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Alex Miller & his Stutz Cars

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This happened in 1996 and I was hoping someone knew some more about it or if any of you had stumbled on this online like I did. Wonderful story! Should be made into a movie.

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I went to the auction, still have the catalog. A.K.Miller was not well liked, nobody that had any dealings with him had anything good to say about him. One guy that I've known for over 40 years, one of the nicest guys I know, unleashed a torent of expletives about the guy, that was so out of character it really proved all the other stories were true. Stolen parts were pointed out by others, it was quite an event.

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I spoke to him over the phone a few times. I had an old GE fridge with the motor on top and AK

repaired them in his early days. He sent me instructions in the mail. That's the US mail. This

was before the home PC revolution. Had AK lived I don't think he would have ever owned a computer. I don't think his house even had running water! The story that I heard was that he died from a fall off a ladder while putting up the wood storm windows on his house. Before his wife died she told a neighbor that there were gold bars under the floor of the little school house that was on the property. He had invited me up to his house and I'm sorry that I didn't go but I did go to the auction. Everything went for two or three times more than it should of and the car that I wanted was no exception. I didn't buy a thing but I had a great time. I was looking at the cars to see if I could find any hidden gold under the seats or up the tailpipe. One of the IRS agents told me that they checked everything. At the next Hershey meet people were wearing T shirts that read " I overpaid at AK's". On the shirt was a picture of RA the Stutz radiator cap with AK's face on it. I still have the letter that he sent me. The man who owned a fortune in gold and cars sent me a letter in a used envelope that someone had sent to him.

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Most of the cars went pretty heavy but Christies was commissioned to sell all the cars and a couple of VW Beatles were included. I understand that at $5 one of them fetched a record low for a complete car at a Christies auction!

Never could get a sale or purchase to work out with AK, but he was always interested in the poor quality stuff that no one else would touch. If it was Stutz, he was interested and I usually did well trading for "other make" parts that he had come by cheaply at the local swap meets.

The reused envelopes and stationary are fact, I have some too.

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I alway liked the flour story. AK was in the local grocery story and a bag of flour had fallen off the shelf and scattered all over the floor. He offered to sweep it up, IF he could have it! His father had made a fortune as a flour commodies broker. I did hear that he was one of the few people ever booted out of AACA.

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I never had the chance to meet AK, but we had correspondance with him from the early 1960's when there was probably a greater concentration of Stutz cars in Melbourne than anywhere else. There were enough active and enthusiastic owners for the Stutz Owners' Register to hold monthly meetings. The newsletter was probably good value for the time, with a lot of technical and historical content; and the majority of paid memberships were from USA. You will not be surprised that AK was never a financial member, but he recieved a few newsetters and was always prepared to set the record straight. His letters were always addressed to "Dear Friend",. All that correspondance is probably in the care ofone of the people who were actively involved.

AK was obviously a very complex and different person. I think we should both recognise his shortcomings and give him due credit. Becuse he aquired at the low end of the market he is probably responsible for the continued existence of quite a number of cars which might otherwise have been long ago recycled into new Toyotas or whatever. And because he lived in such a severe climate, I understand the majority of what we consider worthwhile stuff was stored undercover; though Morris Burrows,( who lived about 50 miles south) told me that some of the cars on dirt floors stood on wheels that were sinking in. Before I went to visit Morris in Vermont to go on the Glidden in 1980 with he and Libby in the 1914 Mercer, I visited a Stutz enthusiast in the mid-West who advised that I should meet AK and tried to arrange it. There was no way Morris was going to be part of that, and I ended up going tosee Ralph Buckley instead. Advice I was given was that some people may have suffered food poisoning there. ALso, you could earn points by taking icecream along there for him; doubtless because he had no fridge to make or keep in in, as he did not want power bills. There was no lighting in the church he looked after, either. He seem to spend time and effort trying to improve other people through his lay preaching; but you would worry if anyone had tried to follow his example, because he obviously practiced a somewhat liberal interpretation of at least one of the Ten Commandments. It is also probable that he may have used his church association to launder money so as to deny his partner Uncle Sam his proper share. Often when he sold parts the payment had to be made to the church. However, whether he was one of those who, as we say, pray on Sunday and prey on their neighbours the rest of the week I could not say.

AK was apparently much more welcoming to people with a more English accent, because it was highly unlikley that they were any part of the IRS. Mike Holt from UK secured more than one Stutz for export and restoration. There is even a 1914 L-head HCS now restored over there through Mike's agency, possibly the only one left in creation.

It seems that AK was anxiuos to take an active part in the air war against the Germans, and crossed the border to join the Royal Canadian Air Force. However, because he was too old to be eligible for active service, he had to content himself with training duties, moving aircraft as required, and salvaging downed planes. On one occasion he flew home a plane with a hole in the fuselage, after making a makeshift repair of extraordinary ingenuity. It was so cold that he was able to seal the hole with a piece of wet cloth, which he built up in strength and thickness by adding more water.

AK used to spend time in Ney Jersey also, where his mother used to live. His house was near where a n elderly widow, Mrs Brunz, kept a 4valve/cyl fixed-head Stutz Bearcat, and also a similar very low mileage Mercer 6 Raceabout. AK was "working the fallow", of course. He made regular visits to turn the engines over and do whatever else was arguably necessary for cars in long-term storeage. However, when the lady died the two cars were eventually auctioned by Barratt's. ( Now when there was an International Veteran car rally out here, I had a visit from an Englishman. He had been introduced and recommended to a friend of mine near here, who had 6 or 8 Hispano Suizas. Stuart was proudly shown photos of the Mercer with explanation of how rare Mercer 6's were supposed th be. The man was rather shocked to be told that I had enough to restore three of them. So he visited me the same day. The mercer had only done about 5000 miles from new, and the owner whose core interest had been Vauxhall 30/98, told me that the Mercer had better handling and performance than any antique car he had ever experienced. So I showed him a conrod, and begged him to not even start the engine again till he had made new ones that were strong and reliable. About 18 months later he rang me at 2am our time to ask if I could help him with a spare piston. That was code for admitting the engine had coughed a rod. I suppose the disaster would not have happened for another 20 years if AK had been the crow sitting on the fence that got the cars.)

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Ivan, great information. I have the catalog from that sale and if it was held today you would really see some high prices. The blown 29 M has resold a couple of times, with the price doubling each transaction. In fact, the picture at the bottom of this page:

http://home.townisp.com/~alsancle/StutzSuperCharger.html

shows the blower from that car when George Holman was getting it to work for Skip Barber.

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Thank you for the pictures of the supercharged engine. Have you any idea what the engine # is? It is surprising that they did not put the DV32 on the market earlier, or supercharge them rather than the single cam engine.

I have remembered one item of the correspondance with AKM in the early 1960's. There was some debate and speculation here what axle ratio was used for the Black Hawk that raced the Hispano at Indianapolis. The rationale was that if the gearing was slow because the Hispano that was expected should have been much slower than the special 8 litre short chassis car that lined up, then sustained over-revving may have brought about the engine failure. AK said that he had BOTH Black Hawks that raced that day; the car that failed, and the second car that ran better with the Hispano for tha last few hours. From memory he indicated that he might check; but we never heard. (The ratio is stamped on the back end of the worm shaft; but I reckon you would want a really good reason to take the trouble. Now AK said he had "about 60 Stutz of all models", so either he gradually turned the rest into gold, or else he exaggerated a bit. I think there were about 2/3 that number in the sale. You would suspect that the light coloured car with Woodlights in the sale was not one that raced at Indianapolis, perhaps. If you look at Automobile Quarterly vol8 #3, pp 314& 316 there are pictures that appear to be AK's second Black Hawk in the race at Bridgehampton in June 1949. It was not very fast.

I think I have an idea why that Stutz failed unexpectedly. The centre main bearing cap was changed in mid 1928 to one that was much stronger. And about 20 years ago, an owner of an early 1928 Stutz in Sydney had a centre main bearing cap break while he was out on a club run. Such a failure in the match race would have drastically lowered the oil pressure and led to failure of other parts. My late 1928 DV 3004 has main bearing caps several times stronger than the original type.

Sorry I had a few typing errors in the previous post. Late at night I can be too tired to correct minor mistakes.

Ivan Saxton

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George just had the blower and not the entire car or the engine. He put the blower on a engine he had "lying" around the shop. You can see where I mention that it was a tired motor to begin with but they still got a 40% boost out of it. The Stutz blower is very similar to the 540k/500k Mercedes setup and I can tell you from personal experience they are a bear to get tuned right.

Ivan, do you know how to decipher the markings on the rear end to determine the factory ratios?

A.J>

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Ivan, the 1928 Stutz with the Woodlites ran in the first Watkins Glen road race as well I believe. It sold for $78,000. The blown Coupe looks great restored, it turns out at the Vintage event every September at Lime Rock Park. Bob

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First the query of the gear ratio numbers: The only place I know to look is on the rear of the actual worm shaft, and you have to get under and remove the end cap which is held by four studs. You might bother to do this for yourself or a particular friend only, because you would naturally have to make sure it didn't leak afterwards. I just looked at two. One was stamped 5 1/4, as well as the Timken profile FC. The other was the new 4 to 1 from a batch we had made in Melbourne in the '70's, and that is not marked. The ones that Mike Holt has had made in UK or Europe may not be marked either. Hugh Guthrie had a friend who was an engineer at Rockwell, and he managed to get copy of original blueprints for us. It cost us A$500 per set then. Having the 1928 prototype DV engine for the replica boat-tail speedster I haven't finished, I wish now I had a 3 5/8 to noe for it. I would have to spend a day or so finding my copy of the drawings, or get one from one of the others who are more organised in filing stuff. Actually, we were given the smaller size for the Blackhawk L6 first in error, but several of those were made too for people who needed them. In the Stutz Owners Register we made quite a few replica parts. Those diecast carbs were a problem, and Darien Cassidy made core boxes and patterns good enough for a limited run. A few years ago I made about a dozen more for people who desperately needed them, until I ran out of original floats. Everything else I made, and that is a lot of "knife and fork" work. I intend to use investment casting in future which should give perfect detail; and if you use a black enamel finish as was done on the diecast originals, noone would pick them as replica.

I am not surprised Dudley Smith raced that car at Watkin Glen also, Bob; but I only quoted the written information I had in AQ. Interesting thing to me is that AK claimed to have both the cars from the match race, and I guess he should have known, being closer to the time. (Ignoring Two of the Ten Commandments would have classified him with the Scribes and the Pharises). You could change colour, and you could change headlights later; but maybe they pulled in an obviously very different looking car to keep the Hispano company. I am just wondering if AK at one time perhaps had a third Black Hawk.

Stuart Middlehurst left his registered 6 1/2 litre Hispano Suiza in my garage for safekeeping for a year when he was in Europe, with instructions to drive it as I wished. I used it little because I really didn't like the feel of it, which compared poorly with my 1918 Mercer. (This is probably presonal bias).

Ivan Saxton

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If anyone is interested in obtaining a Stutz supercharger, I know of one for sale complete with clutch. Send me a private note and I will contact you with the information.

Steve

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I understand that Mr. Miller was an enigima with many but we visited him at different times when i was a teenager with my dad in the late sixties and seventies plus i had lunch with Mrs Miller a few months before she passed away and spent her last winter in Montclair, New Jersey. She treated me to apple pie with cedar cheese for desert. We lived in St. Johnsbury,Vermont. He always treated us like gold plus we helped shore up the foundation of the house more than once. I am not sure what all trades that he did after that time but i remember vividly at time a Minverva from the late twenties and a custom Stutz Blackhawk body, a coupe i think with out an engine in additon to his driver which was a VW, the bearcats ( which he fabricated alot of the metal work ), KDH, Franklins, HCSs etc. He was very religous but perhaps his zeal for Stutz parts clouded his vision on what he was really wanted to give up in a trade when he came down to the deal. He collected old typewriters, plus gave me a look at his collection of presidential political buttons. One of the most amazing items i remember is an actual copy of a an abraham lincoln note to General Meade during the battle of gettysburg. I was told later that note did not surface during the search after his death and hers. I was told a copy was found but not the original. He stayed in contact with my father for years. One funny note is that once Mrs Miller was complaining to my mother about cutting the grass with only three wheels on a lawnmower. Her quote was " thousands of dollars, trades for old cars but he will not fix this lawnmower ".

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I've got nothing to add to this thread other than say thanks for sharing guys - this has been a very interesting read.

Thanks, Argyll.

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It's a long while back, but I came over from Scotland and stayed with Alec and Imogene for a week, about 1987 while I bought a pile of junk from him. I too went to the sale, bought a $50 dollar VW for the hell of it, got it out of the top of the barn and put it back in the sale, result $5!

 

Helped him move a safe, (very heavy) with logs as rollers across a dirt floor.

 

The stories Ivan Saxton tells are much as I remember him telling me.

 

He was a rogue and a crook, but I still relish having met him.

 

At the sale I managed to get missing bits of my car from other vendors and eventually got it finished, a 1918 Bearcat.

 

 

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wow, that was fun!

 

thx for bringing this thread back up.................................!

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I remember watching that VW attic rescue, glad the 1918 Bearcat is alive and well. Bob

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My kind of guy, hehe

 

I'm sure there was some GOOD in him, I bet his mother loved him, at least early on, Lol.

 

Dale in Indy

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