KEN MILES, an appreciation
Next came the Flying Shingle, undoubtedly the most exciting special ever to appear in West Coast racing up till that time. It was lower, smaller, lighter, and faster---but hardly more complicated----than the original MG Special. It was not quite so successful as the first special, though Ken won more than his fair share of races in it. But times were changing and the cast-iron MG engine, even in racing tune, was being asked to do too much against Porsches that were beginning to make their presence felt in racing then. But Ken and the Shingle were still the standard by which under-1500-cc performance was measured. No one who was at the May 1956 Santa Barbara races will ever forget the racing between Miles in the Shingle and Pete Lovely in his then-new Cooper-Porsche. Ken won on reliability but Lovely's Pooper, demonstrably faster, was a sign of the times.
After the Shingle, which was almost never raced again after Ken sold it and was last heard from when somebody tried to put half a Chevrolet V-8 in it, Ken began driving Porsche Spyders for Johnny von Neumann, the Southern California VW-Porsche distributor. I happened to be standing on the critical corner at Torrey Pines the first morning Ken drove a Spyder. It was for practice before the last or next-to-last Torrey Pines 6-hr race and Ken kept coming through the left hand sweeper past the ocean turn faster and faster. We were still saying to each other, "Miles sure looks funny in a Porsche, doesn't he?" when Ken got off the road, hit a ditch and flipped spectacularly. The car landed on its wheels, Ken got out, looked at the battered car while stretching his back and accepted a ride back to the pits with, I think, Phil Hill. Ken didn't drive in the 6-hr race that Saturday but on Sunday, in another von Neumann Spyder, he won the under-1500-cc main event.
There was just one more Miles special, the Cooper-Porsche he built while working for von Neumann. This car, once sorted out (he was off the road almost more than on in the first race in that car), was so successful that Ken won over-1500-cc main events with it and ultimately was forced to part with it because Porsche officials found it distasteful to have an employee in a special beating the factory's best products.
But after going to work for von Neumann, Ken became famous for the Porsches he drove, first for Johnny, later for Otto Zipper, and it was in Porsches that he reached the zenith of his career in smaller engined cars. There was hardly a race in the West with any pretensions of importance in which Ken didn't drive a Porsche. And it seems to me that he lost only when his opponents had something newer from the factory.
Author: James T. Crow, Road & Track Magazine, November 1966