Lost in Connecticut… Again…

Lost in Connecticut… Again…

Back in 2008, I found a photograph of an unknown car at an antique store that lead to weeks of research and then finally, an article on The Jalopy Journal. I hadn’t thought of that weird old car in years, but recently stumbled onto that picture again and figured it might be fun to re-run that feature.


So the basic story is simple enough. Jim Miller was a hot rodder. He owned and ran Miller’s Speed Parts in Hartford, Connecticut from the 1940’s and well into the 1950’s. In the year of 1951, he found himself in an upside down ‘50 Ford after rolling his stock car at a NASCAR race in Clarion, PA.

Once Jim and his partner, Charles Gattilia, got the car home, they both realized it was a total loss and needed to be completely rebuilt. Just about any of us can dream up the resulting conversation. Here’s my version:

“Well shit Jim,” said Charles. “We might as well tear this thing apart, head west, and try our hand in land speed racing. I mean, we just don’t seem to have a talent for going in circles. That, and I hear the girls out west wear pretty thin coats.”

“Yeah, I reckon you’re right,” said Jim as he stroked his perfect Amish beard. “But this time, you’re gonna drive.”

An Amish Hot Rodder or just a trendy statement of facial hair? True hot rodders have always been and will always be – Hoodlums.

For some reason, I don’t spot Jim as having been an overly vocal man. I bet he kept his mouth shut and his hands busy.

In any case, the two eventually stopped gabbing and got to work. The frame was widened 24″ and dropped 9. The “full-house flatty” was moved towards the center 24″, had a balanced crank, big valves, a Winfield cam, W&H dual coil ignition, 9.5 to 1 compression (damn! – Ed), and a homemade intake to fit the four dual-throat carbs.

And how bout that body? It was completely hand formed using 16 and 18 gauge cold rolled steel. Over 39 sheets of that steel were used and there were approximately 140 feet of gas welded seams. It was all finished with 32 coats of “Sahara Sand” lacquer. The end product was 13′ 5″ long, 70″ wide, 35″ high, and weighted in at a portly 2200 pounds.

Jim and Charles shucked conventional wisdom of power and weight ratios… The steel front-end was so heavy, a hydraulic unit (adding even more weight) was called on to open and close the unit.

After a ton of research, I couldn’t find a single instance of the car ever making Bonneville. Who knows, maybe they couldn’t get it running right… or maybe they realized that the weight of the car was just going to be too much to over come… or maybe Jim got caught tinkering with “advanced technology” by his Amish brethren and had to bail for the hill sides while leaving Charles alone with his thoughts of thin coats. Under such loathing conditions, I can’t imagine Charles getting much of anything done.

I think it was the Godfather that said a hoodlum should never fall in love for it is women that corrupt intentions and give away plans. If that’s the case, Jim and Charles were screwed before they knew it.

Whatever be the case, the two can always say they made it as far as the July, 1952 issue of Hot Rod Magazine. What happened next is anyone’s guess really… but you fellas in Connecticut should keep your eyes open.

Charles’ 5-year old daughter behind the wheel as pictured in HRM…

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