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Vintage Motor Sport 1999

Uncle Walter’s Attic

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Think you’ve got a lot of automobilia lying around? Well, Walter Miller has you beat.
By Richard Prince Photos by the Author
what two-plus million brochures, books, posters, advertisements, letters, etc. look like? Neither can I.
Now let’s talk determination: Miller will not hesitate to drive or fly thousands of miles if there is the slightest possibility that something good may be waiting at the other end. His unquenchable thirst for absolutely anything that pertains to cars, trucks or motorcycles has brought him to every state in the Union and to more than 50 countries around the world.
If a stranger walked up to you at Carlisle and said, "I’m with General Motors in
Europe and we have some literature and other items that are being disposed of," would you spend the next week in Copenhagen buying, sorting, packing and shipping two tons of papers? Would you have spent a month travelling the Trans-Siberia railway to the far corners of Russia when it was still the Evil Empire in search of who-knows-what related to automobiles? Can you picture yourself negotiating to buy some never-before-seen automotive trinket at a street market in front of the Red Fort in New Delhi, or in the sweltering heat of the Jordanian desert?
While the majority of what Miller has acquired is for sale through his literature business, a couple of hundred thousand (give or take) items are reserved for his private collection. Not surprisingly, in the course of relentlessly scouring the planet for the past three decades, Miller has managed to build the largest, and perhaps finest, privately held collection of auto­mobilia in the world.
A considerable portion of the collection has been, quite literally, stuffed into the building that houses Miller’s literature business. But with the literature inventory
fuels the world’s economy, it brings people together and forces them apart, it leads nations to go to war, it is everywhere and touches everything. Heck, it’s even responsi­ble for what you are doing this very instant.
And I guarantee you that it’s also responsible for whatever Walter Miller is doing this very instant. Of course, one need not go out on a limb to make that promise, for wherever he is and whatever he is doing, it has to be car related. He is, by his own admission and by anyone’s defi­nition, utterly and completely obsessed with all things automotive.
Now, the term "obsessed" is thrown around pretty loosely when it comes to car enthusiasts. All you have to do is bake one exhaust manifold in your kitchen oven at 375-degrees Fahrenheit for 90 minutes in order to cure the high temp coating and you’re forever labeled obsessed. But every­thing is relative, and in Mr. Miller’s com­pany you would have to be way over the edge to even classify as a neophyte.
Let’s begin with pure numbers: Miller buys, sells and collects automotive litera­ture. At any given time, he possesses more than two million pieces. Can you conceive
hen it comes to assessing the influence automo­biles have had on the wotld we live in, Waltet Miller doesn’t mince words. "The automobile is clearly the single most important invention of our time, and probably of all time," he declares with con­viction. "There isn’t a person living in the world today whose life wasn’t influenced or shaped in large part by the automobile." He’s right. In one way or another, the automobile permeates every moment of our individual as well as collective existence. It

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