[Gunner’s Classic Corner] The 2014 Miller Meet at the Milwaukee Mile

RJ55 Miller 01
Ted Davis brought this 1913 Mercer from Oklahoma.

An amazing vintage racing event started in Milwaukee, Wis., on a July weekend 20 years ago. It celebrated the genius of the Wisconsin native Harry A. Miller and included pre-war Indianapolis racing cars. Collectors Bob Sutherland, David Uihlein and Chuck Davis teamed up to present the inaugural Millers at Milwaukee meet at the historic Milwaukee Mile. Despite a heat wave, a small but dedicated group of enthusiasts raced into car collecting history. From the start, they hoped it would become an annual event and 2014 marked two decades.

This year’s program indicated that 52 historic racing cars came to the Millers at Milwaukee Vintage Indy Car Event July 11-12, but at least one more car showed up as we took five exhilarating laps around the track in Lou Natenshon’s ’33 “Junk Formula” Ford, with Rex Barrett driving. Natenshon said that the arrival of a part at the very last minute allowed him to participate again. For other club members such as Buck Boudeman, Joe Freeman and Mitch Rasansky, it was the 20th trip to an event known for its incredible machines.

Rasansky brought his 1927 Miller in 1995 and Rasansky was there with an equally great old racing car. Freeman still comes from Boston, Mass., to enter cars from his collection. He had three 2014 entries, the 1952 Kurtis Kraft No. 25, 1960 Joe Hunt Magneto Special No. 76 and 1963 John Frey Special No 67.

Classic car auction-guru Dana Mecum is the current president of the club. “This will be a milestone event for our group,” he said as he invited everyone with a vintage racing car to make their way to Milwaukee. “There are only 60 entry spots,” Mecum noted. “So it is important to get an application in early.” He promised participant more track time than drivers get at any other event.”

Our 2014 meet began on Thursday night with a brat, burger and beer party. Friday started with a 9:00 am group track photo, followed by a drivers’ meeting. The first cars hit the track around 10 am and after a lunch from noon until 12:30 the exhibition racing continued until about until 4 pm. Two hours later the enthusiasts gathered at the Crowne Plaza hotel for a silent auction, cocktail hour and buffet dinner. On Saturday the track gates opened at 8 am and racing continued through the afternoon. There was a vendor area with parts, memorabilia and racing cars for sale and a classic car display area.

Some of the famous racing cars at the meet included the ‘20 Milton-Durant Miller owned by Terry Castle of Indianapolis, a ‘13 Mercer owned by Ted Davis of Oklahoma City, the ‘30 Fred Frame Duesenberg owned by Miles Collier of Naples, Fla., Dennis Holloway’s ‘26 Bugatti Type 37A, Dana Mecum’s ‘32 Hupp Comet and the ‘33 Red Lion Miller owned by Bob McConnell of Urbana, Ohio.

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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