esquire.com
esquire.com
 
Ken Miles: Legendary Race Car Engineer
User avatar
Curated by
cdteliot
5 min read
15 days ago
161
3
Ken Miles, a British-born racing driver and engineer, played a pivotal role in developing iconic vehicles like the Ford GT40 and Shelby Cobra, ultimately helping Ford achieve victory at the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans against Ferrari.

 

Ken Miles' Early Life and Background

roadandtrack.com
roadandtrack.com
Ken Miles was born on November 1, 1918, in Sutton Coldfield, England, near Birmingham. From a young age, he exhibited a keen interest in mechanics, leading him to an apprenticeship at Wolseley Motors where he expanded his knowledge of vehicle construction. His early passion for motorsports began with motorcycle racing before World War II. During the war, Miles served as a tank commander in the British Army, an experience that deepened his love for high-performance engineering. He was a founding member of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) and participated in the D-Day landings, achieving the rank of staff sergeant by the end of the war. This blend of military service and engineering expertise laid the foundation for his future success in the automotive racing industry.
roadandtrack.com favicon
birminghamhistory.co.uk favicon
mshf.com favicon
5 sources

Ken Miles' Military Service and Engineering Skills

motorsportsunplugged.com
motorsportsunplugged...
Ken Miles served in the British Territorial Army for seven years, starting in an anti-aircraft unit before becoming a driving instructor. He later joined the Royal Corps of Electrical and Mechanical Engineering, where he excelled in engineering courses and graduated top of his class. Miles' primary role was tank recovery, which involved reclaiming and repairing damaged tanks. His military service culminated in participating in the D-Day landings as part of a tank unit in 1944. This experience honed Miles' mechanical skills, preparing him for his future career as a race car driver and engineer. Even during his service, he maintained his passion for engines, writing to Motorsport Magazine about American engine technology.
mentalfloss.com favicon
motorsportmagazine.com favicon
hotcars.com favicon
5 sources

 

The English Racer's Early Years with Bugattis and Alfa Romeos

mshf.com
mshf.com
Ken Miles began his racing career in England, competing with Bugattis, Alfa Romeos, and Alvises before transitioning to a Ford V8-powered Frazer-Nash. In 1952, he moved to Los Angeles, California, where he initially worked as a service manager for Gough Industries. Miles quickly made a name for himself in the United States by winning 14 consecutive SCCA races in 1953 with an MG Special of his own design. He continued to innovate, creating the "Flying Shingle" and later the "Pooper," which combined a Porsche 550S engine with a Cooper chassis, dominating the F Modified class on the West Coast. His engineering prowess and driving skills caught the attention of Carroll Shelby, leading to his involvement with Shelby American. Miles played a pivotal role in developing the Shelby Cobra and the Ford GT40, contributing significantly to their success on the international racing stage.
en.wikipedia.org favicon
historicracing.com favicon
mshf.com favicon
5 sources

 

Ken Miles Legacy (Photos)

facts.net
facts.net
motorsportmagazine.com
motorsportmagazine.c...
motorsportsunplugged.com
motorsportsunplugged...

 

Ken Miles' Engineering and Development Skills

facts.net
facts.net
Ken Miles was renowned for his dual expertise as both a driver and a mechanic, a combination that made him invaluable in the development of high-performance race cars. His engineering acumen was pivotal in the creation of the Shelby Cobra, where he worked closely with Carroll Shelby to merge American muscle with British agility, resulting in a vehicle that dominated both the racetrack and the streets. Miles' contributions to the Ford GT40 program were equally significant; he played a crucial role in refining the car's design, addressing issues such as aerodynamic instability and mechanical reliability, which ultimately led to its historic victory at the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans. His meticulous attention to detail and relentless pursuit of perfection set new standards in automotive engineering, leaving a legacy that continues to inspire the motorsports community.
shelbystore.com favicon
en.wikipedia.org favicon
facts.net favicon
5 sources

 

Miles' Major Racing Achievements

Ken Miles' major racing achievements in 1966 include victories at the Daytona 24 Hours and the Sebring 12 Hours, as well as a controversial second-place finish at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. These accomplishments highlight his exceptional skills as both a driver and an engineer.
EventAchievement
1966 Daytona 24 HoursKen Miles and Lloyd Ruby won the race, leading most of the event and only briefly losing their lead during pit stops.
1966 Sebring 12 HoursMiles secured another victory, further demonstrating his dominance in endurance racing.
1966 24 Hours of Le MansDespite crossing the finish line in a formation with two other Ford cars, Miles was controversially placed second due to a rule that favored the car starting further back on the grid.
These achievements underscore Miles' pivotal role in Ford's racing success during this period, despite the controversy at Le Mans.
thehenryford.org favicon
exoto.com favicon
en.wikipedia.org favicon
5 sources

Miles and Shelby Partnership

shelbystore.com
shelbystore.com
Ken Miles and Carroll Shelby's partnership was built on a foundation of mutual trust and respect, essential for their success in the high-stakes world of automotive racing. Shelby, recognizing Miles' unparalleled technical expertise and driving skills, entrusted him with critical roles in developing and testing vehicles like the Shelby Cobra and the Ford GT40. This collaboration was not just professional but also deeply personal, with both men sharing a passion for pushing the boundaries of automotive engineering. Miles' meticulous attention to detail and Shelby's visionary leadership created a synergy that led to groundbreaking achievements, including the historic victory at the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans. Their relationship exemplified how open communication and respect for each other's strengths could overcome challenges and drive innovation in motorsports.
linkedin.com favicon
shelbystore.com favicon
en.wikipedia.org favicon
5 sources

 

Ken Miles' Legacy Immortalized in 'Ford v Ferrari' with Christian Bale

24h-lemans.com
24h-lemans.com
Ken Miles' story has been immortalized in the film "Ford v Ferrari," where Christian Bale portrays the legendary driver and engineer. The movie, directed by James Mangold, highlights Miles' crucial role in Ford's victory over Ferrari at the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans. It captures his partnership with Carroll Shelby, played by Matt Damon, and their collaborative efforts to develop the Ford GT40. The film dramatizes key events, including Miles' controversial second-place finish at Le Mans and his tragic death while testing the Ford J-car. While some artistic liberties were taken, "Ford v Ferrari" has brought renewed attention to Miles' contributions to motorsports and his enduring legacy.
youtube.com favicon
reddit.com favicon
esquire.com favicon
5 sources

Ken Miles' Influence on the Ford GT40

THE REAL KEN MILES FORD GT40 - YouTube
THE REAL KEN MILES...
Watch
Ken Miles played a crucial role in developing and refining the Ford GT40, transforming it from a problematic prototype into a Le Mans-winning race car. As both an engineer and driver, Miles worked tirelessly with Carroll Shelby to perfect the GT40's design and performance capabilities. His expertise was instrumental in addressing early issues such as aerodynamic instability and mechanical reliability. Miles' contributions led to significant improvements, including modifications to reduce front lift and enhance brake cooling. The GT40 that Miles drove at Le Mans in 1966, chassis number P/1015, was equipped with a NASCAR 427 cubic-inch V8 engine tuned by Shelby, producing 485 horsepower and capable of reaching speeds up to 210 mph. Miles' engineering prowess and fearless driving style were crucial in the GT40's development, ultimately resulting in Ford's historic 1-2-3 finish at the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans, breaking Ferrari's five-year winning streak.
shelbystore.com favicon
slashgear.com favicon
en.wikipedia.org favicon
5 sources

 

Ken Miles' Tragic 1966 J-Car Crash

auslot.com
auslot.com
Ken Miles' tragic death occurred on August 17, 1966, during a test session at Riverside International Raceway in California. While driving the experimental Ford J-car, which featured unproven aerodynamic designs and a honeycomb panel construction, Miles approached the end of the track's downhill straight at speeds exceeding 200 mph (320 km/h). The car suddenly flipped, crashed, and caught fire, ejecting Miles and killing him instantly. The exact cause of the crash remains undetermined, but mechanical failure was suspected. This incident had a profound impact on the racing community, leading to significant safety improvements in race car design, including the addition of roll cages in future models. Miles' death deprived Ford of a talented driver and engineer, and his loss was deeply felt by colleagues and fans alike.
en.wikipedia.org favicon
screenrant.com favicon
motorsportmemorial.org favicon
5 sources

Ken Miles' Racing Impact

Ken Miles' impact on race teams was profound, particularly through his work with Carroll Shelby and the Ford GT racing program. His expertise in both driving and engineering pushed the boundaries of race car performance and reliability. Miles was instrumental in transforming the Shelby Cobra and Ford GT40 into dominant race cars, contributing to their success in club races and major endurance events. His involvement with European race cars, such as the Porsche 550 Spyder, also showcased his versatility and skill in adapting to different racing environments. Miles' meticulous race reports and feedback were crucial in refining vehicle designs, ensuring that each iteration was faster and more reliable than the last. His legacy is marked by his ability to blend European racing techniques with American engineering, creating vehicles that set new standards in speed and performance.
en.wikipedia.org favicon
fanarch.com favicon
thehenryford.org favicon
5 sources
Related
How did Ken Miles' military experience influence his approach to racing
What were the key technical innovations Ken Miles introduced to the Ford GT40
How did Ken Miles' relationship with Carroll Shelby impact their racing success
What were the circumstances surrounding Ken Miles' disqualification at Palm Springs in 1955
How did Ken Miles' racing career evolve after moving to the U.S
Keep Reading