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Puff the Magic Dragger

The Sydney Morning Herald - Mar 3, 1980

Truck Record man dies at 260 klms

A truck driver was killed near Sale yesterday when his jet powered prime mover crashed during an attempt on an Australian land speed record.
Police believe he abandoned a safety plan to head for open paddocks on the right side of the highway because he was too close to a group of officials.
Instead, he steered to the left, crashing through a fence and over a railway line before overturning several times.
Williamstown mechanic and former world water speed recordholder Tom Watts, 57, died instantly when he was thrown from Puff the Magic Dragger after it skidded off a section of the Rosedale-Longford Road at 260 klms.
His two sons were watching the record attempt.
Seconds before the crash, Mr Watts tried unsuccessfully to control the 1956 Foden primemover by shutting down its twin Rolls Royce engines and releasing a double parachute.
Police said Mr Watts lost control on loose grave at 9.22 am while trying to establish an official time for the flying kilometre and the mile event.
Senior Constable Bill Riess, who was standing with a timing crew just off the highway, said the truck appeared to hit gravel about 50 metres from where they stood, stewed from the leftside to the right and back again.
I think he decided to swing back when he saw how close we were. Constable Riess said.
Mw Watts, father of seven children, earlier set four new national records for special vehicles on a six kilometre section. A dispute over the timing of a previous record attempt led to the ill fated run.

There was a song written for the family by a friend to the tune of puff the magic dragger
" Puff the Magic Dragger, fastest truck around, with two jets engines roaring it zooms across the ground and Tommy Watts the driver a man convinced he'd win(find the rest)."

Though he did more than three million kilometres as an interstate truckie before buying his service station, truck speed racing was relatively new to him. And while he held three national jet truck records, he was also a world record holder for power boats. This perhaps, was, where the real Tommy Watts stood,up to be counted.

One of his first boats was Exciter. The Silvertails laughed when they saw it. He'd bought two second-hand jet engines from an old Meteor and a hydroplane.
He joined the two together with a length of chain and housed the lot in a jigsaw of old steel welded together to roughly resemble the shape of a boat.They laughed even louder when his engines caught fire and he had to retire.
But he came back and eventually set a record of 150 mph 241.4 kmh).
He went on to set three world records in various classes of 162, 146 and 162.63 mph all of which still stand.
And the reason they do is that other jet boats are more than 25 ft. (7.6 metres) long, while his was only 17 ft. (5.1 metres).
"Tommy always said those records would stay forever because none of the others would be mad enough to put jet engines in a 17 footer," Mrs Watts said.




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