This is a one-of-a-kind American V12-powered sports car built by Bill Miller and his team in the mid-1950s. It’s based on a shortened Packard chassis which has been fitted with a coachbuilt steel body made by Bohman & Sons of Pasadena, California.
The car was originally powered by a 476 cubic inch (7.8 liter) Packard V12 engine that’s topped with a manifold and triple Stromberg carburetors. Output was originally rated at just 175 bhp but the real goal was torque, which the Packard V12 delivered in spades – producing 366 lb ft at just 1,400 rpm.
The Bill Miller Packard Twelve
- The Packard Twelve was built in the mid-1950s by Bill Miller and his team in California. It was designed as a sporting boulevard cruiser more than a sports/racing car, and Miller chose the pre-WWII Packard V12 because he felt it was the closest thing he could find to a Ferrari V12, but not as expensive.
- The car has a hefty 1938 Packard Twelve seven-passenger limousine chassis which was shortened from 139″ to 105″ – the chassis is still visible through the open floor in the cockpit.
- The elegant steel bodywork was built in California by Bohman & Sons of Pasadena, though the original front end has been replaced more recently.
- Perhaps most importantly, it’s powered by a prodigious Packard V12 that was bored slightly from 473 to 476 cubic inches (7.8 liters) and it’s now fed through a custom manifold and triple Stromberg carburetors. Power was originally 175 bhp or thereabouts with 366 lb ft of torque, but it would likely be higher with the modifications.
Bill Miller was the wealthy and successful owner of a number of nightclubs in the 1950s, but his true passion was cars and motor racing. He would fly to Italy and have Italian coachbuilders design cars for him, one of which was to be a beautiful custom Pegaso that was (sadly) never built.
It’s known that he owned at least one Ferrari, a convertible that he used to relish driving at speed on the 405 Interstate in California. It may have been this car that sparked his love of V12 engines.
In the 1950s he raced custom-built Fiats with Abarth engines, and later in his life he ran a machine shop in Long Beach, California that focused on building parts for both automotive and aerospace applications.
In 1979 Miller would work with Raffi Minasian on a revival of the Pegaso automobile marque, the two men spent five years working on it. A prototype was made, a mid-engiend supercar powered by a modified Buick V8, it was called the Pegaso American and initial plans called for 500 to be made.
Sadly it never made it passed the prototype phase. If you’re curious you can read more about the Pegaso American here in Raffi Minasian’s own words.
The Bill Miller Packard Twelve Special
This car, known as the Bill Miller Packard Twelve, was developed and built in the 1950s not as a sports car but as a cruiser. It didn’t need to be lightweight and it didn’t need to have scalpel sharp handling, but it did need a hefty engine to get it all moving.
As a result of these requirements Miller decided to base the car on a Packard Twelve chassis and drivetrain. Back in the 1950s these pre-WWII Packards were no longer the expensive, out of reach luxury automobiles they once were as the wealthy had long since upgraded to newer vehicles.
A 1938 Packard Twelve seven-passenger limousine was sourced and its chassis was chopped from a 139” to a 105” wheelbase. The original body was removed and a new all-steel body was made by Bohman & Sons in California, their original design did differ a little from how the car looks now as it had a different nose section.
Power was provided by a slightly modified version of the Packard V12, it now has an .010” overbore for a displacement of 476 cubic inches, up from the original 473. The engine is fitted with triple downdraft Stromberg carburetors, dual ignition coils, exhaust manifolds, a radiator, a starter, an instrument display, and a 4-speed gearbox.
The car is now being offered for sale as a restoration project. It does look largely complete however it’ll be a significant job to get it back on the road. That said, this is an important bespoke American car from the 1950s that deserves to be brought back.
Back in the 1950s this car was featured by Road & Track Magazine and more recently it belonged to the Petersen Automotive Museum in California. If you’d like to read more about this car in the words of Raffi Minasian himself you can read his letter to Undiscovered Classics here.
If you’d like to read more about it or register to bid you can visit the listing here on Bring a Trailer, the car is being sold out of Los Angeles, California. Please also note that the car comes with the Packard V12 on the engine stand in the images, not the unfinished engine currently in the car.
Images courtesy of Bring a Trailer
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