They were 3,000hp wooden-hulled harbingers of doom for the enemies of the Allies during WWII. True hot rods of the sea, the PT (Patrol Torpedo) boats were capable of attacking and sinking ships far larger and more powerful than themselves, mainly because they were so damned fast. Packing a triplet of specially built, blown, intercooled Packard V-12 motors, these 80-foot rockets were capable of nearly 50 knots at full tilt. This killer video from WWII shows them being built and hauling ass on the high seas.
There’s lots to say and learn about these boats and we’re going to direct you to an exhaustive wikipedia entry about them for the specifics. Here are some fun facts though. The engines were based off of an airplane engine that Packard was building a the time, and they drank 100-octane avgas for fuel. They loved the taste, as the boats were incredibly thirsty machines that could suck down 500 gallons of fuel per hour when running flat out.
After the war, the vast majority of the wooden-hull boats were towed into the sea and burned because the Navy thought that they were too expensive to operate and had no real purpose in the peacetime Navy. A few survive today.
This two part video is really neat and was produced by the Navy for guys wanting to get into the PT boat ranks. Pay close attention to the footage at the Packard plant where the engines were bring built. It’s cool!