1926 Miller Locomobile Junior 8 Special

Sold For $770,000

Monterey - Sam & Emily Mann: A Collection by Design


Chassis No.
8
  • One of two special Millers built for playboy sportsman Cliff Durant
  • A four-time starter at Indianapolis; the longest racing history of any Miller
  • Driven by a “who’s who” of the era: Durant, Hearne, Hepburn, Snowberger, Arnold, and Frame
  • Known ownership history from new; original frame and correct Miller “91” engine
  • Award-winning restoration by marque specialists
155/250 bhp, 90.2 cu. in. DOHC 16-valve inline eight-cylinder engine with supercharger, three-speed manual transmission, front beam axle with semi-elliptical leaf spring suspension, live rear axle with semi-elliptical leaf spring suspension, and four-wheel drum brakes. Wheelbase: 100 in.

When the rule change that limited engine displacement to 91 cubic inches was announced for the 1926 racing season, famed designer, engineer, and visionary Harry Miller could have merely shortened the stroke of his nearly unbeatable 122-cubic inch engine and continued producing and selling the rear-wheel-drive race car that he first introduced in 1923. In typical fashion, however, the extraordinarily talented Miller and his no less capable staff instead set to work on designing and building an entirely new car. To the untrained eye, the 122 and 91 rear-wheel-drive cars were virtually identical in appearance, aside from the 91’s three-piece radiator and grille assembly. Yet there was no commonality of parts between the two models, with the exception of externally sourced items such as the wheels, tires, instruments, and electrical components. All of the 91 engines were supercharged, and at introduction, they developed 155 horsepower at 7,000 rpm; extensive on-track development work resulted in refinements that eventually boosted output to well over 250 horsepower at 8,000 rpm.

The Miller 91 was so successful and its domination of 1920s speedways so complete that it was effectively responsible for its own demise. In 1930, the AACA changed to the “Junk Formula,” increasing the displacement of engines to 366 cubic inches and banning supercharging, largely in part to stop the Miller 91’s seemingly unending winning streak. A total of eight rear-wheel-drive Miller 91s had been built, and relatively few of them remain extant.

THE LOCOMOBILE JUNIOR 8 SPECIALS

The name Locomobile, in American automobile circles, brings to mind vast, beautifully built luxury automobiles. It also, however, brings to mind the pair of special Miller 91s built in 1926 to the order of Cliff Durant, son of General Motors founder William Crapo Durant, recent acquirer of the Locomobile Company of America. In order to promote the first Durant-built Locomobile model, the Junior 8, Cliff Durant set to racing with a team of Millers, including two purpose-built cars based on the “stock” Miller 91 but with assorted detail differences throughout, including slight modifications to their engines.

The car offered here, chassis number 8, was driven by Cliff Durant himself at the 1926 Indianapolis 500, its first event, with the racing number 9. After qualifying an impressive 11th, Durant – a man more interested in business than in training for races – called for relief by Eddie Hearne after only 41 laps; the car retired on the 61st lap after a fuel leak. Hearne continued to run in the car, now #19, at such renowned board tracks as Altoona, finishing 5th Overall on 12 June, and Charlotte, finishing 3rd Overall on 23 August.

At the end of the 1926 season, Durant dissolved his team, and his former team driver, Harry Hartz, took both Locomobile Junior 8 Specials to California to sell on his behalf. In this form, the car raced once more under its original name at Culver City, #25 driven by Harlan Fengler, who finished 5th. It was then acquired by Cliff Woodbury for the burgeoning Boyle Valve Special team of Millers, for whom it was driven by Fred Comer, Ralph Hepburn, Russ Snowberger, and Billy Arnold, through 1929, including three further competitions at Indianapolis.

After a race at the New York State Fairgrounds resulted in damaged engine bearings, the car was sold to veteran mechanic and team owner Clarence Tarbet of Culver City, California. The car then entered the 1930 season, still under its Boyle Valve Sponsorship, driven initially by Chet Gardner and subsequently by the renowned Fred Frame. It was under Frame’s talented hands that the car achieved its greatest successes, including multiple top five finishes and no fewer than eleven 1st Overalls during 1930.

The car raced in 1931 as the Dayton Thorobred Special of Francis Quinn, driven initially and with little success by Walt May, then as the Kingsley Special of “Speed” Hinckley, who finished 1st Overall at San Jose in June. By this point, however, the Miller was clearly outmoded against its competition and thus began what Miller historian Michael Ferner has referred to as the “dark years,” in which it was modified into sprint car form and raced extensively by Floyd Roberts as the Roberts Special. The car’s last known entry into competition was as Earl Mansell’s #55 car at Silvergate Speedway in 1955, ending a remarkable racing career that had extended longer than any other Miller – nearly 30 years.

MODERN HISTORY

Les Spriegel acquired “Old No. 9’s” chassis, wheels, and running gear from longtime mechanic Dudley Samuals, with a Riley engine and sprint car bodywork mounted. The car was then acquired by longtime owner Joe Gemsa from Spriegel at some point in the 1940s and would remain in his ownership for four decades, during which time it was occasionally shown in its sprint car form, carrying #43 and identified as the Orange Blossom Special.

Ron Cameron’s California Sportscars bought the Orange Blossom Special from Gemsa in 1986 and sold it the following year to Dan McLoughlin. In 2008, it was acquired from McLoughlin by Sam and Emily Mann as an incomplete restoration retaining an original frame and by that point, having a later and more powerful Miller Marine engine, used in its day to power cars and racing boats. An exhaustive restoration effort followed at the hands of marque specialists Zakira’s Garage in Cincinnati, Ohio, which included the acquisition of a correct, original Miller 91 engine and a few additional ancillary parts directly from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum, thus enabling the car to be repowered with an original 91 engine as it had run when new. The uniquely shaped ladder frame is original, as are such paraphernalia as the steering box and spring hangers, which add to the car’s authenticity from stem to stern. The finishes throughout are correct, including all of the running gear being satin polished steel, and brightwork chrome plated.

While much of the original body that remained could have been used, it was deemed to be generally too fatigued from years of use and multiple modifications, thus the original body was recreated to the original 1926 Indianapolis design. In keeping with period correctness, Zakira and Mann refrained from installing an onboard starter; although it is certainly possible for the next owner to make this addition, a non-period electric starter does accompany the sale of the car.

The result, which was awarded Best in Class in the special Miller class at the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance in 2013, is exceptionally correct and authentic, true in every way to its 1926 Locomobile Junior 8 form, and retaining original chassis components and a correct Miller 91 engine. By the time the restoration was completed, Sam had given up racing, so it has never been in wheel-to-wheel competition. It has been displayed and driven by Sam at several Milwaukee Mile weekend Miller meets, and having had it on the track, he can report how fast it truly is. “Even though Milwaukee is a mile-long track, it was hard to get the car into third gear because it was made to handle such a high rate of speed. In third, you would find yourself at competition speeds. The car handles beautifully, tracks steadily in a straight line, corners well at speed, and makes glorious sounds from both ends! It is truly a car that, when behind the wheel, you can imagine what it was like in the period for the courageous drivers who were piloting these cars at over 100 miles an hour.”

This Miller certainly represents the best of early high-tech racing in its day, as these cars were precision built and displayed a degree of beautiful fit and finish that was not to be found anywhere else. It was, in effect, state of the art and remained so for a very long time, creating excitement not only on the track, but also in the showroom, as Billy Durant had intended. Here is a car whose motor can turn up to 7,000–8,000 rpm, while most passenger cars did not exceed 2,000–2,500 rpm; given the metallurgy and lubricants of the day, this accomplishment was nothing short of extraordinary.

Truly a piece of automotive jewelry, this example can safely be held as among the most authentic Miller restorations. Whether the new owner’s ambition is to race competitively, display at concours, or simply maintain it as a remarkable piece of stationary sculpture, it is most certainly a significant example that cannot be ignored. It is a restoration true to the heritage of a car that started at Indianapolis no fewer than four times – 1926, 1927, 1928, and 1929 – and was driven by some of the most legendary names of its generation.

RACE RESULTS
DATEEVENTNAMERACE #DRIVERRESULT
May 31, 1926Indianapolis, 400/500 milesLocomobile Junior 8 Special9Harlan Fengler / Cliff Durant / Eddie HearneDNF
June 12, 1926Altoona, 250 milesLocomobile Junior 8 Special18Cliff Durant / Eddie Hearne5th OA
June 27, 1926Detroit, 100 milesLocomobile Junior 8 Special18Eddie HearneDNF
July 5, 1926Rockingham, 200 milesLocomobile Junior 8 Special18Eddie HearneDNF
July 17, 1926Atlantic City, 120 milesLocomobile Junior 8 Special18Eddie HearneDNS
August 23, 1926Charlotte, 150 milesLocomobile Junior 8 Special18Eddie Hearne3rd OA
September 18, 1926Altoona, 250 milesLocomobile Junior 8 Special18Eddie Hearne9th OA
October 12, 1926Rockingham, 200 milesLocomobile Junior 8 Special4Ralph HepburnDNF
November 11, 1926Charlotte, 100 milesLocomobile Junior 8 Special4Ralph HepburnDNF
March 6, 1927Culver City, 250 milesLocomobile Junior 8 Special25Harlan Fengler5th OA
May 7, 1927Atlantic City, 200 milesBoyle Valve Special6Fred ComerDNF
May 30, 1927Indianapolis, 500 milesBoyle Valve Special19Fred Comer (DNQ)/Ralph HepburnDNF
June 11, 1927Altoona, 200 milesBoyle Valve Special6Fred Comer (DNQ)/Ralph HepburnDNF
July 4, 1927Rockingham, 200 milesBoyle Valve Special6Fred Comer8th OA
July 31, 1927Detroit, 100 milesBoyle Valve Special36Russ SnowbergerStarted
August 21, 1927Toledo, 100 milesBoyle Valve Special36Russ SnowbergerNA
August 28, 1927Roby, 20 milesBoyle Valve Special36Not Nominated
September 5, 1927Altoona, 200 milesBoyle Valve Special36Russ SnowbergerDNF
September 19, 1927Charlotte, 100 milesBoyle Valve Special36Russ Snowberger8th OA
October 2, 1927Milwaukee, 56/100 milesBoyle Valve Special36Russ SnowbergerStarted
October 12, 1927Rockingham, 140/200 milesBoyle Valve Special36Russ Snowberger9th OA
May 30, 1928Indianapolis, 500 milesBoyle Valve Special43Billy Arnold/Bill Spence (relief)7th OA
June 10, 1928Detroit, 100 milesBoyle Valve Special43Billy ArnoldDNF
July 15, 1928Detroit, 100 milesBoyle Valve Special43Billy ArnoldDNF
September 1, 1928Syracuse, 100 milesBoyle Valve Special43Cliff BergereDNS
May 12, 1929Langhorne, 25 milesBoyle Valve Special19Chet GardnerNA
May 30, 1929Indianapolis, 500 milesBoyle Valve Special19Chet GardnerDNQ
June 2, 1929Cleveland, 85/100 milesBoyle Valve Special19Chet GardnerDNF
June 9, 1929Detroit, 100 milesBoyle Valve Special19Chet Gardner10th OA
June 15, 1929Altoona, 150/200 milesBoyle Valve Special19Chet GardnerDNF
June 30, 1929Woodbridge, 100 milesBoyle Valve Special19Chet Gardner6th OA
July 4, 1929Bridgeville, 100 milesBoyle Valve Special19Chet Gardner4th OA
August 18, 1929Toledo, 100 milesBoyle Valve Special6Fred FrameDNS
August 31, 1929Syracuse, 100 milesBoyle Valve Special6Fred FrameDNF
September 2, 1929Altoona, 200 milesBoyle Valve Special6Fred Frame2nd OA
September 14, 1929Reading, 10 milesBoyle Valve Special6Fred FrameNA
September 29, 1929Woodbridge, 20 milesBoyle Valve Special6Fred Frame1st OA
October 13, 1929Woodbridge, 15 milesBoyle Valve Special6Fred FrameDNA
December 8, 1929Ascot, 62.5 milesBoyle Valve Special20Fred Frame2nd OA
December 22, 1929Ascot, 62.5 milesBoyle Valve Special20Fred Frame3rd OA
January 19, 1930Ascot, 62.5 milesBoyle Valve Special26Fred Frame3rd OA
January 26, 1930Ascot, 62.5 milesBoyle Valve Special26Fred FrameNA
February 9, 1930Ascot, 62.5 milesBoyle Valve Special26Fred Frame3rd OA
February 23, 1930Ascot, 62.5 milesBoyle Valve Special26Fred FrameDNF
March 2, 1930Imperial, 40 milesBoyle Valve Special26Fred FrameNA
May 3, 1930Langhorne, 100 milesBoyle Valve Special4Fred Frame8th OA
May 18, 1930Woodbridge, 25 milesBoyle Valve Special4Fred Frame1st OA
May 25, 1930Toledo, 100 milesBoyle Valve Special4Fred FrameN/A
May 30, 1930Ebensburg, 10 milesBoyle Valve Special4Fred Frame1st OA
June 1, 1930Woodbridge, 25 milesBoyle Valve Special4Fred FrameDNF
June 7, 1930Toronto, 12.5 milesBoyle Valve Special4Fred Frame1st OA
June 9, 1930Toronto, 12.5 milesBoyle Valve Special4Fred FrameDNS
June 11, 1930Toronto, 12.5 milesBoyle Valve Special4Fred FrameStarted
June 22, 1930Woodbridge, 25 milesBoyle Valve Special4Fred Frame1st OA
July 4, 1930Langhorne, 100 milesBoyle Valve Special4Fred Frame1st OA
July 13, 1930Woodbridge, 25 milesBoyle Valve Special4Fred Frame4th OA
July 27, 1930Woodbridge, 34/50 milesBoyle Valve Special4Fred Frame1st OA
August 10, 1930Woodbridge, 25 milesBoyle Valve Special4Fred Frame1st OA
August 16, 1930Middletown, 10 milesBoyle Valve Special4Fred FrameNA
August 23, 1930Lancaster, 10 milesBoyle Valve Special4Fred Frame1st OA
August 30, 1930Flemington, 50 milesBoyle Valve Special4Fred FrameNA
September 1, 1930Flemington, 25 milesBoyle Valve Special4Fred Frame2nd OA
September 6, 1930Syracuse, 100 milesBoyle Valve Special4Fred FrameDNF
September 13, 1930Brockton, 20 milesBoyle Valve Special4Fred FrameDNF
September 14, 1930Woodbridge, 25 milesBoyle Valve Special4Fred Frame1st OA
September 20, 1930Allentown, 20 milesBoyle Valve Special4Fred Frame1st OA
September 21, 1930WoodbridgeBoyle Valve Special4Fred FrameNA
September 27, 1930Bloomsburg, 10 milesBoyle Valve Special4Fred Frame1st OA
September 28, 1930Woodbridge, 25 milesBoyle Valve Special4Fred FrameDNQ
October 18, 1930Langhorne, 100 milesBoyle Valve Special4Fred FrameStarted
October 26, 1930Woodbridge, 25 milesBoyle Valve Special4Fred FrameDNS
November 23, 1930Ascot, 62.5 milesBoyle Valve Special4Fred FrameNA
December 14, 1930Ascot, 62.5 milesBoyle Valve Special4Fred FrameDNF
February 1, 1931Ascot, 25 milesDayton Thorobred Special3Walt May5th OA
February 22, 1931Ascot, 25 milesDayton Thorobred Special3Walt MayDNF
March 1, 1931Bakersfield, 50 milesDayton Thorobred Special3Walt MayDNA
April 5, 1931San Jose, 31.25 milesKingsley Special3Speed HinkleyStarted
April 12, 1931Imperial, 100 milesKingsley Special3Speed HinkleyDNS
April 19, 1931Ascot, 25 milesKingsley Special3Speed HinkleyDNS
May 7, 1931Fresno, 50 milesKingsley Special3Speed Hinkley6th OA
May 17, 1931Ascot, 25 milesKingsley Special3Speed HinkleyDNS
June 7, 1931San Jose, 31.25 milesKingsley Special3Speed HinkleyDNF
June 17, 1931Ascot, 25 milesKingsley Special3Speed HinkleyNA
June 21, 1931San Jose, 37.5 milesKingsley Special3Speed Hinkley1st OA
June 24, 1931Ascot, 25 milesKingsley Special3Speed HinkleyNA
July 12, 1931San Jose, 25 milesKingsley Special3Speed HinkleyDNS
July 22, 1931Ascot, 25 milesKingsley Special3Speed HinkleyStarted
August 5, 1931Ascot, 25 milesKingsley Special3Speed HinkleyNA
August 12, 1931Ascot, 25 milesKingsley Special3Speed HinkleyStarted
August 16, 1931San Jose, 25 milesKingsley Special3Speed Hinkley2nd OA
August 19, 1931Ascot, 25 milesKingsley Special3Speed HinkleyNA
August 26, 1931Ascot, 25 milesKingsley Special3Speed HinkleyStarted
September 9, 1931Ascot, 25 milesKingsley Special3Speed HinkleyNA
October 4, 1931San Jose, 25 milesKingsley Special3Speed HinkleyDNF
October 18, 1931Oakland, 100 milesKingsley Special3Speed HinkleyDNA
November 11, 1931Oakland, 50 milesRoberts Special94Floyd RobertsDNS
May 15, 1932FresnoRoberts Special47Floyd RobertsNA
June 5, 1932Burbank, 15.625 milesRoberts Special47Floyd Roberts1st OA
July 31, 1932Burbank, 15.625 milesRoberts Special47Floyd RobertsNA
September 11, 1932Huntington, 15.625 milesRoberts Special47Floyd Roberts3rd OA
September 25, 1932Colton, 20 milesRoberts Special47Floyd RobertsNA
October 16, 1932Culver City, 25 milesRoberts Special47Floyd RobertsStarted
October 23, 1932Colton, 25 milesRoberts Special47Floyd RobertsNA
November 24, 1932San Diego, 9.375 / 31 milesRoberts Special47Floyd Roberts2nd OA
December 4, 1932San Diego, 31.25 milesRoberts Special47Floyd RobertsDNF
December 18, 1932San Diego, 31.25 milesRoberts Special47Floyd RobertsNA
December 26, 1932San Diego, 62.5 milesRoberts Special47Floyd Roberts3rd OA
January 2, 1933San Diego, 93.75 milesRoberts Special47Floyd RobertsDNA
January 8, 1933San Diego, 31.25 milesRoberts Special47Floyd RobertsDNS
January 15, 1933San Diego, 0/31.25 milesRoberts Special47Floyd RobertsRace Cancelled
February 5, 1933San Diego, 31.25 milesRoberts Special47Floyd Roberts3rd OA
February 12, 1933San Diego, 31.25 milesRoberts Special47Floyd Roberts4th OA
February 19, 1933San Diego, 15.625 milesRoberts Special47Floyd RobertsStarted
February 26, 1933San Diego, 15.625 milesRoberts Special47Floyd RobertsDNF
March 26, 1933Burbank, 18.75 milesRoberts Special47Floyd Roberts3rd OA
April 23, 1933Culver City, 37.5 milesRoberts Special47Floyd RobertsDNF
January 1, 1934San Diego, 20 milesRoberts SpecialChet MortemoreNA
January 7, 1934San Diego, 20 milesRoberts SpecialChet MortemoreNA
April 22, 1934Silvergate, 18.75 milesRoberts Special47Floyd RobertsDNS
April 29, 1934Silvergate, 21.875 milesRoberts Special47Floyd RobertsDNS
March 17, 1935Silvergate, 18.75 miles55Earl MansellDNS
May 4, 1947Oakland, 18.75 milesLes SpriegelDNS
September 6, 1947Carrell, 15 milesMack Hellings3rd OA
September 13, 1947Carrell, 15 milesMack HellingsNA
December 4, 1949Carrell, 15 milesJoe GarsonDNF
March 12, 1950Carrell, 15 milesJoe GarsonDNS
January 21, 1951Carrell, 15 milesFrank ArmiDNS
February 18, 1951Pomona, 25 milesFrank ArmiDNS
April 25, 1954Tucson, 15 milesJack JordanNA
May 30, 1954Oakland, 125 milesEarl MotterDNS
August 8, 1954Ferndale, 12.5 milesDuke WaltersDNS
January 16, 1955Manzanita, 25 milesChuck Hulse2nd OA
June 1, 1955Los Angeles, 12.5 miles42Not Nominated


Addendum

Please note that this lot will be offered on a Bill of Sale.


Lot Number
230
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