Not the beer, but a completely different kind of High Life: Saturday I ventured north with my lovely ladyfriend Tammi Jo to watch a few of Harry Miller's magnificent ancient race cars speed around the Milwaukee Mile oval at the Wisconsin state fairgrounds. Some artists work with brush, oils and canvas; some work with chisel and marble; Wisconsin native Harry Miller worked with metal, drill presses and lathes, and his masterpieces haul ass.
I absolutely loved this car, sort of a 3-generation home built garage project that started in the late 1920's by the current owner's grandfather. Very Miller influenced, with clever use of low budget parts. Front wheel drive uses a narrowed Model T differential. Engine is nicely turned-out Tillotsen carbed Crosley.
Miller's rolling jewels dominated Indianapolis but were very expensive, and the Great Depression put them beyond the reach of all but a few very well-financed race teams (Miller in fact went bankrupt in 1933). For a time Indy struggled to find 33 cars to fill the grid. As a response the "Junk Formula" was introduced, allowing larger engine displacement, up to 366 cubic inches, and outlawing superchargers. The new rules meant you could make a fairly-competitive race car starting with a stock production engine block and narrowed chassis. As a hot rodder I love the old Junk Formula cars, which were hot rods by different means. Here's a straight 8 Studebaker Junk formula.
A Chrysler from the same era.
During the Junk Formula era, Preston Tucker (of Tucker car fame) convinced Henry and Edsel Ford to make an Indy race program for Ford's new Flathead V-8, and enlisted Harry Miller to prep a 10-car team. Results were disappointing and it would be 20+ years before Ford would get involved in factory sponsorship. But the cars from the program were stunning -- like this V8 flatty-powered Ford racer. Grille shell is just a cut-down 1935 Ford stocker.
A little Bugatti racer (Type 35?) that calls Cedar Rapids home. Some people consider Harry Miller the American Ettore Bugatti; I like to think of Ettore Bugatti as the Italian Harry Miller.
After Miller's backruptcy, his shop foreman Fred Offenhauser bought the patterns and molds and created his own engine based on the basic Miller design. Offy was the dominant Indy engine for years after, winning 24 time in 27 years. Not only were they fast, but those Offy front-engine roadsters were beautiful.
The big cube, big horsepower, badass Novi V8 was a worthy competitor to the Offy -- but was also built by Offy. It was designed by Bud Winfield and another former Miller employee, Leo Goosen.
Strolling through the artwork I ran into my Northwoods pal Bob Klessig who has appeared in my previous adventures at Bonneville and the sub-zero chill of the Merrill Ice Drags. He's hanging out with Mark Morton, editor-publisher for the coolest car mag there is, HOP UP. Go forth linkward and buy thee a few, for lo, en hopup veritas.
Of all the old iron I saw, this one probably held my attention the longest: an old racer dubbed the Indian Gas Special. Sponsor address was painted on as 1832 Milwaukee Ave., which could be either be in Milwaukee or downtown Chicago. Car appeared to be based off a Model T (narrowed T or A frame), with a cast iron T block, but with some insanely cool modifications -- overhead cam conversion (Rajo maybe?), chain driven pancake supercharger, with a cool little pop-off pressure relief valve. Schweeeeet.
Afterwards Tammi Jo and I stopped along the Tri State on the way back to Chicago and picked up enough contraband Wisconsin provisions to last us till our next trip north of the Cheddar Curtain -- Jager, Point, absinthe, 1960 Formula Schlitz, Mickeys Big Mouth Malt Liquor, cheese curds and kringle. Strangely enough, no Miller. See you next time, Wisconsin!
More iron for your ogling pleasure. After getting south of 87° 30' and back to civilization, Tammi and Jo and I headed over to Highwood IL for the once-in-a-while Buffos cruise nite. Some neat stuff there too, including this crayon box of hot rods...
The dark blue roofline peeking up behind is the Coupe of Justice.
Here's neat ride you don't see parallel parked every day: the 1964 Pontiac Banshee GM prototype concept car. Neat little item, but if you want to own one best get the extended payment plan.
Here's one I flipped for. Didn't talk to the owner, but I'm guessing it was some sort of jaunty fraternity jalopy from the early 60s or late 50s. The "ISNU" redbirds would be Illinois State Normal University, now simply Illinois State U. The interior is done in contrasting red/black pleats, ISU's school colors.
My personal favorite was this channeled candy brandy Deuce roadster. Made even cooler by the fact that the current owner has had it over 50 years, going back to high school.
The remainder of the evening was spent at the home of our pal Cratedigger and his lovely bride-to-be, where we joined them for fireside cocktails and idle gossip. Arising at the crack of 11, I fired up the Coupe again and headed to Highland Park IL for "Auto Historica IX" charity car show which had another helping of killer vehicles, like this Chrysler Ghia concept.
The mind-blowing deco lines of Stout Scarab. I think Lileks would dig this.
Another Scarab, the 1960s racing car. No relation. Man, a lot of cool car stuff has been named after dung beetles.
Pardon me, have you any Grey Poupon? 1924 Rolls Royce Silver Cloud.
That's it for now, I'm late for my gasoline detox treatment. Happy motoring!