• 2015

A Living Champion – Ed Miller

Ten thousand dollars was a lot of money in 1967. After all, the price of the average home was still less than $25,000 and gas cost about 30 cents a gallon (a little bit more for high test). But for racers in the NHRA’s newly announced Super Stock drag racing category, $10,000 was the prize that shifter magnate George Hurst had put up for the class’s first World Champion. It was also the largest cash prize ever offered in any drag racing category in the NHRA.

Super Stock was created in 1967 as a stand-alone division, primarily to give the factories a place to showcase their latest efforts. Unlike Stock Eliminator and its fairly restrictive rules, Super Stock would allow for more generous engine changes, additional parts add-ons, and better traction through wider tires. The Detroit factories helped push the program, but when the smoke cleared in Tulsa, Oklahoma, that fall, the champion drove a two year-old car and had displayed true grit to get to the top.

Ed Miller hailed from Rochester, New York. He and the late Kip Guenther were partners, racing a 1965 A990 HEMI® engine-powered Plymouth that had once been campaigned by Arlen Vanke. A brick mason by trade, Miller came back from the Army to restart his racing interests with a used 1963 Max Wedge, and joined with Guenther to buy the ’65 car at the start of 1966.

In turn, their fairly solid success with that car on a local level allowed the team to get the attention of Dick Maxwell and Bob Cahill of Chrysler Corp., who agreed to help with parts if Miller would keep the car legal in S/S rather than move it into the Modified categories (many HEMI engine-powered entries were in S/SA and Miller was a gifted four-speed handler) .

In February of 1967, the duo towed west, won the S/S class crown, then went all the way to the final round at the NHRA Winternationals. The car spent the spring and summer running hard in both the NHRA and NASCAR drag circuits. The team reset the NHRA national S/S speed record three times, then used their cumulative points to beat Bill “Grumpy” Jenkins’ ’67 Camaro for the tough NHRA Division 1 Super Stock title. This guaranteed them a spot at Tulsa in the final field and a shot at the big money.

For Tulsa an engine was built from spare parts as they had worn out their “good motor.” The back of the block was welded together after a clutch explosion, and Ed had actually worn out the engine fasteners through the many teardowns that season.

During a test run on the Sunday morning before eliminations, Ed lost oil pressure and the team tore the engine down in the pits. “We took the pan off, checked the pump, and finally pulled the valve cover and found a broken arm that let a lifter come up and show the oil pressure loss,” Ed recounted later.

Class was finally in session by late afternoon. Ed beat two fellow Mopar® racers, and Jenkins’ Indy-winning Camaro, to get to the final, where he was pitted against Chevy racer Dick Arons. At the green in a light misting rain, Miller kept the HEMI engine car straight and hooked up to take home the win, the glory and $16,000 in cash and prizes.

Ed Miller would soon become one of the top sponsored Chrysler/Plymouth team racers, running a dealership performance clinic program under contract from 1968 to 1971 in the Northeast. During his career, he set no less than 16 records across four sanctioning bodies. He won the east coast AHRA type Ultra Stock circuit title in 1969 and the NHRA Division 1 Pro Stock championship in 1970.

After the 1965 car was sold, he raced a 1968 Barracuda, then built and drove a 1970 Duster in Pro Stock. Ed finally had to call it quits in the 1970s, but not before building a single four-barrel HEMI engine-powered Charger that ran successfully in the IHRA’s Formula-style classes. By then, he was living in Chesapeake, Virginia, operating a speed shop and engine building service called Ed Miller Racing Enterprises that catered to drag racers and circle track campaigners.

Today, although Ed is technically retired, he hasn’t really slowed down. After racing a 1965 HEMI engine-powered Belvedere in Nostalgia Super Stock for several seasons, he completed a tribute to his Pro Stock Duster in 2013. He can be seen at bigger Mopar-specific and historic racing events, often exhibiting and match racing that tribute car. He also builds engines on occasion for select gearheads, including Don Fezell of Pennsylvania, who has restored the original 1967 World Champion car.

“I was very fortunate to have been able to race in the golden age of drag racing,” says Ed today. “We had a lot of fun and made a lot of great and lasting friendships. The Chrysler brand’s support was a big part of how successful I was.”

TAGS:   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |