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January 16, 2016

Die-cast: Replicarz’s 1926, 1929 Indy 500 winning Millers

by Mark Savage

Small scale Indy-winning Millers simply beautiful

The 1926 Indy 500-winning Miller

The 1926 Indy 500-winning Miller.

Back before hearing the word “Miller” made us think of beer, the name meant winning at the Indianapolis 500, and elsewhere on the nation’s numerous board tracks. That’s right, they used to make race track surfaces out of wood!

Millers were simple yet sleek racers that the best drivers, or their sponsors, bought to race at the highest levels throughout North America. Indy was, and is, the crown jewel, and Miller racers were the cars to beat in the 1920s and early 1930s.

Now, Replicarz has produced two Indy 500 winners in 1:43 scale and in the limited quantities of just 250 each. Due to be released shortly are the 1926 Miller Special driven by Frank Lockhart, and the 1929 Simplex Miller driven to victory by Ray Keech. Replicarz’s earlier gold Miller driven by three-time winner Louis Meyer, sold out. So snagging one of these early probably would be wise, as only 250 of each are to be made.

The 1929 Indianapolis 500-winning Miller.

The 1929 Indianapolis 500-winning Miller.

The History

Harry Miller was a noted engine maker and race car designer. Cars he designed won the Indy 500 nine times and three more times cars that were using his engines won the race. I’d say “think Roger Penske” as far as success, but Penske never designed cars or engines himself.

Millers, which were front-wheel-drive, were so dominant that they made up 83% of the Indianapolis fields from 1923 through 1928. Miller’s won 73 of 92 major U.S. auto races from 1922-29 and in 1929, 27 of the 33 racers in the Indy 500 were Millers.

After working with Ransom Olds (remember Oldsmobile?) early on and creating the first aluminum pistons and then the aluminum alloys used in engines, Miller became wealthy from a carburetor business he started.

Ray Keech's 1929 winner, No. 2.

Ray Keech’s 1929 winner, No. 2.

Soon he was making his own 3.0-liter straight-8 engines and two-time Indy 500 winner Tommy Milton gave him financial backing. Yet it was racer Jimmy Murphy who first won using the engine in his Duesenberg racer to win Indy in 1922.

Ultimately Miller used supercharged versions of his 2.0- and 1.5-liter engines in his front-drive chassis to win the 500 in 1926, ‘28, ‘30 and ‘32. Yet Miller went bankrupt in 1933 and Fred Offenhauser bought his engine design and manufacturing shop. Ultimately the Offenhauser engine (Offy) became even more successful than the Miller and raced at Indianapolis until the 1980s.

For the record, a Miller engine last powered the Indy 500 winner’s car in 1938 with Floyd Roberts at the wheel.

 

The Model:

But it’s the 1920s Replicarz is focusing on. It continues to produce high-quality 1/43 scale models that fill a unique niche for Indianapolis 500 race fans. It’s especially timely as the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” will run its 100th race in May, 2016.

Frank Lockhart's 1926 Indy winner, No. 15.

Frank Lockhart’s 1926 Indy winner, No. 15.

Both of these new Millers are similar, as both are bright white with simple markings, as was common in the day. The 1926 winner was entered by Miller with Frank Lockhart as the driver. This model features a black No. 15 and a simple cream-colored oval with “Miller” in black lettering on the cowl, just in front of the cockpit and below the windscreen.

The 1929 winner has a bold blue No. 2 on the tail and hood, the same locations as on the earlier model. This car was sponsored by Simplex piston rings and has that name in matching blue on the cowl in front of the cockpit.

Both cars come with big chrome radiators with a crank starting lever, along with chrome front and rear leaf arm suspensions and steering arms. Chrome exhaust pipes run from a slot on the right side of the engine nearly the full length of the car and there’s a chrome brake lever with black knob between the pipe and cowl. Decals represent the hood straps on each car’s left side.

Ray Keech's winning Miller, an overhead view.

Ray Keech’s winning Miller, an overhead view.

Replicarz creates beautiful black spoked wheels and rubber Firestone Balloon tires, with those exact markings on both sides of each tire. There’s a photo-etched windscreen and air vent just in front of the cockpit and a silver gas cap behind the cockpit.

The cockpit itself is simple with chrome dash plate, wood-look wheel with black turning knob and chrome three-spoke hub. Seats are ribbed flat black to resemble leather, including silver dots to represent fasteners around the cockpit’s edges.

Both cars come in sturdy acrylic cases with the car’s description etched on a metal plate attached to each gloss black base.

These are another couple winners, literally, from Replicarz. Will more Millers follow?

The 1926 Indy 500-winning Miller

The 1926 Indy 500-winning Miller

 

 

1926/29 Indy 500 Winning Millers

Maker: Replicarz

Scale: 1/43

Stock No.: R43013 (1926, Lockhart) R43014 (1929, Keech)

MSRP: $89.99 each

 

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