KEN MILES, an appreciation
continued ...

A Personal Note From the Editor
Steve Laifman

As a very young man, just starting his college career, and driving his very first sports car, a new 1952 MG-TD, the world was at once much larger and more frightening. I was living at the university, and commuting home on weekends. Although studying engineering, I was still new to the arts. An apprentice. The marvels of the car were so different than the "Detroit Iron" I was used to. I could barely change a spark plug, much less tune an engine. I frequented a major dealership on Hollywood Blvd., right next to Grauman's Chinese Theatre. International Motors was the local dealer for MG, Jaguar, and Mercedes-Benz. Owned by Roger Barlow, who raced Simca Specials. My favorite person there was the Service Manager. He was on the small side in stature, thin as a rail, and spoke with a distinctive Birmingham accent through the side of his mouth. Ken Miles was kind and informative to an eager young man who wanted to know everything. He talked with me, time allowing, as his mechanic worked on tuning my treasure. The young mechanic, with a James Dean look, was Phil Hill. I was quite excited about the upcoming March AFB races, and wanted to know what really happened behind the track where the cars are prepped, and the drivers and mechanics awaited their race. Ken was patient.

Just then a brand new "C" model racing Jaguar actually drove into the underground garage. This was a model that the factory only sold to a very few professionals, at that time. Phil drove one for a very wealthy owner. This car was extremely dirty and had Kansas plates. The driver was a young man, flat top crew cut of the day, with large horn-rimmed glasses. I guess he would be about my age, maybe a few years older, with a very rich daddy

Ken, clipboard in hand, approached him to see what he wanted. He wanted his car tuned up after the long drive. He'd driven a racing car all the way from Kansas. Ken pulled himself up a few inches, thrust out his chest, and said "Sir, don't you realize this is the upcoming Race Weekend (you could hear the capitalization). We only take appointments, and we are full-up readying for the race weekend." (including me, the spectator). The kid left. Who was that? "Dunno", said Ken, " someone with too much money."

When I got home I looked inside the envelope containing my work papers and receipts for the tune. Inside was a Pit Pass for the race. Thank you Ken. This was a very special race, the first ever held on a military base. It seems that too many locales were unavailable for fear of liability in case of an accident. General Curtis Le May was an ardent fan, and opened his base for the race. Briggs Cunningham showed up with his C-3's (I think that was the model at that time), and a cigar chomping General, about 5 feet tall, and about the same width, had himself a Cunningham for the race. The kid form Kansas was there too. Seems he'd at least gotten the car washed.

When the checkered flag dropped, this "kid" had finished very high up with the leaders. He might even have won the event. "Who the hell is this guy?", you heard. "Oh, some rich kid from Texas whose daddy bought him a race car. Sure could drive though. His name is strange, Masten Gregory, or something like that."

It's a small world. Both Phil Hill and Masten Gregory ended up together on the Ferrari Factory Team, and both became winning drivers, bringing many sweeps to Enzo Ferrari.

Those were the days when things like that could happen. I was fortunate enough to be there.

About Ken Miles. You notice in this story he raced, and won, in Sunbeam Alpines, just before he went to work for Carroll Shelby. Well, he was working for Lew Spencer, who sold Sunbeams and Morgans on Westwood Blvd. I used to hang out there too, as a friend had a Morgan he raced. It is said that, while Carroll was designing a V-8 Sunbeam, Ken promoted himself a competing contract and finished the car in 6 days. On the seventh he rested. {9-> This is from the man who put the Ford V-8 60 in the Fraser-Nash just after WW II. So who was the first to put an American V-8 in a small English Chassis (Probably Sidney Allard, on a commercial basis). Interestingly, Lew Spencer was a prominant winning racer of Sunbeam Tigers, and is featured and quoted in many Tiger books, although Lew was not a great fan of the Tiger's Ackerman angle. Both Lew and Ken raced for Carroll on his official Cobra team.

While the Miles car was not the prototype presented to Lord Rootes, it is arguably the first prototype Tiger to be presented to Ian Garrard.

That's why this story is in this Tiger site, and that isn't the end. That original Miles prototype, long thought missing in action, has been found and completely restored by a fellow enthusiast, Bo Cheadle.

Since this article was written, we were informed of the death of Bo Cheadle while racing his vintage car in the San Diego NASCAR race on Saturday, October 16, 1999.

Cole Reif, President, Nor Cal SAAC, reported:

"Bo Cheadle suffered a heart arthymia while driving in the vintage NASCAR race at Thunderhill last Saturday. Bo was unconscious when he was pulled from the car and passed last night without regaining consciousness.

We are confident that everything possible was done for him in the hospital and that everything possible was done at the track and in a timely manner."

Bo, you will be fondly remembered.

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