Lynchburg resident Chuck Miller of Lynchburg is the proud owner of a 1925 Dodge touring car that has some unique history. Not only is the car nearly 100 years old; it was featured in the 1971 movie “Fools’ Parade” starring Jimmy Stewart.
Miller’s grandfather, bought the car new in 1925 for about $650, but sold it several years later. Miller’s uncle tracked the car down in between 1950 and 1952, and his father Pete bought it back for about $150.
“It’s been in the family forever really,” said Miller. “He bought it back and had the car painted but never had the dents taken out of it, and I just have to explain to people that in 1925 you didn’t have asphalt and concrete roads so you ran on dirt and gravel and mud, and a lot of kids don’t realize that.”
The producers of “Fools’ Parade” were searching for a 1930 model car in 1970 and the closest car they could find in a convertible was Pete Miller’s 1925 Dodge that they located through an antique car club. Pete Miller was a crane operator living in Clarington, Ohio at the time. The movie was filmed in nearby Moundsville, West Virginia.
Pete was paid his wages as a crane operator during the three weeks he took off for the film and he was given $10,000 for the use of the car that he drove in the movie.
Pete befriended George Kennedy, one of the film’s stars, during the filming and had lunch with him many days during the filming. “Dad got along with him real well,” said Chuck Miller.
He recalled hearing about when Jimmy Stewart came to the family home with others from the movie to talk about the deal for the car. “He came down to the house with the other two folks, and my mother asked him if he would like a cup of coffee, and he said, ‘Yes, ma’am I definitely would,” said Miller. “He sat there at the table with my mom and drank coffee while they negotiated what they was gonna do, and my mother said he was a very, very nice guy, and I thought that was really nice because he’s a famous actor and to come and sit in your house and drink a cup of coffee with you would be an honor you know.”
Pete gave the car to Chuck a few years before he passed away in 1996 at age 81. “My mother and that car was dad’s life, and he died of a broken heart after she passed,” said Miller.
Miller said when he was growing up people would bring old Dodge cars from hundreds of miles away to his father to repair. “I asked one of them one time why they bring a car from so far away for my dad to work on, and they said, he’s the only one that anyone knows who knows how to fix one of these cars and make them run right,” he said.
Miller still takes people for rides in the car. “I play a lot of cornhole, and people will come and see the car, and I offer everybody a ride in the car, and dad did, too,” he said. “You get people in the car, and they’ll get in the car with a smile on their face, and when they get back out they’re still smiling. It’s like magic to get in that old of a car and go for a ride because you’re not going to ride in an almost 100-year-old car every day.”
Reach John Hackley at 937-402-2571.