THE 1954 BONNEVILLE "B ROADSTER" RECORD HOLDER
1932 FORD HIGHBOY ROADSTER "MILLER AUTOMOTIVE" SPECIAL
Blue with grey upholstery
Engine: flat head Ford V8, 306.26, 300bhp at 5,100rpm; Gearbox: three- speed manual with Halibrand quick change rear end; Suspension: front, transverse leaf springs; rear, telescopic shock absorbers; Brakes: four wheel drum. Left hand drive.
In America, following the war, there were very few late model performance oriented street cars. Detroit was focused on producing rather dull, but practical, family automobiles. Naturally, those who had a thirst for speed needed to be creative. For a little bit of money an old Model A Ford Roadster could be stripped of its fenders, have its engine modified (or even replaced), be fitted with a drop axle and a high speed rear end, and finished with a nice paint job. The result was a very fast, very good looking spartan roadster.
In 1948, Americans saw the first issue of "Hot Rod Magazine", the bible for this new cultural phenomenon that seemed to be centered in Southern California. Rods and Roadsters were used as daily transport during the week and taken cruising or to the dry lakes on the weekend.
The Miller Automotive Special on offer here is an extremely rare and highly original Hot Rod from the 1950s that ran at Bonneville in 1954 and '55 amongst other events. It was built to promote the Miller Automotive business in Chino, California. In 1954, this car ran in the B Roadster class (184-260ci) at Bonneville as car number 252 and won its class with a highly impressive top speed of 142.97 mph. The car still carries the plaque attesting to this record on the dashboard. It was written up in various magazines including; 1955 Bonneville Program, Popular Mechanics-Hot Rod Handbook 1956 edition, and Hop Up first edition reprint premiere issue.
The engine was built by the well known race tuner, Verlin Marshall, and following the record attempt in 1955, he started a rebuild of the car that included enlarging the bore and stroke to a capacity of 306ci. This rebuild was never completed and the car was put away for the next 20 years. The current owner purchased the car in the mid 1970s directly from the second owner who acquired the car from the Miller Estate. Verlin Miller verified his earlier handiwork during the restoration that was carried out with a great deal of sympathy towards its originality. The engine has an 8BA block, a ported head, large intake valves, polished crank and rods, Potvin camshaft, Offenhauser heads, intake manifold and crankcase breather. It also has triple Stromberg model 97 carburetors, 59A waterpumps, Harmon Collins magneto, chrome headers into aluminized lake pipes, muffler and tail pipes. It has a '39 transmission and an early Halibrand quick change rear end, Cook safety hubs, 550x16 Firestones on front and 10.50x16 Racemaster slicks hand grooved on rear.
Some improvements made during the rebuild to enable this Hot Rod to be both a vintage drag racer and street car were; new front brakes, headlights, alternator and fan. Other improvements were changing the short radius rods back to stock length, front shock absorbers, electric fuel pump and fitting a '32 gas tank to replace the small racing pressure tank. The roll bar was removed, the steering column moved back up to the stock position and fitting new upholstery. The paint remains original as does the 1950s newspaper used for sound proofing in the bodywork! The inscription on the back Rod River RTA signifies the Hot Rod club which still exists today and The Rosetta Timing Association.
This is a very well known "original" hot rod that can be used for vintage events (in 1996 this car won its class at LA Raceway), weekend driving or Hot Rod meets. This year the Pebble Beach Concours has introduced a special "Hot Rod" class in acknowledegment of its growing popularity and importance towards this piece of American history that still continues today. still continues today.