Ken Miles was a British racing engineer and driver who is known for his racing career in the US with the American motorsport teams. In 2001, he was inducted into the “Motorsports Hall of Fame of America.”
Ken Miles was born on Friday, November 1, 1918 (age 47 years; at the time of death) in Sutton Coldfield, England. His zodiac sign is Scorpio. His birth name is Kenneth Henry Miles. In 1929, when he was 11 years old, he started riding a “350cc Trials Special Triumph bike.” Once, while riding the bike, he met with an accident and broke his nose and three teeth. However, the crash did not stop him, and he soon recovered from his injury and restored an “1100-cc Salmson motorcycle.” He used to race motorcycles, which got him hooked onto racing.
Miles served as a tank commander in an anti-aircraft unit for the British Territorial Army during World War II. During the war, he was also appointed as a driving instructor at Blackpool, England. In 1942, he was promoted to the rank of staff sergeant, and he was also a part of the “Operation D Day,” which is the largest seaborne invasion in history. Ken’s love for cars and racing grew during World War II.
Height (approx.): 5′ 8″
Eye Colour: Black
Hair Colour: Black
Family & Wife
Ken Miles was born to Eric Miles and Clarice Jarvis. He was married to Mollie Miles, and their son’s name is Peter Miles.
Miles loved cars, and he had started riding bikes and driving cars from a very young age. At the age of 15, he quit his school studies and had started working as an apprentice for the “Wolseley Motors.” Wolseley Motors were impressed with his work, and they had sent him to a technical school to expand his knowledge of vehicle construction. In 1940, he was sent off to World War II, which left his apprenticeship incomplete. However, he had worked with machinery throughout his years in the army, which made him a skilled engineer. His talent and skills as an engineer were recognized and appreciated during the war, and he was hired by “Morris Motors” after returning from the war.
Eventually, he got into the world of racing. He started racing Bugatti’s, Alvis’, and Alfa Romeos with the “Vintage Sports Car Club.” In 1951, he left England and moved to Los Angeles in California, and he joined MG Motors. In 1953, he won 14 races back-to-back in the SCCA Racing (Sports Car Club of America) with an “MG Motors” car modified by Miles according to his needs. In 1955, he designed, constructed, and raced a car from MG components named “The Flying Shingle.” In the same year, he had participated in a race with the Flying Shingle in Palm Springs and finished first. However, he was later disqualified; as the car’s fenders were too wide.
In 1957, he had collaborated with “Otto Zipper Motors” to create a unique car that had the engine and transmission of a “Porsche 550S” and the chassis of a “1956 Cooper.” The resulting car was a success, it was driven by Miles, and it had dominated the “F Modified Class” in the 1957 and 1958 season of the “SCCA Racing” on the West Coast. The car was also called as “The Pooper.”
In the early 1960s, he became a part of the “Shelby Cobra Racing Team.” He was a driver and mechanical engineer in the team due to his skills and talent. Once in an interview, he said-
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!”
In 1961, he had played a pivotal role in the development of the racing versions of the “Shelby Cobra 289.” The Shelby Cobra 289 went on to win the SCCA, USRRC, and FIA sports car racing between 1962 and 1965. He had also helped in creating the “Daytona Coupe” and “427 versions” of the Cobra and the Ford GT 40. In 1963, Miles was appointed as the chief test rider of “Shelby American.”
In 1965, he took part in the “24 Hours of Le Mans” (an endurance race which lasts for 24 hours) with Bruce McLaren. They raced the “Ford GT Mk II,” but they had to retire from the race due to a gearbox problem. 1966 was the most successful year for Ken Miles; as he had won the “24 Hours of Daytona” and the “12 Hours of Sebring.” In the same year, he took part in the 24 Hours of LeMans. He created and designed the Ford GT40 with “Shelby American,” and he was racing on behalf of Ford. Ford had 2 other teams that took part in the “Le Mans.” By the end of the race, Miles was leading by a considerable number of laps against all the other teams. However, Ford Executives wanted a photo of all three Ford cars crossing the finish line together. Miles agreed to this, and he slowed down for the other two Ford teams to catch up to him so they could cross the finish line together and creating a “dead-heat” finish. However, because of creating the photo for Ford, Miles lost the race and came in second due to a technicality; as the Ford No. 2 team driven by Bruce McLaren had started the race behind him, and the rules of the Le Mans stated that in case of a dead-heat the car which had traveled the most distance wins. Hence, Ford No. 2 won.
Miles was cheated out of his victory at Le Mans, and he also missed the opportunity of becoming the only driver to win the Daytona, Sebring, and Le Mans in a single year. The Le Mans team and Ford Motors had to face huge criticism; as Miles would have been the winner of the race, had Ford not wanted him to stage the photo. Miles had broken several lap records during the 1966 Le Mans, including the lap records which he had created himself during the race.
In August 1966, Miles was testing the “Ford J” prototype, which was supposed to be the successor to the “Ford GT Mk II” (the car used by Miles in the 1966 Le Mans). On 17 August 1966, when Miles was testing the “Ford J” car at the “Riverside International Raceway,” he approached the track’s 1-mile downhill stretch at top speed (200 mph) when suddenly his car flipped, looped, crashed, and caught fire. Reportedly, the car crashed due to the honeycomb construction, which was supposed to prevent the crash. His son, Peter Miles, was also present at the track when Miles’ car crashed. The car had broken into pieces and Miles was ejected from the car which eventually killed him. Ken Miles was buried at the Abbey of the Psalms Mausoleum of the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Hollywood, California.
- Ken Miles was a very close friend of Carroll Shelby. They had become friends while working on the “Shelby Cobra Racing Team.”Reportedly, Shelby was in shock and mourning for several months after Miles had passed away.
- Ken Miles was an essential part of the creation of the iconic car- the “AC Cobra.”
- Reportedly, Ford had earlier rejected Miles as a driver to race at the Le Mans; as they had a problem with how Miles used to speak whatever was in his mind, even if it was rude. Ford thought that it would become a problem at press conferences. However, Carroll Shelby fought with the Ford team to get Miles in the race.
- When the 1966 Le Mans race got over, several media persons and spectators had assumed that Miles had won the race. However, when it was announced that McLaren had won and Miles came in second, several people claimed that it was very unfair and Miles should have been announced as the winner. Even though Miles came in second, people consider Miles as the winner of the 1966 Le Mans because of his amazing performance.
- In 2001, Ken Miles was posthumously inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America under the sports cars category. Motorsports Hall of Fame of America
- On 15 November 2019, a film titled “Ford vs Ferrari” was released. The film depicted the “1966 Le Mans” race and how Miles was robbed of his victory. Hollywood star Christian Bale portrayed the role of Ken Miles.
- In the film “Ford vs Ferrari,” Matt Damon played the role of Carroll Shelby. The film was critically acclaimed, and the fans loved it. Many people also called Miles as the “Unsung Hero of Racing” and the person responsible for Ford becoming successful in the world of racing.
References [ + ]