William Edward Muncey (November 12, 1928 – October 18, 1981) was an American hydroplane racing legend from Detroit, Michigan. The International Motorsports Hall of Fame and hydroplane historian Dan Cowie described Muncey as "without question, the greatest hydroplane racer in history." Muncey was nicknamed "Mr. Unlimited" and won 62 races, which was the most races in the history of the sport until Dave Villwock broke his record in 2011.
Muncey began his boat racing career in 1949 by sinking in front of a hometown crowd on the Detroit River. Muncey's first attempt to drive in an American Power Boat Association (APBA) Gold Cup event began by blowing up the engine. Muncey went to Gar Wood’s riverfront mansion, and asked Wood for help. Muncey got an engine from Wood, but the bottom of the boat fell out during the next race.
Muncey had his first win at the Gold Cup in 1956 in Miss Thriftway. He followed that with another Gold Cup win in 1957, again in Miss Thriftway. In 1960, Muncey won fourteen races between 1960 and 1962, including six of seven in 1962. In 1976, at age 48, he won five races in his boat Atlas Van Lines to silence the critics that said that he was too old to win. He moved to a new Atlas Van Lines boat in 1977 and won twenty times in the next three seasons. Muncey attributed much of his success to his close friend and an accomplished aeronautical engineer, D.J. Nolan, Sr. of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. He followed up with four wins in 1980. Muncey won his last race during the Thunder on the Ohio race at Evansville in 1981. Muncey was leading the final heat of the World Championship race at Acapulco on October 18, 1981, when he died in a blowover crash while travelling 175 miles per hour (282 km/h). He was buried at Glen Abbey Memorial Park in Bonita, California.
In more than three decades of hydroplane racing, Muncey had claimed eight Gold Cups (1956, 1957, 1961, 1962, 1972, 1977, 1978, 1979), seven U.S. National Championships (1960, 1961, 1962, 1972, 1976, 1978, 1979), and four World Championships. He was named the driver of the year seven times.
As owners, the Muncey family won six High Points Champions (1976, 1978, 1979, 1982, 1983, 1985), with his widow Fran owning the Atlas Van Lines "Blue Blaster" until the end of the 1984 season, after which the boat became the Miller American from 1985 until 1987. In Fran Muncey's final year, the boat was renamed the Miller High Life, owing to Miller Brewing's rebranding of motorsport operations. Chip Hanauer drove the Muncey operation throughout her control before the team was bought out by Circus Circus at the end of the 1988 season.
- Muncey was inducted in the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2004.
- He was inducted in the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 1989 in the Power Boats category.
- Muncey was awarded the National Marine Manufacturers Association Hall of Fame Award in 1988.
- The H1 Unlimited High Points Championship Driver's Trophy is named for Muncey, as of 2011.
Muncey graduated from Royal Oak High School in Michigan in 1947. He attended Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, where he was initiated as a member of Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity. He was twice married and had four children.
- Hogg, Tony (1979). Thunderboating with Bill Muncey. ISBN 0-931570-01-8. OCLC 78050492.
- Garey, Stephen A. (1982). Bill Muncey: Boat Racing Legend. Unlimiteds Detroit. LCCN 91-672. OCLC 10601864.
- Muntz, A. J. (2013). At the Ragged Edge. ISBN 1-48194-905-5.
- Biography Archived July 3, 2007, at the Wayback Machine at the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, Retrieved May 23, 2007
- Biography Archived September 28, 2007, at the Wayback Machine at the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America, Retrieved May 23, 2007
- "Spirit of Qatar Clinches 2011 High Points Championship". H1 Unlimited. Archived from the original on December 21, 2012. Retrieved January 7, 2013.
- "Death ends career of a racing legend". Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington). Associated Press. October 20, 1981.
- "Muncey dies in hydro crash going 170 mph in title race". Toledo Blade. (Ohio). Associated Press. October 19, 1981. p. 19.
- "Boat driver Muncey dead after big crash". Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington). Associated Press. October 19, 1981. p. 15.
- "Muncey killed in accident". The Bulletin. (Bend, Oregon). UPI. October 19, 1981. p. D2.
- Find A Grave, Retrieved May 23, 2007
- Gold Cup winners Archived 2007-05-07 at the Wayback Machine, Retrieved May 23, 2007
- U.S. National Champs Archived 2007-05-07 at the Wayback Machine, Retrieved May 23, 2007
- Haskin, Brad. "The Circus Circus Story". The Hydroplane & Raceboat Museum. Retrieved September 23, 2016.
- Bill Muncey at the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America
- "Class of 1947: Bill Muncey". Royal Oak, Michigan: Royal Oak High School. Retrieved May 12, 2020.