During the summer of 1982 while showing BABY BOOTLEGGER at Manotick, Ontario, I met Philip Sharples walking the docks. He admired ‘Bootlegger and we launched into conversations about racing boats and racing engines. Engines seemed to fascinate Philip. Over the next 25 years, until Philip’s death, he became one of my finest customers and closest friends.
In the fall of 1982 Philip purchased from me a Packard 621 Gold Cup Racing Engine asked me to build a reproduction of MISS COLUMBIA to carry the engine.
Philip Sharples was born into a family of industrialists and engineers. His grandfather and great grandfather developed their farm based Sharples Cream Separator into a huge industrial complex producing centrifuges for the meatpacking, soap, scientific and military industries. At an early age, young Philip began tinkering with mechanical things. Philip’s father and uncle were American pioneer pilots and in the 1920’s were founders of the AOPA, today considered the “bible” publication & organization, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. Philip learned to pilot an airplane riding in his father’s lap flying from Philadelphia to their family island in the 1000 Islands. Philip Sharples grew up in the 1920’s driving fast boats from his family island in the 1000 Islands.
Philip built his first boat when he was about 10 years old and broke his arm pull starting his first racing outboard in the 1930’s, after which he continued to run his boat with a broken arm. He wrapped the starter cord around the plaster cast on his arm to get the motor started.
He had a life long love for racing engines. When he was in college at Harvard he had a polished Miller Indianapolis racing engine on display in his apartment.
In 1941 he bought a 48 cid racer BOMBITA which he campaigned winning his class in the 1947 President’s Cup on the Potomac River in Washington, DC soaking down President Harry Truman with a curtain of water in the final streak for the finish-line. Also in 1947 he set a World’s Straightaway Record at St. Martinsville, WV. He still holds that record today 61 years later.
Around 1955 Philip ordered from the factory a Mercedes Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe which he raced in hill-climbs and terrorized the roads of suburban Philadelphia.
In the 1970’s Philip had Olin Stephens design an aluminum racing sail boat named BELERION, berthed in Oxford, on Eastern Shore of Maryland. Philip belonged to the Corinthian Yacht Club and sailed in the Bermuda races and cruised to the far corners of the Eastern seaboard.
In the late 1970’s Philip’s parents gifted him their family island, Netley Island, in the 1000 Islands of the St. Lawrence River near Clayton, NY. Philip then began spending his summers on the River of his youth. He sold his sail boat and concentrated on small craft, St Lawrence Skiffs, sailing canoes, mahogany speedboats and racing boats.
During the summer of 1982 Philip met Mark Mason on the docks at Manotick, Ontario. He admired Mason’s BABY BOOTLEGGER and went for a spin on the water that brought back a flood of memories for Philip, going back to his youth and the raceboats he rode and and raced in years past. Philip and Mark launched into conversations about racing boats and racing engines. Engines seemed to fascinate Philip. Philip asked Mark if he would like to help him build a collection of racing engines. One of the engines that Philip bought was Mason’s HE Dodge Packard 621 Gold Cup racing engine.
In the winter of 1982-83 he and Mark Mason began the reconstruction of the 1920’s designed MISS COLUMBIA. The Packard powered her for ten years until Philip sold the Packard to be used in an original restoration. He had John Clark repower ‘COLUMBIA with a newly developed Fuel Injected V12 Falconer of 600 horsepower.
Everyone knows that Philip has a soft spot for pretty girls and many women have ridden with Philip in his boats while their husbands or boyfriend’s stood on the docks drooling for a ride.
Philip has never shaken his love of exotic boats or engines. He owned a 14 foot 48 cid racer called BOMBITA which he has set a worlds record with in 1947. He had always wanted to build a larger version of BOMBITA that would carry two people and be a more useful runabout. In 1984 in the summer of his 85th year, Philip and Mark Mason launched the boat if his dreams and Mason’s nightmares.. a 20 foot mutiple step hydroplane named GOLDEN DAYS powered with an Indianapolis Turbocharhed Drake Offy. Which in it’s heyday produced over a 1000 Horsepower at over 10,000 rpm. Detuned to run on High Test Gasoline, Philip, and Vince Bober, Mark and a band of Phd caliber engineers spent 7 years developing the motor and marine converting it for use in Philip’s boat. The turbo’s Offy was so difficult to devope into a usable, tractable engine that after a couple years, the engine was donated to the Clayton Museum and an aluminum head 502 GM V8 was installed in GOLDEN DAYS creating a fabulous speedboat which Philip enjoyed for the last years of his life. He died in December of 2008, in his bed, looking at photos of the great times he had boating over the years.