Ken Miles

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Ken Miles
Ken Miles
Personal details
Kenneth Henry Jarvis Miles

(1918-11-01)1 November 1918
Sutton Coldfield, Warwickshire, England
Died17 August 1966(1966-08-17) (aged 47)
Riverside International Raceway, California, U.S.
Resting placeHollywood Forever, Hollywood, California, U.S.
CitizenshipUnited Kingdom
Military service
AllegianceUnited Kingdom
Branch/service British Army
Years of service1939–1946
RankStaff sergeant
Battles/warsWorld War II
Ken Miles stepping into Dolphin Mk.2, March 1961.

Kenneth Henry Jarvis Miles (1 November 1918 – 17 August 1966) was an English sports car racing engineer and driver best known for his motorsport career in the U.S. and with American teams on the international scene. He is an inductee to the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America. As an automotive engineer, he is known for developing the Ford GT40 along with driver and designer Carroll Shelby, which won at Le Mans in 1966, 1967, 1968 and 1969. His and Shelby's efforts at Le Mans were dramatized in the 2019 Oscar-winning film Ford v Ferrari.

Early life

Miles was born on 1 November 1918 in Sutton Coldfield, then in Warwickshire, now in the city of Birmingham.[1] He was the son of Eric Miles and Clarice Jarvis.[2] After a failed attempt to run away to the United States,[3] Miles left school at the age of 15 to work as an apprentice at Wolseley Motors,[2] who sent him to a technical school to broaden his knowledge of vehicle construction.[3] He raced motorcycles before joining the British Army, during World War II.[2]

Miles' first role in the military was driving instructor in the Territorial Army.[4] On 1 October 1942, as an armament artificer, he was among the founding members of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME), and transferred to the REME Training Establishment.[4] The following year Miles was posted to Guards Armoured Division Workshops, followed by the 29th Armoured Brigade Workshop.[4] He landed in Normandy on 15 June 1944, and later that year was posted to the Light Aid Detachment of the 15th/19th King’s Royal Hussars.[4] Miles served in North West Europe until the end of the war,[1][2] by which time he had achieved the rank of staff sergeant.[1][2] He served as a tank commander, and the experience is said to have fuelled a new love in Miles for high-performance engineering. He was discharged to the reserves on 1 April 1946.[4]

Racing career

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

In 1952, Miles moved from England to the U.S. and settled in Los Angeles, California as a service manager for Gough Industries, the Southern California MG distributor.[5][6][7] 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 an 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 John von Neumann's Porsche 550 Spyder at most of the Cal Club and SCCA events.[8]

For the 1957 season (in co-operation with Otto Zipper), Miles 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, Washington. The resulting car dominated the F Modified class of SCCA on the west coast in the 1957 and 1958 seasons with Miles driving.

Due to his great skill and talent, both as a driver and mechanical engineer, Miles was a significant member of the Shelby/Cobra race team in the early 1960s. Miles described himself this way:[9]

I am a mechanic. That has been the direction of my entire vocational life. Driving is a hobby, a relaxation for me, like golfing is to others. I should like to drive a Formula One machine, not for the grand prize, but just to see what it is like. I should think it would be jolly good fun!

With a very pronounced Brummie accent (from his hometown of Birmingham, renowned for car manufacturing) combined with a seemingly obscure and sardonic sense of humour, 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). He played a major role in the development and success of the racing versions of the Shelby Cobra 289 in SCCA, USRRC and FIA sports car racing between 1962 and 1965 as well as the Daytona Coupe and 427 versions of the Cobra and the Ford GT (GT40).

He became the chief test driver of Shelby-American in 1963.[7]

Miles had a "reputation for courtesy on the track" and was sometimes called the "Stirling Moss of the West Coast".[10] While a member of the AC-Cobra Ford Team, Miles entered a Lotus 23 in the 1964 Player's 200 at Mosport.

GT40 Mk II rear

In 1965, he shared a Ford GT Mk II with Bruce McLaren at the 24 Hours of Le Mans but retired with gearbox trouble. Earlier in the year, also with McLaren, he had finished second at the 12 Hours of Sebring.

The next year he won the 24 Hours of Daytona, sharing the Ford GT Mk II with Lloyd Ruby, and then won the 12 Hours of Sebring. Several months later, sharing the drive with Denny Hulme, Miles was leading the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans in the #1 car, but Ford Motor Company executive Leo Beebe, desiring a publicity photo of three of Ford's cars crossing the finish line together, instructed Miles to slow down, which he did. Accordingly, on the final lap the next car from Ford driven by Bruce McLaren/Chris Amon and the third-place car from Ford drew up, and they cruised to the line together.[11] The French race officials, after initially agreeing to Ford's dead-heat "photo-finish", reneged during the final hour of the race. Miles's #1 car and McLaren's #2 car crossed the finish line almost at the same time, with photos showing McLaren's #2 as slightly ahead when crossing the line.[12] Additionally, McLaren's #2 started in second position behind Miles's car and had therefore covered 8 meters more distance during the race.[13][14] Regardless of the reason, McLaren's #2 was declared the winner with Miles denied the unique achievement of winning Sebring, Daytona, and Le Mans in the same year.


1967 Ford GT40 Mk IV, which was developed from the J-car. This particular car, J-4, won the 1967 12 Hours of Sebring

The Ford J-car was intended to be the successor to the Ford GT40 Mk II and, despite reliability problems, showed potential in the springtime Le Mans trials. After the death of Walt Hansgen in a J-car while testing at Le Mans in April, Ford decided to shelve the J-car and focus on the proven Mk IIs. Little development was done for the rest of the 1966 World Sports Car Championship season. In August 1966, Shelby American resumed testing and development work with Miles as primary test driver. The J-car featured a breadvan-shaped rear section experimenting with Kammback aerodynamic theories, and a honeycomb panel design supposed to both lighten and stiffen the car, but the design was unproven with high-speed prototype sports cars.

After almost a day of testing at Riverside International Raceway in the very hot Southern California desert, Miles approached the end of the track's one-mile (1.6 km) downhill back straight at top speed—over 200 miles per hour (320 km/h)—when the car suddenly flipped, crashed, and caught fire. The car broke into pieces and ejected Miles, killing him instantly.[15][16][17][18]

After the crash, the aerodynamics of the J-car were greatly modified to correct the rear-end lift generated at race speeds. Years later Porsche and others had the same problem, as the long low silhouette of a Kammback tailed car behaves like an aerofoil aircraft wing and lifts at high speed. Ford executives, under pressure after the second fatal accident in the program in five months, ordered a roll cage similar to those used in NASCAR Grand National competition, be installed in future versions of the car.[19] The significantly revised J-car, renamed the Ford Mk IV, won the only two races in which it was entered: the 1967 Sebring 12 Hours, and the 1967 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Miles is interred at the Abbey of the Psalms Mausoleum of the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Hollywood, California.

Awards and honours

Miles was posthumously inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 2001.[20] He was inducted in the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame in 2020.

Racing record

USAC Road Racing Championship results

Season Series Position Team Car
1961 USAC Road Racing Championship[21] 1st Crandall Industries Incorporated Porsche 718 RS 61

NASCAR Grand National Series results

Season Date Event Location Team No Car Laps Pos.
1963 November, 3, 1963 Golden State 400 Riverside International Raceway Holman-Moody Racing 281 Ford Galaxie 139 11th

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

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
United Kingdom MG Cars Ltd. United Kingdom John Lockett 249 12th 5th
1965 P+5.0 1 G Ford GT Mk II
Ford 427 V8/90° OHV 6981cc
United States Shelby American Inc. New Zealand Bruce McLaren 45 DNF
1966 P+5.0 1 G Ford GT Mk II
Ford 427 V8/90° OHV 6982cc
United States Shelby American Inc. New Zealand Denny Hulme 360 2nd 2nd

24 Hours of Daytona results

Year Class No Tyres Car Team Co-Drivers Laps Pos. Class
1966 P+2.0 98 G Ford GT Mk II
Ford 427 V8/90° OHV 7000cc
United States Shelby American Inc. United States Lloyd Ruby 678 1st 1st[25]

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
United States J. Kunstle United States Jean Pierre Kunstle 184 9th 2nd
1958 S1.5 45 Porsche 550 RS
Porsche F4 2v DOHC 1498cc
United States Jean Pierre Kunstle United States Jean Pierre Kunstle 59 DNF
1959 S1.5 35 Porsche 718 RSK
Porsche 1498cc
United States Precision Motors United States Jack McAfee 173 8th 3rd
1962 GT1.6 42 Sunbeam Alpine
Sunbeam L4 1592cc
United Kingdom Rootes Group United States Lew Spencer 25 DNF
1963 GT+4.0 12 G AC Cobra
Ford V8/90° 2v OHV 4727cc
United States Ed Hugus United States Phil Hill
United States Lew Spencer
192 11th 1st
GT+4.0 16 G AC Cobra
Ford V8/90° 2v OHV 4727cc
United States Shelby American Inc. United States Lew Spencer
United States Dave MacDonald
United States Fireball Roberts
56 DNF
Steering Arm
1964 P3+0 1 G AC Cobra
Ford V8/90° 2v OHV 7000cc
United States Shelby American Inc. United States John Morton 81 DNF
Blown Engine
1965 P+5.0 98 G Ford GT40
Ford 289 V8/90° 2v OHV 4727cc
United States Shelby American Inc. New Zealand Bruce McLaren 192 2nd 1st
1966 P+5.0 1 G Ford GT40
Ford A V8 OHV 7040cc
United States Shelby American Inc. United States Lloyd Ruby 228 1st 1st

Personal life

Ken Miles was married to Mollie and had a son, Peter Miles (born September 28, 1950). He was also a close friend of Carroll Shelby. Peter was almost 16 when he witnessed his father's death[26] in the prototype J-car crash in 1966. A few months after Ken's death, Peter went to work for Ken's friend Dick Troutman at the Troutman and Barnes custom car shop in Culver City, California. Peter stayed at the workshop for four years. In 1986, Peter joined Precision Performance Inc. (PPI), the Cal Wells-owned Toyota off-road racing operation starting as a fabricator and then a mechanic before becoming the crew chief. Peter was the crew chief for Ivan Stewart when Stewart won the 1991 Nissan 400 in Nevada.[27] In a 2019 interview, Peter said that the last time he went to Le Mans was in 1965 with his father Ken, and he has not returned since.[28]

In popular culture

Miles is portrayed by Christian Bale in the 2019 film Ford v Ferrari (released under the title Le Mans '66 in some parts of Europe).[29] Miles' wife Mollie and his son Peter are portrayed by Caitriona Balfe and Noah Jupe, respectively.[30][31]


  1. ^ a b c Crow, James T. (14 November 2019). "Ken Miles: An Appreciation". Road & Track. Retrieved 18 November 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Ken Miles: Biography". Motor Sport. Retrieved 18 November 2019.
  3. ^ a b Drummond, Meghan (15 November 2019). "Who Was Ken Miles". CJ Pony Parts. Archived from the original on 28 November 2019. Retrieved 18 November 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d e "REME History: Ken Miles, Engineer and Driver". REME Museum. 4 November 2020.
  5. ^ Crow, James T. (14 November 2019). "Ken Miles Was an Unsung Racing Hero". Road & Track. Retrieved 3 January 2020.
  6. ^ Palmer, Gayle (18 August 1966). "Famed Race Driver Ken Miles Dies in Flaming Crash at Riverside". News-Pilot. San Pedro, California. p. 3 – via
  7. ^ a b "Miles, Veteran Race Car Driver, Dies in Crash". The Herald-News. Passaic, New Jersey. Associated Press. 18 August 1966. p. 39 – via
  8. ^ Raskin, Lee (2005). James Dean: At Speed. Phoenix, AZ: David Bull. p. 70. ISBN 978-1-893618497.
  9. ^ Baime, A. J. (2010). Go Like Hell: Ford, Ferrari, and Their Battle for Speed and Glory at Le Mans. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. p. 214. ISBN 9780547416564.
  10. ^ Canadian Racing Drivers Association (1964). "Biographical Sketches of Drivers". Player's 200 Media Kit.
  11. ^ "McLaren, Amon Win at LeMans". Hartford Courant. Hartford, Connecticut. Associated Press. 20 June 1966. p. 21 – via
  12. ^ Jenkinson, Denis (July 1966). "1966 Le Mans 24 Hours race report: Ford takes first win". Motor Sport. Vol. XLII, no. 7. pp. 18–19.
  13. ^ Clarke, R.M., ed. (1997). Le Mans: The Ford and Matra Years 1966–1974. Cobham, Surrey: Brooklands Books. p. 13. ISBN 1-85520-373-1.
  14. ^ Bell, Kirk (20 June 2016). "Watch the story of the controversy behind the Ford GT40's photo finish at Le Mans in 1966". Motor Authority. Retrieved 2 September 2016.
  15. ^ "Crash kills ace driver Ken Miles". St. Petersburg Times. Florida. UPI. 18 August 1966. p. 1C.
  16. ^ "Miles dies in crash". Daytona Beach Morning Journal. Florida. Associated Press. 18 August 1966. p. 25.
  17. ^ "Car racer is killed". The Bulletin. Bend, Oregon. UPI. 18 August 1966. p. 7.
  18. ^ "Star race driver is killed". Lodi News-Sentinel. California. UPI. 18 August 1966. p. 14.
  19. ^ "1967 Ford GT40 MK IV J-7". Shelby American Collection. Archived from the original on 23 September 2020.
  20. ^ "Ken Miles". Motorsports Hall of Fame of America.
  21. ^ "USAC Road Racing Championship – Championships". Racing Sports Cars. Retrieved 18 April 2014.
  22. ^ "Ken Miles: Grands Prix not started". Stats F1. Retrieved 18 November 2019.
  23. ^ a b c "Complete Archive of Ken Miles". Racing Sports Cars. pp. 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9. Retrieved 18 November 2019.
  24. ^ "1966: Ford's first wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the 12 Hours of Sebring". 24H LeMans. 16 March 2013.
  25. ^ "Fords Take Top 3 Places at Daytona; Andretti's Ferrari Winds up Fourth". The Morning Call. Allentown, Pennsylvania. Associated Press. p. 18 – via
  26. ^ Rowles, Dustin (16 November 2019). "'Ford v. Ferrari': What Happened to Ken Miles' Son, Peter?". Pajiba. Retrieved 25 November 2019.
  27. ^ "MOTOR RACING : Miles Has Taken His Own Route to Father's Sport". Los Angeles Times. 6 June 1991. Retrieved 16 November 2019.
  28. ^ ""Le Mans 66" ("Ford v Ferrari") – Peter Miles talks about his father, Ken Miles". Retrieved 16 November 2019.
  29. ^ "James Mangold to Direct Ford vs. Ferrari Film as 'Logan' Follow-Up". Variety. 5 February 2018. Retrieved 5 February 2018.
  30. ^ "'Outlander' Star Caitriona Balfe, 'Quiet Place' Breakout Noah Jupe Join Ford vs. Ferrari Movie". Hollywood Reporter. 23 May 2018. Retrieved 23 May 2018.
  31. ^ "'Ford v. Ferrari' Trailer: Matt Damon, Christian Bale Team Up to Design Race Car". Hollywood Reporter. 2 June 2019. Retrieved 3 June 2019.

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