Americans at the 1957 Mille Miglia

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This is Caballo de Hiero II (The Iron Horse) built and entered by Ak Miller (at the wheel), a famous California hot-rodder, and with Doug Harrison as his navigator. They are pictured in the Piazza Vittoria in Brescia where scrutineering for the Mille Miglia took place. Open road racing was not new to Miller and Harrison as they had competed  twice in the grueling 1900 mile long Carrera Panamericana Mexico. In the November 1954 running of the Carrera they had stunned racers from around the world by finishing seventh overall with their home-built hot-rod, the first Caballo, which used an Olsmobile V8 in an old Ford chassis.

This new Caballo de Hiero for the Mille Miglia had a Kurtis Kraft frame which Miller had modified, used a special Chrysler V8 “Hemi” motor for greater power and was constructed at Miller’s workshop in Pico Rivera, California. The number on the car, 524, would be their starting time from Brescia for the 1000 mile race on public roads down the Adriatic, across to Rome and back up over the mountains to Florence, Bologna and, eventually, back to Brescia.

The old roads in Italy were rougher than the Panamerican Highway and Caballo II retired with brake failure after Ravenna on the Adriatic Coast. After collecting their car, Miller and his friend Peter Coltrin, who, as the team’s “go-fer,” had supplied their Oldsmobile tow car by borrowing it from his mother, toured the major races in Europe during the summer. Miller and Harrison then returned to California where Miller continued his hot-rodding and racing with many successes at Pikes Peak in subsequent years. Coltrin had fallen in love with Italy and the next year moved to Modena where he spent the rest of his life taking racing photographs and writing articles about racing, racing cars and the goings-on at Ferrari, Maserati, Lamborghini and at the many automotive specialists in Modena for  magazines all over the world.

Photo by Peter Coltrin © The Klemantaski Collection

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