The Car

HISTORICAL GLIMPSES - PAGE FOURTEEN

Whoa, what do we have here, you might ask? Well, this is a never before published photograph of Ken Miles, receiving the checkered flag after his "B Production" class win at Elkhart Lake - September, 1964. The picture comes to us by way of Ken Miles' son, Peter. It is, as you can tell, a bit yellowed and faded, but marvelous nonetheless. Peter's whereabouts is just one discovery on the trail of the "Mystery Fifty Car". Hopes for unearthing a large collection of Miles memorabilia were not rewarded, but this find is, I think you will agree, certainly worth its weight in trinkets. The Tiger in the snapshot turns out to be the Shelby prepared #45 car. I've learned from Shelby insiders that after Laguna Seca, Ian Garrad authorized repairs to the badly damaged car and then transferred the project to the Rootes dealership, Sports Car Forum of Ohio. Their driver, Don Sesslar, had distinguished himself by capturing the 1964, F Production Championship in an Alpine, so why not let him have a go with a Tiger. Don was slated to drive the reworked and renumbered #45 car for the first time at Road America, in the Badger 200 (Sesslar raced under #74). Nursing some very tender ribs, Don, tried to cope during practice, but pain kept him out of the car on race day. There's no account of it, but somehow, Ken Miles ended up as the substitute pilot and promptly took the "passed-on" Shelby machine to a 1st in B Production and 2nd overall, behind the Cobra of, Dan Gerber.


The verbiage recognizes a first place class finish and is personalized by John Panks, the then U S Manager for Rootes based out of New York City.
"To Ken Miles In recognition of his help towards the Tigers first race win, from his many friends in Rootes -John Panks".

If results are the measure of anything, Ken Miles was one of the few able to deal successfully with the much-ballyhooed limitations of the Tiger.


This is one of only two pictures I've seen of the Sesslar, 1964 F Production Championship Alpine. The other one can be found on page 74 of Bill Carroll's, "Tiger An Exceptional Motorcar", but is mislabeled as a competition Tiger.

All my recent uprooting of nearly forgotten history has led to some rather interesting sidebar revelations. Conversations with, Don Sesslar and the equally gifted driver, Dan Carmichael, focuses one on the adventures of driving the Tiger's predecessor. Both competed with the Sports Car Forum Alpine and both had many impressive outings. Carmichael's best effort came in 1965, when he drove to a 1st in class 'F' at the Danville, Virginia, National Races. In spite of such celebrity, it seems few (save the players at the center of these goings-on) would have been able to identify the Sesslar F Production Alpine as a Series I. Maybe I just didn't look in the right places, but I had one heck of time finding a picture of that machine. Even the "Alpine Bible", McGovern's, The Classic Sunbeam, fails to do more than mention the distinction.

 

The reassigned Shelby racecar surrendered its final usefulness after a Sesslar accident at Nassau's Oakes Course, during the 11th annual "Bahamas Speed Weeks" event. Back in Ohio, the shell was completely stripped, with most of the Shelby developed pieces going into a fresh machine for the 1965 season. The disposition of the castoff chassis is still a bit of a riddle. Don is very clear about how little was left. Even the front skin had been removed and he remembers the remnant leaning against the side of the dealership building for sometime, before not seeing it anymore. It is generally believed that the remains of the Shelby machine were sent to the crusher, but when I suggested as much to Claude Gains, half owner of the old Sports Car Forum, he was certain they would not have junked the leftover, but rather sold it to somebody. Finding a photo of the second generation #74 Sesslar Tiger proved even more difficult than locating pictures of his Alpine. The Tiger used, B9470605 LRXFE, came right from the showroom floor and continued the white/black stripe color scheme used on both of the Ohio cars.


The only photo of Sesslar's 1965 B Production Tiger I've ever seen. I am working on rectifying that situation and hope to have at least one color shot before long.


Riverside - October, 1964. Miles leads another well known Tiger driver (Lew Spencer) through one of the turns during the LA Times Grand Prix.

"Mystery Fifty" - exhibit one. According to SCCA Archivist Peter Hylton, "The report from the LA times Grand Prix...indicates that Ken Miles drove a Tiger entered by Rootes Motors. He started near the rear of the grid and worked his way up to 8th before the engine blew" - who pray tell was Rootes Motors? Mr. Hylton goes on, "Dan Carmichael, apparently drove the same Tiger (although as number 69) in B Production at the first annual American Road Race of Champions at Riverside in November. This event was later to become the SCCA National Championship Runoffs to determine the annual SCCA Champions, although in 1964 it did not yet serve that purpose. Carmichael finished 4th in the class, but no mention is made of who supplied the car." The assumption that Shelby's operation must have had something to do with the car is possibly one of the first conjectures to fall. Carmichael's recollections include an admission by his furnished mechanic that there had been a parting of the ways (Dan assumed he meant with the "factory") so, the engine wasn't much to speak of - just a street cam.

My best guess is that Larry Reed was behind the sponsorship of this car, even though Ted Sutton (of Shelby fame and the man who is credited with building the #45 car) claims the plexi windshield and front brake air pickups are straight from Shelby stores. In fact, the small wind deflector extension added to the top of the windshield my have been made by Sutton himself, but none of the ex-employees has any recollection of ever seeing a second racecar, especially one that was painted red. Even Lew Spencer, who was in the same race, cannot recall the Tiger.




"Mystery Fifty" - exhibit two & three. Same race, different places on the course. Carmichael confirms what Friedman (the photographer who took the pictures) contended - the Tiger was painted red.

LINKS--YOU'LL--LIKE

1996 Historical Glimpses Archive

1997 Historical Glimpses Archive

1998 Historical Glimpses Archive

1999 Historical Glimpses Archive

2000/2001/2002 Historical Glimpses Archive

Current  Historical Glimpse


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