Allison history as told by Paul Allison


Allison generations: Paul’s grandfather owned a steamboat line in 1900 and parked it on Riverside drive just above Gay St Bridge in Knoxville, TN. His name was Edward Allison. The Allison family lived on the steamboats. Edward had four sons and a daughter. The four Allison brothers were Earl, James, Regan, and Herman.

The very first Allison boat was built in 1917 by James Allison. It was flat bottom barge with a stern wheeler powered by an early motorcycle motor. It was a 12′ boat, 8′ wide. Being an air cooled motor, it would get hot because the boat was not running fast enough to cool the engine. James took a T model Ford fan to blow on the engine to keep the motor cool. He would go up and down the river in Kingston, TN at 12 mph. The boat would outrun the steam boats that came up and down the river. Because his boat was so fast, the people would stand on the bank and scream at him that he would get killed out there running that race boat!

One afternoon Paul was on working hard to try and get to the lake to do some testing on a boat bottom. He was in such a hurry, he forgot to trim the motor up and backed into concrete. Oh, no! He had raked the edges of the 2 blade prop on the concrete. He tried to beat it out but it still had a little curl on the end of the prop. So he decided to wait until later to try and flatten that out because he was running out of daylight. When he tested, the boat run a mile an hour faster! He thought, “If I can get the rest of that curl out of the prop, I know the boat will go faster.” But when he did, the boat slowed back down a mile an hour. Then he knew the curl in the prop had something to do with the increase in speed. So he put the curl back in the prop and not only got his mile an hour back, but he also was then able to jack the motor up and, as a result, pick up 2 more mile per hour! He cupped the prop more and eventually got a 25 hp Johnson running 40 mph on a 14′ aluminum fishing boat. That started all the racing up and down the Tennessee River.

Paul started cupping props in 1955 so when Allison Boats raced, they could outrun the factory boats and motors.

Michigan Wheel prop was what racers used to race because they were brass. Paul was cupping a Michigan Wheel prop when the Michigan Wheel salesman happened to be at the dealership and heard him cupping the prop and asked what he was doing. He watched Paul cup a prop and asked what it did. “It let’s us jack the motor up and go 4-5 mph faster.” The Scotts were outrunning the Merc. The Michigan Wheel sales man drew a picture of the prop and where it was cupped. One month later the motor dealers could order props already cupped from Michigan Wheel. They called that prop the Gold Cup. That was 1956.

Carl Kiekhaefer, founder of Mercury Motors, was in Miami at the Orange Bowl for the boat races. Jay Cox, Dickie Bush, Tic Davis, Gene Smith went to Miami with Paul. It was 1962. Paul had a 14’8″ Allison with 85 Merc, jacked up motor, cupped prop, and he was flying! Jay had a 13′ Allison with 50 Merc. Jack Smith had 65 Merc on 14’8 flatbottom Allison boat. Here is what happened:

Jay Cox put 11 laps on Merc factory plywood race boat. The water was rough! Jay drove 6 hours and came in 11 laps in front with a 50 Merc on a 5 mile course. He was 55 miles ahead of 2nd place boat!!

Dickie Bush had 8 laps on the 2 nd place boat in the 80-90 cu in class. He came in 2 nd overall over the dual engine boats, catamaran, etc. He was only outrun by one catamaran, and if there had been time for a few more laps, he would have outran him too!

Carl came over to Jay and asked who builds this boat. Jay said Paul Allison. Carl asks, “Where is it from? What I want to know is how can you take a pleasure boat and outrun ‘splinters’? How in the world can you run that motor jacked up that high? We jack ours up and they blow out.” Jay said look at the prop. Carl sat down in the sand in his suit and tie and looked at the prop and said, “What do you want me to look at?” Jay said, “Run your hand over the end of the prop.” Carl asked, “What does it do?” Jay said, “I don’t know but it picked me up speed.”

Charlie Strange was standing nearby. Carl called Charlie over to let him see the prop. He wanted to know what was wrong. Carl said, “Have you ever seen a prop like this? That is first one I have ever seen. What does it do?” Charlie said, “I guess it makes it more efficient.” Carl asked, “Why haven’t you been doing it to our props?” Charlie said, “That is the first one I have ever seen done.” Carl said, “Get a good look at it and start doing it to our props.”

Carl made Charlie get down with a pencil and paper and draw a picture where it was cupped. Johnson motors did not know about cupping props either.

In Pensacola, FL (in the 1960′s), Jack White had 16′ Allison with 85 Merc single engine. There was going to be 100 boats in a 2 hour marathon. Carl Kiekhaefer got up at the driver meeting. He said, “I’ve got a deal cooking. Some of you have Michigan Wheel props on your boat and I don’t like that. I don’t like running Michigan wheel props on Merc motors. I know the one to win this race will be a Merc. So I will add $100 if you run a Merc prop on that boat.” Some of the drivers did then run Merc props. Jack White did not do it because Paul had taken a Merc prop and cut it (2 blades) like a Record* prop. Paul rounded the blades and cupped the prop and it would fly! Jack signed up to race and said he had a Merc prop. He came in first overall (even over the unlimited motors!). The Merc prop man got a list of all the winners that had Merc motors. He asked Jack if he had a Merc prop. Jack said, “Yes I do.” The prop man looked at Jack’s prop and said it was a Record prop. Jack said, “Look again. It says Quicksilver on the side.” “Well, I be damned,” the prop man said. “It is!” So Jack got the extra $100!!!

*Record prop was made in Italy to run hydroplane races and they built a pleasure prop. Paul took the Record prop and cupped it and they would fly!

All boats today that have wings, and foils, v bottoms, and power trims are what Paul Allison invented years ago.

Everything that is running on the lake today is v bottom boats with pad. 90% of pleasure boats and bass boats on the market have an Allison pad that was invented by Paul.

Beginning of NOA pleasure boat racing
Power Trim
V Bottom Pad Boats
Stabilizer wing
Front Foil
Cupped skeg on lower units

Paul built a wood boat in Florida at Rod Craft, where he worked, and brought it home to race a 100 mile marathon. They raced to the Fort Loudon dam and back going from Louisville Boat Dock. The year was 1958. Darris was in 5th grade.

Paul covered the whole bottom of boat with fiberglass cloth and resin. He sanded it down and put marine putty on it and sanded it slick as glass. He had a 40 hp Scott Atwater. Paul was running about 50 mph when everybody else was running 42-43. He ran off and left them in the marathon! He even caught the dual engine boats and passed them. Then when he hit a log and sheared a pin, he had to change props to finish the race. Claude Fox stood on the bank and watched him outrun everybody. There were about 90 boats in the race. Claude then got the idea to form a pleasure boat division and add it to his National Outboard Association (they were already running hydroplane races.)

When he started the pleasure boat racing, Paul went to Old Hickory Lake and won the 40-50 class, stepped up and ran the unlimited class and outran the dual engines! He came in first overall in both classes. McCullough Corp was there taking pictures and they sent him a trophy that was 4′ high!

Paul cut a hole in the transom and put a threaded rod all the way to the front seat. Under the front seat he put a wheel on that rod so that you could turn the wheel while under way. He would turn the wheel to screw the rod in when turning and he would screw the rod out (trim the motor out) when going down the straightway. It was 1967.

Most v bottoms would plow the water. Paul put a ski on the bottom so that the boat would turn better and run faster on the pad. In 1966 he built a flatbottom with pad. In 1967 he built a shallow v wide pad. The first deep v 14′ with a pad was in 1968, and in 1969 he built the 15′ deep v pad boat.

There was a wing on the 65 model Dodge that Richard petty ran and it helped his car turn better. He put a wing on the boat and it made the boat more stable in the turns. The bigger boats still use that same wing to help stabilize their boats today. The year was 1973.

A front foil on a tunnel boat helped to keep the boat from blowing over when adjusted properly.

Fiberglass tunnel boats were much heavier and had to race against lightweight wood tunnel boats. The front foil on the Allison tunnel blew all the other boats off the lake! It happened in 1971.

When the outboard motor is jacked high, the trim tab does not do any good. Paul cupped the skeg on the back of the lower unit and took all the torque out of the wheel. The factory found out and now all the skegs are cupped. 135 Evinrude with 18′ boat.