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Karol Miller and Y- Blocks

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by Henry Floored, Jun 24, 2008.

  1. Henry Floored
    Joined: Sep 18, 2004
    Posts: 1,370

    Henry Floored
    Member

    Here is a cut and pasted article of the great Karol Miller and his Bonneville exploits, enjoy......

    FORD SUCCESS STORIES: KAROL MILLER ... BONNEVILLE LEGEND
    By Ray Brock*
    Our first meeting with Karol Miller took place in the middle of the hot, blinding expanse of the
    Bonneville salt flats in August of 1956. None of the old time hot rodders who had been
    participating yearly at the annual SCTA (Southern California Timing Association) National Speed
    Trials knew anything about this soft-spoken Texan -- he just drove in one day near the start of the
    week-long meet and asked for an entry blank.
    Unlike most of the other Bonneville entrants, Karol wasn’t towing the car he intended to race, he
    was driving it. He and a friend had decided to see what the famous salt flats looked like so they
    threw a couple of sleeping bags in Karol’s 1956 Ford Victoria and left Houston for the 2000-mile
    drive to western Utah. Karol was used to long drives though for his full-time job was operating oil
    exploration teams for his father’s Houston-based drilling company and the test locations might be
    all over the country, from Louisiana to North Dakota. When the two Texans and the Ford arrived
    on the salt, there was already more than 25,000 miles logged on the odometer. A 3.23 rear axle
    ratio was fitted to the car and an overdrive transmission was used. The O-D was strictly for
    highway cruising, giving a 2.26 final ratio.
    As Karol explained later, the 25,000 miles on the engine didn’t hurt his chances at all; they made
    the engine nice and loose. During the few months prior to Bonneville, Karol had performed quite a
    few experiments with the car and knew that it was running good. The pan had never been off the
    engine but a fresh valve job had been given the cylinder heads. Ports and valve sizes remained
    stock. An Iskenderian E-2 camshaft and spring kit were installed and an Edelbrock dual-quad
    intake manifold was fitted with a pair of Holley carburetors. A Mallory ignition with centrifugal
    advance weights was used in place of the stock distributor which used only vacuum advance.
    Total spark advance was about 38º.
    Karol used Ford cab-over truck carburetor bonnets on each of the four-barrels with flexible
    ducting to the fresh air vents which passed beneath the inner fender panels on their way to the
    passenger compartment. These ducts provided cool air directly to the carburetors for maximum
    induction efficiency. As the car speed increased, so did the air pressure through the ducts so
    jetting was complicated somewhat by the slight pressurization of the carburetors at high speed.
    Karol experimented with jetting quite a while before he found the right combination.
    Stock ’56 312 exhaust manifolds were used on the engine with a pair of cutout plugs fitted so the
    mufflers could be bypassed by uncapping the head pipes 24 inches downstream from the
    manifolds. The Ford chassis was stock except for a set of heavy-duty Monroe shock absorbers.
    The rear spring shackles were reversed from their normal tension position to a compression
    position, giving the rear of the car a noticeable forward rake. Stock street tires with most of the
    heavy tread rubber buffed off by a retreading shop were pumped up to 60 pounds at the front, 50
    pounds at the rear.
    Since Karol Miller was an "unknown" to the predominantly West Coast entrants at Bonneville, no
    particular attention was paid to the orange and white hardtop coupe as it pulled away from the
    starting line on its first run. Some minutes later when the speed of almost 140 miles per hour was
    flashed back from the finish line 2 1/4 miles away, many thought that perhaps a timing mistake
    had been made. The speed was unheard of for a Ford sedan.
    Hot rodders hadn’t thought anybody would have much success using the Y-block Ford engine
    with the odd intake port arrangement but, all of a sudden, here was a Ford with 312 cubic inches
    running in a popular sedan class that permitted from 305 to 488 cubic inches and it was beating
    almost everybody. The only car that could hold its own was a ’56 Chrysler 300 with a 400-inch
    stroker engine. These two cars battled for the whole week before the Chrysler emerged the
    winner at 141 mph with Miller’s Ford runner-up at 139-plus. By the end of the week, everyone
    knew who Karol Miller was and they were also starting to revise their thinking about Ford’s Y-V8
    engine.
    Although Karol Miller had been unknown to the regulars at Bonneville in 1956, he had already
    earned a reputation as a sharp tuner of Fords on his own home grounds around Houston. His first
    Ford was s 1949 coupe which he bought new and, in his own words, "just played around with it a
    little to see if I could make it run better." Among the changes made were the installation of Merc
    crankshaft and pistons to enlarge the displacement to 255 cubic inches. Carburetion, ignition and
    other changes made Miller’s ’49 the scourge of the area and all those who had tried
    unsuccessfully to take his measure on some of the long straight Texas roads were mighty happy
    to see him join the Army early in 1950.
    After Army duty, Karol bought a 1953 Ford with the then new overhead valve six. A short time
    later Karol was back in the thick of things after he’d milled the head to up the compression,
    installed dual carburetion, opened up the exhaust and a few other little Miller touches to aid
    performance. It didn’t take the boys in the Houston area long to learn that Karol was back in
    circulation because the I-block six proceeded to show its taillights to all the hot flatheads in town.
    The next Ford was a 1955 model with the 292-inch engine. Karol installed T-bird heads which
    had been milled and ended up with a compression ratio of about 9.5:1. A four-barrel carburetor
    was also used. A few more Miller improvements and the ’55 Ford attained its proper spot as top
    dog in the neighborhood. After the ’55 came the ’56 Vicky and that’s where we came in.
    After shaking up contestants and spectators at Bonneville, Karol went home, made a few minor
    changes to the engine and decided to take in the 1957 NASCAR Speedweeks event at Daytona
    Beach, Florida, where speed trials were held on the hard packed sand each February. Since the
    car was not of current model year and not strictly stock, it was required to run in the Experimental
    class. Rough beach conditions held up the meet for several days before Karol got a chance to run
    but when the time finally arrived, the Vicky set sail for a two-way average of 140.070 mph over
    the measured mile. This speed placed Miller well up in the class standings ahead of many high
    powered entries from factory-sponsored race teams.
    During the waiting period from Daytona to the 1957 Bonneville Nationals in August, Karol made a
    number of changes beneath the hood of his ’56. First of all, he decided to play it smart and quit
    trying to compete against as much as 488 cubic inches in D class with his 312 and drop back to C
    class for gas coupes and sedans. The class limit was 305 cubic inches for C class. Karol took a
    292-inch block and crank, bored .060-inch oversize and came up with 302 inches. 1957 cylinder
    heads gave the larger intake valves needed and Karol also fitted 1/8-inch larger than stock
    exhaust valves to the heads.
    With larger exhaust valves, the combustion chambers in the head crowded the valve closely and
    would obviously cause restriction to gas flow. Karol opened the chambers out generously around
    both intake and exhaust valves to improve flow and the lengthened chambers were then wider
    than the cylinder opening. Carefully, the top of each cylinder bore was chamfered from the
    chamber outline to a point just above the top of ring travel. This eliminated the ledge at the top of
    the bore which extended into the enlarged chamber. All of the grinding to the cylinder head and
    block gave an extremely large volume in the combustion chamber. To get the needed high
    compression for maximum performance, Karol used Jahns deflector head pistons and then milled
    the heads .100-inch to reach the desired ratio of 11:1.
    Karol then selected an Isky cam for the engine but this time it was a "smoothie" grind with high
    rpm potential and less torque than the E-2. Karol devised his own stroboscopic test stand to
    check valve action at various engine speeds. In the single stall garage behind the family home,
    Karol mounted a Y-V8 block on an old kitchen table, installed a cam, tightened down an old
    cylinder head with single intake and exhaust valve in one chamber, used a pair of lifters and
    pushrods to drive rocker arms actuating these valves, dropped a distributor in place and then
    drove the setup by a small 3 hp four-cycle utility engine.
    A battery supplied primary voltage to the distributor which operated in the conventional manner
    but with only one secondary lead which was connected to a timing light. A V-belt from the small
    engine turned the cam fitted with two sprockets to give a wider surface for the belt to ride on.
    With this setup, Karol checked out dozens of combinations in cams, springs, valve weights,
    rocker ratios, etc. Advancing or retarding the distributor gave stroboscopic viewing through the
    timing light. By the time late summer rolled around and Karol was ready for Bonneville, he had
    come up with a perfect combination. Both intake and exhaust valves were lightened the limit; an
    Isky Ford inner spring and Isky Chevy outer, plus an Isky Chevy retainer and .060-inch shims
    under the outer springs made the valve gear stable in excess of 7200 rpm.
    The Edelbrock dual intake manifold was retained with four-barrel Holleys, but had been carefully
    matched to enlarged ports. Fresh air to the carburetors was doubled in volume with two large
    flexible hoses to each carburetor bonnet from openings behind the grille. The exhaust system
    also came in for its share of attention as Karol attempted to "tune" for maximum power at about
    6000 rpm. Individual 1 1/2-inch pipes 32 inches long from each port extended almost straight out,
    through a long narrow opening in each front fender. A little rough on appearance but darned
    helpful for performance.
    Since Karol still didn’t have the finances needed for a second car to tow or trailer the Vicky, he
    again drove it to Bonneville for the ’57 meet. Since the outer valve springs were almost coil bound
    with the high rpm setup, horseshoe shaped shims .060 thick which had been fitted under the
    outer springs were removed to lessen possible cam wear on the 2000-mile jaunt. Stock exhaust
    manifolds were also fitted for the trip.
    When Karol arrived at the salt, the first day was spent installing the spring shims, headers,
    carburetor air ducting and setting the chassis up for minimum rolling resistance. Engine oil was
    used in the transmission, overdrive and front wheel bearings. Wynn oil was used to thin out the
    rear end lubricant. Rear shackles were reversed to raise the rear of the car for improved air flow
    beneath the car. Trimmed down tires with little tread rubber were used with high inflation
    pressures.
    When everything was set to go, Karol drove the car up to the starting line and took off on his first
    run. This time, spectators and contestants knew who he was and all activity stopped while they
    watched. Through low and second gears, Karol twisted the engine up to a spine-tingling 7200
    rpm and then shifted into high gear. 2 1/4 miles away at the finish line, the impressive sounding
    Ford approached rapidly and then roared through the timing traps at a speed of 149-plus mph.
    With the 3.23 gearing, engine rpm was about 6100.
    The reason for the high rpm through the gears was to keep engine speed up within the best
    power range after shifting. If shifted at less than 7000 rpm from second to high, rpm would fall
    below 5000 rpm and the engine would not pick up speed.
    Throughout the week of the ’57 meet, the Ford ran consistently near the 150 mph mark. The only
    trouble encountered was a blown head gasket and once it was replaced, speed went right back to
    its normal. By the end of the week, Karol Miller had set a new C Gas Coupe/Sedan record twoway
    average of 150.097 mph for the flying mile. The speed was almost 13 miles per hour faster
    than the previous record held by a Chevy. The 302-inch Ford with the impressive 7000-plus
    exhaust tone was one of the sensations of the ’57 Bonneville meet.
    Again the following February, Karol took in the Daytona Beach Trials but this time he went to an
    even smaller engine displacement and then topped it off with a Latham axial-flow supercharger.
    The engine was a 272 fitted with Karol’s special valve gear, reworked heads, an Isky blower cam,
    the tuned headers, Mallory ignition and the Latham competition blower with four side-draft Zenith
    carburetors. Running ten pounds boost, Karol shocked other contestants in the Experimental
    class by averaging 153 mph over a rough beach and walked away with the class win. The ’56
    Victoria was the fastest car on the beach in 1958. After the success shown with the blower, it was
    only natural for Karol to retain the combination for the ’58 Bonneville Nationals. Since the use of a
    blower automatically jumps cars one class under SCTA rules, the engine size was cut back even
    further so that it would fall under the B class maximum of 259 cubic inches. Then, the addition of
    the Latham blower would again raise the car into C class.
    To drop the engine displacement to 259 inches, Karol used a ’54 Merc crank with 3.100-inch
    stroke and then bored the block .010-inch over standard ’54 Merc bore (3.625) to achieve the
    proper size. Again the engine was topped by the head, valve and cam setup worked out by Karol
    on the table in his garage. Compression was held to 8.5:1 for use with the blower. With a smaller
    engine displacement than he’d run at Daytona, Karol contacted Norm Latham for blower
    information and switched to a unit that had fewer vanes at a slighter pitch for use at Bonneville.
    When Karol rolled onto the salt for the ’58 meet, driving the car from Texas as always, the Ford
    was again the center of attention. After a day of engine and chassis setup, Karol proved that he
    still had the magic touch as the little 259 inch Y-V8 plus blower exceeded the 150 mph mark on
    the first run. By the end of the week, Karol had raised his C class record slightly to 151.997 mph
    and had a one-way qualification speed of 153.32 mph. At the 4300 foot elevation of Bonneville,
    the lower boost Latham did not put out the pressure Karol had hoped for so he actually went
    home unsatisfied although everybody else thought he’d done great.
    The ’56 Victoria was retired from competition after the ’58 Bonneville meet and returned to strictly
    highway use with a 312-inch engine until late 1959 when with 120,000 miles on the odometer, it
    was sold to make way for a new 1960 Ford Starliner coupe. Karol really intended to quit racing
    when he bought the ’60 Ford and it had the standard 352-inch engine with hydraulic lifters, power
    steering and even air conditioning. By the time summer rolled around though, Karol got the urge
    again and, in a matter of two weeks, put together an engine for another fling at the salt flats.
    The 352 engine was bored .090-inch over to take stock Edsel replacement pistons. Edsels used a
    .050 larger standard bore for 361 inches and with .040-inch oversize, a total of 368 cubic inches
    was realized, placing the Ford in a newly established BX Gas Coupe/Sedan class with a
    displacement limit of 370 cubic inches. Karol then borrowed a few engine pieces from a friend
    who had purchased one of Ford’s 360 hp high performance 1960 cars. The 360 hp heads were
    milled .030-inch to give a compression ratio of 11:1 and otherwise left stock. The four-barrel
    aluminum intake manifold was used and equipped with a ’59 Lincoln four-barrel carburetor which
    had larger capacity than the standard Holley. An Isky RR8000 cam and spring kit was installed
    and these pieces were the only non-Ford parts used. Exhaust headers were the factory cast iron
    items; distributor and wiring were 360 Ford.
    As always, the car was driven to Bonneville, this time with the added luxury of power steering and
    air conditioning. After arriving at the salt and passing through the inspection line, Karol drove it to
    the pit area, changed tires, removed the power steering and air conditioning belts and made a
    warm-up run. The car left the starting line with just a slight whisper from the stock dual exhaust
    system and a few minutes later word flashed back from the finish line that the Ford had registered
    a cool 150 mph -- with mufflers.
    After bypassing the exhaust system and performing a little tune-up, Karol qualified for a record
    run at 158.17 mph and then set a new record average of 157.902 mph. When the meet was over,
    Karol slipped the belts back on for power steering and air conditioning and headed back to Texas.
    Early in 1962, Karol sold the ’60 Starliner with 95,000 miles on the odometer and it was still going
    strong.
    We talked to Karol in May of 1962 and he was driving a Fairlane 500 with the 260-inch V8. He
    hadn’t made up his mind just what he was going to do for the ’62 Bonneville meet, if anything, but
    he did confess that he had looked the Fairlane engine over pretty good.
    If Karol does show up at Bonneville this summer, you can bet that he’ll be driving a Ford product
    of one type or another and you can also bet that whatever class he chooses to enter will have a
    new record hung up before the week is over. With his slow, Texas drawl, Karol doesn’t make
    much noise -- he lets his Fords speak for him and their voices are loud.
    *From the FORD PERFORMANCE HANDBOOK, 1962, by Ray Brock and the Editors of HOT
    ROD magazine.


    [​IMG]
     
  2. Clark
    Joined: Jan 14, 2001
    Posts: 4,870

    Clark
    Member

    Great Story!! Can you imagine someone has a record holding Vicky and probably doesn't know it.
    Clark
     
  3. murdercycles
    Joined: Sep 15, 2004
    Posts: 287

    murdercycles
    Member

    [​IMG]
    From an old Champion spark plug ad.
    Ray
     
  4. teddyp
    Joined: May 28, 2006
    Posts: 3,197

    teddyp
    Member

    Register now to get rid of these ads!

  5. unclechop
    Joined: Apr 24, 2007
    Posts: 275

    unclechop
    Member

    Ive got an old 70s copy of a ford performance book,
    heaps of stuff bout Y blocks racing in t birds etc ill if any one wants i can scan a few pages?
     
  6. Great reading. I like the driving to and from Bonneville WITH the record holding car!!!!!!
     
  7. GEEZZER
    Joined: Mar 20, 2008
    Posts: 295

    GEEZZER
    Member

    I remember the Fords from seeing them in hot rod magazine and in Isky ads. was he the same fellow who was partner wih a guy named Singer? They had a 430 Lincoln powered dragster with a front mounted blower. I think they won the nationals one year at Tulsa or Detroit. Is he still alive?
     
  8. mctim64
    Joined: Dec 4, 2008
    Posts: 5,625

    mctim64
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    Wonderful story! I've read it before but never get tired of it.
     
  9. scrapiron
    Joined: Oct 28, 2008
    Posts: 1,144

    scrapiron
    Member

    My HERO when I was in HS,,,,remember that story well,,,,in '63 he ran a SPRINT with a 289 at Bonny'. That was the inspiration for my Bonnevile run in '65,,,,139+ in a 260 Falcon.
     
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2009
  10. 39cent
    Joined: Apr 4, 2006
    Posts: 1,545

    39cent
    Member
    from socal

    yeah I remmber him, when I saw his name 'FORD' popped into my brain. The first thing in our mind was WOW, a lotta racers were missing something. when a guy can just drive up in his ford and breaks a Bonneville record! It got everyone's attention. That something was, starting from scratch, 'attention to details' and doin his homework, it was real hot rodding!
     
  11. Goober
    Joined: Mar 4, 2005
    Posts: 1,452

    Goober
    Member

    Karol is the man.
    [​IMG]
     
  12. Customline Vicky
    Joined: Jan 29, 2008
    Posts: 1,291

    Customline Vicky
    Member

    Absolutely fabulous post. Being a Yblock guy this hits home. Can one just imagine the thinking by these kinds of guys? There were tons of guys like him back in those days and those days seem to have gone by the way side. This is the definition of "Back In The Day" ... !!!! The next time somebody bad mouths the term just think of this story.
     
  13. Retro Jim
    Joined: May 27, 2007
    Posts: 3,862

    Retro Jim
    Member

    What a great story on Karol Miller !
    I knew I loved them Y Blocks for a reason !
    I think I have seen that engine picture on the site from John Mummert before .
    They have some really mean Y Block on that site .
     
  14. Spooky
    Joined: Mar 3, 2001
    Posts: 1,489

    Spooky
    Member

    A neighbor of mine casually mentioned his friend from California, Karol Miller and I about wet myself.

    Karol keeps to himself and when he does show up to Ford events he is always astonished at the attention he gets.

    I have a promotional video tape that was put ut by Wynn's featuring the exploits of the Kenz and Leslie team in '57 and Karol's '56 is shwon running at the Salt. I mentioned it and they sent it to KArol to watch. He sent me a thank you note mentioning how good it was to see his old girl running again.

    My friend Jack Richards remembers clearly when Karol made his record run.

    Vic Edelbrock, Bill Kenz and others rushed over to see what he had done to make a Ford Y-Block run sooo good.

    Neat stuff.
     
  15. warbird
    Joined: Oct 4, 2003
    Posts: 463

    warbird
    Member

    153 mph out of a Y-block back in the day! Just shows you the potential that resides in these old lumps of iron.
     
  16. racepast
    Joined: May 11, 2009
    Posts: 1

    racepast
    Member
    from Arizona

    Hello, I am new to this forum. I was refered to this thread from the randy ayres modeling forum on "Darkside" cars.

    I believe I may have found the 1960 Starliner mentioned in this thread. I live in AZ and the car I found is from CA with reported Bonneville history.
    Does anyone have any more info or photos of this car?

    I have the VIN and data tag info and can get a photo.

    Thanks,
    David Tom
     
  17. Homespun91
    Joined: Jul 2, 2006
    Posts: 2,791

    Homespun91
    Member

    Karol is still alive & well, last I heard. I think I have his address somewhere...I'll look around.
     
  18. coletrickle
    Joined: Apr 23, 2009
    Posts: 32

    coletrickle
    Member

    nice old artical.Made me think of Red Adair the oil well fire fighter from houston in the mid 50's he had a lincon if i remember correct,he had it hotted up by some guy in houston who raced at bonneville.It said the car would out run light aircraft!I'm guessing that karol is the unnamed hottrodder.
     
  19. RAY With
    Joined: Mar 15, 2009
    Posts: 3,128

    RAY With
    Member

    Here are some old shots of Karol and Rodney Singer back in the days And yes they won nationals. The group shots were at the old freeway drag strip in Houston and I think in 1958
     

    Attached Files:

  20. skywolf
    Joined: Jul 1, 2006
    Posts: 1,867

    skywolf
    Member

    Another shot of Rodney Singer's dragster.

    [​IMG]
     
  21. RAY With
    Joined: Mar 15, 2009
    Posts: 3,128

    RAY With
    Member

    I am not totaly positive but Red Adair and company had an old Ford guy on Postoak road in Houston (Jerold Jones) that was a total speed guru with the Yblocks and also held many records and at bonnieville flats. He was one of the first to buy and own a Stewart Warner balancer and do extensive head work in the Houston area along with Motor reco. Rodney Singer,Karol Miller and Jerold were all friends at that time and raced together until Jerold went into speed boats and continued to do most of Red,s motors and boat mods. Wow I haven't thought about this in 50+ years. Here is one of Jerolds bonniville cars-1320 stude with SBC power and this was in 61 I believe. Great memories.
     

    Attached Files:

  22. HonkyTonker
    Joined: Mar 28, 2004
    Posts: 253

    HonkyTonker
    Member
    from Irving, TX

    Long live the Y-Block
     
  23. Dale Fairfax
    Joined: Jan 10, 2006
    Posts: 2,586

    Dale Fairfax
    Member

    Having been a Ford freak for years and especially elated during the years when Karol was doing his thing; I never knew he was connected to Rodney Singer, who also got my blood pumping back when I was having to fend off the Chevy mania. Is that connection published anywhere? I've got a lot of stufffrom back then.

    QUOTE=RAY With;3910721]Here are some old shots of Karol and Rodney Singer back in the days And yes they won nationals. The group shots were at the old freeway drag strip in Houston and I think in 1958[/QUOTE]
     
  24. Ole don
    Joined: Dec 16, 2005
    Posts: 2,843

    Ole don
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    At the September meet at Bonneville last year, I raced my Y block 55 sedan in the 130 class. A fellow walked up and handed me a copy of that article. I had read it before, and now have it where I can see it every day. He is my hero.
    I went 118 and a little bit in one mile. Hope to go fatser this year, if I can get more fuel to it. See ya there.
     
  25. RAY With
    Joined: Mar 15, 2009
    Posts: 3,128

    RAY With
    Member

     

    Attached Files:

  26. mctim64
    Joined: Dec 4, 2008
    Posts: 5,625

    mctim64
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    bump for the guys that missed this.
     
  27. exStreamliner
    Joined: Apr 7, 2009
    Posts: 1,537

    exStreamliner
    Member

    Thanks for the post... I actually talked to him in 86 when I was having my 312 built for my wagon... Nice guy...
     
  28. 57Custom300
    Joined: Aug 21, 2009
    Posts: 880

    57Custom300
    Member
    from Arizona

    The part that always gets me is he "drove" the car there, raced it, then
    "drove" it home.
     
  29. tommy
    Joined: Mar 3, 2001
    Posts: 14,736

    tommy
    Member

    Thanks I saw all his cars in Hotrod when they ran the coverage but never knew the complete story. His accomplishments are really amazing. All we got was their their place and speeds. It never dawned on me that he could drive the car to the races, remove the belts, set records and drive back home. un-fkn'-believable.
     
  30. Thunderroad312
    Joined: Nov 18, 2012
    Posts: 157

    Thunderroad312
    Member

    Karol is THE MAN. One of hot rodding's treasures that few are aware of. The Y-Block stuff is amazing for the time period. He later ran a '63 1/2 Galaxie around 170+. Also some small block Falcons too and as always did well. The magazines never gave him as much ink as he deserved since he was drivn' the wrong brand, if you know what I mean.Great Stuff! Keep it coming.
     

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