Lot 30

2022   |   Pebble Beach Auctions

1935 Miller-Ford Indy Car

Estimate

$750,000 - $1,000,000

Chassis

5

Car Highlights

One of 10 Examples Built by Harry Miller for Ford Motor Company

Purchased in 1948 by Legendary Race Team Owner Andy Granatelli

Part of the Tony Hulman Collection for over 40 Years

Sympathetically Restored by Zakira’s Garage While Retaining Remarkable Patina

Among the Most Desirable and Alluring Examples of the Miller-Ford

Technical Specs

270 CID DOHC Offenhauser Inline 4-Cylinder Engine

Twin Sidedraft Flynn Carburetors

Estimated 350 BHP at 6,600 RPM

2-Speed Manual Transaxle with Front-Wheel Drive

4-Wheel Hydraulic Drum Brakes

4-Wheel Independent-Wishbone Suspension with Transverse Leaf Springs

Register to Bid

Hans Wurl

Ford Motor Company, Dearborn, Michigan (commissioned new in 1935)

Gilbert Pearson, Santa Monica, California (acquired by 1946)

Anthony Granatelli, Chicago, Illinois (acquired from the above in 1948)

Byron Horn (acquired from the above in 1949)

Tony Hulman, Terre Haute, Indiana (acquired from the above in 1949)

Buck Boudeman, Kalamazoo, Michigan (acquired from the above in 1993)

Dean Butler, Cincinnati, Ohio (acquired from the above in 1998)

Current Owner (acquired from the above in 2013)

Indianapolis 500, 1948 (DNQ)

Harry Miller’s eponymous company was founded in Los Angeles in 1913, and initially specialized in carburetor production, before expanding to pistons and, finally, entire engines and race cars. Miller’s dominant creations were raced on dirt, board, and brick tracks nationwide, and they won the Indianapolis 500 an incredible 15 times over a 20-year period from 1921 to 1941. Following the collapse of his company in 1933, a bankrupt Miller moved from Los Angeles to New York, where he was approached by Preston Tucker with an idea to build a car based around a stock-block engine.

Miller and Tucker Inc. was founded in 1935, and Preston was able to leverage his friendship with Edsel Ford to pitch their idea of an Indianapolis racer powered by the Ford flathead V-8 engine to his father Henry. Henry Ford agreed, and funded the venture by making his dealers collectively pay the $75,000 fee, basically costing the company nothing. Due to an impossibly tight timeline of 111 days, the Miller-Ford project would become something of a folly, but after significant grousing from Mr. Ford, and effort from the incredibly skilled team put together by Miller, the first car was delivered to Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 12, 1935.

The car itself was a work of art, and among the finest of the two-man “junk formula” cars that ran at Indianapolis from 1930 to 1937. Each detail and innovation was pure Miller, with an advanced front-drive chassis design utilizing double-wishbone suspension at each corner. The Emil Diedt-crafted bodies were svelte and shapely in all the right ways, marking the Miller-Ford as destined for the spotlight.

Lacking testing opportunities, just four of the Miller-Fords qualified for the Indianapolis 500, and all of them dropped out with the exact same issue; the steering box had been placed too close to the exhaust system, and the heat caused them to bind up solid. Henry Ford was furious with the failure, and ordered all 10 cars be sent to Dearborn, Michigan, where they were initially locked away, and then slowly sold off to close contacts of the company over the ensuing years.

The Miller-Ford offered here is believed by the consignor, a noted collector of Millers, to have been purchased from Ford by Lew Welch. By 1946, it was in the possession of Lockheed Martin executive and race-team owner Gilbert Pearson of Santa Monica, California. As with a few of the Miller-Fords, this car was upgraded with a 270 cid Offenhauser four-cylinder during this period, and while it was likely raced, its early record is not known.

As extensively chronicled in his book, They Call Me Mister 500, famed IndyCar team owner Anthony “Andy” Granatelli purchased this Miller-Ford from Mr. Pearson in 1948, with the clear goal of winning the Indianapolis 500 that year.

The Miller-Ford-Offy was entered in the 1948 Indianapolis 500 as the no. 59 Grancor Special, and Granatelli passed his rookie test in the car, having decided to take over driving duties from Pete Romcevich. During practice, Granatelli was lapping at speeds that were expected to challenge for pole position, but a mechanical failure caused a spin and necessitated a hurried engine repair. The repaired car was not quite as fast, and in his desperation to qualify, Granatelli aggressively slid the car through every turn. Driving near record pace, his right front tire wore significantly, and exploded on the last of his four qualifying laps. As a result, the car ended up scraping along the top of the concrete wall. Granatelli was injured, but survived, and the car suffered signifiant suspension damage.

The Miller-Ford was subsequently rebuilt by Grancor employee Dick Frazer, and in 1949 was sold, along with another Miller-Ford, to Byron Horn. It is not known whether this car was ever run by Horn, and it was sold later in 1949 to Tony Hulman, the owner of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It would stay preserved in Hulman’s extensive collection, sitting alongside some of the world’s most significant racing cars for over 40 years. In 1993, the Miller-Ford was acquired by noted enthusiast and historian Buck Boudeman of Kalamazoo, Michigan, who then sold it to the owner of the famous Zakira’s Garage, Dean Butler, in 1998.

The consignor spotted this Miller-Ford in the back corner of Zakira’s a number of times, always marveling at its untouched condition. In 2013, a deal was struck that would procure the car, and a plan was hatched to raise it from its 60-plusyear slumber. Upon disassembly, it was noted that most major components of the car were stamped with the no. 5. As documented in 70 pages of invoices and records, and shown in numerous photos, the expert technicians at Zakira’s Garage sympathetically overhauled this amazing piece of racing history over the course of two years. The magical patina the car wears proudly is offset by diligently prepared mechanical components, creating an alluring appeal.

Since restoration, this incredibly desirable Miller-Ford has been at numerous shows, driven at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway at 140 mph, and prominently displayed in the Speedway Hall of Fame Museum for the duration of their recent exhibit honoring Andy Granatelli. It is accompanied by an extensive file of research documents, period photos, and restoration records.

Offered for public sale for the first time, very few racing cars of the era can match the no. 59 Grancor Special’s well-preserved and captivating condition, which includes finishes from 1948. The combination of this authenticity with such a unique history makes this machine an object of intense desire that would be the highlight of any collection.

*Please note that this vehicle is sold on a Bill of Sale.