Chuck Miller, the owner of Styline Customs in Detroit, MI, built notable, show-winning custom cars for years. He also created auto show concept cars for American Motors and Hurst Performance, as well as for Plymouth and Dodge. One of his major successes came at the 1968 Detroit Autorama, where he won the Ridler award with his whimsical, C-Cab Fire truck, which was also named one of the “Top 10 Rods” in the country, that year, by Car Craft magazine. The following year, Miller received critical acclaim with a car that was built to match the success of a Monogram model kit -- the Tom Daniel-designed “Red Baron.” Chuck Miller was very well-known for his little “Zingers,” small-bodied show cars built for Promotions, Inc., with radical blown or injected full-sized V8 engines.
The C-Cab Fire truck played off several popular elements from the Vietnam era: every young man’s enthusiasm for fire equipment; the booming T-bucket craze; a recurrent 1960s-to-1970s hot rod show car practice that Street Rodder magazine called “Wacky Show Rods,” and the popularity of the famous C-Cab Mack and Model T trucks. Combining these themes, Miller built a delightfully daring C-cab T, with a single monocle windshield, tiller steering, a muscular blown small-block V-8, competition-themed American 12-spoke and 5-spoke mags, drilled ladder bars and “pie crust” drag slicks.
Elements of this cute trucklet’s widespread, if a bit “tongue in cheek,” appeal included a pair of abbreviated wooden ladders, Fire Engine style gold leaf “Engine #13” lettering on the cab sides, and the absence of front brakes. Other charming features included older-style drum headlights, vintage Model T taillights (painted red, of course), a winged Motometer radiator cap and a roof rack. While the Fire Truck could be driven on the street, it was really designed to win custom cars shows, and it succeeded decisively, taking the coveted Detroit Autorama Ridler Award in 1968.
In his book, the American Custom Car, author and hot rod authority Pat Ganahl wrote a chapter he called, “Silly Show Cars.” These included Steve Scott’s “Uncertain T,” Dan Woods’ “Milk Truck,” Ed Roth’s “Druid Princess,” and Chuck Miller’s “C-Cab Fire Truck” and the “Red Baron.” So Miller’s efforts were in good company. Major show promoters of that era, like Bob Larivee, the head of Group Productions, Inc., would pay handsome appearance fees for unusual cars like these. A successful effort could result in a great deal of publicity, so many custom car builders were delighted to create them.
Today, the Detroit Autorama Ridler award has become the most sought-after and respected prize on the hot rod and custom car show circuit. Unlike the Grand National Roadster Show “America’s Most Beautiful Roadster” award, which requires cars to be 1937 or earlier roadsters, the Ridler winner can be any rod or custom that’s exceptionally creative, with technical merit and high crowd appeal. Ridler aspirants today spend literally millions of dollars, just to make the “Great Eight” finalist selection, with no guarantee of winning the top prize. The purchaser of this C-Cab Fire Truck will own a Ridler Award winner for far less than the cost of building one today.
This car was auctioned off by RM Auctions in September 2009 at the Petersen Automotive Museum, Los Angeles, California and in January of 2012 at the Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa, Phoenix, Arizona.
Small-block supercharged Chevrolet V-8, external headers, custom tubular dropped front axle with semi-elliptic transverse leaf spring, solid Ford rear axle, American 12-spoke front and five-spoke rear wheels, no front brakes, rear drums. Wheelbase: 90"