WelcomeHistoryBiographyArea 51InnovationsR&D EnginePhoto Player FlashMemorabiliaCollectionsRace EventsRace LegendsQcy v KonigCalendarInternet Linkse-mail me

Johnny Dortch - 5 Decades of Racing


Johnny Dortch's racing career began in 1947 in Arkansas, upon his return home from overseas & WWII. He started in racing with a doctor, an auto parts store manager, and a farmer/orchard owner. They started to build a step hydro from Popular Mechanic plans and Johnny stepped in to finish the boat. The group bought a 10 hp Mercury Lighting. At 27 mph, Johnny said it was fast (38 years later he was running 107 mph with a Konig). Someone told them about a hot rod shop in Memphis, so Johnny drove his 36 Ford pickup truck to Memphis to see if they could get their motor running faster. At this time Johnny heard about some boat races at Batesville, Arkansas. The group decided to purchase a hydro by a boat builder named Shorty Ailinger in Kansas City. They spent the next few years, in Johnny's words, tearing up all the water around Arkansas.

Johnny Racing in the 1940's


1948 - Johnny's 2nd Boat


1950 - Move to St. Louis


Johnny moved to St. Louis in 1950 and found himself at the St Louis Yacht Club on the Mississippi River, watching a boat race. Later in the year, he found himself at a race at Creve Coeur Lake. A couple of guys were having trouble starting a 10 hp Merc, so Johnny got into a discussion with them. Johnny ended up taking a ride in their 2 seat race boat. They asked if he wanted to go with them to some boat races at Branson, MO the next weekend. Johnny said by the time he got around to meeting up with the friends he had gone to the race with, they had given up on him and left, so he had to take a taxi home. He told his wife, Liz, that he had found himself something to race.

Racing in 1951


In 1951 Johnny drove a 2 seat Morphew runabout to high point A runabout in St Louis for Bob Compton. He then moved out to Creve Coeur Lake and met Charlie Black. Charlie built Johnny a runabout that he ran 3 races before flipping. That's when Johnny said he learned how to fix and keep the bottom of a runabout straight. According to Johnny, he ran a couple of years and won a few races.

Racing in 1952


Johnny remembered one of the big races he went to in Hot Springs, Arkansas. He believes it was in 1952 but said his memory isn't like it used to be. Johnny said someone gave him a Johnson brass wheel and said if he jacked it up high enough, it would fly. Johnny said that's just what it did. It also threw him out of the boat, not hurting him but it did hurt his pride.

1953 - Racing at Louisiana, MO


Johnny Meets O. F. Christner


Johnny said he'd heard about Christner and Palmer up in Quincy. He tracked down Chris (O. F. Christner) in the 1950's and started a relationship with him that resulted in Johnny winning more races. They were at Cairo, IL for the North-South Races when Chris introduced Johnny to Charlie Whitlaw and recommended Johnny as the driver Charlie was looking for. Charlie ordered a new A-B DeSilva and had Chris order them the Big B Swift. This started one of the winningest teams for 4 or 5 years.

Johnny in 1956


Racing for Charlie Whitlaw


Johnny and Charlie's partnership resulted in a very successful outboard racing team for the two. They were very successful together in 1957-59. At this time, Johnny's boat numbers were 9-Y and 99Y. Johnny said it was nothing to go to a race and win all 8 heats of A and B rounabout and hydro. They won one World Championship. In 1956 Charlie, at the suggestion of Jud Davis, bought a new A Konig from Scott Smith. Johnny & Charlie won quite a few races with the Konig. Whitelaw also purchased a new Anzani B for Johnny to race.

Johnny Dortch takes home a Championship


Johnny is the person in the middle of the photo.

Racing a 350 Anzani


Charlie Whitlaw met Bill Tenney and ended up buying a B 350 Anzani engine. Johnny and Charlie won quite a few races with their new Anzani. They even beat the Quincy Mercs at a boat race on the Mississippi at Quincy, which upset O. F. Christner very much. Johnny said he remembered that day well. Bill Tenney flew in for the championships. Johnny said Tenney brought an Anzani with him is 2 suitcases. They took place in the bay at Quincy, Illinois. Johnny ran 6 1st place finishes and 1 2nd place finish, which he said happened because the kick out turned loose and he couldn't make the turns. David Christner won that heat. Johnny said that eventually he and Chris would make up their differences and remained friends until Chris passed on.

The Passing of Charlie Whitlaw


Around this time, Charlie Whitlaw became ill with cancer. When he was in the hospital, he told his wife that he wanted his racing trailer to go to Johnny. Their understanding was that only the trailer would go to Johnny, not the equipment, so after Charlie passed on, they sold the Konig and gave the Anzani back to Tenney. Johnny bought the B Merc and Big B Swift. Johnny now had to start over, rebuilding his race career.

Starting Over


After Charlie Whitlaw passed on, Johnny started the long climb back up. O. F. Christner worked on his 2 motors for Johnny and Johnny won a few local races. Johnny then decided to buy an A Konig for himself from Scott Smith. Johnny eventually bought a B Konig and began racing it competitively. Somewhere along this time period, Johnny's son, John, became part of Johnny's pit crew and helped his father at the races until he had to go to Vietnam.

The Dortch Family Race Team


Upon returning from Viet Nam in the 1960's, Johnny's son, John, began racing with his father. His wife, Liz, also traveled to all of the races with her husband and son, assisting them. The Dortch racing team found themselves traveling to many races, mostly east and central US. They ran mostly NOA for years as Johnny had left APBA in 1951. Johnny said they won many races but the championship eluded them. Johnny liked going to Texas to race the best. He said they sure didn't like getting beat down there.

1963 North & South Championships


In 1963 at the North & South Championships, all Johnny had to do was finish the heat and he would be General Grant for the North (he, an old southern boy). On the start of the 2nd heat, as they were crossing the starting line, a pleasure boat driven by the president of Alco Aluminum ran across a hydro in front of them. Johnny was leading the pack of racers with a Merc made by O. F. Christner. The pleasure boat accident caused Johnny to crash and 3 boats ran over the top of him. Johnny ended up with 123 stitches in his hip, a broken left arm and a damaged foot. He was in the hospital for 6 weeks and they thought at the time that he would never walk again. Johnny came home and, with the help of a lot of therapy, managed to return to racing. Johnny went to Creve Coeur Lake that fall and won B runabout, got a 1st in C hydro and 3rd in A rounabout all while riding on his right knee.

Dortch - Hydroplane Quarterly Hall of Fame


Looking Back


Johnny said he probably has 110 trophies from his racing career. He thinks he has 4 World 1sts and 3 2nds/3rds. Johnny says he is most proud of his 4 Good Sportsmanship trophies.

Quincy Welding - Memories


Johnny said he remembered one time he and wife, Liz, were at the Creve Couer Boat Club with friends, drinking beer and having a good time. Chris, Freddy Goehl, Jim Schoch were off to races at Michigan. About 9 pm that evening John Woods and Joe Benoist(?) came in with big ideas to use Johnny's trailer and station wagon to slip in on Chris (O. F. Christner). They got to the races just in time to register. In the B Runabout, John Woods flipped. Johnny said he was boxed in by Freddy and Jim but managed to slip past and win the race. Johnny said Chris said why didn't you stay home so I could sell more motors? Johnny said he replied that he was driving Quincy motors and so was John Woods. He said Chris replied hell, that's better yet.

More Racing Memories


Then there was the time in Nashville, Tenn. at the North & South Races when Johnny had a Quincy flathead B runabout DeSilva 2 cockpit boat belonging to Dave Woods. Johnny said his foot and leg got tangled up in the throttle wire with the carb wide open. He said he was out front but the dam was coming up quick. He made it around the turn only to have the barge used for the judges stand coming up in front of him. He said there was nothing he could do but to point the boat towards the banks where a lot of cars were lined up along the shores and bail out. While in the air he saw his boat hit an old 4 door Dodge. Both doors flew open, the boat turned and burned the paint off of a Caddy.

Even More Race Memories


Johnny recalled a time at the DePue Nationals at the pig roast up in the park. Bill Seebold, his wife Pauline, Johnny's wife Liz and Johnny had just gotten there had Johnny said he went to get everyone a beer. They had an outside stand and when he went up to get the beer, Toddy Thompson (from New Jersey) grabbed his arm and said he had a joke to tell Johnny. Johnny said he got to laughing so hard he turned around and fell over a concrete block into the bed of hot charcoals, burning his arm and leg. That was one Nationals he wouldn't forget.

Johnny Dortch's Photograph Album


The pictures above, along with the pictures below, are all from Johnny's personal photo album covering his racing career.

1940's St Louis Boat Show


1940's St. Louis Boat Show (2)


1951 - Johnny's Friend, Joe Benoist


1950's - Vern McQueen


1956 Article on Dieter Konig


1957 - Racing on the Quincy, IL Bay


1957 High Points Winners


Late 1950's - 19Y


Early 1960's - Pit Area


Early 1960's?


Early 60's - 9Y


Mid 1960's - Racing at Old Hickory


A Young John Wood


Mid 1960's - Pit Area


Mid 1960's - Pit Area


Johnny Takes Home a Trophy


Mid 1960's - Hanging Around the Pit Area


1960's - Dortch and Sons Race Trailer


1960's - Walter Courtois


1967 - Johny Dortch with a Quincy Looper


1967 - Dortch named Outstanding Driver


John Dortch won the outstanding driver award at the 7th annual Pony Express Powerboat Races. 7/31/67 article from the St. Joseph Gazette.

1967 - Johnny Cash


1970 - Johnny Racing Jerry Waldman