heroic; majestic; impressively great
The Iliad and Odyssey are epic poems, the Nurbugring is an epic track, LeBron James is an epic player. Epic is a small word that carries a vast amount of weight. People throw it around frivolously, but there are some things we can all agree are fitting of the title of Epic. Submitted for your approval:
The Miller Total Performance Automotive Museum
On the south side of the entry fence at Miller Motorsports Park, across the drive from the box office building, sits a building that has a giant track map and picture of one of the FR500Ss. Inside this building there are some of the things you’d run across at a motorsports facility that hosts driving and racing schools: there is a class room, and some bathrooms, and a gift shop; however, if you walk past the register in the gift shop you will find something few other places have: a collection of cars that have become legends.
This is like Valhalla. These heroes sit amongst each other, in a hall built by a man who lives on through the legacy and places he left behind.
Before Larry Miller became Larry H. Miller, philanthropist, Utah Jazz owner, car dealership magnate, he was Larry Miller, car guy. Specifically, Shelby Cobra guy. He worked hard, and bought a Cobra. And he worked some more and bought another…and some more, and then some Mustangs, and a GT40, and then more Cobras and GT40s. All told there are 13 Cobras (including one of the six Daytona Coupes AND a one of one aluminum body that was going to become a Daytona Super Coupe), 5 GT40s, 6 GT350 Mustangs, and one Cougar, Ranchero, Thunderbolt, 2008 GT500KR, and a Ford GT. These 29 cars represent 50 years of American racing history and one man who made the world take note of what we were capable of: Carroll Shelby. Telling the stories of all the cars, of all the men behind them, and everything that they accomplished would require a novel on the scale of Ulysses. We will highlight a few of the cars, and leave it up to you if you want to make the drive to the museum and hear about the rest of them.
CSX-2128: Black No. 15 This is the car that started it all. This was one of two Cobras built for the 1963 Twelve Hours of Sebring with rack and pinion steering. The Shelby team raced it for a few months, then sold it to Coventry Motors. While there it received a new livery (yellow with black stripes and roundels) and was raced until Shelby bought the car back in March of ’64. While with Coventry, and before the new livery, it was photographed for an album by the Rip Chords called Hey Little Cobra. Larry saw this album, saw the car, and became a Cobra guy. Later the car came up for auction, and Larry outbid the man who designed the yellow and black livery it wore at Coventry. The man Larry outbid, the livery designer, was George Lucas.
CSX-2299: Blue No. 13 Daytona Coupe “It just stops my heart every time I see it.” This is one of six Daytona Coupes, number two, and it has one of the more storied histories in the museum: first in GT/fourth overall at the 1964 Le Mans, first in GT/fourth overall at Tourist Trophy in 1964, first in GT/SECOND overall 1965 24 Hours of Daytona, first in GT/fourth overall 1965 12 Hours of Sebring. It helped Shelby become the first, and only, American manufacturer to win a FIA GT World Manufacturer’s Championship.
P-1015: Blue with White stripes No. 1 This car won overall at the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans. Co-driven by Ken Miles and Lloyd Ruby, it crossed the line first in the famous Photo Finish the Ford executives ordered. Despite crossing the line first, the race officials deemed that the No. 2 GT40 (co-driven by Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon) covered the most distance and was awarded the win. This questionable decision robbed Ken Miles of the Triple Crown of Endurance Racing (wins at Daytona, Sebring an Le Mans). Sadly Ken was never able to make another attempt at the Triple Crown. He was killed that summer testing a prototype Mk IV GT40.
P-1074: Gulf Blue with Marigold stripes No. 40. The infamous Steve McQueen car. Most people know about this car because it was purchased for an obscene amount of money last year, and it was owned by Steve McQueen, who turned it into a camera car for the film Le Mans. What most people don’t know is that it was one of the first cars to ever wear the Gulf Oil colors. It was one of three Mirage prototypes made from existing GT40 chassis. It won in its debut outing at Spa-Francorchamps in May of 1967, which was the first win for any car wearing the now famous blue with marigold stripes.
There are still twenty-five cars in there with histories of their own. I urge you, implore you, to make the drive out to the track. Visit the museum. Learn more about these cars that put America, for a brief period of time, at the forefront of international racing. Learn more about the man who built these pieces of history. Learn more about the man who acquired these cars and put them on display for all to see. Being able to see one of these cars in person is amazing, a few of them is awe inspiring, but twenty-nine? That can be only described as Epic.
Words by Michael Chandler and John Gardner, Photos by Michael Chandler and Trent Bray, Video by Trent Bray
Special thanks to John Gardner and Miller Motorsports Park