Dana Mecum’s Early Christmas Present – A Mini Miller

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Robert Manhart’s background as an aircraft mechanic helped him to build the scale model Miller.

In early July, Robert P. Manhart of Ft. Meyers, Fla. brought a miniature model of a Miller racing car to the Millers at Milwaukee event at the Milwaukee Mile and classic car auctioneer Dana Mecum bought it from him. For Mecum, it was like Christmas in July, he couldn’t resist the gorgeous scale model. After all, Mecum is president of the Harry  A. Miller Club (www.harrymillerclub.com).

Manhart, who worked as an aircraft mechanic, began building the Miller model about 10 years ago when he lived in Tulsa, Okla. He finished it only shortly before he brought it to Milwaukee and Mecum saw it there. The genisis of the project was a copy The Miller Dynasty book. “I did not have anywhere near enough money to buy a real Miller,” Manhart said. “I figured I could work from pictures in the book to build a scaled-down Miller that cost a lot less.”

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The tiny engine has a finned valve cover and period-appropriate braided spark plug cables.
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All of the gauges are fully functional.










To fabricate the aluminum body, Manhart bought an English wheel. He later used it as a louver press as well. Wood cast parts were used to build the mini Miller. Manhart did the woodwork and the man who built the engine made the castings. About 4,000 hours of labor went into the 4-ft. long racer.

Manhart toyed with giving the model battery or pedal power, but wound up purchasing a tiny, but functional engine. It dates from the ‘40s when Ira Swindler, who worked for Hal Hasterman at Hal Race Engines, built it in Akron, Ohio. A new head, valve cover, water pump, intake manifold, water tube manifold, dipstick assembly and carburetor were cast. The carburetor started as two broomsticks glued together. The carburetor and valve cover have “Miller” cast in them. The oil service assembly, fan and push rod covers were handmade.

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Manhart (L) shows the scaled down Miller to Bill Warner (R), chairman of the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance.


Manhart built the steering box from a lawn mower. He made a pressurized gas tank using a bicycle air pump. The windshield was made from angle iron purchased at Lowes and nickel plated. Manhart worked on the car for 10 years off and on. According to him, the project sat for most of the last seven years, while he was working for American Airlines. When he retired and moved to Florida, he joined the Harry A. Miller Club and set himself a deadline to finish the project.

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Photos from The Miller Dynasty book were the inspiration for the design and the body work.

“I love Millers; they give me a warm, fuzzy feeling,” said Manhart. “I saw multi-millionaires on TV who had cars in their bedroom; this car was what I wanted in my bedroom, even if it’s a tiny version of the real thing.”

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About John Gunnell 140 Articles
John “Gunner” Gunnell has been writing about cars since ‘72. As a kid in Staten Island, N.Y., he played with a tin Marx “Service Garage” loaded with toy vehicles, his favorite being a Hubley hot rod. In 2010, he opened Gunner’s Great Garage, in Manawa, Wis., a shop that helps enthusiasts restore cars. To no one’s surprise, he decorated 3G’s with tin gas stations and car toys. Gunner started writing for two car club magazines. In 1978, publisher Chet Krause hired him at Old Cars Weekly, where he worked from 1978-2008. Hot rodding legend LeRoi “Tex” Smith was his boss for a while. Gunner had no formal journalism training, but working at a weekly quickly taught him the trade. Over three decades, he’s met famous collectors, penned thousands of articles and written over 85 books. He lives in Iola, Wis., with his nine old cars, three trucks and seven motorcycles.

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