Green is often associated with the “luck of the Irish,” but it is considered an unlucky color for racing cars. Very few have ever been changed from red to green paint like the 1938 Miller 8 Indianapolis “big car” featured here.This car was originally campaigned by “Wild Bill” Cummings, a hometown Indy 500 driver who won the 1934 Indy 500 in the No. 7 Boyle Valve Special. Cumings died in a Feb. 8, 1939 auto accident. The front-wheel-drive 1938 Miller 8 was the last car he drove in a 500. It ran 72 laps in the 1938 race as the No. 7 I.B.E.W. Spl., qualifying at 123.393 mph and going out of the running with a radiator problem for a 24th overall finish. The red car started in 16th position.
Looking much the same in 1939, except for changing to No. 4 and being renamed the Boyle Special, the car was piloted by Ted Horn, a careful man who became a consistent big car driver in the 1930s and 1940s. In 1940, Horn had another fourth place finish in the Miller 8 that “Umbrella Mike” Boyle sponsored. The deep red finish remained on the car, as did Boyle’s slanted Irish pipe logo with “BOYLE” above it and “SPL.” below it. The numbers on the car were changed from “4” to “3.” Horn hit 125.545 mph, the car’s highest average speed.
Chet Miller drove the 1938 Miller Boyle Special in 1941. He started ninth and finished sixth as Horn had done in 1939, but at a lower average speed of 120.540 mph. Miller was an Indianapolis native known as the “Dean of the Speedway.” He died when he crashed his Novi there in practice in 1953.
Racing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway was suspended during World War II. When it started up again, the 1938 Miller returned with a new driver, new engine and unusual new color. Instead of a Miller 8, the car now had a Miller/Offy four-cylinder engine under its hood. The 255-cid in-line four was enough to take the car to a second place finish – it’s best ever – at an average speed of 121.257 mph. The car started in fifth position and ran as a private entry called the Jackson Special. The driver was Jimmy Jackson, another Indianapolis native who had an unusual preference – he liked Emerald Green racing cars.
Jackson drove the green Miller in 1946 and 1947. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he survived racing and went on to a new career selling auto accessories. He lived to the ripe old age of 74. In 1946, the Jackson Spl. wore No. 61. In 1947 the bright green car was raced as the Jim Hussey Spl. with Jimmy Jackson driving. In its final Indy race the car started in 10th position and wound up fifth with an average speed of 122.266 mph. It was tagged car No. 7.
Attempts were made to race the car from 1948-1951; but it either qualified and got bumped from the field or did not qualify. For years the car belonged to William Goodwin of Frankfort, Ind. Today it belongs to William Miller of Frankfort, who raced it at the Harry A. Miller Club’s “Millers at Milwaukee” Meet in 2013. The 2014 “Millers at Milwaukee-Vintage Indy Car” event will be held on July 11-12. Information is posted on the club’s Website. It is a vintage racing event that is not to be missed if you can possibly make it.