Collecting Camaros is their passion
DELAVAN — Thousands of people attended the Cars Time Forgot show in July 2016, and some of them got their first taste of Vince Miller's Camaro collection.
They'll get to savor even more during the 14th annual event, which is scheduled Sunday, July 9, at Lake Lawn Resort.
“Last year was the first time we brought anything to the show,” Miller said.
Visitors along Delavan Lake got to see his Performance SS convertible from the shop of Rick Hendrick, one of NASCAR's top owners, and an Intimidator SS, designed for seven-time NASCAR series champion Dale Earnhardt.
“That's how we met Russ (Hays), and I asked him if they had anything special planned for this year and told him about 2017 being the 50th anniversary of Camaros (first production year was 1967) and he said, 'Whatcha got?'” Miller said. “So he and a buddy came over, and when they saw the Dick Harrell SS they said, 'Holy ----, what's that?'”
They were asking about the wide-body version of Camaro named after the 1960s drag racing kingpin Dick Harrell, who died in a crash in Toronto, Canada, in 1971.
“It was kind of the same reaction I got a month later when we took the Performance Edition SS and Intimidator SS to the Madison Classics show at the (Walworth County) fairgrounds,” Miller added. “At first, people at the Delavan car show would see the fourth generation Camaros and just walk on by. But then a couple of guys saw the Dick Harrell wide body and started scratching their heads. They asked what it was and if I could start it up. After they heard that, we had more and more people visiting and were busy the next four or five hours.”
Miller is planning to display three vehicles at this year's Cars Time Forgot: the Harrell edition and ZL-1 super car Camaros and his Year One Blackbird (Pontiac Trans Am).
“It's a pretty cool show that we find interesting,” he said.
Miller and his wife, Sally, are lifelong Stateline area residents who live in Spring Prairie Township. Both are veterans of the steel manufacturing industry, including a lengthy stint at Scot Forge.
Miller, 53, developed his passion for racing when his parents took him and his brother to area tracks while they were growing up. He followed guys like Dick Trickle and John Knaus and idolized short-track legend Joe Shear of Clinton, eventually racing at many of his hero's favorite haunts, namely Rockford, Madison and Slinger speedways.
He had purchased a collector's 1968 Corvette but then sold it so the couple could purchase their first enclosed racing trailer.
“I started racing in Late Models in 1988 at age 25, but my wife and I were working, and racing is expensive, so I couldn't keep throwing money around,” said Miller, who competed in a car with a 1988 IROC Camaro body. “Still, I got to meet Joe (Shear) and talked to him at several tracks. I was blessed to meet a lot of neat people during that time. It was tough having to quit racing because you missed that once-a-week thrill, but racing took a back seat.”
However, one of his highlights occurred on a Sunday night in 1990 at Slinger when he started a Super Late Model event next to a young Matt Kenseth, the eventual 2003 NASCAR champion.
Meanwhile, Miller endured and beat three primary forms of cancer, while Sally is a breast cancer survivor. But through those personal hardships, their interest in and love for racing remained, especially when it came to Chevy Camaros.
Miller's collection of 15 — he also owns a 2002 Pontiac Trans Am (PR-1) — features seven models from the George-Murphy Motorsports Group: a Berger SS, Intimidator SS, Tom Henry SS, Hot Rod edition, Performance SS, the ZL-1 and the Dick Harrell wide body.
Miller obtained the first Intimidator, the one that Earnhardt drove and put on 2,357 miles until four months later, when a crash late in the 2001 Daytona 500 took the latter's life. Darrell Earnhardt Chevrolet built eighty-two more of the Camaros.
“A friend of ours said to me recently that our collection was so neat because it includes at least one Camaro of every edition,” Miller said of the GMMG models. “GMMG was on the cutting edge in putting horsepower and performance back into the auto industry.”
Miller can recite nearly every detail about changes, model updates, major events and history surrounding his beloved Chevys and the circumstances involved in obtaining them.
It's simply in his blood.
“I've just been a car nut most of my life,” Miller said. “I may be hair-brained, but my hope is that having bought them now, that they won't depreciate in value and someday will be worth a lot.”