THE DRIVER

Chuck Miller doesn’t care about road rash – his car is meant to be driven!

Classic Porsche - - Contents - Words & pho­tos: Stephan Szan­tai Track photo: Chris­telle Bé­casse

Some cars have helped de­fine Cal­i­for­ni­aʼs 911 scene, be­ing show reg­u­lars for years, while their own­ers play key roles in the lo­cal scene. This is the story of such a duo. For close to three decades, Chuck Miller ʼs 1973 coupé has been seen at count­less Porsche-re­lated events, ei­ther shows/con­cours or track days. Fans of 911Ss might es­pe­cially be fa­mil­iar with the So-cal res­i­dent for his role as an Early 911S Registry board member, specif­i­cally as a Mes­sage Board Mod­er­a­tor and Cre­ative Ad­vi­sor. Not a big sur­prise, re­ally, con­sid­er­ing his artis­tic eye led him to a 25-year ca­reer as a Walt Dis­ney Imag­i­neer, un­til he re­tired in 2013. There is much more to say about the Registry, hence the sep­a­rate side­bar found fur­ther in this ar­ti­cle.

When in­ter­viewed by Classic Porsche, Chuck was quick to point out: ʻIʼve al­ways thought Iʼve been blessed with be­ing at the right time for some of this old car stuffʼ. He blames his au­to­mo­bile in­ter­est on the lo­cal street scene, which he dis­cov­ered at age 12, or so. You see, Chuck lived within a short walk from Van Nuys Boule­vard, ʻground zero for cruis­ing and street rac­ing, dur­ing what some say were the golden years of drag rac­ing in the early- to lateʼ60sʼ, he adds. At about 15, he helped older friends prep a drag race coupé and later made a few bucks by sweep­ing the floor at nearby speed shops.

While in high school, he be­friended a kid orig­i­nally from

Ar­gentina, Hec­tor, who opened his eyes to the world of sports cars and road rac­ing. ʻMy first mem­o­rable road rac­ing ex­pe­ri­ence was when Hec­tor ʼs dad took us to the 1966 LA Times Grand Prix at River­side Race­way, the very first CanAm at River­side – I was in loveʼ, he con­tin­ues. ʻBoth Hec­tor and I hung out at an Ital­ian auto re­pair shop, a short walk from my house. It catered to Fer­raris, Maser­atis and old Ital­ian race cars. The place had no less than three Fer­rari 250 GTO ser­vice cus­tomers.ʼ

This ap­pre­ci­a­tion for Euro­pean au­to­mo­biles led to the pur­chase of his first car, a 1954 VW Bee­tle, for $100. Then came a hopped-up ʼ59 Alfa Romeo that got him up to Mul­hol­land Drive, a fa­mous twisty road near LA de­scribed in his own words as the ʻwild and woolly westʼ. Other note­wor­thy rides fol­lowed, in­clud­ing a lively and ef­fi­cient ʼ67 Bee­tle mo­ti­vated by a 100-plus bhp en­gine, which he kept for over 18 years.

Dur­ing the ʼ70s, Chuck helped Hec­tor with his SCCA rac­ing ca­reer, first with an Alfa 1300 GTA Jr, fol­lowed by a For­mula Ford – both won their re­spec­tive re­gional cham­pi­onships. The two friendsʼ rac­ing in­volve­ment al­lowed them to wit­ness the Trans Am and Can-am rac­ers up close – think Follmer/don­ahue ʻPenske Panz­ersʼ bat­tling dur­ing the ʼ72 sea­son.

That same year, Chuck was treated to an amaz­ing ride in a friendʼs 2.0-litre ʼ69 911S. The ex­pe­ri­ence stayed with him for the next 15 years, un­til he fi­nally de­cided to sell his ʼ67 VW. It took him two years to find the right Porsche can­di­date, which fi­nally ap­peared via the lo­cal Re­cy­cler ad news­pa­per in Fe­bru­ary 1989 – a ʼ73 911S ad­ver­tised at $10,000 or best of­fer. Chuck ex­plains: ʻI called as soon as I got to work on a crappy rainy day. The guy said: “for­get Best Of­fer, the phone has been ring­ing off the hook; how­ever, no­body has come over yet.” The car was about eight miles away and I went di­rectly over. It was a blue metal­lic, match­ing num­ber ʼ73 911S non-sun­roof coupé with sports seats, tinted win­dows and lim­ited-slip dif­fer­en­tial as op­tions. It also had RS Car­rera rear fend­ers with match­ing bumpers and “S” deco to match.

10K was a lot of money for me back then so, I needed to check with my Porsche re­sources one more time. Based on my de­scrip­tion, ev­ery­one said if I did­nʼt buy it, they would!ʼ

After taking pos­ses­sion of the well-pre­served ve­hi­cle, Chuck re­alised his luck, as it came with all the own­ersʼ pam­phlets, tools and past re­pair records – and it had 86,000 miles on the odome­ter. But the first time he took the 911 up in the hills he knew so well, he al­most crashed it on the first turn. ʻDriv­ing it like I drove my old swing-axle VW hot rod was a big mis­take,ʼ he com­ments. ʻEven­tu­ally, I got the hang of driv­ing it, joined the Porsche Club of Amer­ica and Porsche Own­ers Club, lead­ing to my first POC Track Day four months after I bought the car.ʼ

So, what does it take to build an ef­fi­cient road carver that dou­bles as week­end racer? Chuck has had plenty of time to fine-tune his ʻSʼ, ex­per­i­ment­ing with var­i­ous set­ups. Take the front/rear tor­sion bars for in­stance. The ve­hi­cle re­lied on the stock 19 and 23mm bars from 1973 un­til ʼ89, be­fore he in­stalled 21s and 26s (in ad­di­tion to ad­justable SC spring plates) in 2000, fol­lowed nine years later with a sec­ond up­grade: it now fea­tures 22mm and 29mm hol­low bars, com­ple­mented with mono balls/poly-bronze con­trol arms and spring plate bush­ings. Also gone are the fac­tory 15mm front/rear sway bars, re­spec­tively re­placed with 19s, ad­justable in front and fixed aft. Koni Sport shocks have proven ef­fi­cient for street/track dual pur­pose, too.

While the rear 911S brakes with Pagid street pads re­main in place, Chuck fit­ted SC iron calipers in front, in lieu of the stock alu­minium ʻSʼ equip­ment. One of the early changes in­volved swap­ping the re­pro­duc­tion Fuchs rims with ʻthe real dealʼ, in the shape of 7Jx15s and 8Jx15s. They still look great on the car al­most three decades later, though Chuck has given var­i­ous street tyres a try over the years: Yoko­hama AVS In­ter­me­di­ates,

“DRIV­ING IT LIKE MY OLD VW HOT ROD WAS A MIS­TAKE…”

Bridge­stone Potenza S-03s and to­dayʼs Toyo RA1S, mea­sur­ing 225/50-15 on all four cor­ners. Hav­ing this rub­ber com­bined with an ag­gres­sive align­ment setup makes for a most ca­pa­ble Porsche on both road and track.

The match­ing-num­ber 2341cc flat-six has re­ceived plenty of at­ten­tion as well, with ma­jor changes taking place in 2003. Dur­ing a track day at Wil­low Springs, Chuck mis-shifted and over-revved as a con­se­quence. The mo­tor still ran ac­cept­ably well af­ter­wards be­sides a puls­ing idle, although Chuck felt he should en­trust Richard Dick for a full re­build – the coupé had cov­ered 165,000 miles by then. It in­volved in­stalling 2.7 90mm Mahle cylin­ders/pis­tons, set for com­pres­sion ra­tio of 9.5:1, along with We­b­cam 120/104 mod­i­fied S camshafts.

Richard ad­di­tion­ally used a stock bal­anced/mi­cro-pol­ished crank­shaft, fac­tory heads with ex­ten­sive in­take port pro­fil­ing, plus an orig­i­nal 2.4S dis­trib­u­tor with points and 7300rpm cut­off. Re­built MFI (Me­chan­i­cal Fuel-in­jec­tion) throt­tle bod­ies and pump with RS space cams sup­ply the right amount of fuel/air, while the oil­ing sys­tem re­lies on an SC pump and a ʼ72 ex­ter­nal cooler, fea­tur­ing a small ra­di­a­tor, late model hard lines and ther­mo­stat. No­tice the stock ex­haust, now Jet-

coated, which Chuck fit­ted all the way back in ʼ89. Ponies travel through the match­ing-num­ber gear­box re­built by Richard Dick in 2003. It utilises the stock op­tional ZF 40 per cent lim­ited slip, although Aase Mo­tors lov­ingly re­stored it.

A fender ben­der that took place in late 1989 led to the car ʼs body be­ing re­done, with the en­gine and sus­pen­sion still in place. Chuck de­cided to re­spray the shell in the orig­i­nal 334-code Metal­lic Blue, re­tain­ing the RS flares and rear bumper put on in 1973 by the late Dan Mclaugh­lin of AIR, for the then-new owner. In 1996, the coupé adopted a ʼ73 RS duck­tail, which re­mained in place for two decades, un­til Chuck opted to get the fac­tory en­gine lid out from his garage rafters and re­in­stall it. Along the way, he re­placed the ʼ73spe­cific rear rub­ber bumperettes with their small Euro­pean chrome and rub­ber equiv­a­lents.

The 1989 mishap also in­cited Chuck to re­store the head­liner and dash, not for­get­ting the op­tional Re­caro seats re­uphol­stered with Bri­tish leather. Sev­eral good­ies un­der­line the ve­hi­cleʼs sports pur­pose, in­clud­ing the Nardi black leather steer­ing wheel with bead-blasted spokes, the Rennshift shifter with stock knob and Deist four-point belts. One of the lat­est ad­di­tions is a TRE pe­riod-style roll bar, in­stalled be­cause of a Porsche Own­ers Clubʼs race re­clas­si­fi­ca­tion.

The blue 911S has cov­ered 250,000 miles from the time it left the fac­tory, while the 2.7-litre mo­tor re­mains strong after its re­build in 2003, 80,000 miles hav­ing been recorded since. Be­sides be­ing heav­ily in­volved with the Early 911S Registry, Chuck ad­di­tion­ally joined the Rgruppe shortly after its in­cep­tion, at­tend­ing ev­ery Tr­ef­fen (and Tr­ef­fen Sports Pur­pose track day) or­gan­ised by the group. ʻIʼve been try­ing to track the car at least once a year, ev­ery year Iʼve owned it, even­tu­ally ac­cu­mu­lat­ing 12 First in Class awards,ʼ he adds. ʻMean­while, Iʼve been driv­ing the car to Mon­terey al­most ev­ery Au­gust since ʼ89. I have also par­tic­i­pated in the old Iron Bot­tom Ral­lies, the Targa Cal­i­for­nia, two Mon­terey Rennsport Re­unions and many other So-cal gath­er­ings.ʼ

As own­ers of vin­tage Porsches are be­com­ing in­creas­ingly re­luc­tant to use their rides due to their in­creas­ing val­ues, Chuckʼs ex­am­ple should in­spire many of us, as he hap­pily con­tin­ues to en­joy his old coupé, av­er­ag­ing 6000 hard miles per year for al­most three decades. His 911S is a true driver – and he sees no other way around it. CP

Be­low: Out on the track is where Chuck likes to be, push­ing his hard-used 911S to its limit. It’s about as far from be­ing a trailer queen as it’s pos­si­ble to get!

Above: Rear RS flares were in­stalled back in 1973 for the orig­i­nal owner. The car used to sport an RS duck­tail, too, which Chuck chose to re­move a cou­ple of years ago in favour of a stock lid

Be­low left: The four men be­hind the Early 911S Registry, from left to right, Michael Ham­mond, Fred True­man, Chuck Miller and John Dil­ger

Be­low right: Chuck’s Registry badge – note the date…

Be­low: Built by Richard Dick, the en­gine runs We­b­cam mod­i­fied ‘S’ cams and 90mm (2.7) Mahle cylin­ders and pis­tons, all fed by fac­tory MFI with mod­i­fied space cams

Above left and right: Well­worn sports seats hint at the his­tory of this car. Steer­ing wheel is a Nardi, shifter is a Rennshift item. Rear cage and folded Deist har­nesses a hint at the car’s week­end use

Above: Euro­pean over­rid­ers (or ‘bumperettes’) re­place the larger orig­i­nal Us-spec items pre­vi­ously fit­ted

Be­low: There’s no doubt­ing where Chuck’s al­le­giances lie – he con­tin­ues to be an ac­tive member of both the Early 911S Registry and the famed R Gruppe

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