OldRacingCars.com

Miller ’91’ (1926)

by Michael Ferner

This article was originally based on what Mark Dees wrote in his second edition of The Miller Dynasty, “using principally the research of historians Bill Digney and William [sic!] O’Keefe, with a few additions and deviations of my own”. By now I have my own “additions and deviations” from Dees, and after consulting the original article by Bill Digney and Jim O’Keefe (Cars & Parts, May & June 1989), here’s what I can come up with (ID number/year/owner/driver/colour/# at first appearance):

’2603’

the 1926 Hartz/Hartz grey & blue #3 car

Driven exclusively by Harry Hartz in 1926, then sold to Cliff Woodbury/Mike Boyle (white, blue & red #15 in ‘27, and #12 in ‘28) to be driven by Cliff himself and Ralph Hepburn, Dave Evans, Billy Arnold and Red Roberts over the next two years, possibly for Bo Amos at Syracuse in 1929 (#5); sold to Karl Kizer of Indiana for Bill Cummings in 1930 (#29), then allegedly to Sig Haugdahl (yellow #H4) until 1934 or ‘35. From photographs, it appears possible that Haugdahl used his Miller ’91’ chassis to build the Rocket Car in 1932. I’m not sure whether it would have been possible to rebuilt the car to standard configuration, or at least close to it, but later that same year he was reported as driving an 8-cylinder Miller again. He was also reportedly driving a Miller in AAA events in early 1935, possibly a Miller ’220’ in the old 91 chassis? Likely the car driven by Shorty Drexler in 1937 (#91?), apparently with an 8-cylinder engine.

’2604’

the 1926 de Paolo/Shafer yellow & red #4 car (1928 Indy winner)

Built originally for AAA Champion Pete de Paolo who chose to race his old Duesenberg chassis with a new 1.5-litre engine instead. Raced at Indy in 1926 by Red Shafer/Fred Lecklider, then subsequently by de Paolo (#1), Shafer (#10) and Tony Gulotta over the next two years (blue & white #3 and #27 in ‘28). It was apparently acquired by Shafer (with some support from AC Spark Plugs) for Wilbur Shaw, but sold on the eve of 1928 Indy qualifying to Alden Sampson for Louie Meyer to drive as a gold & black #14. Subsequently used by Bill Spence, Deacon Litz and Dave Evans, and bought by Litz for the 1929 season (white & black #26). Run by Litz at Langhorne and, apparently, a few secondary events in 1930 and ‘31, but information is thin. Likely the car that appeared with a Miller ’220’ engine for Shorty Cantlon at Ascot in January 1932 (cream & red? #10), then driven by Howdy Wilcox, Al Gordon and Mauri Rose while Cantlon was recuperating from his El Centro/Imperial crash in March. Rechassised in early 1933 (tan & silver? #25), then crashed again by Sam Palmer in March, rebuilt again and possibly run in a few events in the East (Cummings at Langhorne?), or else sold on… subsequent history unclear. Today’s car in the IMS museum is a recreation, apparently using the frame of car ’2615’ and mostly genuine other parts from uncertain sources.

’2608’

the 1926 Hartz/Comer grey & blue #8 car

Harry’s second car was driven by Fred Comer, Wade Morton and Hartz himself in 1926, then Hartz (grey & blue #1), Eddie Hearne, Leon Duray, Ira Vail and Dave Evans (#16) in 1927. Sold to Bill White in late ‘27 for Indy winner George Souders (blue & white #3), then Evans again and Jimmy Gleason in 1928. Allegedly burned at an Auto Show in Los Angeles in early 1929, but saved and sold to Leon Duray, it appears. !!! Dees disagrees here, and gives it back to White, but contemporary reports are quite clear in that Duray apparently bought both cars (this one and a front-drive) from the fire wreck! Dees (in the 2nd edition) also describes Duray’s car as a wide-frame ’122’, which it was clearly not! Anyway, it was driven by Tony Gulotta at Indy (violet & yellow #23), then apparently brought to Europe along with Duray’s two front-drives and perhaps used in record attempts at Monthéry, then back to the States where it was only sporadically used by Duray (#6?) until late summer in 1932, racing at Ascot with a ’220’ engine (black #64). Back to Europe in September for a fruitless attempt at Monza, then returned to Ascot competition (now black & white #28) with Wilbur Shaw, Sam Palmer, Mauri Rose and Al Gordon driving. Rechassised in early ‘33, it was #20 for a short time, then #3 for Shaw again and subsequently also in Midwestern events. Duray campaigned the car in the Midwest and East until 1935, with Mauri Rose, Tony Gulotta and possibly Babe Stapp driving (white & black #13), then sold it to Gil Pirrung. Billy Devore and Babe Stapp drove it for Pirrung (blue #12 & #6), who sold it to Joel Thorne a year or so later. Subsequent history unclear, but driven in dirt track events and at Pikes Peak (!) by Shaw, Russ Snowberger, possibly Floyd Davis and many others.

’2609’

the 1926 Durant/Durant blue & white #9 “Locomobile Junior 8’

Cliff Durant had two special versions of the ‘91’ built, with many distinctive details, but as it were two and their race numbers changed quite a lot early on they’re still not easy to untangle! This one, apparently, was driven by Cliff himself, Eddie Hearne and Ralph Hepburn in 1926 (also #18 & #4), then sold to Harry Hartz for Harlan Fengler to drive (#25), then taken over by the Woodbury/Boyle stable inclusive of driver Fred Comer (#6)! Also driven by Hepburn (white #19), Russ Snowberger (#36?), Billy Arnold (white, blue & red #43 in ‘28), Bill Spence, possibly Cliff Bergere, then Chet Gardner (white? #19 in ‘29) and Fred Frame (#6) for Boyle until the end of 1929. Bought by Frame and run quite successfully during 1930 in Eastern (green #4) and Pacific Coast events (#20), then sold to Alvin Kingsley for Walt May and Speed Hinkley to drive in 1931 (two-tone colour #3) with a four-cylinder engine (Cragar?). I lose track thereafter, but in the late fourties Joe Gemsa campaigned an orange #43 which was said to have been this car, possibly with a Gerber engine. Very recently, this car appears to have been “found”, and it is probably undergoing restoration in the meantime.

’2610’

the 1926 Durant/Duray blue & white #10 “Locomobile Junior 8’

The other special “LJ8’ was driven by Leon Duray, Harlan Fengler, Wade Morton and Frank Elliott in 1926 (also #12, #19 & #6), then sold via Harry Hartz to Norm Batten (red & silver #8). This was the car that famously caught fire at Indy in ‘27, and with Batten recuperating from the burns it was driven by Elliott again, and Babe Stapp who did very well with it until early ‘28. Batten was again behind the wheel at Indy that year (red & silver #22), with Zeke Meyer driving relief, and after his death in a maritim accident the car was driven by Wes Crawford, Ted Simpson, Meyer again and Dave Evans in 1929 (red #49) before it apparently went through a number of hands on the East coast, including Jimmy Gleason and Gordy Condon. After many years, it even reappeared at Indy in 1938, owned by Henry Kohlert and driven by Duke Nalon (red & gold #43). It was again entered the following year, but failed to show, and was probably “raced to death” in the Midwest – last note I have is Ed Davis driving it in a 1940 CSRA event at Dayton Speedway, Ohio.

’2615’

the 1926 Kreis/Lockhart white #15 car (1926 Indy winner)

Engine Nr. 11 – After the cinderella story of Indy in 1926, Lockhart had a rocky start to his “regular” career when the dream was over. First, owner Peter Kreis had to be convinced to sell his car back to the factory (or, possibly, Tommy Milton as an intermediary), which was eventually accomplished by selling him on the idea of owning a new front-drive Miller. Then, Lockhart was banned from the next race because he had earlier send in his entry for a minor dirt track event in Texas the same day! Eventually, Frank got to paint his favourite #27 on the car, and took off on a run of victories, but it was too late to win the championship. The next year (white #2), tyre troubles and engine experiments cost him dearly and he ended up second again, then came his untimely death at Daytona Beach. Tony Gulotta ran the car for his widow at Indy in ‘28 (white & black #8), before Alden Sampson bought it for Louie Meyer to drive in 1928 and ‘29 (white & black #1), and then its engine was used to build the Sampson 16-cylinder in 1930. The chassis was sold to Meyer who fitted an 8-cylinder Miller ’230’ engine and ran it himself and for Shorty Cantlon (white, red & black? #25) in Pacific Coast events until April ‘31. Engine pulled for Meyer’s new Indy Car, and chassis apparently sold to Bill White who used it to build a Miller ’200’-engined Ascot car (blue? #4) for Chris Vest (?), Francis Quinn, Bill Cummings and then Ernie Triplett to drive. Car was #1 in 1932, and rebuilt several times, including with a new frame (June?), it also changed colours from blue to white to red (?) and acquired a Miller ’220’ engine – all in all, a mess! Replaced by a very similar all-new car in November ‘32, and sold to Russ Garnant in early ‘33, apparently with the “spare” original frame! Run by Garnant with a Cragar and then a Miller engine for drivers like Carl Ryder, Herb Balmer, Floyd Roberts, Harris Insinger and “Rajo Jack” de Soto, then sold to Ted Horn (1941), later Tommy Hinnershitz (1947) and Emmett Shelley (1948) – said to be in the collection of Lynn Paxton today. HOWEVER, “spare” original frame apparently sold by Garnant to Mark Dees in the sixties, and subsequently sold to IMS museum whose staff rebuilt it as the 1928 Indy winner ’2604’ – spot the irony!

’2616’

the 1926 Miller/Hill maroon, red & white #16 car (1929 Indy winner)

The ‘works’ car, as raced by Bennie Hill, Jules Ellingboe and Frank Lockhart in 1926, then Hill (maroon, red & white #4) again and Dutch Baumann (yellow #26) in 1927 before it was bought by Lockhart and driven by Bob McDonogh, Eddie Hearne and Frank Elliott for him. After Frank’s death the car was bought by Ed Yagle for Ray Keech to race (white & blue #15), and Wilbur Shaw got to drive it in relief for the then Land Speed Record holder. It was wrecked in late 1928 at Rockingham Speedway, and completely rebuilt around a new frame over the winter, then again wrecked in Keech’s fatal accident in June of 1929 (white & blue #2), but apparently rebuilt yet again and run by Jimmy Gleason, Dave Evans, and possibly Larry Beals and Herman Schurch in 1929, then Frank Farmer (and possibly Gordy Condon on occasion) from 1930 (#33) till his fatal accident in it in ‘32. Subsequently raced by Tee Linn, Russ Snowberger, Bob Riff, Al Aspen, Harold Larzelere and probably others for a couple of years. Possibly scrapped after an accident in August ‘34 (#28), by which time it was fitted with a Hispano-Suiza aero engine conversion.

’2724-X’

the 1927 Haase/Melcher green #24 car

Al Melcher (also #44), Jack Petticord, Fred Lecklider and possibly Fred Frame (#14) drove this car in 1927, then Lou Moore over the next two or three years (red & white #28 in ‘28, green & white #3 in ‘29) with relief stints by Louis Schneider and Barney Kloepfer. The car then drops from the radar for a couple of years, before it reappears with a ’220’ engine in early 1932, co-owned by Charles Mason and driver Chet Gardner (pale blue, then white #2), who did very well with it over the next six-and-a-half years (rechassised and white #4, also #34 in ‘33, #5 in ‘34, rechassised again and pale blue #17 in ‘35 and ‘36, blue & red #72 in ‘37) before his fatal crash in it (1938, red #19? and Offenhauser 255 engine). After that, his brother Ray raced the car for a time in ARA events in California (#19), then to Al Judson of Connecticut in 1940 (tan or “mustard” #15) for Bill Holland, Frank McGurk, Buddie Rusch, Bob Sall, Spider Webb and possibly Ev Saylor in AAA (#17 in 1941?), also CSRA in 1945 (two-tone #15 Holland and Sall?), and there is a reference to Hal Robson driving it in AAA 1946 (#16?), possibly even later. Subsequent history unknown.

’2933’

the 1929 White/Stevens white? #33 car

As already noted, there’s some confusion about whether this car was a rebuilt of car ’2608’ or an entirely new car, but in any event Myron Stevens crashed it at Indy in 1929, and thereafter Shorty Cantlon drove it a few times in its original configuration (#4) before the engine was pulled and a 4-cylinder “improved Marine Miller” installed for Pacific Southwest competition, where car and driver did very well the following two winter seasons (#21 in ‘29, #16 in ‘30 and #4 in ‘31). It was sold in early 1931 to Doug Harrison for Chet Gardner to drive (white #47), who also excelled, but within a year the car became uncompetitive due to a preponderance of new 4-valve Millers, and after Gardner (#2) Al Gordon, George Connor, Stubby Stubblefield, Carl Ryder, Frenchy La Horgue and presumably many others drove it as a white #23 (rechassised in 1932) and #19 (1933, under new ownership of the Bielch Bros.) with ever diminishing success, until it gets lost in the mists of time.

’2944’

the 1929 Sampson/Pardee #44 car

The most obscure of the lot, this car was originally built for Harry Hartz, but almost immediately snapped up by the Sampson/Meyer stable. Reportedly equipped with a water-cooled supercharger, both Ralph de Palma and Dave Evans practiced in it at Indy in ‘29, before Phil Pardee easily qualified only to crash the day before the race. There follows some confusion, with possible entries for de Palma again, and Myron Stevens later that year, before the engine is pulled for the Sampson 16-cylinder, and the chassis sold to a man named James Cottrell, who enters the car in East coast events the following year (white & red #1), presumably with an “improved Miller Marine” engine. Possibly to Frank Brisko (ca. 1933), as #36 “Boyle Valve” for dirt track events, also driven by Art Foley, and apparently fitted with a Hisso engine; possibly to Morris “Pete” Jeter and rebodied in 1936 for Ted Johnson (#44), Jimmy Snyder (?), Duke Nalon and Ray Pixley, who crashed fatally with it; apparently rechassised and sold to Harry Buenger in 1937 for Chuck Neisel, Lou Webb and/or possibly others, then Johnson again in 1938 and Frank Wearne; subsequent history unknown.

*****

Last updated by Michael Ferner on 9 Jul 2013.

All text is copyright Michael Ferner 2013 - 2019.