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