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Ken Miles

Ken Miles
Ken Miles stepping into
Dolphin Mk 2., March 1961.
Nationality British
Born (1918-11-01)1 November 1918
Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham, England, UK
Died 17 August 1966(1966-08-17) (aged 47)
Riverside International Raceway, California, USA

Kenneth Henry Miles (born 1 November 1918 in Sutton Coldfield near Birmingham, England; died 17 August 1966 in Riverside, California, United States) was a sports car racing engineer and driver best known for his career in the USA and with American teams on the international scene.


  • Career 1
  • Test driver/car developer 2
  • Death 3
  • Award 4
  • Racing record 5
    • Career highlights 5.1
    • Complete Formula One World Championship results 5.2
    • Complete 24 Hours of Le Mans results 5.3
    • Complete 24 Hours of Daytona results 5.4
    • Complete 12 Hours of Sebring results 5.5
  • References 6


Miles raced motorcycles before he served as a tank sergeant in the British Army in World War II.

After the war he raced Bugattis, Alfa Romeos and Alvises with the Vintage Sports Car Club. He then turned to a Ford V8 Frazer-Nash.

Ken then moved from England to the Los Angeles, California area. In 1953 he won 14 straight victories in SCCA racing in an MG-based special of his own design and construction.

For the 1955 season, he designed, constructed and campaigned a second special based on MG components that was known as the "Flying Shingle". It was very successful in the SCCA F modified class on the west coast. Miles raced the "Flying Shingle" at Palm Springs in late March, finishing first overall against veteran driver Cy Yedor, also in a MG Special, and novice driver, actor James Dean in a Porsche 356 Speedster. Miles was later disqualified on a technical infraction because his fenders were too wide, thus allowing Yedor and Dean to get 'bumped up' to first and second. During 1956, Miles raced Johnny von Neumann's Porsche 550 Spyder at most of the Cal Club and SCCA events.[1]

For the 1957 season (in cooperation with Otto Zipper), Ken engineered the installation of a Porsche 550S engine and transmission in a 1956 Cooper chassis and body. It was the second successful race car to be known on the West Coast as "the Pooper", the first being an early 1950s Cooper chassis and body powered by a Porsche 356 power train that was built and campaigned by Pete Lovely of Tacoma, WA. The resulting car dominated the F Modified class of SCCA on the west coast in the 1957 and 1958 seasons with Miles driving.

Because of his great skill and talent both as a driver and as a mechanic and engineer, Miles was a key member of the Shelby/Cobra race team in the early 1960s. He was affectionately known by his American racing crew as "Teddy Teabag" (for his tea drinking) or "Sidebite" (as he talked out of the side of his mouth.)

GT40 Mk II front. Miles's car that won the 1966 24 Hours of Daytona, giving Ford its first victory in a 24-hour race. (Serial Number GT-40 P 1015 Mk. II)
GT40 Mk II rear

In 1966 he won the 24 Hours of Daytona (pictured) with Lloyd Ruby, and the 12 Hours of Sebring in the Ford GT Mk.II. Miles was leading at the end of the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans, when Ford management, desiring a publicity photo of the three Mk.IIs crossing the finish line together, ordered him to slow down to cross the line together with the second place car, driven by Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon. However, the scoring system at Le Mans takes into account the differing distances covered by the cars due to differing positions on the starting grid, and so the McLaren-Amon car, having started further back, would, in the event of a dead-heat, have been the official winner. Bitter at this perceived slight by his employers, after his considerable commitment to the Ford racing programme, Miles issued a form of protest by slowing to allow McLaren ahead to win. Miles was thus denied the unique achievement of winning Sebring, Daytona, and Le Mans in the same year.

Test driver/car developer

His early career got Carroll Shelby's attention, who hired Miles as a test driver in the early 1960s. Miles helped Shelby develop the Shelby Cobra. He also is credited with helping Shelby develop the GT40 and the Mustang GT350.


The Ford J-car was intended to be the successor to the all-conquering Ford GT Mk.II and, despite reliability problems, showed potential in the springtime Le Mans trials. The dark spot that came of the springtime trials was the death of Walt Hansgen in a Mk.II. Ford management made the decision to shelve the J-car and focus on the proven Mk IIs, and little development was done for the rest of the 1966 World Sports Car Championship season. Finally, in August 1966, Shelby American resumed testing and development work with Miles serving as primary test driver. The J-car featured a breadvan-shaped rear section that experimented with Kammback aerodynamic theories, as well as a revolutionary (but untested) honeycomb panel design that was supposed to both lighten and stiffen the car, but the design remained unproven with high-speed prototype sports cars.

After most of a day of testing at Riverside International Raceway in the brutally hot Southern California desert summer weather, Miles approached the end of the track's 1-mile (1.6 km), downhill back straight at top speed (200-plus mph) when the car suddenly looped, flipped, crashed and caught fire. The car broke into pieces and ejected Miles, killing him instantly. The car had suffered precisely the sort of crash damage the honeycomb construction was designed to prevent. As a result, the aerodynamics of the J-car were heavily modified to correct the rear-end lift generated at race speeds. Ford officials, under pressure after the second of two fatal accidents in the programme in five months, also ordered a NASCAR-style steel tube rollover cage to be installed in future versions of the car. The significantly revised car, renamed the Ford Mk IV, won the only two races in which it was entered: the 1967 Sebring (Fla.) 12 Hours, and the 1967 24 Hours of Le Mans. The steel roll cage in the Mk IV (mandated as a direct result of Miles's death) probably saved the life of Mario Andretti, who crashed violently during the 1967 24 Hours of Le Mans but escaped with minor injuries.


Racing record

Career highlights

Season Series Position Team Car
1961 USAC Road Racing Championship[3][4] 1st Crandall Industries Incorporated Porsche 718 RS 61

Complete Formula One World Championship results


Year Entrant Chassis Engine 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 WDC Points
1961 Louise Bryden-Brown Lotus 18 Climax Straight-4 MON NED BEL FRA GBR GER ITA USA
NC 0

Complete 24 Hours of Le Mans results

Year Class No Tyres Car Team Co-Drivers Laps Pos. Class
1955 S1.5 41 MG EX182
MG L4 1489cc
MG Cars Ltd. John Lockett 249 12th 5th
1965 P+5.0 1 G Ford Mk II
Ford 427 V8/90° OHV 6981cc
Shelby American Inc. Bruce McLaren 45 DNF
1966 P+2.0 1 G Ford Mk II
Ford 427 V8/90° OHV 6982cc
Shelby American Inc. Denny Hulme 360 2nd

Complete 24 Hours of Daytona results

Year Class No Tyres Car Team Co-Drivers Laps Pos. Class
1966 P+2.0 98 G Ford Mk II
Ford 427 V8/90° OHV 7000cc
Shelby American Inc. Lloyd Ruby 678 1st

Complete 12 Hours of Sebring results

Year Class No Tyres Car Team Co-Drivers Laps Pos. Class
1957 S1.5 45 Porsche 550 RS
Porsche F4 2v DOHC 1498cc
J. Kunstle Jean Pierre Kunstle 184 9th 2nd
1958 S1.5 45 Porsche 550 RS
Porsche F4 2v DOHC 1498cc
Jean Pierre Kunstle Jean Pierre Kunstle 59 DNF
1959 S1.5 35 Porsche 718 RSK
Porsche 1498cc
Precision Motors Jack McAfee 173 8th 3rd
1962 GT1.6 42 Sunbeam Alpine
Sunbeam L4 1592cc
Rootes Group Lew Spencer 25 DNF
1963 GT+4.0 12 G Shelby Cobra roadster
Ford V8/90° 2v OHV 4727cc
Ed Hugus Phil Hill
Lew Spencer
192 11th 1st
GT+4.0 16 G AC Cobra
Ford V8/90° 2v OHV 4727cc
Shelby American Inc. Lew Spencer
Dave MacDonald
Fireball Roberts
56 DNF
Steering Arm
1964 P3+0 1 G AC Cobra
Ford V8/90° 2v OHV 7000cc
Shelby American Corp. John Morton 81 DNF
Blow Engine
1965 P+5.0 98 G Ford GT40
Ford 289 V8/90° 2v UHV 4727cc
Al Dowd Bruce McLaren 192 2nd 1st
1966 P+5.0 1 G Ford GT-X1
Ford A V8 OHV 7040cc
Shelby American Inc. Lloyd Ruby 228 1st


  1. ^ Raskin, Lee (2005). James Dean: At Speed. Phoenix, Ariz.: David Bull. p. 70.  
  2. ^ Biography at the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America
  3. ^ "SPAM protection / Ochrana proti SPAMu". Retrieved 2014-04-18. 
  4. ^ "USAC Road Racing Championship - Championships". Racing Sports Cars. Retrieved 2014-04-18. 
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