(Editor’s note: This story originally ran in February of 2013 and because of the polar vortex currently swallowing the nation, we figured you’d be in the mood for it.)
New Jersey’s Sammy Miller remains (to many) the ultimate record holder in the quarter mile. His Vanishing Point rocket funny car ran 3.58/386mph at Santa Pod Raceway in 1984. His exploits in the realm of rocket dragsters and Funny Cars are legend and he was certainly a rock star in Europe during the early 1980s and the New Jersey native wasn’t just an ex-pat zipping down European strips, he had other tricks up his sleeve. Sure, he was well known on asphalt, but few people know or remember about his 250 mph ice speed record in 1981 and it is a wonderful story.
We were doing some research for another story when we stumbled onto a detailed account of the ice record written by Ron Vigneri, who was a longtime racing partner of Miller’s. The story documents he and Miller meeting, developing the idea of chasing the Guinness Ice Speed Record, and then shattering said record in a flurry of publicity in 1981.
The car, well sled technically, used to make the run was named Oxygen was was built in Miller’s suburban New Jersey two car garage and driveway. After testing the dragster on wheels at the strip, Vigneri and Miller came up with some adaptors and worked with a ski company to manufacture the specilized skis that would replace the wheels of the digger.
They also worked to build the rocket motor which would power the dragster on the ice. It was a hydrogen peroxide rocket so it used very pure (90%) hydrogen peroxide that was forced over a silver catalyst. When the hydrogen peroxide hit the catalyst, it produced steam which was forced out of a small nozzle, making thrust. That’s a neanderthal man description, but you get the idea.
The team managed to get some sponsors on board, Rooster magazine being the most prominent. Rooster just happened to be a porn magazine. We love these guys. The magazine apparently folded after the first issue, but at least it lasted long enough to help support this effort.
A 2,300-foot track was plowed on Lake George, New York, the IHRA was contacted and provided the certified timing system, and test runs were started. The team had done its leg work for publicity and the closer that their record attempt got, the larger the media crush became, much to the delight of Miller and Vigneri, who wanted this to be as big a stunt as they could possibly make it.
They had some Radio Shack walkie-talkies to talk with, a $1,000,000 insurance policy to protect themselves with, and the support of the local governments around Lake George because the runs were to be made during the Winer Carnival. It would make the festival larger and more popular, naturally they were in favor of that.
With the national tv cameras rolling and the massive crowds assembled, Miller lined up the dragster sled, got the green light, and hit the button to unleash hell on the ice. When the dust settled he would learn that the team crushed the existing record by more than 70 mph. It is a record that still stands to this day.
You really need to read the whole account by Vigneri and check out the stack of photos that he published with the amazing story. This truly is BangShift inspiration. Two smart guys with a garage and a dream. The result? Racing immortality and stories that cannot be topped!
This is MUST SEE material!
Source — VeTechNet — The Story of Sammy Miller’s 247mph Ice record