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    Sale 9464

    EXCEPTIONAL MOTOR CARS

    20 August 2000, Hotel Richemond

  • Lot 77

    1919 MILLER, THE TNT RACING CAR

    Price Realised  

    1919 MILLER, THE TNT RACING CAR

    Aluminum with dark red frame, red wheels and black seats
    Engine: Miller straight eight, dual overhead camshaft, four valves per cylinder, four dual throat updraft carburetors, 183ci., 125bhp at 4,000rpm; Gearbox: three-speed; Suspension: solid axles on semi-elliptic springs front and rear; Brakes: four wheel drum (hydraulic conversion). Body made entirely of seven aluminum castings having a thickness of 6 inch. Original chassis and front axle. Two seat racing car.

    In 1919 Harry Miller applied for a patent covering a two seat, open wheel car incorporating several advanced features. Among these were a body of cast aluminum, the engine serving as a stressed chassis member with front suspension attached directly to it, and cast aluminum wheels nearly identical to the ones Ettore Bugatti would debut on his Type 35 grand prix cars five years later. The patent was granted in May of 1920, but no evidence has come to light that a car having most or all of those features was ever built. Also in 1919, Leo Goossen arrived at the Miller works and was assigned to make the drawings of a four cylinder, 183 inch engine having two overhead camshafts operating four valves per cylinder through cup-type followers. This would be the first twin camshaft Miller design and, as drawn, had a cast aluminum covering that faired in with the car's bodywork, also of thin castings, eliminating the need for a conventional hood. The body of cast aluminum is the car's most interesting feature and it has been suggested that Harry Miller intended this to be an early form of monocoque construction, attaching components to the rigid body and dispensing with a frame altogether. The early patent drawing seems to suggest this, but the car, as built, has a conventional chassis. Pierce-Arrow was using cast bodies on their large luxury cars at the time, this construction resulting in coachwork that was very strong and free of the squeaks and rattles common in the composite bodies of the era, but the benefits in a racing car application would seem to be minimal. The TNT project was funded by a Los Angeles Brewer named Maier and two cars were entered for the Indianapolis 500 under the name TNT. At least one car was completed and photographs exist of the TNT on the boards at Beverly Hills Speedway. The photos indicate that the proposed engine cover was not incorporated as the car seems to have a sheet alloy hood held by leather straps. Cover straps over the body joints, however, are clearly visible and indicate that the car's body was made up of castings. The body shape, furthermore, is nearly identical to that in the patent drawing. The cars never made it to Indianapolis and Leo Goosen recalled that Maier lost interest and the project was dropped. It is believed that the four cylinder engine or engines were lost to scrap drives during the Second World War.

    In the late 1970s, Oregon Miller enthusiast David Hedrick found this car, engineless, in the Harrah Collection. Bob Sutherland was restoring a Miller 183 engine during this period and seized the chance to combine the two projects into a roadworthy car. This Miller was a particular favorite of Bob Sutherland and he used it often. The TNT participated in the 1983 Monterey Historics tribute to Miller, and has run in the Miller gatherings at Milwaukee, where Bob was seen giving many Miller enthusiasts their first ride in a genuine example of the marque. The car has been very reliable as evidenced by its successful completion of the Colorado Grand, despite Bob's encounter with a luckless sheep that had wandered onto the roadway and was collected by the speeding Miller. The 183 straight eight engine is a logical replacement for the missing four, as it was the next design following the TNT and the first of the classic Miller eights. The entire time of cataloguing, we did not fire the car up and have been advised that the engine requires new bearings. Apart from the amazing cast aluminum body, the TNT has its original chassis, back axle and radiator, the latter having a V-cove (dated 1919). The carburetors have been re-cast and this is probably the same for the crankcase. The brakes have been converted to hydraulic operation. The Sutherland car offers a rare opportunity to obtain a genuine example of early Miller technology, and can be enjoyed at both track and touring events.



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