SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4)- In late September, Georgia-based Asbury Automotive Group purchased the Larry H. Miller group of automotive dealerships for $3.2 billion. However, this story is not about the sale of the dealerships or the Utah Jazz. This story is about a 1963 Ford that the late Larry H. Miller owned.
ABC4’s Craig Wirth took a ride in that Ford with Miller thirty years ago and tonight, we’ll see video of that ride and the conversation he had with Miller. Much of that conversation hasn’t been seen or heard until today.
“A lot of people that have known me in the past know that I still wear the same watch and ring that I’ve worn for years and driving the ‘63 [Ford] Falcon Sprint convertible I’ve had since it was 9 months old,” said a robust and youthful Miller as he stands in front of his prized red convertible. He reflects on the events that happened since he first got that car.
“All, I think, helped me keep a balanced perspective.”
Miller graduated from West High School in 1963. At the time he was dating his then high school sweetheart Gail and after they left school, Miller purchased the convertible with 13,000 miles on it.
“We loved it,” Miller said of the convertible. Three years after he bought the car, he married Gail. Even before they were married, Miller worked on the car and started to rebuild it as a race car.
“I thought the 260 was fast when we bought it, but I thought it would be a lot faster with a 289,” Miller said, “And then came cobra heads and mechanical lifters.”
Miller loved to race. However, in his mind, he kept going back to a simpler time when he and his wife were cruising on a Friday night on State Street.
“I gathered the parts for, I think, the better part of four years and the day, [but] before I was going to finally put it into the body shop [for] what would become a one-year restoration, a wholesaler came into the driveway at the dealership I was working at in Colorado [and] had this car,” Miller said recalling his first encounter with the convertible.
“We restored it completely cosmetically, and I was going to give it to [Gail] for her birthday. I bought it in April, was going to give it to her in October.”
Miller never did find time to fix the original car, what with the world evolving and becoming more complex. What he eventually did was find an identical twin car. In his mind and heart, he longed to remember the days when he dated Gail.
“To me, it is a car with a personality. It is a car that makes a statement about when it was built, and when it was built happens to be a time I like remembering. And it’s almost like, to understand that, you have to be a part of it and have one. If somebody never experienced a car like this, they could never understand the feelings and the sensations that come with being in a car of this era, and I think particularly a convertible.”
Having a convertible triggers a whole different set of feelings, according to Miller.
“[It’s] why I drive this when I have a choice of all the cars that I have a choice of today. It’s very relaxing for me. Anytime I’m in this car, I can really sort things out.”
While driving, he pointed out the old businesses that used to be on State Street like Genie Boys Drive-In and Hires Big H.
When Miller drove his convertible, he could escape the complications of his life and return to the days of the 1950s and ’60s, a time when he was still young and just out of high school.
“Well, I think at that time my goals were to be a champion softball player, to have a fast race car, and to get a job that had a future to it. I really didn’t have much of a plan on how to go about doing it. It never occurred to me that someday, all this area of State we were dragging would ever turn into a situation where a large corridor of it would have my name on it someday.”
Ultimately, 54 dealerships would have his name on them. But despite his notoriety and the brands associated with Larry H. Miller, he never forgot his old Ford convertible.
Larry H. Miller Died in 2009 and he was a car guy at heart to the end.