Don Aronow: King of Offshore Powerboating

The killing of Don Aronow: arguably offshore powerboating's most controversial incident. Excerpt from Paradise Lost: The Rise and Fall of Ben Kramer. Read the full story in Véhicule Magazine.

Don Aronow wasn’t deterred by the fact that being a winner in the powerboat-racing sphere didn’t come cheap by any measure. To the naked, untrained eye, it would seem like a simple sport—there’s a boat and a two-person team of drivers. Behind the scenes though, the effort expended in preparation for each race was massive. There were endless rounds of research and development, there were replacement parts that could be as significant as entire engines and hulls, there were mechanics to replace those parts, and there were gallons upon gallons of high-grade fuel. It wouldn’t be uncommon for a team to spend into the six figures for just one race. There was a bounty waiting for the winner at the finish line, but that of course required a win.


As any clever hobbyist would do, Don Aronow decided to turn his newfound passion into a business. If nothing else, he would try to at least break even on each race. In 1963, Aronow became the first of his future colleagues to purchase a plot of land on N.E. 188th Street in Miami from the Clyde Beatty Circus. The land that would come to be called Thunderboat Row, Gasoline Alley or Fleet Street in the community may have been undesirable to others, but it was perfect for what Aronow wanted to achieve. The street was built on swampland and dead-ended to the east, which meant it was infrequently trafficked, inconspicuous and compound-like. It was flanked by canals that both fed into Biscayne Bay—a perfect marine testing ground.


It was on that land that Aronow founded and headquartered Formula, named after the racing cars. With the help of two veteran boatbuilders, Don quickly transformed his young company into a true force to be reckoned with, largely by following his creed that the only way to market boats properly was to have them win races. And so he did, claiming his first first place title in 1964. This would be the beginning of a streak of a number of powerboating companies helmed by Don over the coming years."

Read all about the real story of Don Aronow, founder of Magnum Marine, Cigarette, Donzi and Formula (amongst others) in the 30 page Véhicule Magazine feature story. Order the magazine here.