KEN MILES – Everything You Need to Know | Up to Speed


(engine whirs) – Whoop, come on. – He’s the man with the plan
from the land of Britain, a race car driver with
a never quit attitude. He took on Ferrari in one of the most
famous races of all time, a war hero that survived
the beaches of Normandy in World War II, a smart mouth wrencher with skills like no other on the track. He’s the unsung hero of Ford’s championship-winning Le Mans team. This is everything you need
to know to get up to speed on Teddy Teabag, Mister Sidebite himself, Ken Miles! (upbeat music) Guys, I wanna send a huge
thanks to Ford versus Ferrari for sponsoring this very
special episode of Up to Speed. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, you really, really have to. It’s a must see for Donut fans. The story of Ford versus Ferrari is one of the best ever in cars. I mean, we’re practically
obsessed with it. We did a four-part series on our podcast, which is like almost five hours long. We’ve done two episodes
of Up to Speed on it. And while most people probably know who Carroll Shelby is by now, and probably know who Henry
Ford is by now, or Enzo Ferrari, it’s a shame that a lot of people probably don’t know who Ken Miles, one of the baddest dudes
in the history of cars, is. The first three minutes of this movie are some of the most
exciting three minutes that I’ve ever seen in a movie. The way they shot the
racing was mostly practical. A lot of the guys’ sons,
including Ken’s son, drove in the film. So please, do yourself a favor. Get Ford versus Ferrari on digital now and Blu-ray, February 11. I’m so stoked that studios
make movies like this. And the only way that
they’re gonna keep making movies like this, movies
for us, is if we watch them. Kenneth Henry Miles was
born on November 1st, 1918 in the Royal town of
Sutton Coldfield, England. The son of Eric Miles and Clarice Jarvis, Ken was such a badass he
didn’t even need a hospital to be freakin’ born in. He was birthed in the living room of his grandfather’s house. And continuing this life of being shweet, when he was 11, he begged
his buddy to let him ride his 350cc Triumph Trials bike. Why was an 11-year-old hanging out with a guy who owned a motorcycle? Now the Triumph gave him the rush of going fast on the pavement and also taught him what
happens when you crash, because on his way home one
night, he hit a pile of stones left behind by some road menders and wrapped his buddy’s
Triumph around a light pole, breaking his 11-year-old nose and knocking out three of his teeth. Why is this 11-year-old
riding a motorcycle at night? And by time he was 15, he had
purchased an Austin 7 saloon that he converted into a special. That means he built it into
a two-seater Sportster. He was too young to go
race his newly beloved car, but that didn’t stop him from
asking his then girlfriend and future wife, Molly to paint the car in British racing green. While Miles had a knack for working on all things mechanical, he struggled in school. After a thwarted attempt
to run away to America, the 16-year-old dropped out of school to take an apprenticeship
at Wolseley Motors. Now I’ve barely even heard of Wolseley, but apparently, they used to be one of the largest
manufacturers in England. Miles started his apprenticeship in 1934, and his first position was sweeping floors. But over time, he moved up the ladder, from a fabricator to the assembly line. During that time, he drove
back and forth to work on a Velocette motorcycle. Fun fact, Velocette was a small
British family-owned outfit that still holds a record
with their single-cylinder Venom motorcycle for running 24 hours at an average pace of
100.5 miles per hour. Can you freaking, can you imagine that? And Miles rode it like a race bike. He ended up having to sell
his beloved two-wheeler after getting his license
suspended for speeding. Well, he was speeding, and
then he flipped off a cop. On the heels of completing
his apprenticeship, just eight weeks later,
World War II broke out and Miles was shipped off to war like many young men of his generation. Just like at Wolseley, he started his army career at the bottom. He first worked in an anti-aircraft unit before being transferred
into a training regiment where he taught soldiers
how to drive army vehicles. He was then transferred
into the Royal Corps of Electrical and Mechanical Engineering. Unlike his primary school days, he excelled in the engineering courses and graduated with the
highest marks in his class, freakin’ valedictorian of his army. His ability to understand
all things mechanical and ability to work on them
led him to being placed in a tank reconnaissance
and recovery unit. Not only did he operate and
repair busted British tanks. He stormed the beaches of
Normandy in a tank on D-Day. After the war, Miles retired from the army as a staff sergeant, went
back to Wolseley Motors as a toolmaker, and more
importantly, started race– (door opens) He started racin’. The car that brought him the
most success on his home soil was a Frazer Nash equipped
with a supercharged Mercury V8. Hell’s bells, baby. The combination of a lightweight,
all alloy British coupe with a high horsepower American engine made it a great race car. In his first race at Silverstone, he placed second in
the over 3,000cc class. It was only one month later that Miles got his first taste of victory in the Prescott Hill Climb. While working with a friend
building 500cc race cars, Miles was offered a job
as a service manager for Go Industries in Southern California. Go was the main distributor for MG and Morris cars in the western US. Their general manager had previously worked with Miles in England and knew that his skill
at working on British cars made him the perfect person for the job. So Miles accepted the position and moved his family
out to the Golden State. Hmm. Every time I drive down PCH, I’m a little bit proud of myself. Within four months of
moving to California, Ken started racing stateside. His first outing was at Pebble Beach in a Go-supplied MG TD Midget. He took the bone stock MG
to a ninth-place finish, a feat that Road and Track
magazine dubbed remarkable. In his off time, Miles chased perfection by working on his own custom MG, the R1. The R1 was designed by Miles,
and apart from the engine, was built using stock MG and Morris parts. The hand-rolled, all aluminum body and a custom 1,500cc engine
putting out 83 hrsprs made the car quite zippy for the time. With Miles behind the
wheel, the R1 went on to win every single race they entered
that year, 10 races in all. That’s a lot of winning. Miles sold the car to Sy
Yader and went to work on his new creation, aptly
named the R2 Shingle. Now, the Shingle was similar to the R1 but with changes to the
chassis design, ride height, and even the angle at which
the engine was mounted, all things Ken engineered
to help make the car fast. The envelope body with flared fenders that went over the front and rear wheels made the R2 unmistakable on the track. To promote the MG brand, the front had an MG style
grille and headlights. It’s kinda like NASCAR today. It’s like not actually a Ford
Mustang or a Toyota Supra, but it’s got the badges
and the headlights. Early in the R2’s career, Miles
won a race in Palm Springs only to be disqualified
for having wide fenders. So he fixed the fenders in the pits and won the consolation
race later in the day. The day after, he raced
it in the under 1,500cc main event again and beat none other than the rebel without a
cause himself, James Dean. Ken’s time with Go ended
after a disagreement, so he went to work with John von Neumann, racing Porsche Spiders. Just north of San Diego was
the Torrey Pines racetrack that was about to be
turned into a golf course, which is lame. Race cars rule. Golf carts sorta rule. The track was having one last
race before construction began and Miles entered with his new Porsche. In his first time in the German
steed, he flipped the car. Luckily for him, von Neumann
was a Porsche distributor, so he was able to get
him another 550 to drive. Smart move on Neumann’s part because during Sunday’s main event, 35,000 spectators watched Miles pilot the German sports car to win. The closest car was 16 seconds behind it. But in those days, the top
three in the under 1,500 class were invited to race in the over 1,500cc modified main class. As the winner of Sunday semi main, Miles finished third in the big boy class from the back of the pack,
showing that he can race with the best of them. The dude would race for an hour, win, take a quick breather to work on his car, then go race for another hour
against a new set of racers with faster cars and still podium? Are you freakin’ kidding me? I recorded a podcast this
morning and I’m exhausted. Ken drove a Bobtail Cooper
with a Porsche engine soon after racing Porsche Spiders. A Cooper with a Porsche engine at the time was called a Pooper, obviously,
because it pooped out wins. The Pooper with Miles behind the wheel dominated SCCA’s West Coast
F class races in ’57 and ’58. But because Miles was racing
a special for von Neumann, who was a major distributor
of Porsches in the western US, the Porsche boys in Germany
had a beef with him. They didn’t like that a Porsche dealer was sponsoring a driver who beat factory-built
Porsches with a Cooper chassis even if it did have a
Porsche motor under the hood. And quite frankly, I see
where they’re coming from. So he left the von Neumann camp to race for Bob Estes and Otto Zipper. Names back in the ’50s
totally freakin’ slapped. James Pumphrey. (blows raspberry) Otto Zipper. (blows raspberry) Zipper bought a Porsche RS
Spider off of von Neumann as a package deal with the
race car he also got Miles. From ’58 to ’63, Miles won 38
out of the 44 races he entered in his number 50 Porsche. The ’60s came around and Miles started his
own business adventure, opening up his own tuning
shop in North Hollywood called Ken Miles Limited. Now, he was an amazing mechanic, and he’s obviously an
amazing race car driver. But unfortunately, he wasn’t
a very good businessman. And after moving the
shop around three times, the IRS caught up with mister
MG and locked the doors. (laid back band music) When you don’t pay your taxes, the IRS finds you and
they take your stuff. Luckily for him, all that
winning he did in the SCCA had already caught the
attention of one dude by the name of– – My name is Carroll Shelby,
and performance is my business. – So a little side note here. Miles was known to be outspoken
and a bit temperamental. I can relate. And he was once banned from
the SCCA for six months for discourteous and
unsportsmanlike conduct. I think that the guy just marched to the beat of his own drum, and all these freaking
jerkos couldn’t handle it. But whatever he did
impressed Shelby enough to hire him as a competition manager. And before he joined the Shelby outfit, the Cobras were not very successful. While he was never hired to be a driver, Carroll Shelby could not ignore the fact that Miles was the best
driver on his team. Miles knew how to make the cars better. He knew how to do it himself. He was like Zach Jobe. Only a year after being
hired as competition manager, Miles became the chief test
driver for Shelby American. As Carroll Shelby describes it, Miles was the heart and
soul of the testing program. Miles helped turn the Cobra into the legend that it is today. (engine whirs) He achieved a cult-like status
in the SoCal racing scene as one of the most prolific
private racers of the time, keyword, private. Regardless of the amount
of talent that he had, he was never chosen by a factory
outfit to do their racing until the Ford GT came around. In 1965, Shelby was tasked
with the responsibility of building the GT 40 for Ford
to beat Ferrari at Le Mans. Two years orlier, orlier? – [Announcer] See if you don’t think this is the most exciting
car in America today, the Corvette Stingray. – The Corvette was the
top sports car of the time and Ford had nothing comparable. One way they wanted to drum up sales was to win the most prestigious race in the history of racing, my favorite, the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The problem was Ford had zero
experience endurance racing. At the time, Ferrari were
the kings of Le Mans, and they just happened to be
on the verge of bankruptcy. Henry Ford II, aka Hank the Deuce, wanted to buy the Italian manufacturer, effectively gaining them
years of racing experience with one swish of a big old pen. The deal looked imminent, but in the 11th hour, Ferrari backed out and left Ford with his
pants around his ankles. Hank the Deuce vowed
revenge and gave the order. – I don’t care what it costs. We’re gonna build a race car. – A new division was formed to
build a car to beat Ferrari. It was called the Advanced
Vehicle department. Sick. After months of grueling 12-hour
days, on April 1st, 1964, the GT40 was finally completed. The team had three GT40s
ready to go for the race. Ken Miles wasn’t behind the wheel of any of them at this point. While GT40s were crashing
and burning, Shelby’s Daytona finished fourth overall
and won the GT class. At the end of the race, none
of the three GT40s had finished while Ferrari finished
first, second and third. It was a disastrous beginning
to the GT40 program. Ford noticed that Shelby
was doing pretty good with their Daytona coupe,
and on January 27th, 1965, they announced to the world that they were teaming up with Shelby, not only on the build but also to race all of
Ford’s competition cars. Ford set its sights on using the GT40 to win the big three
endurance races that year, the Daytona Continental 2000
kilometer race in February, the 12 Hours of Sebring In
March, and the holy grail, the mother of them all, boy, the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June. Shelby got a new space
to develop the GT40. Unlike his old two-car garage in Venice, which is right there, right over there, the new plant stretched
out over 12.5 acres of land bordering Los Angeles
International Airport, which is right over there. The site had two hangars that were used by North American Aviation
to build Sabre military jets. It’s only fitting that the car meant to do battle against
Ferrari would be built in the same place that
freakin’ jets were made! Using computers mounted inside the car and scotch tape and yarn on the outside, they found 76 horsepower was being lost due to inefficient air ducting. By just changing the
ducting, they gained– What power, baby? Where have you been? Oh, you know, doin’ stuff. Ken Miles and co-driver Lloyd Ruby drove the new and improved GT40 to victory in the 2,000-kilometer Daytona race, beating Ferrari and
really pissing off Enzo. Next on the list was
the 12 Hours of Sebring. Ferrari backed out of the race because, well, he didn’t wanna lose again. And Ken Miles and Bruce McLaren won the GTP class in the GT40. Yes, that Bruce McLaren. Finally, the GT40 looked
capable of winning the next race on their list, the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The start of the race went
really well for the Ford team. Immediately, the two GT40
Mark IIs took the lead, followed by Ferrari chasing them at nearly 195 miles per
hour in third place. By 38 minutes in, they were
holding a 38-second lead. Then, the transmissions
began to fail in the Fords. At 8 p.m., Bruce McLaren
pulled into the pit to switch driving duties with Miles. And as soon as Miles pulled out, the car shredded its
transmission and lost its gears. Soon after, the other Mark
II suffered a similar fate. The race Ford desperately wanted to win wasn’t gonna happen. After that defeat, Ford created
their own Le Mans committee. A group of roughly 20
men met every two weeks until the next race to brainstorm ideas and solutions that would help
Ford finally win Le Mans. Hank the Deuce decided the
best way to ensure victory would be to divide the Le Mans effort into two separate teams,
Carroll Shelby with Ken miles and Holman Moody with his NASCAR team. – Hey, how come these guys
pit so much faster than we do. – They got a goddamn
NASCAR crew, that’s why. – The in-house competition
didn’t seem to faze Shelby with Miles behind the wheel. They won the 24-hour
Daytona Continental again and the 12 Hours of Sebring again, setting Miles up for the Triple Crown if he could win at Le Mans. That would make Miles the first driver to ever pull that off. The 1966 running of
the 24 Hours of Le Mans didn’t go as smoothly as they had hoped. The race used to begin with
the driver outside of the car running across the track before
hopping in and driving off. It’s called a Le Mans start. But as Miles got into his seat, he slammed his helmet on
the doorframe and bent it. He was forced into the pits after only one lap to fix his door, which put him in last place. But doing what miles did
best, (beep) fought back, back to first place! With the race about to
end, Miles was minutes away from scoring the Triple Crown. But just winning wasn’t good enough. The GT40s were in first, second and third. And Hank the Deuce wanted a
picture of all three Fords crossing the finish line
together, showing the world the dominance of the GT40 at Le Mans. I mean, he clawed his
way up from last place to get into first. And only minutes away from winning the biggest race in the world, he was told to let second place catch up. That’s absurd! The guy was a hothead. He had a reputation, but he
was a damn good employee. So he slowed down to let the
second and third GT40s catch up and they all finished together. It was obvious to everyone
that Miles won the race and earned his Triple Crown that day, but the Le Mans rules state that if a race ends in a dead heat, the driver who started further back at the beginning of the race
will be given the victory. So Bruce McLaren and his
teammate started eight meters, 20 feet behind Miles and his teammate. And this meant that Miles was second. – [Announcer] Here is a clarification. Though the drivers finished
the race in a heat, McLaren has been ruled the winner. – The team appealed the official rules and argued that Miles should have won, but the rules is rules. But being the good sport that, and great team player that he was, when he met up with McLaren at the pits, he grabbed him and he gave him a hug. He even told reporters, “Please be careful how
you report what I’ve said. “I work for these people. “They’ve been awfully good to me.” The journalists were
prepared to tear into Ford for allowing their champion
driver to be cheated out of his win on a
technicality, but they didn’t because Ken asked them. But Ken Miles did the most
Ken Miles thing possible. (engine whirs) He started testing the
new generation of the GT40 called the J-car to prepare
for next year’s race. On August 17th, 1966, (sighs) Miles spent the morning tearing up Riverside International
Raceway when all of a sudden, the car veered sharply to the right and took flight as it tumbled
down a 10-foot embankment. First responders were almost
immediately on the scene and they found Miles laying on his back more than 15 feet away from the car. The crash was so violent that his seat belt had
been torn from its mount, ejecting him from the cockpit. Now, news of the crash made
headlines around the world with one simple phrase. Ken Miles is dead. His obituary in Road and Track magazine stated that no one who knew
Ken’s driving can believe that the accident resulted
from a mistake on his part. Shelby made a final statement
regarding the accident. He said, “We really don’t
know what caused it. “The car just disintegrated. “We have nobody to take his place. “Nobody. “He was our baseline, our guiding point. “He was the backbone of our program. “There will never be another Ken Miles.” If you wanna know more about Ken Miles and his amazing Le Mans
journey, do yourself a favor. Get Ford versus Ferrari on digital now and Blu-ray February 11th. It’s a really awesome telling
of a really awesome story. Thank you again to Ford versus Ferrari for helping us tell the
incredible story of Ken Miles, and thank you guys for
watching Donut Media. If you’re not already subscribed, go hit that subscribe button and that bell so you don’t miss any of our videos. We’re trying to get to the point where we’re putting one out every day. Did you see the movie? Let me know what you liked
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you love that you love them. And as always, I love you.