1) Earliest memory of The Squire Shop, the company, the race team, and of the public’s perception of the brand name?
Answer: My earliest race team memory is Jerry Bang’s driving Jerry Kalen’s “Squire” sponsored boat. At that time, perception was that they were a 3rd place racing team.
My earliest company memory stems from discussions with Adam & Molly Berger, about driving for the team. These started, after Jerry “Zoomer” Zuvich had inquired with me at Green Lake, if I was retired from Unlimited's. I told him no, I wasn’t retired, just that no team owners, except Jerry Kalen, had asked me to drive for them. Zoomer then asked me, if I’d consider driving the Squire Shop in 1982, and the ball started rolling.
The company itself was a young fan’s favorite, and was centered on casual men’s clothing, appealing to the younger crowd.
Tom D'Eath (left) & Bob Steil (right)
2) Meeting Bob Steil for the first time and your relationship with him over the years personally and professionally?
Answer: First time meeting Bob was nothing special, honestly. To me, he was just another millionaire who loved racing boats. Bob Steil and I had a good working owner/driver business relationship. Bob wanted to win, but not at all costs. Overall, he was a good person to deal with, and we ended up with a decent friendship.
GP-200 "Lauterbach Special"
3) Explain the process for how Bob hired you to drive for the team, was it a simple process or somewhat complicated?
Answer: Simple process. Adam & Molly contacted me about driving for the team, after Zoomer shared that I was available. Negotiations were a little tricky, and Bob Steil ended up paying me more than he wanted to.
At the time, I was still under contract with Don Ryan, to drive the GP200 Lauterbach Special. I was able to make myself available, if I found a replacement for Don (which I recommended Larry Lauterbach), but it would not be for free. At that point in my racing career, I would only drive for money, period.
Jim Harvey (far left) & Kelly Stocklin (far right)
4) Describe your relationship with fellow crew members, were you close to any of them?
Answer: I felt my relationship with the crew was pretty good. We got along well, even during the tougher times, such as catching fire in Detroit, and the accident in Seattle. I had the crews back, and I felt they had mine.
Yes, I became close with a couple crew members over the years; Jerry Zuvich, Leo Vanden berg, Kelly Stocklin, and Jim Harvey to name a few. Both Squire teams I raced for, had some great talents involved, who were a pretty fun bunch to work with.
Leo Vanden Berg
5) Tell me about Jerry Bangs and Leo Vanden Berg and your relationship with each, any good stories, memories, etc.
Answer: Jerry Bangs was a class person & great hydroplane racer. He had good success in the “Champagne Lady” and other limited class hydroplanes. Like many of us, he started out in a lower tier Unlimited ride. Unfortunately, he didn’t get to showcase his full potential as an Unlimited driver, and was taken from us too soon.
Leo Vanden Berg was an “Unlimited Genius”. He has forgotten more about Unlimited's, than most Crew Chiefs know.
6) What were your evaluations on the characteristics of all the Squire boats you were involved in, breaking it down into each separate hull? Explain why the team made changes to certain things (sponsons, engine placement, etc.) and did those changes work as expected?
U-2 "The Squire Shop" 1982
(1979-31) 1982-1983 “The Squire Shop” hull (originally built as the 1979 “Circus Circus”)
This hull didn’t have any good characteristics. The boat was flighty in competition and didn’t corner well at all, especially compared to top flight boats we raced against. Leo and I ground on the rudder, and we made a magic “top secret shape” to help with cornering. We also changed the skid fin design and tested some “props” to improve handling. Zoomer’s engines made great power, but put “Merlin” blood in the bilge and all over the back deck. I’m sure glad “The Squire Shop” was a cabover designed hull.
How did we even win 1 race, let alone 2? A great start in Madison during the final heat helped us get the first win. The 2nd win, came after Dean lost his life driving the Miss Budweiser. That was a tough weekend, both emotionally and physically. Obviously losing Dean was fresh in everyone’s mind, and Mother Nature wasn’t kind to us on Sunday. The URC asked all drivers to give a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” during the warm up period of the final heat.
I voted “thumbs down”, as did others, but the URC decided to run the Final anyways. We ended up winning, even though the throttle peddle fell off during the heat. I finished the race with my left foot under what was left of the foot peddle. Placing my right foot, on top of my left foot, because there were NO returns springs!!!!!
U-2 "The Squire Shop" 1986
(1982-00) 1985-1986 “The Squire Shop” hull (originally built as the 1982 “Atlas Van Lines”)
This hull was an absolute blast to drive. She was very predictable and handled the water very well. It was very easy to understand, why it had been so successful in the past.
(Crew Chief) Jim Harvey made the boat even better from 1985-1986. The boat made good starts and we finished in 2nd place a lot. We could beat 2 of the 3 turbines at every race we were in, but just could not beat all 3 in the final heats. We were the best piston team remaining at that time. Jim Harvey and crew prepared the boat and motors very well.
They were very smart and never hurt a motor from 1985-1986. It only costs Bob lots of nitrous, 115/145 AV-GAS, methanol fuel, spark plugs, and man hours. We tried installing the rudder on the left and on the right, and a developed a new thinner steel skid fin. The boat handled way better. We led, almost all of the final heat in Evansville, until the last lap where we ran out of nitrous.
We made a “sneaky” very fast start on the inside and caught them all “sleeping”. Then we almost beat the Miller in Pasco………which we led for a while too. After Pasco, everyone started making new thin steel skid fins like ours………..copy cats! I made my farewell to the sport in Seattle and we came in 2nd again.
At least, I thought it was my farewell?
7) What was the atmosphere like in the pits on race days, easy going, chaotic, stressful, fun, etc.?
Answer: Easy going and fun. We had everything to gain and nothing to lose. We were the spoiler team, not a Top flight team.
8) How did you prepare yourself physically and mentally to drive the boat?
Answer: Nothing physically. I just thought about my race strategy, and took what the boat would give to me. I wanted to win, as slowly as possible.
U-7 "Miller Lite All Star" 1984
9) How did your relationship end with the team, was it sudden, expected, shocking, amicable, disruptive, peaceful, etc.?
Answer: The first time it ended, was sudden and unexpected. I was replaced by Earle Hall, after having a pretty good 1982 season. We finished up 2nd in High Points, and won two races. The change was a business decision, from what I understand. I ended up being hired back for the final 2 races of 1983, after Bob fired Earle. At that time, I had already signed a deal for 1984 with RB “Bob” Taylor and Miller Brewing Co, so I could not commit to the team after 1983.
The Lite All Star team fell apart after 1984, a story for another day.
In 1985, I was asked back to run a limited schedule for the Squire, led by Jim Harvey. I had some real fun times at the races with Jim and team. As stated above, the boat was great to drive. However, personally, I began to realize, I could not beat all the turbines, and would likely kill myself if I kept trying to do so. Remember, the 1985/1986 Squire had an “open” cockpit, and I was NOT a fan of seat belts, or the enclosed canopy when it first came out. I made this fact, no secret.
It is hard to explain, but I will do my best, on my thoughts before retiring in 1986.
I believe a professional driver goes through three stages in their career: Rookie, prime, and past prime: As a “rookie”, you take unnecessary risks to prove yourself, often driving way above your talent level. More often, than not, ending up in bad situations, instead of good ones. Things on the course are happening fast, often faster than you can react to prevent. If you survive your rookie stage, you reach your “prime” stage.
Here, you are experienced, seasoned, and “in the zone” with your equipment. Everything happens in slow motion, and reaction is not an issue. During your prime, you take less risk, have a more calculated approach, and find yourself in far less “dangerous” situations.
In your prime, you are on top of your game with all senses, reflexes and coordination, and the race comes to you. Then, at some point, which is different for everyone, you enter “past prime”. Once, past prime, you start taking unnecessary risks, just to prove you can still do it, and things start happening faster than you can react to, with your reflexes, etc.
During the 1986 season, I was still in my “prime” but noticed I was taking far more risks, which I shouldn’t be taking, in order to beat the Turbines. Before I got into “past prime”, I felt it was best to step away.
So the second time, I “left on my terms”!
10) What was the best features about the hulls you drove, and what was the worst?
Answer: (1979-31) 1982-1983 “The Squire Shop” hull (originally built as the 1979 “Circus Circus”)
No good features, boat had a lot of rudder problems. Thank God for Leo Vanden Berg, who was the “Saint Christopher” of knowledge. That boat wouldn’t turn in a country mile.
(1982-00) 1985-1986 “The Squire Shop” hull (originally built as the 1982 “Atlas Van Lines”)
This was the best handling “piston powered” unlimited hull I ever drove. If turbines weren’t there, how could you lose? It was 3 against 1 by that point, though.
11) Talk about what the atmosphere was like for the fans, as compared to how the sport is marketed/portrayed today?
Answer: The Squire Shop fans were over the top! I think the sport needs to be on television today, as the sport has lost its’ spot in the Sports world.
12) Best/worst memories of your time with The Squire Shop team, fellow competitors, and with the fans themselves?
Best Memory: Winning 2 races in 1982, and beating the Miss Budweiser in Madison.
Worst Memory: John Walters crash in Seattle (1982) driving the turbine Pay ‘n Pak. Dean Chenoweth being killed driving the Miss Budweiser in Pasco (1982), a race we won, but it was a hollow victory.
13) How did you get involved in the sport, with whom and how? What other teams/owners have you worked with and in what years? Also, what roles did you play on each team (crew chief, systems specialist, engines, etc.)
Answer: I grew up in the marine business, and around hydroplanes. My father, Al D’Eath, raced 135ci hydroplanes, and also drove some Unlimited's. Growing up, we lived at our family marina in Detroit, which was within ear shot of the Detroit race course. I would ride my bike to the foot of Bern by the Whittier Hotel, anytime a hydroplane was testing or racing, and was always enthralled with them. I started racing outboards at the age of 14, and was an on/off driver from 1958-1991.
When not racing, I ran my own race shop, where I built racing engines for limited hydroplanes, repaired and modified hydroplane hulls, and built some limited class boats as well. Honestly, there are just too many boats to list, which I have driven and/or crewed on over those years.
Some notable limited class hydroplanes I raced:
Ray Gassner’s “Sunshine Baby IV” H-57 (Success in this boat opened my career to Unlimited's)
Bill Ritner’s “Wa-wa Too” F-247
my own - Southern Style A-77
Ronnie Brown’s “Gone Heavy” F-95
Les Brown’s “Long Gone” GP-4
Don Ryan’s “Lauterbach Special” GP-200
George Simon’s “Miss US” U-2(1972-1973 conventional, 1974-1976 – Ron Jones cabover – 1976 Gold Cup Winner)
Bob Steil’s “ Squire Shop” U-2(1982, end of 1983, 1985-1986)
After retiring from Unlimited Hydroplanes, my wife and I started the APBA Vintage and Historic Division in 1994, which is now the fastest growing category in APBA. Since that time I have purchased, restored and sold dozens of limited class hydroplanes. Some most notable:
Bill Ritner’s “Wa Wa Too” F-247 – Currently owned by Vic Edelbrock’s estate
Two of Gene Henderson’s “Miss Washington DC” F-999
Bob Hamilton’s “Shake, Rattle and Roll Lauterbach Special ” A-43 replica
The last 136ci hydroplane Henry built
My own “Southern Style” A-77
Sid Street’s “ZZ Zip” F-4
"Wild Bill" Cantrell
14) We were all fans first..........who were your favorite driver/boat as a fan before you got involved in the sport itself?
Answer: “Wild Bill” Cantrell driving Gale VI and V / Chuck Thompson driving the Miss Pepsi.
Bill Muncey (far left) and Chip Hanauer ( far right)
15) Driver/team you liked racing against the most, and the worst…………..and why?
Answer: The person I liked racing against the most was Larry Lauterbach. I liked anything he drove at the time. He is a true “sportsman”, period. The people I didn't enjoy racing against were Terry Turner and Chip Hanauer. Both were “dirty” and lacked sportsmanship.
Bob Steil (center)
16) Describe Bob Steil the person, the business man, race team owner, and were there distinct differences between each depending on the conditions and situations?
Answer: Described Bob above in a couple of places as owner/person/businessman. Bob has an inherent ability to make money. Even after selling Squire Shop, he did very well in real estate ventures. I will also add, if Bob had the budget to spend, he would have been a better winning owner than Bernie Little!!!!
Chip Hanauer (left)
17) Talk about your relationship and media hyped rivalry with Chip Hanauer over the years, both personally and professionally.
Answer: Chip Hanauer and I were not friends, and we were both fierce competitors. I don’t ever recall racing against him in limited classes, only Unlimited. I viewed Chip as a “winner take all” type of driver, where I was an “it’s ok to win another day” driver!
18) Talk about the company picnics that the Squire hosted (if applicable), from the pictures I've seen............it looked like it was a blast!
Answer: Again, this was for the younger fan. I was all about my job as The Squire Shop driver, and not so much into the company festivities.
Bob Steil (left), Tom D'Eath (center) & Jerry Zuvich (right)
19) What years were you involved in the team, what role did you have initially and what role did you have when it ended?
Answer: I was the primary driver in 1982 (2 wins), and for the last 2 races of 1983. I came “back home” for a limited schedule (85 and 86 seasons). I also acted as a “hull specialist” while with the team.
20) Team merchandising and the souvenir booths were a big hit in the pits, as were team related clothing and items in the stores. Was there anything special you enjoyed from the team itself the most in terms of marketing? (IE: belt buckles, shirts, etc.)
Answer: No, the clothing aspect was for the much younger crowd. I didn’t have any particular favorites from that period.
21) Crew uniforms, were there some you liked over the others in terms of comfort or design.
Answer: No. Bob Steil wanted my driving uniform to look like the one Dudley Moore wore in a movie he was starring in.
22) You had the chance to drive during and at the end of the piston powered era, what was that experience like as the sport transitioned over to the turbines?
Answer: I’m glad I drove turbo Allison’s and Rolls Royce “Merlin’s”, in open cockpit boats. I attribute this experience helping me learn limits of the ragged edge.
Today’s drivers, in my opinion, race with a false sense of confidence due to the enclosed canopy. Certainly, a great innovation in saving lives, mine included, but also contributes to more accidents.
Concerning engines, I can share the Merlin was much stronger than an Allison. There is no question, T2 and T3 turbine Miss Budweiser hulls were the “Golden” rides. They were far superior to any piston ride, from all aspects, such as hull design, cornering, acceleration and speed.
23) Do you watch the sport today and if you could only change one thing about it………what would that be?
Answer: No, not really. I feel the sport needs to bring back the piston engines.
24) Looking back on your experience with the team, is there anything else you want to add that has not been asked?
Answer: The most fun boat to drive was the 85/86 Squire Shop, powered by Rolls Royce (Packard) Merlin with nitrous. It is too bad, every driver, did NOT get a chance to drive a Jim Harvey prepared Squire Shop type hydroplane.
25) Final thoughts?
Answer: In my opinion, most of Bob’s “driver choices” were the “who’s who” of hydroplane racing at the time. Jerry Bangs, Chip Hanauer, Mickey Remund, and even Michigan Hall of Famer……….Tom D’Eath.
I’m still burning gas and spraying water…………73 years young!