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American racing: 'The Golden Age'


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#151 Jim Dillon

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Posted 29 April 2009 - 00:01

I have seen the Sig Haugdahl web page in the past and thought somewhat curiously of the Miller you refer to M Tanney. The engine switching is not too surprising as these cars were for the most part at that time outdated cars on either outlaw or small state fair type circuits. The picture of the Miller on page 159 of Dirt Track Auto Racing is what I believe is the Sub. Horey and Ben Gotoff (AKA Ben Giroux) ran a number of outdated racecars. Tom Saal is the caretaker of the Ben Gotoff scrapbook and I have looked at the scrapbook and have a zerox copy of the scrapbook. It is hard to make out some of the zerox pics and my memory from looking at the scrapbook over twenty years ago is a tad fuzzy. I am not familiar if the Cadwell MIller is contained in the book though and I cannot remember if I saw anything that could pass for the Cadwell Miller in the book. The most prominent Miller in the book though (at least 8 or 10 pics) is the Bender Special. The Bender was the 1919 configuration of the 1917 Pan American (Tom Alley) with one of the earliest Miller aluminum 4s (if not the earliest of the Aluminum 4s). Jerry Gebby had incorrectly labeled this car as a Mercer and I had a couple of face to face arguments with Jerry Gebby in this regards. I liked Jerry and out of respect during his final days I deferred from disagreeing with him publicly. Shortly after his death I wrote a small piece for Bulb Horn on this difference in opinion. With the dual gas fillers this car is somewhat easy to find in pics and Gotoff apparently drove this car until he wrecked it. He had a number of pics of the car after he wrecked contained in his scrapbook.

As to Sloan it is not at all surprising he had a number of great old racecars in his stable. In talking to Bill Castle (Miller Baby Chev), Bill and his wife Esther watched the fire at Sloans garage that burned the Sub and Cadwell Miller and Sig Haugdahls Rocket car. Bill and his wife (girlfriend at the time) had just spent the afternoon at the motion picture show down the street. When Bill heard there was a fire he thought it may be the shop he worked at which was just down the street from Sloan's garage. As I recently discussed with Bill he has spoken to people that claim they have Sub original parts after the fire (steering wheel) although Bill said the floor was oil filled dirt and the fire was so hot nothing was left. The debris was carted off to a landfill. A sad demise to three pretty neat cars.

Michael as to the Vail Miller, 37 Kid is a huge Vail fan and has some paperwork. Next time I correspond with him I will mention it to see if there is any more info to be had on the car. Jim

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#152 Mark Dill

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Posted 29 April 2009 - 16:50

Hi Jim.

I had not heard the fate of the Golden Submarine. Can you tell me more about the fire or point me to resources that provide more detail? Also, the background of how many different hands the car passed through?

Thanks so much.

Mark Dill
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#153 Jim Dillon

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Posted 29 April 2009 - 23:57

Mark, I have looked at your website and can appreciate all of your hardwork. I have been researching the 300 inch era for around thirty years and have always been pretty much a skeptic myself. In trying to trace the Miller SOHC 289s I have come up dry with any print media of the day after 1919. Years ago I had heard that the Sub had raced in Cuba during the twenties and I spoke to Fred Usher about that back in the eighties. He had heard of the same rumor but had nothing to back it up. Jerry Gebby had nothing solid as to the Sub (post 1919) as most of his information was based on his photos and the races he attended during the day. When Tom Saal came across the Ben Gotoff scrapbook in the eighties and it had the Sub picture (referred to above) it got me thinking once again of the fate of the Sub and any other Millers. I had heard of a fire that burned the Sub but never could find anything to back it up. The Gotoff scrapbook contains some of the second tier drivers(if I may call them that without trying to sound insulting) and I believe some of the cars and the drivers in the book were associated with Alex Sloan. It should be no surprise that Alex Sloan always ended up with some pretty interesting racecars albeit a bit out of date when he hauled them around to race in the little towns at local racetracks and state fair type events.

As to the Sub and Cadwell car, I can only imagine there are some pictures out there as to the racing exploits in the twenties but I have not been fortunate enough to run across them. Several years ago, Rick Rawlins from California called me and told me I should look up Bill Castle in Speedway who was building (recreating-insert your own term) the Miller Baby Chevrolet, I gave Bill a call and have been glad I did. I have been associated with restoring cars since going to work in my grandfathers restoration shop in 1964 and I was blown away by the talent of Bill in his work on the Baby Chev. His attention to detail and his craftsmanship is second to none and he would make Harry Miller proud. Bill's background is as an engineer with General Motors in Indianapolis until he retired. Prior to his career at General Motors he crewed at Indianapolis from 1946 through 1949, including a stint as crew chief. In 1946 he crewed on the #7 Wearne ex-Wilbur Shaw bullnose Pay car then owned by Ervin Wolfe. In 1947 and 1948 he crewed on a couple of cars, the Robson and Chitwood cars and in 1949 on the Chitwood car owned by Wolfe. Bill had the talent and desire but the money in those days was quite sparse so he had to find a job that supported his family. In my discussions with Bill, I have been very impressed with his knowledge and research and his memory. I point all of this out just to let you know that Bill is not just some guy that has opened a few books on early racecars or lived the racing life completely on the sidelines.

In one of our discussions he mentioned a fire at Alex Sloans shop which struck a nerve and I have had a couple of conversations with him in this regards. According to Bill in 1939 or 1940 when he was dating his wife (I believe he was around 20) he witnessed the Sloan fire. Bill was working at a gas station in Joliet Illinois down the street from Sloans garage. He was at the movie theater with his girlfriend Esther and when they came out and saw smoke he thought it may be the gas station but it turned out to be Sloans garage. He and Esther went and watched the fire and it burned up everything inside. Bill was interested in racecars at the time and there were three cars in the building he knew of; #1 The Sig Haugdahl rocket car which had a lengthened Miller chassis #2 a Blue racecar that he felt was somewhat non descriptive but was alleged to be the Cadwell Miller and #3 a Red racecar that he felt was equally non descriptive but was alleged to be the Sub (this is what Sloan before and after the fire claimed they were). The building was a one story brick building with a flat roof (and not a barn as Gordon White has since alleged). The floor was soaked with oil and it was built on a slight grade as it was alongside a railroad siding to load the racecars. Bill said everything inside was destroyed and was nothing but molten metal and he believes the remains were hauled to a junkyard at Rockdale.

Bill has spoken to a couple of people (who know he was there) who claim they have Sub parts but Bill in a nice way told me he does not to rain on their parade but there was nothing left.

Bill has tried to correct Gordon White on it not being a barn and spoke to the late Chuck Davis as well. According to Bill, Chuck Davis after talking to John Sloan (Alex's son) took a metal detector to the area but came up empty. As Bill said he thinks the metal debris was hauled off to Rockdale shortly after the fire.

As to how many hands the Sub passed through I cannot answer you on that but my dart board style guess would be that Sloan owned the car thru the twenties until its demise. As to where you can further research this topic I can't help you there either but if you know of anything or hear of anything give me a hollar as I would like to read it myself. Hope this helps-Jim

#154 Jim Dillon

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Posted 30 April 2009 - 02:51

Mark, for whatever it is worth, I looked in Gordon White's book, The Marvelous Mechanical Designs of Harry A. Miller and at p.21 there is a picture of the Cadwell Miller and White states ..."Omar Toft bought it and ran it in 1919, after which it went to J. Alex Sloan and was destroyed along with the Submarine when Sloan's barn in Joliet, Illinois, burned to the ground". Apparently this is the reference that Bill attempted to correct.-Jim

#155 Mark Dill

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Posted 30 April 2009 - 16:05

Mark, for whatever it is worth, I looked in Gordon White's book, The Marvelous Mechanical Designs of Harry A. Miller and at p.21 there is a picture of the Cadwell Miller and White states ..."Omar Toft bought it and ran it in 1919, after which it went to J. Alex Sloan and was destroyed along with the Submarine when Sloan's barn in Joliet, Illinois, burned to the ground". Apparently this is the reference that Bill attempted to correct.-Jim


Hi Jim.

Thanks for the background. Like so much of this history it is so much like folklore. But it sounds like that even if the details are not corroborated (barn vs. brick garage, for example), you have sources that agree on the crux of the matter - that the Sub melted in a fire. Hopefully more information can become available, and that's what's wonderful about the Web.

Again, thank you for sharing your knowledge and insights.

Mark Dill

#156 john glenn printz

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Posted 01 May 2009 - 13:44

Dear Jim;

This is a quote from my post no. 152 of January 25, 2007 on the thread "1946 AAA NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP";

"After the 1918 season Oldfield retired from competitive driving, but retained possession of this 1917 Miller. In 1919 it was raced by Roscoe Sarles (1892-1922), and then later, in late 1919 and early 1920, by Waldo Stein (1889-1965). The Oldfield Miller was entered in the 1920 Indianapolis 500 with the idea of replacing its original 289 cubic inch motor with a new 179 cu. in. Miller, but the new Miller 4 was not yet ready for actual use, in fact, it never would be. In late 1920 Barney sold the ex-Golden Sub to Alex J. Sloan, the IMCA impresario. Under the IMCA in 1921-1922, the car was raced by supposed Frenchman, Leon Duray (1894-1956), who didn't know a word of French. Duray was not French and his real name was George Stewart. Sloan, who invented the name "Leon Duray", evidently was hoping the public would confuse Stewart for a genuine French pilot named Arthur Duray (1882-1954), who was the 2nd place finisher at Indianapolis in 1914 in a three litre Peugeot."

Edited by john glenn printz, 01 May 2009 - 15:44.


#157 Jim Dillon

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Posted 01 May 2009 - 22:53

John, thanks for the quote. I have tried to follow the Sub up to 1920 but I have found not a lot written after that. Besides the pic in Gotoff's scrapbook, which may have been taken in 1919 for all that matters, I have not seen much on the Sub. I have seen one photograph of it on a dirt track I believe but I can't seem to put my finger on where. Also most of my exposure to the Cadwell Miller I seem to follow as the Toft Miller after 1918. Both of these Millers would have made for some halfway decent gate receipts at the local horsetracks after they were retired from AAA. I also have not kept any records of the outlaw races or Sloan's circus or the hippodroming as I have felt it was slightly just above the staged wrestling. I would like to read a history of Sloan though as I am sure it would make for some good reading. For some reason I have always wondered how all of the great racecars ended up in the trashbin of history. The Sub is a different situation in that it burned up but the fate of some of the other OHC cars make me cringe. I have often felt even if the car was used up how could they throw out the artwork that is OHC valvetrain etc.-Jim

#158 fines

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Posted 02 May 2009 - 11:58

This is a question to Michael Ferner about the trouble you are having with the zip files that contain the PDF copies of the books on www.firstsuperspeedway.com

I'm trying to figure out why you would have trouble opening the zip files. They are just compressed folders. Once you click on them, you should get a dialogue box. Just click on that and the folder opens up. You should then see another folder, just click on that and you will find a large number of PDFs. Each PDF has a couple of pages of the book.

If anyone else is experiencing difficulty, I'd like to know. And Michael, tell me more precisely what your issue is if this procedure fails. We can take this off-line if you like...just contact me through my site.

The books are wonderful, and I have a couple of more I am going to load in the next few weeks.

Wow, suddenly it worked! :) :clap: :up:

I cannot really say what my troubles are, but it has happened so often already with compressed files that I'm sick and tired of the whole process. Maybe I am thick, I don't know, but in this day and age of (practically) unlimited disk space and fast connections I fail to see the relevance of compressing files, especially when I have spent hours upon hours already trying to access them, fruitlessly in many cases! :(

I will now stop being a Luddite (for the time being, at least! ;)), and try to enjoy my new found "ability"... :) Thanks for the continued support, and for the files, obviously! :up:


EDIT I still can't post a wink! :mad:

Edited by fines, 02 May 2009 - 11:59.


#159 fines

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Posted 02 May 2009 - 12:15

Michael,

Paul Clancy won the IMCA sanctioned feature race at the Iowa State Fairgrounds on August 24, 1923. He drove what was said to be Barney Oldfield's "Golden Egg", also known as "the Golden Submarine".

Thanks for the info! Much for the same reasons as Jim, I never made a concentrated effort to collect IMCA results, though I do make notes about stuff I find accidentally. It makes tracking cars quite a bit more difficult, though, as IMCA "swallowed up" some very interesting racers, and sometimes even "spit them out" again, a few years later! The same goes for drivers, incidentally.

I was aware of Leon Duray racing the Sub in the early twenties, and had heard the stories about the "barn fire". Interesting to hear Haugdahl's rocket car being mentioned in this context, I always figured he reconverted it, maybe with a four-cylinder engine, to use it for his try at AAA in 1935! I will get back to the Haugdahl cars and some related issues soon.

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#160 fines

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Posted 03 May 2009 - 10:56

A few Miller histories:

#28 Duray - was #6 in 1923, driven by Hearne (two wins, AAA Champion) and Cooper, #14 in 1924, driven by Comer, Morton and Hartz, pole sitter at Indy in '25
#5 Comer - was #1 in 1924, driven by Hearne and Durant
#2 Cooper - 1925 car
#6 Hartz - was #7/#3 in 1923 and #4 in '24, apparently only ever driven by Hartz
#3 Hill (B) - was #10 late in 1923 and #3 in '24, driven by Hill (B), also Cariens, Ellingboe and Wonderlich in early '25
#4 Milton - was #5 in 1924, driven by Milton
#27 Elliott - was #2 early in 1924, the Murphy death car, also driven by Lockhart in early '25
#14 McDonogh - was #19 in 1924, driven by McDonogh
#17 Hepburn - was #25/#2 in 1923 and #8 in '24, driven by Wilcox and Cooper
#8 de Palma - was #2 late in 1924, driven by de Palma (this was the "short tail" dirt track car, not the #8 long-wheelbase car he drove at Indy!), perhaps Corum in early '25
#19 Hill (J) - perhaps the #32 Mourre car in 1924??, also driven by Johnson and Vail in early '25
#10 Wonderlich - was #4/#8 in 1923 and #7 in '24, driven by Durant, Hearne, Wonderlich and Morton, completely rebuilt after June 1924 accident with distinctive radiator shell, also driven by Ellingboe in early '25
#15 Shattuc - was #31 late in 1924, driven by Shattuc
#24 Devore - was #8 late in 1923 and #16 in '24, driven by Durant, Comer, Hearne and Shafer, also Lewis in early '25

This is an old post, but recently I found new information which, interestingly, corroborates an earlier version I had of the history of that particular car, and which I dismissed because of a wrongly dated picture!

#19 Hill (J) - was #31/#6/#16 in 1924, driven by Vail, Morton, van Ranst, Wilson, Elliott and Cariens, also Johnson in early '25

Edited by fines, 03 May 2009 - 10:57.


#161 john glenn printz

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Posted 09 March 2010 - 20:12

HARRY MILLER IN 1921. It was in 1920 that Harry Miller got the unwanted reputation of not being able to build a racing car or engine "fast enough to blow your hat off", as Tommy Milton put it. Miller's fortunes however would change dramatically in late 1921. The year 1921 was truely Harry's "year of destiny" and the real beginning of his later 1920s era successes. In early 1921 Milton was using Cliff Durant's 1919/1920 Miller chassis taken from the 1920 "Baby Chevrolet" car, but now powered by a 183 Duesenberg single cam straight 8. Milton used this combination at the sprint races at Beverly Hills run on February 27, 1921 and April 10, 1921.

Cliff Durant's father, W. C. Durant, had lost all control at General Motors on November 19, 1920, to be effective legally on November 30, 1920. Cliff himself left General Motors a month or two later. Cliff had been the head of GM's Chevrolet assembly plant, located at Oakland, CA. And Cliff had during 1917 to 1920 run Stutz and Miller racing cars under the name "Chevrolet Specials". By January 1921 his father was busy organizing a new motor car corporation called "Durant Motors, Inc." For this reason Cliff Durant's car and chassis, as "borrowed" by Tommy Milton, was now in early 1921 renamed and now ran as the "Durant-Duesenberg Special".

Milton had installed a 183 Duesenberg 8 in the Chevrolet Baby chassis in September 1920. However Milton had not been overly impressed by this combination and was looking for much more power. But Tommy duly entered this Duesenberg/Miller hybrid in the upcoming Indianapolis 500, in February 1921, and thereby became the 500's fourth official entrant. However already by December 1920 Milton, who had been with the two Duesenbergs during the development of their new straight 8 motor (1919 and 1920) both in its 300 and 183 cubic inch versions, now wanted to build a completely new 183 cubic inch straight 8, but largely dictated by his own ideas of its design and construction.

Leo Goossen (1892-1974) was an excellent engineer, detail man, and a first class draftsman. Goossen had found employment at Harry Miller's shop in August 1919, and had worked on the 1920 abortive Miller "T.N.T" Indianapolis project. Working together, Milton and Goossen, during December 1920-January 1921, designed an entirely new 181 cubic inch double overhead cam straight 8 racing motor. Milton finally ordered an example of his new engine from Harry Miller in February 1921, hoping it could be put together and tested in time for the upcoming 1921 Indianapolis 500.

About February or March 1921, driver Ira Vail (1893-1979) saw the blueprints for the Goossen-Milton 181 straight 8 engine, and Vail also wanted a copy of this new powerplant. Ira had previously been working at Miller's shop, installing a straight 8 Duesenberg motor into a Miller chassis, possibly one of the ex- "T.N.T." cars. Whatever it was, Vail and Harry Miller now worked with the idea of placing Ira's new Goossen-Milton type of motor, into the chassis instead of the Duesenberg 8. Milton himself was not adverse to Vail's obtaining a replica of the new Miller engine, because it would help keep the production costs down. With the situation a bit in the air, Vail elected to pilot the No. 9 Duesenberg car at Beverly Hills on February 27, 1921. This had been Eddie O'Donnell's death car at the same track on November 25. 1920.

Now another element entered the picture. The Leach-Biltwell passenger car manufacturer of Los Angeles now got involved in these projects. The Leach car had been made in L. A. since late 1919 and was a heavily constructed, semi-luxury vehicle. It is not clear whether Vail had Leach sponsorship in March 1921, but Ira certainly had it by early April 1921, as he entered his new Miller racer in the Beverly Hill sprints for April 10, as a "Leach Special". The car however remained unfinished and did not appear. Nor did Ira's Leach Special (Miller) run at Fresno on April 30, 1921 and for exactly the same reason.

Meanwhile Milton took delivery on his own Miller 8 and after the Beverly Hills sprints of April 10, 1921, he installed the new motor into his borrowed Durant/Miller chassis. The new Miller 8 now replacing the old Duesenberg 8, which had been in the car since September 1920. In this new form, i.e. now again all Miller built, Tommy piloted it in the Fresno 150 of April 30, 1921, finishing a poor 6th, out of the ten starters. Thus Milton became the first man ever to run a Miller straight 8, in actual competition. The Durant Special, as it was now called, had however run poorly, and with the big Indianapolis classic just one month off, Milton's fortunes were now in seemly and dismal disarray. The new Miller engined Durant Special was not race ready as yet. Tommy had however kept his options open. Already by May 8, 1921, it was rumored that Milton might drive one of Louis Chevrolet's two new straight 8 Frontenacs at Indianapolis. Milton's "Durant Special" was never shipped to Indianapolis and was offically withdrawn from the race on May 24. Milton had finally decided to pilot one of the two new straight 8 Frontenacs, just completed by Louis Chevrolet and his designer/engineer, Cornelius Van Ranst (1892-1972). The second Frontenac straight 8 was given into the hands of veteran, Ralph Mulford.

Edited by john glenn printz, 12 March 2010 - 13:36.


#162 john glenn printz

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Posted 10 March 2010 - 13:31

HARRY MILLER IN 1921 (cont.-1) Ira Vail's new "Leach" arrived at the Indianaplis Motor Speedway on May 23, 1921, unpainted and had just been completed a few days before. Vail qualified it on the first day of qualifications (May 26) with a very slow average of just 82.35 mph. An 80 mph average or above was required to qualify for the 1921 "500". Frank Elliott (1890-1972), who always seemed to be hovering about Miller's machine shop, was officially listed as Vail's race day relief driver, if Vail perchance needed one. Vail's "Leach Special" was the fourth complete Harry Miller racing car that was actually finished and actually raced. The other three previous complete Miller cars were (1) Barney Oldfield's 1917 "Golden Submarine" (289 cubic inch motor); (2) A. A. Cadwell's 1917 machine (289 cubic inch motor), and (3) Cliff Durant's "Baby Chevrolet" (179 cubic inch motor). The only previously constructed complete Millers to start at Indianapolis, before Vail's 1921 car, were the two 289 cubic inch 1917 machines, piloted by Sarles and Toft in 1919. Miller had nothing in the field at all for 1920.

On the very eve of the running of the 1921 Indianapolis 500, the LOS ANGELES TIMES (May 29, 1921, Part VI, page 7) reported that the "Miller Engine and Foundry Works", owned by Harry A. Miller; and the "Leach Biltwell Company", had both been acquired by a new corporation called the "Leach Biltwll Motor Company". The latter was incorporated with a capitalization of $5,000,000. Rumours about this possible merger combination had been rampant since January-February 1921. A new six cylinder motor, designed by Miller, would be used in the Leach passenger cars, at a later date. Miller himself was to supervise over the actual construction of these new Leach produced engines and Harry was now named as a second Vice President of the new corporation. This was all seemingly big doings for Miller, who had now gotten his foot firmly, and for the first time, into the nation's passenger car manufacturing business. The two Duesenberg brothers, Fred and August, were also in mid-1921 engaging their attention in a new passenger car venture, the Duesenberg Motor Company, located in Indianapolis.

In the 500, Ira Vail completed all 200 laps without relief, but averaged a mere 80.152 mph. Vail placed 7th, being a full 42 minutes behind the victorious Milton-Frontenac combination. Milton surprizingly (even to himself!) won at Indianapolis on May 30 in the new Frontenac 8, after Ralph DePalma, in his very fast Ballot, easily lead the first half (i.e. circuits 1 & 3-110). DePalma's early and extremely fast pace broke much of the field, so that when Ralph's Ballot retired after 112 laps, Milton found himself in first place from then on (i.e. laps 111-200)! Only nine cars were still running at the finish. DePalma was unexpectedly and suddenly put out with a broken connnecting rod. Vail however had the honour of running the very first Miller straight 8 at Indianapolis.

After his totally unexpected win at Indianapolis, Milton made a deal with Louis Chevrolet to pilot a Frontenac car at the two 1921 Uniontown events (June 18 and September 5). It sure beat shipping the still unfit Durant Special all the way from California! Tommy drove a Frontenac 8 in the Uniontown 225 (June 18), but could manage only an 8th place finish, among the eleven starters. Milton had been the pre-race favorite, which was natural, since he had been the recent Indianapolis winner.

After the June 1921 Uniontown, Milton quickly headed back to California to work on his Miller 8 powered Durant car. A furtive look at Roscoe Sarles' (1892-1922) Duesenberg motor gave Milton the clue as to how to get his Miller 8 running properly and Milton then promptly won the big Tacoma 250 of July 4, 1921. It was the very first win for a completely built Miller vehicle in major U.S. automobile racing. Sarles' Duesenberg racer had been on display at a local L.A. Roamer dealership (possibly the one located at 1001 South Hope Street), and Milton had sweet talked poor Roscoe into removing its cam covers and turning over the engine by the use of its crank. The Duesenberg team was then using a special Scott-Hall camshaft manufactured by the aviation division of Scott-Hall firm. Tommy had already obtained by stealth a blueprint of it from a semi-disgruntled Duesenberg employee, but hadn't thought that the print anywhere near correct. One quick glance at Sarles' cam now showed that the surreptitiously gained print was accurate. Milton now ordered similarly designed cams for his Miller 8 and the engine's performance improved both dramatically and immediately. As Milton told historian Griffith Borgeson, "My car immediately began running like a spotted-assed ape."

Edited by john glenn printz, 12 March 2010 - 15:46.


#163 john glenn printz

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Posted 10 March 2010 - 18:02

HARRY MILLER IN 1921 (cont.-2) After the 1921 Indianapolis, Frank Elliot took over the driving duties of the "Leach Special", and Ira Vail apparently never drove it again. Thus by mid-1921 Harry Miller had two quasi experimental, developmental, and test prototypes, the "Durant" and the "Leach", running in the 1921 AAA National Championship races. These were the only Miller cars for 1921. The history of both these machines for 1921 is as follows;

(A.) THE "LEACH" MILLER (Vail and Elliott);

4/10 BEVERLY HILLS, entered, did not start, not ready

4/30 FRESNO, not entered, not ready

5/30 INDIANAPOLIS, 7th running

6/18 UNIONTOWN, 7th running

7/4 TACOMA, 8th running

8/14 COTATI, 9th out, broken rear end

9/5 UNIONTOWN, not entered

10/1 FRESNO,3rd running

10/23 COTATI, 6th running

11/24 BEVERLY HILLS, 3rd running

12/11 SAN CARLOS, 12th out, broken crankshaft

(B.) THE DURANT MILLER (Milton);

4/10 BEVERLY HILLS, car still powered by a Duesenberg 8

4/30 FRESNO, 6th running

5/30 INDIANAPOLIS, entered, did not arrrive, withdrawn, not ready

6/18 UNIONTOWN, not entered

7/4 TACOMA, 1st running

8/14 COTATI, 3rd running

9/5 UNIONTOWN, not entered

10/1 FRESNO, 8th out, engine trouble

10/23 COTATI, 10th out, broken crankshaft

11/24 BEVERLY HILLS, 2nd running

12/11 SAN CARLOS, 2nd running

In the second half of the 1921 season the "Leach" Miller had two 3rds, while the "Durant" Miller had one 1st, two 2nds, and one 3rd. The hitherto top Duesenberg aces were now being seriously challenged by the two Miller cars being piloted by Milton and Elliott. After the Duesenberg win in the 1921 French Grand Prix at LeMans on July 25, the four 1921 French Grand Prix Duesenberg team cars were put up for sale and by November 1921, Murphy, Hearne, and Hartz had purchased one each.

Fred and Augie Duesenberg in 1921, had now turned their chief attention to the production and marketing of their new passenger car, the Model A. The Model A was an advanced car, but expensive at $6,500, and was the first U.S. passenger car to feature a straight 8 engine, four wheel brakes, and hydraulic brakes. The Model A was manufactured from 1921 to 1926. The Model A however was never as famous as the later Duesenberg J Model introduced in 1928, or the Model SJ (i.e. supercharged J) first made available in 1932. When Eddie Rickenbacker's Junk Formula for 1930 went into effect, Model A motors were appropriated and modified for racing car use. Even Fred Duesenberg himself built two Model A powered racers in 1930. They were piloted at Indianapolis in 1930 by Peter DePaolo and Bill Cummings, and in 1931 by Jimmy Gleason and Phil Pardee. Gleason was killed in one of them at Syracuse, NY on September 12, 1931.

By late 1921 it was obvious to most racing "insiders" that the new 181 cubic inch, double overhead cam Miller motor was delivering more torque and horsepower, than the hitherto dominant single overhead cam 183 Duesenberg straight 8. Although Duesenberg hadn't won at Indianapolis in either 1920 or 1921 the marque had been the dominant car on the AAA Championship circuit during 1920 and 1921; but the Duesenberg 8's basic design was now three years old, while the new Miller 8 dated from just April 1921, with its real potential still seeming unrealized and untapped. In early December 1921, Milton predicted that Miller powered equipment would rule the American raceways in 1922. This proved true and in 1923 Miller machinery won every AAA Championship contest. Suddenly, in late 1921, all the Duesenberg drivers were put on the defensive with their now obsolete cars and equipment. In sum, Harry Miller's fortunes had picked up considerably from the end of 1920 to the end of 1921.

In mid-December 1921 also, the new Leach passenger car, Model "999", using the Miller single overhead cam 6, was introduced for sale to the general public. Harry's new six cylinder Leach passenger car engine was said to produce 107 horsepower. Certainly Harry Miller now seemed in very good shape for the upcoming year, 1922.

(I came across this three page essay, dated November 28, 2004, when looking for something else, and decided to post it. I think I have one for 1922 somewhere also-PRINTZ)

Edited by john glenn printz, 12 March 2010 - 13:40.


#164 Michael Ferner

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Posted 16 March 2010 - 22:20

(I came across this three page essay, dated November 28, 2004, when looking for something else, and decided to post it. I think I have one for 1922 somewhere also-PRINTZ)


Thanks, John, for sharing! :up: And please go on with your 1922 essay if you can find it!!

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#165 Michael Ferner

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Posted 16 March 2010 - 22:27

A few Miller histories:

#28 Duray - was #6 in 1923, driven by Hearne (two wins, AAA Champion) and Cooper, #14 in 1924, driven by Comer, Morton and Hartz, pole sitter at Indy in '25
#5 Comer - was #1 in 1924, driven by Hearne and Durant
#2 Cooper - 1925 car
#6 Hartz - was #7/#3 in 1923 and #4 in '24, apparently only ever driven by Hartz
#3 Hill (B) - was #10 late in 1923 and #3 in '24, driven by Hill (B), also Cariens, Ellingboe and Wonderlich in early '25
#4 Milton - was #5 in 1924, driven by Milton
#27 Elliott - was #2 early in 1924, the Murphy death car, also driven by Lockhart in early '25
#14 McDonogh - was #19 in 1924, driven by McDonogh
#17 Hepburn - was #25/#2 in 1923 and #8 in '24, driven by Wilcox and Cooper
#8 de Palma - was #2 late in 1924, driven by de Palma (this was the "short tail" dirt track car, not the #8 long-wheelbase car he drove at Indy!), perhaps Corum in early '25
#19 Hill (J) - perhaps the #32 Mourre car in 1924??, also driven by Johnson and Vail in early '25
#10 Wonderlich - was #4/#8 in 1923 and #7 in '24, driven by Durant, Hearne, Wonderlich and Morton, completely rebuilt after June 1924 accident with distinctive radiator shell, also driven by Ellingboe in early '25
#15 Shattuc - was #31 late in 1924, driven by Shattuc
#24 Devore - was #8 late in 1923 and #16 in '24, driven by Durant, Comer, Hearne and Shafer, also Lewis in early '25


Another correction:

#5 Comer - was #32 in 1924, driven by Mourre, and possibly Hartz in early 1925


#166 Searching Cliff

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Posted 08 June 2010 - 18:00

I'm back :wave:

That was one long potty break!

Will post some of the pics I found!

#167 Michael Ferner

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Posted 08 June 2010 - 20:58

Welcome back, Barb! :)

Will post some of the pics I found!


Looking forward to it! :clap:

#168 Michael Ferner

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Posted 28 August 2010 - 17:44

Back to the 1925 and 1927 Indy winning Duesenberg(s), and the picture becomes very much clearer! Remember, both Fred Smith (mostly for driver Freddie Winnai) and Bill White (mostly for George Souders) claimed to have the 1925 Indy winner in 1927, with Smith already claiming ownership in 1926. From pictures we can be sure that de Paolo himself still drove the car at Indianapolis on May 31 in 1926, finishing 5th, and on June 12 Winnai was said to be driving the car at Langhorne, winning a 50-miler. In the recent Langhorne book, Winnai's sister Bertha Tyson was quoted as saying that she was "certain that (Fred) Smith was the true owner of the powerful machine", purchased right after the Indianapolis race. The author of the Langhorne book, Spencer Riggs, goes on to inform us that Smith lent the car back to de Paolo on several occasions during that summer.

As unlikely though this story sounds, it appears to be actually true! Rewinding to earlier in the season, de Paolo had purchased a brand new Miller for Indianapolis and had entered the Duesenberg for Phil "Red" Shafer, but for some reasons the two team drivers switched cars for the actual race. The Langhorne Inaugural was scheduled for the very same day, and Winnai was entered in another Duesenberg - whether that car was also owned by Fred Smith I don't know, but I suspect so. In any event, the Langhorne race was postponed twice, and finally held on June 12, the same day as the Altoona Flag Day board track race in the western part of the same state. De Paolo again entered two cars, the Miller for Shafer and the Duesey for himself, but the local newspaper articles are very clear that the latter car never arrived in Altoona - it was reportedly undergoing an engine change! In truth, it was at Langhorne with Winnai, as reported by several Eastern Pennsylvanian papers at the time!! Winnai also drove the car at Laurel (Maryland) the following week, then de Paolo reclaimed the car for the race at Salem in New Hampshire on July 5. Consequently, there are no references to de Paolo for the next three races of Winnai during July and August, and at Langhorne on August 7 he won driving a Duesenberg which, according to Spencer Riggs, "was not the DePaolo/Smith Duesie".

Well, that perfectly fits the story of the Salem and Atlantic City board track races in July, which both saw de Paolo race his old Duesenberg again, and Shafer the new Miller. After that, Shafer took the Miller for some dirt track racing in Kalamazoo (Aug 15), Syracuse (Sep 4) and Detroit (Sep 11), before he dropped out of racing for a year or so. De Paolo, meanwhile, ran the Duesey at Charlotte (North Carolina) on August 23, from where the car was shipped by train to Altoona for the Labor Day races. Its arrival there, along with 17 other cars from Charlotte, was reported in the "Altoona Mirror" on August 25. Two days later, however, the same newspaper reported this:

Pete DePaolo will come here direct (sic!) from Indianapolis where he is tuning up a brand new Duesenberg machine. The car was sent by express today.


When the Altoona race was postponed because of rain, de Paolo took his new Duesenberg to Detroit where it broke a con-rod, thence to Indianapolis for repairs and back to Altoona for the September 18 rain date, where he famously arrived 18 minutes too late to qualify! Meanwhile, Freddie Winnai appeared September 11 for another race at Langhorne in Fred Smith's ex-de Paolo Duesenberg, and now it stayed with Smith. Apparently, Shafer then bought de Paolo's new Duesenberg and sold it to Bill White as the 1925 Indy winner, perhaps ignorant of its real history, but more than likely knowing better. I don't want to think of him as a crook, so I imagine he may have sold the car as "the former de Paolo Duesenberg", with White making up the 1925 Indy winning bit in ignorance of the real facts.

I am well aware that most of this little history is based on notoriously unreliable newspaper accounts, but together with the photographic record which shows the 1925 and 1927 Indy winning Duesenbergs to look very different in almost all areas of importance, I personally regard this case solved for the time being, i.e. until further evidence surfaces.

#169 Michael Ferner

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Posted 28 August 2010 - 19:15

It would be interesting to know how White and Souders came to be a team. They must have met a couple of times, when the Pacific Coast teams and drivers used to roam the Texas area dirt tracks in the mid-twenties, and it is possible George raced at Ascot as well. However, it was still a somewhat unlikely combination that turned up there at Indy in 1927. Somehow, it looked more like a marriage of convenience, rather than one of love. Perhaps Souders had some local "sponsors" that helped finance the car?


Meanwhile, I have found the "birthplace" of the 1927 Indy winning "marriage": At the West Texas Fair in Abilene in 1926, two days of autoracing were scheduled for September 22 (a Wednesday) and 24 (Friday). Pete de Paolo was the star attraction on the first day, driving Bill White's yellow Miller (presumably still the same car that Fengler had driven at Indy in '23, but now converted into a single-seater). It's probably fair to say that de Paolo was no great shakes as a dirt track driver, in fact I have him competing in only six prior dirt track events in toto, and so it was no big surprise to see him struggle with 8th fastest qualifying time, even though he finished second in the main event, but only after several front runners had dropped out during the heats and the feature race, and the overall winner was an as of yet practically unknown Chet Gardner in his little Rajo.

George Souders was also present, outqualifying de Paolo with his Chevy special, but retiring both this car and a Duesenberg with mechanical maladies. Two days later, de Paolo had left for a board track race in California, and White put Souders into the Miller. Unfortunately, theirs was the first car out in the main event, but four days later the complete cast (still minus de Paolo) had moved forty miles east to Breckenridge and the Oil Belt Fair, where Souders impressed with the fastest qualifying time and second place in the fast heat and the feature, both times behind Fred Frame in another Miller and in front of Gardner. It was the beginning of a wonderful friendship...

#170 Michael Ferner

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Posted 21 September 2010 - 11:31

THE 1919/1920 "WHITE SPECIAL" OR BACK TO THE GOLDEN AGE (1915-1929) PROPER.

With regard to posts numbers 65, 83, 85, and 103 above, I think I can now definitely assert that Hollywood Bill White did not own the White Special entered at Beverly Hills for the February 22 "250". Ownership is ascribed to one John White who entered two machines for the event. One was supposed to have been built by himself and the other, a Duesenberg/Delage, was piloted by Bennett Hill. White himself is stated to have been a foreign driver who going to drive in the 250, but he never attempted to qualify. All this information can be obtained from the LOS ANGELES TIMES issues February 14, 21, 22, 24, and 25, 1920; as well as Hill's machine being a Delage chassis with a Duesenberg motor (Feb. 22, part 1, page 8).


Re Bill White, I found this interesting article in "The Altoona Mirror", August 23, 1929, accompanied by a picture of his two speedway cars, the Duesenberg/Miller (still white and carrying #32, just as at Indy) and the Miller '91' (now carrying #4, and apparently a darker colour):

Veteran Drivers Picked for Altoona Race

[picture]

Cars pictured above are owned by Bill White, Hollywood, who has nominated Billy Arnold and Shorty Cantlon as the pilots.

ARNOLD-CANTLON PAIR ON SPEEDWAY
Bill White, owner of automobile race machines, and always a backer of cars entered in the Altoona speedway events at Tipton, will have two cars in the fleld at the 200 mile championship event to be held on Monday, Sept. 2, Labor day.
The pair of drivers who will seek positions with the White entries are Billy Arnold and Shorty Cantlon, both veteran drivers, although both are still youthful in appearance and in age, as well.
Bill White, car owner is a fruit grower, movie producer and race game backer and much of his time is spent in Hawaii directing his banana growing industry. He has also produced some real stars in the automobile race fraternity, too.
Bennie Hill, the gas fraternity's little fellow, George Souders the overnight sensation of the pace that thrills, Bob McDonogh, the blond shiek of the game, have, all seen action under the guiding hand and pocketbook of the man from Hawaii.
When the banana plantation down on the Island became monotonous, Bill left the song provoking "skids" and packed away to the coast on the mainland. Out there in Hollywood he became interested in the celluloid game and sank a few dollars in the motion picture industry. Success came and the sheckels poured in through the motion picture channels with the same steady flow that the "monkey food" brought.
Just when Bill was getting a little fed up on grease paint and movie queens, the gasoline trail was blazing out on the speedways of the sunny clime and he decided to join that group behind the guns well known as the "angels." He sank a portion of his banana and movie money into a pair of racing motors and has been hitting the cylinder trail with a fancy figure.
With Hill, Souders and McDonogh comprising his list of proteges at present it looks as though White will add another pair to the list. His two "jobs" will be handled In the Labor day classic on the Altoona speedway by Billy Arnold and Shorty Cantlon.
To those familiar with the pace on the Altoona oval, the name of Arnold stands out as a logical protege. Bllly, although he appears as one of the kids who hang around the track at race time rather than one of the drivers, literally "eats up" the Pennsylvania speedway's boards. In his last appearance in that famous "father and son" team — Woodbury and Arnold — Bill was a driving fool, riding the boards high, wide and handsome, and causing many quickened pulses.
Arnold has that one requisite of the game — fearlessness — which should give White something on which to work.
As for the other member of the banana team entered at Altoona, Shorty Cantlon is known to the fraternity as "half pint." There isn't much to him — five feet two — but what is there knows how to push a heavy foot. He has been the sensation of the Bridgeville and Akron half mile board speedways and is a "natural" for the bigger game.


Interesting how the article lists Bennie Hill as an early White protege - perhaps he was involved with the Delage, after all?? Also, his background in movies is now exlained more in the field of production, which means he must've had money before that, and the explanation proffered is: bananas!!! Wonder what "Banana wagon" Pete de Paolo thought of that! :D It may also serve as an explanation for a rather strange car Bill White was said to have entered at Ascot in 1924, the "Plantation Special".

#171 Michael Ferner

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Posted 01 December 2010 - 12:11

http://memory.loc.go...5900/15957v.jpg

This car is the special wide-frame Miller 122 chassis with 183 engine, as used in record attempts by Tommy Milton in 1924 - not sure about the driver yet, but I believe it's Gleason!

http://memory.loc.go...5900/15958v.jpg

An NMRA group shot in front of the Miller 122/183, left to right: Russ Snowberger, unknown, Jimmy Gleason, Freddie Winnai, Ray Keech, Ben Shaw??, unknown

http://memory.loc.go...5900/15959v.jpg

CORRECTION: this shows the whole group, with Tom Dawson, Russ Snowberger, Al Aspen, Jimmy Gleason, Freddie Winnai, Ray Keech, Jack Desmond, Jim Pugh??


Another correction: the man I tentatively identified as Jim Pugh is actually Armond Pugh, a Bugatti driver with the NMRA! Also, the Tommy Milton LSR Miller was evidently not a "wide-frame Miller 122 chassis with a 183 engine", but a pukka Miller 183 chassis with a single-seater body!!

#172 john glenn printz

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Posted 10 December 2010 - 19:44

HARRY MILLER IN 1922. Soon after the running of the 1921 French Grand Prix of July 26, the four Dueseberg team cars were put up for sale. At some point Jimmy Murphy, and then a little later, Harry Hartz each bought one. Eddie Hearne had purchased Andre Dubonnet's mount by early November 1921. Later in May 1922 the Duesenberg firm leased some cars for use at Indianapolis. Those driven by Ralph DePalma and Ira Vail at the Speedway in 1922 were probably to be reckoned among the latter.

The two Duesenberg brothers were, since late 1920, tied up with and all their time consumed, with the promotion of their new production passenger car, i.e, the Model A, to be much concerned about racing. Their Model A featured a straight 8 motor, and was the first American stock car to use hydraulic and four wheel brakes. Later, when the AAA Contest Board introduced the Junk Formula in 1930, the Model A Duesenbergs would be cannibalized for their motors, to construct stock block powered two man cars. Even Fred Duesenberg himself built two examples for the 1930 Indianapolis 500 which were piloted by Peter DePaolo and the rookie Bill Cummings.

The first AAA Championship contest for the 1922 season was the Beverly Hills 250, originally scheduled for Feburary 22. Inclement weather postponed it until February 26. On that date the race was started but the event was stopped after a five minute rain halted the proceedings with Milton leading at 93 laps. The new race date was March 5, with none of the laps run on February 26 to count. Milton proved to be the winner of the March 5 Beverly Hills 250, with the "Durant Special", by posting a cool 110.8 mph average.

Again both of the Miller powered cars of 1921, i.e. Tommy Milton's "Durant" and Frank Elliott's "Leach", appeared for the Los Angeles 250. Ellott's "Leach" was still owned by Ira Vail who entered it on Frank's behalf at Indianapolis. Ira had promised Elliott that if he "did well" with the machine in late 1921, he would allow Frank to run it at Indy in 1922. Ira himself eventually elected to run a "Disteel" sponsored Duesenberg at Indianapolis under the management of Ray Harroun.

After Milton's clear demonstration of Miller power and engine superiority at both the Beverly Hills "250s" of February 26 and March 5, Jimmy Murphy ordered a new Miller straight motor immediately after the Beverly Hills March 5 event. Already by March 23, 1922 it was publically announced that Murphy would install a new Miller 8 in his 1921 French Grand Prix winning Duesenberg chassis. The switch or conversion was done at Harry Miller's shop, but didn't actually occur until late April-early May 1922. The new combination of Miller power with a Duesenberg chassis was quickly named the "Murphy Special" and mechanic Ernie Olson and Murphy himself did most of the actual work. This new Miller/Duesenberg hybrid won its very first time out, at the Cotati 100, on May 7.

Fred Duesenberg apparently, regarded Murphy's switch of the Duesenberg single cam engine to the newer two cam Miller motor, as a act of betrayal. However the Duesenberg straight 8 was obviously on the defensive in late 1921, and was no longer going to be the "power of the hour" for 1922. Murphy was just trying to stay competitive that's all, and his decision here was totally vindicated by his success with the "Murphy Special" during the rest of the 1922 AAA Championship campaign which ensued.

The supremacy of Milton's Miller powered "Durant Special" was again demonstrated at the Championship level Beverly Hills sprints held on April 2, 1922. Here Milton won a 25 miler at 115.12 mph and the 50 mile final with a speed average of 115.24 mph.

Now occurred developments which mostly affected Tommy Milton. Cliff Durant had retired as an active driver on September 1, 1920 and had sat out the entire 1921 AAA Championship season, but now in March 1922 Cliff wanted to race again at Indianapolis in 1922. Milton, who had been racing a Miller car "on loan" from Durant, now found that Cliff wanted the machine returned to him. Durant was willing to compensate Milton for the time and effort Milton had put into its 1921 straight 8 "183" motor, as well as making the car a world beater. It was agreed then that Milton would return the car back to Durant physically after he ran it at the San Carlos 150, to be staged on April 16, 1922. However Durant had already given Milton $6000 in compensation for Tommy's improvements on the Miller on April 3rd. The deal is described in the press on April 5 (FORT WAYNE JOURNAL GAZETTE, April 5, 1922, page 10) where it said (quote), "Milton sold the car in which he won his victory in Los Angeles on Sunday."

Milton now planned to build a completely new vehicle around a new Miller 8 "183", which would incorporate some new ideas of his own on the chassis design. Milton also eventually obtained Leach-Biltwell sponsorship for his new project. This gave the Leach-Biltwell Company two cars in the AAA National Championship division for 1922, i.e. Elliott's and Milton's. Such was the situation about April 1, 1922. (Dees mentions in his MILLER DYNASTY that Milton had to sue Leach-Biltwell for his promised money.) Thus Tommy informed some San Francisco newpapers reporters that he might not be able to run in the Fresno 150 on April 27, because he might not have a car available to drive.

This was reported to H. E. Patterson, the Fresno track manager, who misinterpreted the information via the San Francisco newsmen, as an attempt by Milton to extract extra "appearance money". Patterson then complained to the AAA Contest Board located in New York about Tommy's try to obtain a "bribe" and William Schimpf, the Chairman of the AAA Contest Board, reacted on April 8, 1922 by debarring Milton from competing in any West Coast racing events. Theodore "William" Schimpf had replaced Richard Kennerdell as the AAA Contest Board Chairman in mid-October 1921. It was Schimpf's second stint as he had been the Chairman also during November 1911 to 1914.

Milton was miffed about it all (quote), "It seems to me that it would behoove the Contest Board to notify me as I am one of the most interested parties." Milton had heard of his suspension, not from the AAA, but from the newspaper reporters. And on the very morning of April 8, 1922 Milton had sent a letter to Patterson saying he might not be able to participate in the Fresno 150 of April 27, because he would be too busy building a totally new racing car for the upcoming Indianapolis race.

And totally unbeknownst to either Cliff Durant or Tommy Milton was the fact that a mid-west (Chicago, IL) local Durant car dealership, the W. C. Auble Motor Company, had placed an ad in the CHICAGO TRIBUNE (April 5, 1922, page 16) claiming that Milton's new AAA world records set at Beverly Hills on April 2, 1922, had been made using a stock Durant six cylinder engine. This, of course, was completely untrue and the AAA Contest Board now saw fit on April 8, 1922 also to disqualify the "Durant Special" from any further participation in AAA events. The AAA, on this occasion, would not countenance or be privy to any false advertising.

The suspension of Milton himself and of the "Durant Special" were not the same exact thing. Tommy was able to clear himself of Patterson's charge that he had demanded extra appearance money and therefore the AAA ban against his driving in any West Coast contests was lifted on April 14, but the "Durant Special" itself remained under a complete ban. Cliff Durant, just like Milton, had first gotten the word about his car's ban, not directly from the AAA, but from the press core.

Milton travelled up to San Carlos with the idea of still using the Durant Special in the 150 miler, scheduled for April 16. Cliff Durant went with Milton hoping that he could talk the AAA into letting Tommy use it and that the all the controversy about the false ad could be resolved at a later date. However the AAA refused to budge unless the car ran under the name "Milton Special"! This Cliff would not allow, and so Milton, with nothing to drive, watched the start and the early laps of the San Carlos 150 from the press box.

Edited by john glenn printz, 21 December 2010 - 20:30.


#173 john glenn printz

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Posted 11 December 2010 - 20:42

HARRY MILLER IN 1922 (cont.-1) Milton now worked on his new car, built as has been said, around yet another 183 Miller straight 8 motor, at Miller's shop and so Tommy was extremely busy during both April and May 1922 putting his new "Leach Special" together. I should add that the 1921-1922 Miller 183 straight 8's were often then referred to as "Leach" motors. Thus Milton failed to be an entrant in the Fresno 150 run on April 27 or the Cotati 150 held on May 7.

By early May 1922 the "Durant Special" had been freed up to run again. On May 3 the AAA demanded a published retraction by the W. C. Auble Company to appear in the CHICAGO TRIBUNE, before the Durant owned Miller could be reinstated. This retraction appeared on page 9 in the May 6, 1922 issue. Immediately Cliff entered the machine in the Indianapolis 500 with himself listed as the pilot and Reeves Dutton as a possible relief driver. Nothing now barred Milton from driving the "Durant Special" at Indianapolis, as far as I can see, except that Cliff Durant wanted to drive the car himself.

Thus Milton's account, which he narrated to Griffith Borgeson and Russ Catlin in the 1950s, about how he was unexpectedly forced to quickly construct an entirely new car in April/May 1922 because the "Durant Special" was barred from his piloting it by the AAA because of a false ad, does not seem to be actually true. I think Milton's problem here lay with Cliff Durant, not the AAA Contest Board. The "deal" for Milton to return the car back to Durant was consummated before the AAA banned the vehicle on April 8. Time may have clouded or confused Milton's memory and/or Tommy may have invented and added details not historical, to made his story more interesting.

In any case three of the four Miller 183 straight 8 powered cars, then in existence, were being put together or worked on at Harry Miller's shop, located at 2652 Long Beach Avenue, L.A., in April/May 1922. These were the mounts for Elliott, Milton, and Murphy. Myron Stevens, who had just started working for Miller in early 1922 as an expert metal fabricator and sheet steel man, once mentioned to me, that Milton's new 1922 Leach Special, was first racing machine he ever worked on. This Leach machine was the only Miller built car using front and rear cross springs. On May 16 all three of these vehicles were taken to the Beverly Hills track for some test runs. Murphy was clocked with a 120.3 mph lap, which was the fastest time ever recorded on the Los Angeles Speedway, up to that time.

On May 20 the three cars were shipped to Indianapolis from Los Angeles and they arrived at the Speedway on May 24. The first qualifications for 1922 were held on May 25 (Thursday) and Murphy won the pole by turning four circuits at an 100.50 mph average. Frank Elliott's Leach was in with a 97.75 mph clocking and Cliff Durant's Miller, prepared by Reeves Dutton, was posted at 95.85 mph. These three Miller 8 powered machines would thus start respectively 1st (Murphy), 8th (Elliott), and 11th (Durant) on race day.

Milton's Leach arrived in a partly disassembled state and was not quite in an entirely finished condition. Tommy did not take to the track itself until late afternoon, at dusk, on May 26. The next day Milton qualified at 94.40 mph which put him back in the pack and in the 24th starting position. However on May 28 Milton was timed at 103 mph for a lap, which was the quickest lap for the entire month. The 1922 pre-race favorites were Murphy and Milton using Miller power, Ralph DePalma on a Duesenberg, Roscoe Sarles on a Frontenac, and the 1913 Indy winner, Jules Goux using a Ballot.

Murphy in his Miller/Duesenberg No. 35 controlled the race itself by leading 153 of the 200 laps. At the end Murphy was more than three minutes ahead of a talented new rookie named Harry Hartz (1894-1974) in a Duesenberg which placed 2nd. Eddie Hearne in a Ballot was 3rd and Ralph DePalma 4th in another Duesenberg. Immediately after the race it was widely reported that Murphy had led all 200 laps, but the official Speedway statistics credited Jimmy with leading only circuits 1-74 and 122-200. Murphy had made three pits stops during the race and was the first driver to win at Indianapolis, from the pole position. The other 1922 lap leaders were Hartz with 43, DePaolo (Frontenac) with 3, and Duray (Frontenac) with 1.

However the other three Miller powered entries had not fared well. The Durant Special encountered carburetor problems in the early going and was in and out of the pits all day. It kept going however, with some relief help from Dave Lewis, and limped home 12th with an average speed for the 500 miles of just 77.808 mph. Milton's Leach had been hastily put together, was not race tested, and the fuel tank mounts collapsed putting the car out after 44 circuits. Tommy had not been going anywhere anyway, as his highest position had been 21st at the 40 lap mark. Frank Elliott's Leach prove to be no serious contender either and its highest placement during the race was 10th at 170 laps. On its 196th circuit, while still in 10th place, the rear axle let go and the vehicle finished 16th overall in the final reckoning.

Ralph DePalma's old 500 mile race record of 89.84 mph, made in very favorable weather conditions, was finally broken by Murphy's 94.48 mph. In fact, time wise, Murphy completed the 500 miles 16 minutes faster than Ralph back in 1915. Their elasped times being DePalma's 5:33.55.51 vs. Murphy's 5:17:30.79. Actually the first five 1922 finishers bested DePalma's old 1915 pace. Despite the poor showings of three of the four Miller motor equipped cars at the 1922 Indianapolis event, Murphy's outstanding performance convinced everybody that the Miller twin cam 183 was superior to all the other engine makes, i.e. the Ballot, Duesenberg, and Frontenac. After the "500" Harry was deluged with inquiries, and would-be orders for copies of his straight 8 motor, but Mr. Miller kept a low-key profile. Perhaps Harry's legal connections with the Leach-Biltwell Company prevented him from immediately producing any more "Leach" type double cam straight 8 racing engines.

Miller did however construct one more complete 183 car, dubbed the "McDonald Special", named after its owner. This must have been ordered about mid-1922 and was specially made for Bennett Hill's use. It had a slightly more contoured and streamlined body shape than all the other Millers built up to this time, and this feature was suppose to give it an advantage, however small, over all the previous 183 Miller cars. Hill's new "McDonald Special" first appeared at Cotati (Santa Rosa) on August 6, and it won the Raisin Day Fresno 150 of September 30, and the non-Championship invitational Cotati 100 held on October 29.

The new Miller superiority was again evinced at Cotati on August 6. It was certainly one of the greatest days for driver Frank Elliott (1890-1957). Frank had already had the honor of winning the first important motor racing contest ever won by a Miller engined vehicle, i.e. the Uniontown 112.5 on September 3, 1917. The car in this instance was Barney Oldfield's 1914 Grand Prix Delage now installed with a 298 cu. in. Miller 4. The August 6, 1922 Cotati program consisted of two races of 50 and 100 miles and Elliott won them both. In the 50 miler, Elliott and Milton finished one-two in their Miller propelled "Leaches". In the 100 mile race which followed, Miller powered cars placed one-two-three-four. The final order was 1. Elliott (Leach), 2. Milton (Leach), 3. Murphy (Murphy Special), and 4. Hill (McDonald Special). Elliott averged 116.15 mph in the 50 and 113.7 mph in the 100.

Edited by john glenn printz, 17 December 2010 - 13:25.


#174 john glenn printz

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Posted 15 December 2010 - 16:27

HARRY MILLER IN 1922 (cont.-2) After Murphy's triumph at Indianapolis, he, mechanic Ernie Olson, and the hybrid "Murphy Special" won two more major AAA Championship ranked events, i.e. the Uniontown 225 (June 19) and the Tacoma 250 (July 4). The "Murphy Special" was the dominant machine now but it was severly damaged in the wreck filled and calamitous Kansas City 300 inaugural race (September 17) in which Roscoe Sarles was killed. Sarles was driving, on this occasion the "Durant Special" in which Milton had installed a Miller straight 8 "183" in April 1921, and it was the same car that Cliff Durant had just recently reappropriated in April 1922 from Milton. Sarles' car either slipped on the track or a steering knuckle snapped. The "Durant Special" then crashed though the outer wooden barrier, sailed out of the track, landed upside down, with Roscoe trapped inside. The vehicle caught on fire with Sarles beyond any rescue, and he burned to death amid his cries for help. Bennett Hill accompanied Roscoe's remains back to Los Angeles. The Kansas City winner proved to be Milton, at an 107.86 mph clip, with the same exact Miller powered "Leach Special" which had failed him at Indianapolis.

Murphy's Miller/Duesenberg was severly buckled in its wreck at Kansas City, but it was repaired in time for the Fresno 150 of September 30. Here the car's handling and/or steering was off and Jimmy was uncompetitive.

Meanwhile in August 1922 Cliff Durant announced that he was organizing a wholly new racing team. Six new 183 cubic inch speedsters had been ordered from Harry A. Miller. The team drivers would be Hearne, Mulford, Murphy, Sarles and Durant himself. The 6th car would act as a spare and Reeves Dutton was to be put in charge of the mechanical preparation of the six new Millers. The team's first race was to be the Los Angeles 250 set for November 30, 1922. Cliff's new high profile team was probably all written off as advertising expence from his father's new Durant Motors, which had been incorporated in Dover, DE on April 2, 1921 for $100,000,000. Actual automobile production had begun in late 1921 and in 1922, the company's best year, 55,000 units were sold. Thus Cliff's new racing venture, from a purely personal point of view, cost him nothing! All six Millers were run as "Durant Specials". Durant Motors sales fell to 7,270 autos in 1931, the last year that any cars were actually produced; and by 1932 the company was bankrupt and out of business.

Somehow by mid-September 1922, Miller had totally severed his former relationship with the Leach-Biltwell firm without any great complications, ill fame, or harm coming to himself. How Harry managed to extricate himself from his Leach-Biltwell connection is an unknown mystery and enigmatic puzzle in Mr. Miller's long career.

With the AAA's 183 cubic inch limit to expire at Indianapolis in May 1923, it is rightly and reasonably asked, why Durant built a fleet of 183 cars in late 1922. It seems to me that Cliff was just over anxious to get back into racing in mid-1922 and overdid things here, with some immediate and easily available money, from his father's newly founded Durant Motors firm. And perhaps too, it took much more time than expected to get the six new Millers constructed and put in actual running order. Certainly Cliff's purchasing six new 183 Millers in late 1922, when their real usefulness would run out in May 1923, makes little sense. After the staging of the Beverly Hills 250 of November 30, 1922, there remained only two more genuine AAA Championship contests to be run under the 183 cubic inch formula, both to be held in early 1923, i.e. the Beverly Hills 250 of February 25 and the Fresno 150 staged on April 26.

Harry Hartz too converted his 1921 Duesenberg racing car over to using a Miller 8 unit and his machine was now duly called, in imitation of perhaps Murphy earlier, the "Hartz Special". Harry first drove it in this guise as a Miller/Duesenberg at the inaugural Kansas City 300 of September 17, 1922.

Before the actual staging of the "Thanksgiving Day" November 30 Beverly Hills 250, Roscoe Sarles had been killed and Ralph Mulford decided to retire. Durant in order to have a quintet of active chauffeurs, now hired Earl Cooper and Art Klein to replace them. Jimmy Murphy on October 14, had accepted the captaincy of the new Durant team and became its No. 1 driver. All five pilots made the Beverly Hills 250 starting lineup, i.e. Cooper, Durant, Hearne, Klein, and Murphy. The Beverly Hills 250 was delayed by rain and was run on December 3. Murphy and Cooper finished one-two in the Durant cars in non stop runs, but Miller power also took all the top six positions. The lower placements were 3. Hartz (Hartz Special), 4. Hill (McDonald Special), 5. Milton (Leach Special), and 6. Klein (Durant Special). Murphy's winning average was 114.6 mph. It was an all Miller rout.

The Duesenbergs had been resting on their lees too long and finally made a desparate attempt to revive their lost fortunes, and rival the new twin-cam Miller power. Fred Duesenberg designed a two-cam head for his 183's. This new project was publically announced in late August 1922. In tests at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Howard Wilcox lapped the Speedway at 105.88 mph with one, a new lap record. At first Wilcox was to drive this car in the Thanksgving Day, Beverly Hills 250, but somehow Wade Morton (1889-1935) replaced him. In the race, Morton retired after just three laps, to place last among the 17 starters.

In fact, it would take the Duesenbergs a long while to put their team back in order. In the eight AAA Championship races for 1923, no Duesenberg was able to finish either 1st or 2nd. The very next Duesy victory in the Championship ranks was their glorious win at Indianapolis in 1924, using pilots L. L. Corum and Joe Boyer. After early 1921 the Duesenbergs never regained the ascendancy over the Miller built cars except for the 1925 AAA Championship season, when Peter DePaolo (1898-1980) ruled the roost with his cream colored "banana wagon", i.e. a 122 supercharged Duesy. However factory backed Duesenbergs had splendid wins at Indianapolis in 1924 (Corum/Boyer) and 1925 (DePaolo/Batten), and a privately "Hollywood" Bill White owned 91 Duesenberg won unexpectedly at Indy in 1927, with the dirt track experienced Indy rookie, George Souders (1900-1976).

Harry Miller had come a long way since his reproduction of Bob Burman's blown 1913 Grand Prix Peugeot motor, in late 1914/early 1915; and his futile/abortive attempt to construct a car for driver Huntley Gordon, for use at Indianapolis in 1915. 1922 was Miller's first big year of success and the Duesenberg single cam 183 motor was now obsolete and had ceased to be competitive. Its last AAA Championship win had been at the Fresno 150 (April 27, 1922) with Jimmy Murphy. The Frontenac 183's, both the 4's and 8's, already had lost all their effectiveness since their last victory at Indianapolis in May 1921. Miller was now the king.

It is often and repeatedly stated that Harry Miller abandoned promising projects when only 75% finished and didn't follow through. This was certainly not the situation with regard to the upcoming 1923 Miller 122's. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway had already formulated that the 1923 "500" would adhere to the International Grand Prix 2 litre limit, which had been used at the 1922 French Grand Prix (July 16, 1922) run at Strasbourg, France. The 122 cubic inch limit for the 1923 Indianapolis race had been announced by the Speedway's manager T. E. Myers on July 7, 1921.

Miller began work on the new 122's by August 1922. Miller himself stated in late September 1922 on the 122's (quote), "It would not surprise any of us to learn that the small cars will be slower than the bigger ones, but during the first year they will be developed to create more speed. They must go on the track first before we know anything of what they will do." On October 1, 1922 it was stated that Tommy Milton had ordered the first of the new 122 Millers and that he would take delivery on it about February 1, 1923.

The new upcoming AAA 1923 "122" formula would allow single seat vehicles to compete. The old 183 motors developed about c. 135 horsepower and the 183 two-man cars weighted anywhere from about 1800 to 2200 pounds. The new single seat 122's were expected to weight c. 1400 pounds with the 122 cubic inch motors producing c. 90 horsepower. By late August 1922, Duesenberg, Miller, and Packard had all said that they would construct new 122 racing cars for 1923 season. THE END.

Edited by john glenn printz, 20 December 2010 - 20:15.


#175 john glenn printz

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Posted 21 December 2010 - 14:52

I came across my 1922 Miller writeup about a month ago and decided to post it here. It was in an uncompleted state so I had to finish it up. What I have posted above for 1922 is about twice its original size. It should shed some light on the 1922 AAA Championship season.

Along with what I have already posted on the thread "AMERICAN RACING 1894 TO 1920" and on "MILLER IN 1921" above, I have now placed everything that I know about Louis Chevrolet, the Duesenbergs, and Harry Miller between 1914 and late 1922 on the internet, via the NOSTALGIA FORUM. Thanks once again, J.G. Printz.

#176 Tim Murray

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Posted 21 December 2010 - 14:58

Mr Printz, your contributions to this forum have been outstanding. Thank you so much.

#177 davegess

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Posted 21 December 2010 - 20:43

I came across my 1922 Miller writeup about a month ago and decided to post it here. It was in an uncompleted state so I had to finish it up. What I have posted above for 1922 is about twice its original size. It should shed some light on the 1922 AAA Championship season.

Along with what I have already posted on the thread "AMERICAN RACING 1894 TO 1920" and on "MILLER IN 1921" above, I have now placed everything that I know about Louis Chevrolet, the Duesenbergs, and Harry Miller between 1914 and late 1922 on the internet, via the NOSTALGIA FORUM. Thanks once again, J.G. Printz.


Thanks for sharing your as usual excellent work.

#178 john glenn printz

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Posted 10 January 2011 - 16:20

LOUIS CHEVROLET IN 1923. Chevrolet's thoroughbred 300 cubic inch racing cars were highly successful during the 1917, 1918, and 1919 AAA seasons, and his 183 cubic inch vehicles won at Indianapolis in both 1920 and 1921. When the new 122 cubic inch limit format was to kick in, at the 1923 Indianapolis 500, Louis did not immediately bow out as an active entrant or a designer. In late 1922 Louis stuck up an alliance or partnership with Herbert Scheel (1894-1973). Scheel hailed from St. Louis, MO and was a mechanical engineer. Mr. Scheel is said to have been a wealthy man and had formed the Scheel Motors Corporation, located in St. Louis to manufacture automobiles, using his rotary valve system. Scheel wanted to construct some racing cars for use at Indianapolis in 1923 using his ideas and designs for a rotary valve type motor. Chevrolet and Scheel got together on the project and entered four cars under the names "Scheel-Frontenac" Specials. The cars were built and constructed in Indianapolis itself, at the Chevrolet shop, and were paid for by the Scheel Motors Corporation.

The original pilots assigned to them were Dave Lewis, Ira Vail, C. W. Van Ranst, and Scheel himself. Scheel had some previous experience at motorcycle competition and had raced automobiles on dirt tracks. Scheel requested that his own particular car be given No. 13. At least two of the cars were at the track in May 1923 and Louis Chevrolet first tested one at the Speedway on April 28, 1923. Supposely Chevrolet's first test or outing was a complete success. After Peter DePaolo and Dave Lewis had taken the last practice laps in them in late May, all four vehicles were withdrawn from the "500" on May 25, 1923. When Louis was asked why the entries had been retired he replied that they had been trying an experiment and it hadn't worked out, and that it would take at least two more months to correct the current problems. As it turned out this was L. Chevrolet's "last hurrah" or serious attempt to constuct any thorougbred racing cars for major, big league, AAA motor racing.

ADDENDUM OF SEPTEMBER 9, 2011: In mid-1923 Louis apparently tried to revive his driving career. He had not actually raced since piloting a Frontenac at Indy in 1920, where he finished 18th (Out at 84 laps with steering problems). After a four year absence Louis entered an AAA meet to be held on August 12, 1923 at Hawthorne (i.e. Chicago) on the one mile dirt oval. There were to be eleven events in all, climaxing in a 25 mile final. About his return Louis said on August 4 (quote), "But with dirt track racing it's different. That is a game for skill and cunning. I tired of the speedways. There it was largely a case of who had the machine that would stand up the longest. There was not the real thrill of outgeneraling an opponent, of taking just one big chance of crossing the tape first or going into the fence."

Six pilots were entered at Hawthorne, i.e. Boyer, L. Chevrolet, De Palma, Duray, Resta, and Wilcox. It is however not quite clear if Chevrolet actually did any racing here in 1923. The reports differ. According to some only Boyer, De Palma, Resta, and Wilcox were in the 25 mile final where De Palma crashed solo and demolished part of the outside rail. Here it is stated that Chevrolet withdrew because of motor trouble. Other reports say that Chevrolet hit De Palma's Duesenberg in the 25 miler and caused his wreck. A third variant account says that it was Wilcox who hit De Palma and caused the accident. Wilcox (Duesenberg) was the winner with a time of 23:44:40. (63.18 mph).

Sometime after the 1923 Indianapolis race, Louis purchased one of the competing 2 litre Mercedes cars, and and later entered it in the Altoona 250 scheduled for September 4. Louis again was to be the pilot, but it seems neither Chevrolet or the car ever showed up. And lastly Chevrolet entered the non-Championship AAA Syracuse 100 (September 15) but never appeared. The Mercedes racer that was driven by Ora Haibe at Indy in 1924 was the same exact Mercedes that Louis had bought in 1923.

Edited by john glenn printz, 10 September 2011 - 15:47.


#179 john glenn printz

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Posted 27 January 2011 - 14:30

EARLY HOLLYWOOD BILL WHITE (cont.-1) The ownership of an AAA Championship racing car by White in 1923, is now confirmed from a contemporary source, i.e. the OAKLAND TRIBUNE of September 2, 1923, section O page 5. Here it is stated that the car Harlan Fengler drove at Indianapolis and at Kansas City in 1923, then belonged to Bill White.

Harlan had left White however to now drive for George S. Wade at Altoona on September 3. White, with his driver vacating his Miller, now decided to pilot it himself at the inaugural Altoona 200. It is said that Bill had practice laps in it at 116 mph at Altoona, but White apparently did not attempt to qualify.

Fengler himself moved to the "Wade Special" which had been the Durant Miller No. 29 which Tom Alley wrecked at Indianapolis in 1923. Wade purchased this car directly from Cliff Durant, not long after Alley's accident.

(See my post above of October 8, 2008. Thus Michael Ferner is completely correct as to Bill While owning a Fengler driven Miller at Indianapolis in 1923. Consult Ferner's posts above of October 7 and October 8, 2008.)

Edited by john glenn printz, 27 January 2011 - 15:02.


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#180 Michael Ferner

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Posted 08 May 2011 - 12:03

Anyone know the details of the crash that killed Fred Comer? I'm especially interested in why Cliff and Fred switched cars for that race.


The "Daily Boston Globe", Oct 8, 1928 has the answer:

Cliff Woodbury had his car all geared up for a burst of speed, but before he could get ready to qualify his supercharger blew up. That ended his chances, apparently.

However, he came out a little later and announced that he would qualify Fred Comer's car. So he got his turn.


After repairs were effected, Comer qualified Woodbury's original mount two days later. His time was 33.0", 4th fastest overall and quicker than Woodbury (8th at 33.4") in the team car, but the cars lined up in order of qualifying days, hence Cliff started 3rd and Fred 7th. I suppose it would have been possible to switch cars back after qualifying, but for some reason it wasn't done - maybe it would have meant starting at the back? In any event, Comer held 6th or 7th place early in the event when "there was a flash of flame, a report from the left rear wheel and the white racer rolled over quickly down the back to the grass plot, tried to swerve as if it wished to continue, then turned over with its four wheels in the air." Meanwhile, Woodbury was dicing for the lead with Ralph Hepburn and was just ahead when the race was called at 50 laps after several more accidents had taken place. Originally, it was planned to run off the remaining 110 laps a fortnight later, but repairs to the track were not made in time, and the management's proposal to postpone the event until the following June (!) met with little sympathy so the results were declared.

In the end, Rockingham Speedway's board track days were numbered. In August of 1929, ads started appearing offering "3,000,000 feet of good seasoned lumber for sale". The old dirt track was refurbished, and three more races were held in the early thirties, but another disastrous crash fest ended the track's history on June 26 in 1932 with Al Gordon winning an abbreviated 50-miler from Al Miller, Jimmy Patterson, Billy Winn, Bob Sall and Henry Turgeon. Bert Karnatz was seriously injured in a multiple car crash that day, but survived.

#181 Michael Ferner

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Posted 04 September 2011 - 17:31

GEORGE SOUDERS (1900-1976). THE 1927 INDIANAPOLIS 500 WINNER. I had many opportunities to talk to Mr. Souders, but as he actually started in only three genuine AAA Championship ranked contests, I never seemed to have much to question him about. I did however enquire as to why, after having won at Indianapolis in 1927 and placing 3rd there in 1928, he never returned to race at the Speedway again.

Souders replied that in mid-1928 he had had a very bad wreck at Detroit in a dirt track race and had been knocked unconscious for over a month. This incident had scared him so much that he never raced again. (...)


That's what I always thought, too, but recently I found out that Souders came back for one more try - a somewhat obscure one, that is, but a "comeback" nonetheless!

Here's how it happened: As already stated elsewhere, AAA racing in Texas and the surrounding area had flourished all through the twenties, in fact ever since the first race on the Galveston beach course back in 1909, but tanked big time in 1930 when the traditional Independence Day race at the West Texas Fairgrounds in Abilene ended on a decidedly unpleasant note, or, as a local newspaper termed it, in a "race mutiny"! How come?

The local owners and drivers had been rather slow in signing up for the event, and when the fair board was looking at an (almost) empty entry list just three days before the scheduled races, they panicked and contacted the local AAA rep, D. H. Jefferies, to ask for advice - and help! Nothing loath, Jefferies drummed up the support of Art Pillsbury, and the Contest Board secretary and Pacific Coast rep talked six car owners and drivers from Legion Ascot Speedway, enjoying a racing-free holiday in California, into making the 2,500-mile round trip to Abilene, which (despite the name of the fairgrounds) is located rather centrally in Texas, for a "guarantee" of $100 each, in addition to a bite at the $2,500 purse. So far, so good: the event was saved, and by race day morning the entry list had filled up with a dozen locals, too.

On seeing the Pacific Coast "intruders" towing into the grounds, however, the local owners and drivers grew suspicious and eventually learned about the guarantee, and with the additional prospect of the six Californians keeping them "out of the money" in the racing events with their Millers and DO Fronties, unrest set in, and the "dirty dozen" soon confronted the promoters with a demand for the same amount of "appearance money" that the "carpetbaggers" were to receive, $100 per car, on pain of withdrawal! Unable (and unwilling) to satisfy these demands, the fair board went ahead and ran off the main event with just five starters (one Pacific Coast car had conked out in practice), which neither pleased the 4,000-or-so spectators, nor did it settle the unrest of the local racers, who now also faced disciplinary action by the Contest Board. The outcome of it all, in short form, was that AAA racing in the area was finished until after WW2 - except for one memorable (or, not so!) event, which came about as a result of Fred Frame's victory in the 1932 Indianapolis 500.

After winning the big prize at the Hoosier oval, Frame had invested part of his purse to purchase the radically new, streamlined "Catfish" of the Sparks-Weirick team, who were anxious to get back to the Sprint Car wars on the coast, and set off on a tour of the Eastern dirt tracks along with his old Duesenberg, the new car and the Indy-winning Miller-Hartz for "exhibitions" - this was the time to make hay with appearance deals, and Ralph Hankinson was happy to promote the winning driver and car of the big event along with the most eye-catching racing machine of the decade in one fell swoop! Everyone was happy until Frame crashed the Duesey in late July, putting himself out of action for more than a month - his injuries healed just in time to race at the Michigan State Fair in September, and finish last in the 100-miler there by "merely hanging on in" - not a glamorous result by any means, but enough to clinch the National Championship, or so it seemed... Now back to the fairgrounds in the East for a few more paydays, before a well deserved winter rest back home in California!

Before finishing out his tour with Hankinson Speedways, news filtered through from "back home", where a syndicate of racing people had just purchased the Oakland Speedway near San Leandro, California. This track, inaugurated only twelve months earlier, had already fallen prey to inept management, and after a few successful AAA meets it had also been "merely hanging on in" with a few independent races, the last of which was, incidentally, won by Frank Whitty, one of the twelve Abilene "mutineers", on the day after the Michigan State Fair. Now the new owners of the speedway settled upon the happy idea to celebrate the new "home champion" with a National Championship race, the first on the "left coast" in half a decade - splendid! Frame must've been jumping for joy when he heard the news while racing in the Carolinas!

Coincidentally (or not), D. H. Jefferies contacted Frame with a view of re-establishing the old AAA circuit in the Tex-Okie region, and thereby banking in on the Indy fame, of course. Back in the mid-twenties, Frame had been a mainstay of the area races before going on to become a star of the National scene, so he appeared to be the perfect man for Jefferies. After a week of negotiations, the AAA man succeded in signing the Indy winner for a race appearance at Abilene on October 29, expressing the hope to land "the services of another Indianapolis winner to oppose him", too - who was he thinking of?

Well, you've guessed it, of course - only three of Frame's predecessors had raced at Abilene before, and thus had the credentials to add extra butts to the grandstand seats, namely the 1925, '26 and '27 winners. Of those, Lockhart was dead, of course, and both Souders and de Paolo retired, but somehow or other Jefferies succeeded in talking the Hoosier back into business, and on October 18 announced that Souders was going to "drive a machine unique in appearance. Miller motored, with a huge snout, and a fin at the rear, the car is known in racing circles as the "catfish."

So, that was the deal - with Frame rushing home in order to prepare himself for the upcoming Oakland race, and to "defend" the National Championship title that he already appeared to have won at Detroit, Jefferies simply took advantage of the fact that the Indy winner was going to pass by Abilene on his way to California, and with a "spare car" to boot. He now had two famous drivers and two "big time" racing cars, and all he needed was a few local entries to get the ball rolling. Unfortunately, though, the locals let him down, again. As the race date approached, he realized that he had Souders and Frame, as well as the "Catfish" and the Duesenberg (made famous, meanwhile, as the Indy winning car of the Greer brothers in the Hollywood movie "The Crowd Roars") - but no one wanting to compete against them! And so, he was left with no alternative but to present his racing card as a "match race", and to make the long afternoon more interesting he decided to run the race in three heats of 25 laps each, with the results declared on aggregate times.

As can be imagined, the resulting races were far from spine-tingling, especially when Souders lost two laps early in the first heat due to a puncture. To their credit, the participants did not appear to be "hippodroming", as Frame won all three heats, but he may have taken things rather easily, his average speed of 63 mph notwithstanding - not that far from Lockhart's old track record of 69 mph. Souders, apparently, conducted himself well, and was said to have been pressing Frame in the last two heats, but the overall result was a foregone conclusion. Attendance figures were not published, perhaps wisely so, but in any event it was AAA's swansong in Texas, until the post-war revival that is. And, unless a similar event turns up in research, it was the last race appearance for George Souders, the 1927 Indy 500 winner.

For Frame, it was the "beginnining of the end" of his racing career. Two weeks later, he was "stiffed" out of "his" National Championship when a valve of the new Miller engine in his old Duesenberg refused to cooperate at Oakland Speedway, and the title went to Bob Carey instead. The following May at Indy, he looked like a possible repeat winner until an engine failure put him into the wall after 210 miles. In the summer and fall, he made one more tour of the Eastern dirt tracks with Hankinson Speedways, but his glory days were over - in nine starts, he won three and finished second twice, but the future belonged to guys like Billy Winn and Bob Sall, who were barely older than his own son, Bob, and ran 57 races between them, winning 24 of those. In 1934, Frame crashed during practice at Indianapolis, and never even started the long grind, then his AAA career fizzled out over the next four years. He became an "outlaw", doing exhibitions for the IMCA in the East, and running "Class B" events in California. At 46, he crashed a Touring Car during practice for a low-profile event at Oakland Speedway, ironically, scene of his most ignominious defeat in 1932, then called it a day, only to see his only son die in an IMCA Sprint Car accident in 1947. Fred Frame himself passed away from a stroke on April 24 in 1962.

Edited by Michael Ferner, 09 September 2011 - 20:51.


#182 MPea3

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Posted 19 January 2012 - 19:02

I'm back :wave:

That was one long potty break!

Will post some of the pics I found!


Another potty break?

Has anyone heard from her or seen any of the photos?