1925 Miller 122 Front Drive Race CarSOLD
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Estimate: $500,000-$600,000 US

Offered Without Reserve

AUCTION RESULTS: Lot was Sold at a price of $495,000

200+hp 120.8 cu. in. supercharged dual overhead camshaft inline eight-cylinder engine, three-speed manual transaxle, DeDion front suspension with quarter elliptical leaf springs, live axle rear suspension with semi- elliptical leaf springs, four-wheel drum brakes. Wheelbase: 104"

The Miller front drive race car is a true icon with worldwide recognition. Its birth was the result of Jimmy Murphy, an internationally known American racing superstar and Riley Brett, a mechanically gifted fellow, deciding to build a dramatically different car capable of powering through the turns. The two settled on using the undeveloped concept of front wheel drive that as of 1924, had never met with practical success. Riley left Kansas City for Los Angeles, which was rapidly becoming a mecca for talented people interested in racing. While there was no one individual responsible for the Miller Front Drive, it was the group of talent individuals that included Leo Goossen who turned the group ’ s ideas into engineered drawings. Fred Offenhauser, shop foreman of Miller, made certain everything got built to Miller ’ s high standards and Harry A. Miller himself used his often-noted clairvoyant powers to intuit what was needed and wanted by Murphy and Brett. The combined talents of Harry Miller and Leo Goossen created components that were engineered and executed with a sculptural design quality that rivaled and often exceeded anything being done worldwide. History indicates with certainty that Jimmy Murphy ordered Front Drive # 1 to use at Indianapolis and on the board tracks. Murphy was also having another Miller built specifically to set land speed records. For aerodynamic design reasons it would have the smallest frontal area possible, with the brakes out of the slipstream and concealed within the unique disc wheels. This car, known as the “ Outboard Brake ” car, is the Front Drive # 2 car we have the pleasure of offering on behalf of the Uihlein Collection. Sadly, Murphy ’ s death at Syracuse in 1924 changed everything. In 1925 at Indianapolis, Miller assigned Front Drive # 2 to Bennett Hill who practiced at a qualifying speed but was put off by what he perceived to be the car ’ s poor handling. Ora Haibe then got behind the wheel but was also unable to put the car in the Indy 500 field. The Packard Motor Car Company then purchased the Miller # 2 for testing and evaluation. Packard engineering knew a passenger car application of front wheel drive could have a dramatic effect on a car ’ s styling; witness the L-29 Cord. Packard sold the # 2 Miller to Stanley Reed. Reed ’ s driver Bruce Miller made his only appearance at the speedway in 1927 and was unable to qualify the car. In the 1928 Indy 500, driver Sam Ross qualified for the 16th spot at 106.572 mph. However, the failure of the timing gears put him out of the running on lap 132. At this point in its history, for some reason the car now appears with wire wheels replacing the attractive and effective disc wheels. 1929 finds driver Albert Karnatz able to make the 500 field but a gas leak ended his day early on lap 50. The subsequent year the junk formula went into effect for the Indianapolis 500 and Front Drive #2 is dispatched to conform to the new requirements. Myron Stevens, who built the original body for the car at Miller ’ s shop, now builds a new wider body to accommodate the riding mechanic who the new rules have brought back for the first time since 1922. Driver Dave Evans and mechanic Thane Houser qualified a disappointing 33rd. Lap after lap they had a remarkable run to the front and finish an amazing 6th place marking the Front Drive ’ s best finish at Indy to date. The 1931 500 finds Frank Brisko, the new owner and driver of the Miller Front Drive # 2 along with mechanic Floyd Wiese. The team didn ’ t fare well as a steering arm failure on lap 138 put them out of the race. In 1932 owner/driver Brisko again enters the car in the race this time with Floyd Sparks as riding mechanic. They qualified with a speed of 111.149 and start at 13th place but are out on lap 61 with a blown clutch. In 1933, Brisko is driving the revolutionary four-wheel drive Miller race car in the Indy 500 but still owns the Front Drive # 2. He manages to find the Boyle Valve Company to sponsor it with Wesley Crawford as driver and Charles Crane as mechanic. A wheel came off on lap 146th, ending the race for the team but fortunately neither driver or mechanic were hurt. Frank Brisko was indeed a multi-talented racer and engineer, as the 1937 Indy 500 saw the Front Drive # 2 repowered with a DOHC 6-cylinder engine of his own design. The front brakes were still outboard and the gracefully arched front axle, which was likely damaged in the 1933 crash, was now replaced with a type sourced from one of the FWD cars with a straight center section. Brisko qualified at 118.213 for a mid-pack start. He and mechanic Lester Brown were out because of an oil leak on lap 105 and credited with a 23rd place. A rule change in 1938 once again eliminated the riding mechanic and Brisko narrowed the body back to its single-seat configuration. Brisko ’ s 271 cubic inch 6-cylinder again powered the car that qualified for the 11th spot in the Indy that year. Again oil trouble plagued the car and a broken line ended the race for Brisko on lap 39. Back at Indy again in 1939 Brisko again started in 11th. This time it was an air pump failure that took him out on lap 38.

1940 at the Indianapolis 500 was a far superior experience for Brisko as the Front Drive # 2 car, even after all the changes to its body, engine and chassis, was still running at the end of the race and was flagged home having completed 193 laps and coming in at an impressive 9th place. The following year, in 1941, Brisko got knocked out of the 500 on the 70th lap with a broken valve spring. Following World War II, unbelievably, the Brisko returned for one last try at the 1946 Indianapolis 500. It wa still powered by the Brisko 6 but restyled with an up to date envelope style body again built by Myron Stevens. Louis Tomei drove the #2, now called the Boxar Tool Special, for 34 race laps until a broken oil line forced him to quit. The above documented history describes a scenario that can never again be duplicated. Today race cars rarely last a season. In the days of Millers, this was not the case. Cars were passed on from year to year, rebuilt, repowered and reconfigured. The fact that Front Drive # 2 in one form or another had a racing career that spanned 21 years is a remarkable example of this phenomenon and perhaps a record. The Boxar Tool Special found its way into Ed Trager ’ s collection of important automobiles. Mr. Trager, of Chicago, saved numerous race cars at a time when no one appreciated them, much like the Front Drive ’ s next owner. David Uihlein purchased the Boxar Tool Special directly from Mr. Trager. Mr. Uihlein had hoped to add a Front Drive Miller to his collection and he realized that the Boxar Tool Special was the Front Drive # 2. He purchased the car realizing this was likely his only chance to get real parts with lineage back to a known race car. When the car was purchased it was as it had left the track in 1946. The Myron Stevens built body and engine were removed and sold to Miller historian Mark Dees. The chassis and underpinnings were carefully examined to preserve the smallest part that could be traced back to # 2. An original 122 Miller engine was purchased for the car. Joe Silnes, accomplished race car fabricator and body builder, put the main assemblies back together during the 1980s. Looking at the photo of the car as it left the Silnes shop you can see that the frame rails appear old. Inspection today reveals they were made by hand forming steel sheet steel over cast iron forms, an exhausting, time consuming method requiring a great deal of skill, favored in the 1920s and 30s. During the early 1990s the car was sent to England where Sean Danaher rebuilt the engine while Peter Shaw spent a great deal of time getting the car to what it is today. Modified parts were put back to original, missing parts were remade and components rebuilt and made to function as they had years ago. The car was plated, painted and upholstered to a high standard throughout. During the 80s and 90s, Shaw was doing more specialist Miller work than anyone else and his client list included noted enthusiasts Chuck Davis and Robert Sutherland. This is one of the great racing cars of all time, renowned from the bullrings of middle America to the legendary tracks of Europe. The greatest drivers of the 20s and 30s earned some of their most epic victories behind the wheel of a front wheel drive Miller. Each was individually conceived, built, assembled and finished with a particular driver or team in mind. In total, from 1924 to 1929 only eleven or twelve were built. They are universally recognized as a watershed in American racing car design and construction. Chances to own a supercharged 122 cubic inch Miller eight powered Miller front drive chassis come along only very rarely, no more than once or twice in a lifetime. Miss the opportunity to succeed David Uihlein as the custodian of this unique, irreplaceable piece of American racing history and there won ’ t be another one for a long, long time.

Please note that this vehicle is a race car and therefore offered on a Bill of Sale

Reference Number 11618

as of 7/24/2007

Car 1925 Miller 122 Front Drive Race Car
VIN 18 
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