A.K. Miller’s Famous Collection Reappears

I decided to attend the now famous Christie Auction in East Orange in September 1996. I convinced Ross Anderson, a new acquaintance to go to East Orange on the day before the auction to see the cars and possibly partner with me in buying one. After viewing the dust covered and neglected relics of another time we decided we would bid on at least one of the cars. I had met A.K. Miller back in the 1950s driving an HCS touring car and had visited him with John Hawkinson (Hawkeye) a few years later. This early contact had introduced me to the HCS brand and to A.K Miller’s personality which could only be described as odd.

Due to my early contact with A.K. Miller and some further research I became most interested in the HCS cars. Since HCS cars were built by Harry Clayton Stutz (thus HCS), after he had lost the Stutz Motor Car Company in a stock takeover, they were now considered to be Stutzes.

There were several HCS cars in the Miller collection. There were 3 or 4 four cylinder cars with wire wheels and one six cylinder car with disc wheels. It was very difficult to determine the condition of the over fifty cars in the short time available but we developed a list of the cars that we felt might be within reason and how much we would bid. On the next day (auction day) only I was able to attend the auction so it became my responsibility to do the bidding.

HCS touring car restorationThe auction was very well attended due to much publicity and the reputation of the Stutz name as well as the long standing anticipation of the break-up of this most unusual collection. The bidding was brisk. I was successful with my bid for the six cylinder HCS which was numbered lot #22. I made bids on a second HCS but was out bid to my relief.

A great deal of mystery surrounded A.K Miller and his wife, Imogene. They had moved from East Orange, New Jersey to East Orange, Vermont in the late forties, early fifties, bringing with them a huge collection of Stutz cars and other significant cars as well as an autogiro. They lived very frugally even though they had considerable wealth! Occasionally A.K. would agree to sell a car but he would withhold a crucial part for which he was the only source.

harry clayton stutz touring carWe brought our prize HCS and several hundred dollars of Stutz ephemera home to Burlington in my trailer and proceeded with the restoration. A few years after the purchase and the initial restoration, I purchased Ross’s share of the car and continued with the restoration. One can see from the photos that there was plenty to do. This year at Stowe Car Show this car received a first place indicating the restoration was a good one and a fitting tribute to Harry Clayton Stutz and to Alexander Kennedy Miller.

Goodrich’s 1968 Jaguar E-Type

While spending the winter in Florida in 1995 my wife and I drove by a garage in St Petersburg where they did antique car restorations. It looked like an interesting place to visit so we stopped in to meet the owner who gave us a tour. Among disassembled Bentleys, Studebakers and the pieces of a 1939 SS100 Jaguar was a 1968 blue Jaguar E-type which was receiving the finishing touches of a refurbishing.

My wife, who usually is not enthusiastic about visits to car garages, thought that Jaguar was, as she put it “art in motion”. I seized the moment and immediately asked the owner if the car was for sale. It turned out that it was his wife’s car which they had reluctantly decided to sell. We left the shop, talked it over and decided that if he would repaint it red, we would negotiate to buy the car.

A few weeks later we were the proud owners of the ’68 Jaguar which we drove to our first car show in Tarpon Springs. After winning a first prize we were returning to our condo in Largo when true to Jaguar reputation, first the horn failed, then the radiator cooling fans followed by the car overheating. We pulled off the road and were soon passed by two model A’s and a model T!

I mentioned the car to my son who lives in Nashville, TN. He said that he had a friend who had owned a similar car years before but it was blue. The friend mentioned that he had sold it to an antique car restorer from St Petersburg, FL! On a visit to Nashville a few years later I met the previous owner who said that he had to sell the Jaguar to finance his new business. It was the same car.

jaguar e-type cutaway

Since then we have enjoyed the Jaguar, taken it to many shows where it really is: Art in Motion (at least most of the time!).

I grew up in Sheldon, VT & while in college I worked summers at the state park at Lake Elmore and the Tyler Place in Highgate Springs. At Elmore in the 1950’s I met Adrian West (deceased but long time VAE member) and we enjoyed our mutual interest in old cars.

After college and marriage, work took my wife and I permanently from Vermont in the late 1950’s. We kept a camp on Fairfield Pond in the family and have returned there for a few weeks each summer since. After retiring my wife and I became reacquainted with Adrian and joined VAE about 15 years ago. We have enjoyed attending the VAE shows.

We keep a house in Lake Forest, IL where the Jaguar E-type and my son’s 1967 Jaguar 420 currently reside; the 1963 MGB now being in Florida. My son and I brought his Jaguar 420 to the British Invasion at Stowe two years ago where it won second place in the Concours class.

Buick Reatta – A Car Forgotten

To start off with, I wanted to thank you for letting me adorn the front cover of Wheel Tracks with a couple of cars that may seem a bit out of character for such a publication. I say this because when you crack the door open on most feature article cars, the new car smell has pretty much worn off. But at the ripe young age of only 20, these babies are still wet behind the ears. Enter, the 1991 Buick Reatta coupe. I would also like to introduce my daughter Jessica (she has taken a special interest in the Polo green) and my son Jason (he’s got dibs on the Maui blue).

My first sighting of a Reatta seemed almost magical. It was in the spring of 1988 and I was stopped at a busy intersection. From my left came a white streak that as it passed in front of me, seemed to be moving in slow motion (you know the feeling). As the car traveled over the crest of the road, the chassis sprung up and the car appeared to be airborne. As it darted away, I was trying to guess what I had just seen. I didn’t know what it was, but I knew I liked it. I would later find out it was an American made luxury two seat sport coupe that was hand built at the Craft Center in Lansing Michigan. With a price tag way out of my reach, It became a forgotten memory. As the years passed, I would make random sightings of this rare and elusive automobile.

Fast forward to the year 2000. On an annual trip back home (Maine), traveling early in the morning on Rt15 east out of Morrisville, we passed Morrisville Used Auto. As I took a casual glance at the car lot, my foot suddenly came off the accelerator (here goes that slow motion thing again). I looked at my wife and without either of us saying anything; she rolled her eyes to the left. This is good because that means “go ahead, you can turn around”. When they roll to the right, it means “you’re crazy, keep driving”. After turning around, we found a shiny 1991Maui blue Reatta in a long line of fine automobiles. Later the next week the car would be in my driveway. I have learned that this particular Reatta had only one twin in 1991. No wonder it was so hard to find.

I picked up the Polo green car in 2010. Its main intention was for parts, but I couldn’t resist, and completed the necessary repairs to get it on the road. July of this year, our family took both cars to the Buick Club of America’s national car meet in Danvers, MA. We had a great time touring the local area, seeing the Red Sox play, and listening to the Boston Pops during the 4th of July fireworks. While at the BCA show, both kids earned their Jr. judging credentials. Jessica helped with the 1940’s class and Jason kept the senior judges hopping in the Reatta class.

Our family has gotten a lot of enjoyment out of the two cars, but the friends we have found in the VAE family and the Buick circle, have been the biggest reward. We look forward to many more stories and adventures within the VAE as our two Buicks motor on.

Fun facts: Years of production 1988 thru spring of 1991. Total number of cars produced 21,751. First 2 prototypes were built in England. Hand built at craft stations, no assembly line used. Cars were sold in house to the PPG paint group, body and paint completed and then sold back to Cadillac. Cadillac owned the Craft Center. Once the cars were completed, Cadillac sold the cars to Buick. 60% of all parts are shared with the Buick Riviera.

My Model T’s

I bought my first T from Herb Gallager of Lyndonville in the spring of ’46 for $20 and a single shot .22 rifle. It was a coupe made into a pickup with no top. My father was mad and later I figured out why. He had been a locomotive engineer from 1904 to 1926 and ‘Engineers’ drove Buicks, Jefferys. Etc., not T’s. Since it was spring Arland Noyes, Wally Davis, Charlie Ladue and I decided to try it out on back roads. When we got stuck Wally would pick up a rear wheel (no fenders) and we would put brush under it. We came to a downhill with a bridge at the bottom that no one had traveled all winter. I gave it full throttle in low. Well, the bands were worn so the low pedal stuck on the floorboard. A replacement push-pull switch was located on the right of the dash. It was all I could do to stay in the road using two hands, no chance to reach the switch or get the low pedal up. I decided to concentrate on not hitting the bridge while the mud splashed on the windshield and Charlie…we and the T made it safely. 30 by 3 ½ clincher tires were hard to find in WWII, so I made adaptors to use ford 600:16 rims on the rear, there were plenty of these tires in the junk pile of Blake’s Garage where I worked. The car was always going ‘uphill’ and I drove it this way through my senior year at LI and started UVM in Janu-ary of ’47. I took all of this last deer season off that year to put in new bands. All the old timers at the garage cautioned me about dropping a nut. I didn’t realize how slippery a well-oiled nut could be and that is exactly what I did…I dropped a nut. If there was a loose nut in the engine and you turned the engine over it would stick to the magneto and good by engine. So I pulled the engine and even though I thought I had it sitting nicely on blocks the engine fell off. When it hit the floor the nut rolled out the starter hole. I hope the old timers thought I knew what I was doing. The car had a water pump so while I had it apart I installed a heater. It helped some but with no top or side curtains it was not too effective. Arland and I hunted that season. One day I came back to the car on Hardscrabble Mountain and there was a deer in the pickup back. I knew Arland could not drive the T. It turned out that Herb Gallager came by and drove it down into the field, the deer was his.

Once the registration expired I had to get rid of the car for financial reasons and some scholarship wording. UVM had a scholarship called the Wilber Fund for Vermont students with a B average. The application was what does your father do? (he was a hotel janitor), does he have a car?, do you?, (no & no…good bye T). How much money do you need, how much have you got, subtract, and pick up the check from the president’s secretary the next day. Shortly after my last school payment in the spring of my senior year (1950) I bought a ’26 four-door sedan for $35 in East Montpelier while hitch hiking to Lyndon Center. This is the car you see in the picture above. There were not many cars at UVM then. If I could not park in front of the closest door of Waterman on Prospect Street things were bad. The President’s secretary saw my car and we ended up swapping rear ends (with $10 to boot) for his Ruckstell. I drove this car from Burlington to Lyndon Center on many weekends. When my folks came by bus for an engineering open house the plan was for them to ride home with me. The Ruckstell stuck in low range and it was a long hot ride, getting home at 1AM, at 20mph. I had an interview with the General Electric recruiter. His comment was that they could use anyone who could drive a Model T. Maybe the T had a bigger influence on my life than I imagined. I got the job and drove this Model T to work on my first day at GE Burlington in 1950, on many anniversaries and my Last day at work in 1988. The car was pretty ragged and not used from 1950 until I got married in 1959. It had been stored outside some. I put in a new battery, water, blew up the tires and drove it from Lyndon Center to Pittsfield Mass., where I started a frame up amateur restoration. I completed this with an engine job after retirement in 1988. Now it is time for another restoration, after all some of the work is over 50 years old.