There are a
few HydroStream Panther hulls still around, but they are rare enough that
few people have seen one, and very few know they even exist - unless they
are visitors to this website. As obscure as it is, the Panther model
is one of the most important hulls in HydroStream's history.
Although it is a true tunnel bottom, it was actually the foundation for
the development of the formidable HydroStream V-bottom hull. Here is
the brief history as told to me by Howard Pipkorn:
in St. Louis, Pipkorn visited a Mercury team racer who described a new
type of tunnel hull boat he had seen that was very fast and had great
performance. This boat was a Molinari, a plywood-built boat from
Italy. As many boat history enthusiasts know, the Molinari
introduced some new innovations in tunnel hull design, and the result was
a great performing boat that influenced a lot of new designs from other
builders, including Howard Pipkorn.
Merc racer sketched out the bottom shape for Pipkorn, and he ended up
making the Panther which used this hull design along with a deck that was
an adaptation from his Cougar design. The
Panther turned out to perform fairly well, and it was great in rough
water, but a friend of Pipkorn's said he wouldn't be able to sell it since
tunnel hulls were still a relatively new concept at the time. His
friend said he needed a V-bottom and should just splash a Glastron (like
many others did at the time) and start from there. Pipkorn agreed
about coming out with a V-bottom, but he took a different approach: he
took his Panther hull and flipped it over. He literally cut off the
sponsons so that the tunnel area now actually became the pad. He
shortened the keel in the back by 5" - this recessed pad was a huge
innovation and was the basis of other model Streams that followed.
It's design was a built-in setback that gave the engine a longer leverage
point and a better dispersion of water back to the prop. So
innovative and influential was this design, that Pipkorn regrets to this
day not having patented it.
result of the Panther conversion: the Ventura, a
spectacular boat that went on to set many records and was the boat to beat
on the race course.