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1962 Miller Sports Racer

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The Don Miller H-Mod Sports Race Cars

Our car was one of about 40 H-Modified class racecars designed and built by Don Miller (no relation to the Indy Miller cars) in California during the late 50s and early to mid-1960s. All were different, built to various specs and often owner finished. Our car was probably one of the last cars he built (more on this subject later).

Mr. Miller's earlier cars were front-engined racecars, classified and raced as H-Modified in SCCA. The later cars were mid-engine, as is this car, and were classified as a D Sports Racer. Don worked as an aerospace engineer in those years (Douglas Aircraft). So, many chassis parts/tubes/fasteners, etc. probably came from their bins. The cars were all powered by the then-popular, highly tuned, 850cc Crosley (as in Crosley Hot Shot) motors and Fiat transmissions. Many of the brake components were also Fiat parts.  For a nicely done history of the H-Mod era, please visit http://sports.racer.net/vintage.htm

The Team Terrific Miller Sports Racer
SOLD in 2024. Scroll to end of page for the conclusion of this car's history with Team Terrific Racing.

Logbook-1990-web.jpg (94836 bytes)The car's drive train has been modified from the original H-Mod powerplant, probably a Crosley 850cc engine.  Who/when it was converted to its current engine/transaxle configuration is unknown.  This was done by whoever owned and raced it in California.  The conversion was done prior to 1999 (when we purchased the car), but after 1990 (as proven by the 1990 SCCA Logbook picture at right which shows the car in its original power train configuration).  So, after 1990 it was converted it to its current four cylinder 1600cc Ford pushrod motor and the Hewland transaxle.  

This is the same basic engine as used in Formula Ford spec series.  However the current engine is fitted with dual 40 DCOE Weber carburetors and a mild cam shaft, thus creating about 10 more horsepower than the spec FF engine. The transmission is the Hewland MK-8 four-speed transaxle. The car is capable of about 125+ mph top speed.

The car is raced regularly by Diane Alder at Rocky Mountain Vintage Racing events as well as with other vintage club events around the country. In February of 2004 the car participated in the fantastic annual four-event Southern Festival of Speed races in New Zealand.  Follow this link for a ton of, if not exhaustive, information on that one-in-a-lifetime adventure.

The 1999 Purchase Of The Car

In the the spring of 1999 the car was donated by it's prior owner, Terry Hefty, to a fund raiser for one of RMVR's members who was battling cancer.  I was fortunate to be the winning bidder.  At the time Diane had not yet started racing.  But during the evening the cute Miller, aided by a few glasses of wine and urging from other lady drivers, caused her to say, "I think I'd like to start racing now."  The RMVR Spring Driver's School was in two weeks.  She was there and the rest is history. Below are the happy new owners of the car that fateful evening when we purchased the car.

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Photos by Andy Gould

The 1999/2000 Rebuild

At then end of our first season with the car, it was involved in a hard shunt (Diane wasn't hurt).  The car was thus completely restored in the winter of 1999/2000.  The following are some before and after photos.  The left front was damaged significantly necessitating completely stripping the car down to the bare frame for proper repairs.  But the results were worth it!  In addition to the damage repairs, the cosmetics and a lot of small improvements were made.  In its many years since that restoration, it's been a reliable workhorse of a race car.  Click on any image to enlarge. 

Before - The Miller's Livery As Purchased in 1999 After The 1999/2000 Rebuild

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The Rebuild
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The above three pictures on the left show how badly the car was damaged in 1998. The left front fender was basically torn off of the front body work.  More disastrously, the left front corner of the frame was badly caved in as you can see in the middle two pics (on trailer at the track and in the shop after being stripped down to bare frame).   The picture on the right simply shows how the engine compartment looked before the restoration.  No damage there - just needed cosmetics. 

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At left, the frame was completely and magnificently repaired by J.D. McDermott's Front Range Motorsports and painted in a proper frame gray. After that the process of pop-riveting all new aluminum panels began (middle pictures)  Then after most of the new panels had been installed, the engine/transaxle was re-fitted (picture on far right).  The fiberglass repair to the nose was done by Vic Cooper, an absolute magician when it comes to composite materials as the finished car (below) clearly shows.

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The Finished 1999/2000 Rebuild

 

2018-2019 Ground Up Re-Do -- One more time

Sadly, Diane's beloved Miller had a freak "incident" at our Race Against Kids' Cancer in August of 2018.  You ain't gonna' believe this;  it got rolled being towed back to the pits.  Long sad story.  Knackered it pretty good, all body work and frame were damaged. Diane was unhurt because she remained fully belted up in the car!  Watch the video carefully in the upper right hand corner.  Video was  taken by the track's video system. 

 

Briefly, it hurt so bad it was decided to do another full ground up on the car.  A full restoration was done back in  2000, but that was 18 years ago now (Can't believe it!).  Since then Diane has done 100 plus race weekends on the car!   So rather than just patch up the damage, it will be taken down to the bare frame to refresh everything.     Can't stand seeing it sit there all messed up.  Plus, she loves the car!

 

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What a mess.  Both front and rear fiberglass body work were significantly "deranged."

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As to the frame and chassis, the black arrows point to really serious damage.  Roll bar pushed down into frame about 1/2".  Rear upright broken (here being held together with a ratchet strap). At right, shows left rear broken upright, bent shock and bent trailing arms.

 

 To see the detailed the 2018-2019 restoration, just visit this  picture gallery
Rather than showing all that here, that picture gallery has all the extensive details and pictures of the restoration process.

But as seen below, the result is the car is back to its original glory.
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Actually it is even better shape given the completely new rear chassis, roll bar and all.  And freshly restored body work.  Plus a fresh engine.
 All now better than new and probably in the best shape of its entire life.

After the repairs the car was only raced on a test day at Pueblo and one weekend at LaJunta in 2021.  In 2022 & 2023 Diane didn't race and came to the conclusion it was time to hang up her helmet.  Alas, the decision was made to sell the car. 

The Miller was SOLD in March of 2024 
 Concluding its long and wonderful history with Team Terrific Racing.

Tom Taff  (Dallas) is the new owner.  We knew Tom because of crossing paths in the past because he also owns a Bobsy SR-3.  Tom had seen the Miller and Diane race at Hallett on several occasions and says he'd always really admired the car.  His Bobsy was out for some big engine repairs and knowing Diane had stopped racing, he inquired if the Miller was for sale.  Indeed it was and he purchased it.  The car is now in good hands.  Tom will be a great custodian of the car.  


Tom, his wife Marti, and & Diane at World Headquarters of Team Terrific Racing when they came to pick up the car.

With the car in Tom's trailer, Diane wishes him well and to say her final goodbye to the Miller.

 
Tom has already put some new Panasport wheels and treaded tires (required by CVAR) on the car. Also done some suspension improvements.  As I said, a great custodian of this car. 


The Miller in Tom's garage along with Bobsy SR-3.

 

An Historical Sidebar:  At below are pictures of another Miller.  Look familiar?  This car, owned by Franklin "Rudy" Rudolph when these pictures were taken. It is documented as "The Last Miller" built by Don Miller in 1967. (Note:  Subsequent research in 2015 by the new owner of this car, Jeff Awender,  indicate it was probably built earlier than the1967 date indicated in Joe Puckett's book.  In fact, he's pretty sure it was 1962.)   This Miller was pruchased from Awender about 2000 and is now owned and raced by Steve Chamberlin.  

Comparing pictures of Rudy's bare frame (taken in about 1998) and his completed car (which we saw at a Reno, NV race in 2007) show the very clear similarity to our Miller. (Click here for more pics of "Rudy's" really nice car.)   Thus we now believe  our car was probably built about 1962. 

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Below are pictures of the car in 2024 being raced by Steve Chamberlin at Laguna Seca on the Corkscrew