gen VI was eventually sold to Tom Mittler.

It’s little surprise that Gen VI made its way into Tom Mittler’s hands. It was just one of a large number of important, restored racing boats kept at the Mittler Boat Barn in Three Rivers, Michigan, and a wonderful complement to his collection of important sports cars. He contracted Michigan specialists Morin Boats to complete a restoration of the hull.

Because of the rise of hydroplane racers, the open water, Unlimited K-class boats were less well known. The hydroplanes required flat water, which meant they ran on lakes, rivers, and close to shore. Gen VI was built to go offshore, a clear precursor to the cigarette of the 1960s. Unlike a hydroplane, however, there’s no reason an adventurous person today couldn’t take Gen VI out for a casual day cruise, puttering along with the mighty Packard at idle, all the time aware of the fury ready to be unleashed at a whim. A lover of transportation will seldom have another opportunity to find such a perfect fusion of automobile, aviation, and nautical together in one historic vehicle.


Please note that this boat is offered on a Bill of Sale.

Alexander Weaver

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Alexander Weaver joined RM Sotheby’s in 2011 as a Car Specialist after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat

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Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a Car Specialist after more than a decade in the collector car hobby. Gradua... read more

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Barney’s interest in classic cars began at an early age after being introduced to his father’s all-original 1965 Porsche 911. Barney l... read more

David Swig

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David Swig joined RM Sotheby’s West Coast division as a Car Specialist in May 2015. David is a life-long automobile enthusi... read more

Don Rose

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Don joined RM in 2006 after several years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputation as a noted... read more

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Donnie Gould joined the RM team in 2002 as a partner and Car Specialist after more than two decades in the vintage automobile auction ... read more

Gord Duff

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Gord Duff began his journey with RM Sotheby’s in 1998. Since then, he has gained an intimate knowledge of a variety of marques a... read more

Jake Auerbach

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Kurt Forry

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Michael Squire

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Michael Squire joined RM Sotheby’s European Division in the summer of 2016. He comes to RM with a prestigious racing background ... read more

Mike Fairbairn

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As one of the three founding partners of RM Sotheby’s, Mike has a long-standing interest in the classic car industry. Graduating... read more

Oliver Camelin

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With an extensive background in exotic sports car history and sales, a particular passion for American curves, and fluency in three la... read more

Paul Darvill

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Paul Darvill joined the RM Sotheby’s European team at the beginning of 2015. Paul holds a degree in French and Politics from the... read more

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Pete Fisher was first introduced to antique cars in high school, working for Classic Coachworks in his hometown of Blenheim, Ontario. ... read more

Shelby Myers

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Shelby Myers grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to watch the R... read more

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Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a Car Specialist. A lifelong enthusiast, Tonnie... read more