Good grief, is that the time? I’ve been gone for ages!!
I’m not the world’s worst blogger, but after seeing how long it’s been since my last post, I may deserve the title of “World’s Second Worst Blogger”
It’s not that I don’t enjoy this pastime, the complete opposite is actually true….I just feel obligated to have something exciting to report to my three regular readers (Auntie Colleen, the Cat and some very nice person in the Los Feliz area) to warrant their ongoing support.
Fortunately they are in luck (although with said cat staring at the computer as I type, there is additional pressure to make this entry both interesting and typo free (extremely difficult when feline’s head seems to be constantly moving in time to the Stereophonics track playing in the background), as the automotive updates are considerable.
In no particular order –
Copperstate 2015. We’re in!! Again!! Woohoo, I AM Penelope Pitstop!!! Navigationally challenged cousin has already booked his flight from England and I’m considering purchasing socks with L & R stitched into them to help with this year’s map reading. Or, glue the map book to my arm in a slightly McGuyver fashion whilst he recounts stories of all the really interesting things he can see out of the window that are totally irrelevant to our journey. Better still, it’s 25th anniversary for the event, so an extra driving day has been added. What more could a girl ask for?!
Talking of anniversaries – The Egg and I hit a pretty impressive milestone in the past few months, as we’re both 50. I know this to be true as I treated her to a certificate of authenticity last year, and I had a big party this past January. Happy to report that other than minor modifications for each of us (she’s been painted a couple of times since new, I now consider the hair salon a necessity rather than an option), we’re both essentially factory originals. Can’t help feeling the gap will start to widen in her favour over the next few years, but c’est la vie!
Following Copperstate 2014, I planned to start fixing some of the more cosmetic issues (after all, we are – sorry, SHE IS 50). Fortunately our Egg Doctor decided to check her in case any other problems may have appeared following the 1000 miles we added to the engine. After a thorough examination he subsequently made an executive decision to replace the kingpins, due to concern there was just a little too much play as we took the corners. Knowing enough to appreciate the importance of a round hole versus an oval where this particular car part is concerned, I was only too happy to support the plan. Once I had the keys back, I was completely overjoyed….because, I love The Egg; and have forced my closer friends to suffer the song I wrote to celebrate this particular fact.
It’s a simple song, consisting of that one line repeated over and over, at the top of my voice with no discernible note in tune and clearly I should not be giving up my day job anytime soon. On the drive back from Torrence, I not only sang this catchy little number, but had added enough choruses to justify a 12″ extended remix with possibly a second version from Mark Ronson chucked in for good measure…the difference was INCREDIBLE.
Faster, more responsive, no slight wandering irrespective of speed or road surface, she now glides round the corners better than I could ever have imagined. It’s as if I have my own Outlaw – a brand new car in a vintage body. The Egg Doctor assured me she was now bullet proof, and with every additional mile I’ve added since; he’s been proven 110% correct. The only thing stopping me from considering more road trips is finding people to join me, as this car is unstoppable!!!
Additional highlights of the past few months also included a couple of fantastic driving events by the most exciting addition to the automotive magazine world; Petrolicious. If you are not familiar, please check them out at http://www.petrolicious.com – as the variety of articles, information and fabulous car photos are superb. Better still, they not only like to write about driving, they’re happy to organize it for the rest of us! I’ll expand on both events in future posts, but in the meantime – please give them some support.
Maximus Felines is now sitting asleep next to me, so I’m tentatively hopeful he considers my return to the digital age worthwhile. Auntie Colleen is currently asleep in England (& ” you know how much I hate those computer things, so don’t forget to post me a copy”), so thanks in advance my dear Los Feliz reader and I hope this made you smile.
A Quiet Gentleman
It’s an overcast day here in Los Angeles, which seems sadly fitting. In the early hours of this morning, we lost a quiet gentleman, and I can’t help feeling the sun has chosen not to shine as a mark of respect.
Drino Miller was born in 1941. A Los Angeles native, who ventured up to Monterey in Northern California for Junior College at a time when the area was known for its rural charm rather than a valley of silicon. His fascination with engines appeared at an early age; purchasing his first car before the age of eleven, determined to understand how it worked. This passing phase never completely disappeared; and by the time he reached his late teens, Drino was exploring the South Pacific with his brother, following a year spent in Tahiti working on a not so large yacht they intended to sail back to California.
Returning back to Newport Beach, Drino continued to work with boats until he decided it was time to finish school.
A remarkably clever man, who never forced his opinions on others. Drino was well-read & well-traveled, with a wealth of knowledge and information. His educational background reflecting all of those attributes as he first studied Political Science at UCLA, and once he’d graduated then turned to Law School. Despite his intellectual interests, he combined his love of vehicles and travelling whenever possible; exploring such areas as Baja when there was a break in the educational action. The terrain was grueling and regarded as motorcycle, rather than car friendly. However, in 1967, the off-road racer Ed Pearlman invited Drino to join him in the attempt to set a new speed record through Baja. Although the plan to beat any records was thwarted, their experience set wheels in motion for what was to become the Baja 1000.
Drino’s involvement with Pearlman led to a meeting with Vic Hickey; a designer at GM who was to become synonymous with such iconic vehicles as the Chevy Blazer and Humvee. This was 1967 however, and Hickey in the early stages of developing his future. He offered Drino a job, to join the GM team as they started development of the first purpose built off-road racing vehicle. A temporary blip on the horizon, when General Motors decided not to move forward with the project – however Hickey managed to obtain private funding and immediately called Drino to rejoin his team. The result of their partnership was to become known as the infamous Baja Boot.
Drino’s involvement with this new approach to off-roading sparked more of his own ideas for designs, and was to be the beginning of a remarkable career. He also met world class motorcycle racer, Bud Ekins; and the two men enjoyed a friendship that lasted until we watch Bud ride off into the sunset in 2007.
Drino was an engineer, an enthusiast and a racer. That combination ensured he both continued his development, and tested his theories off-road. By 1970’s he not only entered the Baja 1000, but earned overall victories in that race as well as Baja 500 and Mint 400. This passion for success expanded into his own business, Miller-Havens Enterprises. Working with another engineer, Stanford Haven; they specialized in engine, transmission and conversion kits for Baja Bugs (the Boot being a based on the VW Beetle). Their idea was clearly successful, as it spawned a number of other companies offering similar kits for other cars. The off-road market has continued to grow and develop, without question owing a great deal of thanks to Drino’s early imagination and determination.
In less than a decade, Drino’s business & expertise had expanded to include sports cars and midgets; as he worked towards his plan to build Indy Cars. By the mid 80’s, it became apparent to his peers that Drino had as much talent with people as vehicles; and based on his success at Le Mans and Indianapolis 500 he was invited by Andial, the high performance Porsche tuners, to join their sports car program. From Germany to Japan, joining the team at Toyota to manage their TRD (Toyota Racing Development) Program. Here, Drino joined forces with Dan Gurney; supporting his race wins in the four main categories of motorsports – Grand Prix, Indy, NASCAR & Sports Car.
Leaving Toyota in 1996, Drino focused his attention back towards motorcycles, working with ProCircuit to develop engine parts, and support a number of successful riders. It also gave him more time to enjoy the other aspects of his life – exploring Europe with his wife, Lisa; heading over to Ireland with Bud to explore the delights of the Irish Rally, racing in a more gentlemanly style.
So, why am I sharing this story with you? Because Drino was always so humble about his experiences, knowledge and success; and because I was lucky enough to consider him a friend. Sadly, the more recent times we spent together were overshadowed with his illness; but both he and Lisa shared enthusiasm and support for my small attempts to contribute to automotive history with the Egg. Hanging with Drino and Bud, listening to them recount their stories and adventures? Truly special memories indeed.
DRINO MILLER July 30, 1941 – March 4, 2014