Readers who follow our annual engine building competition, the AMSOIL Engine Masters Challenge, are likely familiar with the efforts of the late Dan Miller and his incredible early Hemi. Dan was a regular at the event, and his innovative modifications always placed his engines in the thick of competition. Dan did not work in seclusion, favoring instead to involve numerous talented and enthusiastic individuals from across the nation, using their input and expertise to help hone his engine building craft. Dan was well on his way to building a new early Chrysler Hemi for the 2011 EMC competition when the unthinkable occurred. Dan Miller died from a sudden heart attack on the May 9, 2011.

News of Dan’s death represented a personal shock to friends, family, and Engine Masters teammates alike. As team member John Beck of Pro Machine (where Dan did all his dyno testing) remembers: “Dan was the driving force behind the whole deal. He got it going and did most of the engineering. He was 90 percent of the effort. I saw him at my shop no less than an hour before he passed; then I heard he had the heart attack.” Dan had already put a tremendous amount of time and effort in the engine, and it seemed as though the project had come to an end, however, as the team members contemplated the events and conferred, it was decided that the engine should be completed as a tribute to their departed friend. Dan’s widow, Elaine Miller, agreed, and the result is the engine featured here.

The Build

Naturally, without Dan, the central figure of the project was gone, leaving a scattered group of individual team members across seven states. Each had played a role in Dan’s overall vision, but only in their own isolated specialty. Bob Holmes of Wilton, California, took the reins, taking it upon himself to become the project coordinator to see the engine through to completion. Bob would be the glue that would bind the team together, setting deadlines, assigning work goals, and working out the scheduling and logistics of the build.

Nick Smithberg of Smithberg Racing of Fort Calhoun, Nebraska, would take on the responsibility of modeling the airflow and building the unique upper intake and ram tubes. Scott Clark of Omaha, would build the ECU and take the point position in the areas of engine management system development and tuning, with Scott Courtney providing additional expertise in the area of electronics. Beck of Pro Machine in Chico, California, would handle the block machining, final engine assembly, and dyno tuning. Bob Walker and Hot Heads Research of Lowgap, North Carolina, was on board to fund the project and provide the necessary specialty early Hemi components. Gene Adams and Ron Pratt of Northern California would provide their expertise in component selection and consultation.

Although Dan had competed with an early Hemi in previous Engine Masters Challenge competitions, when the group decided to take on the task of completing Dan’s project, there was plenty of work to do. Holmes tells us, “It was a pile of parts and a collection of ideas. Job one was to organize the effort, delegating responsibly and rounding up parts in progress all over the country.” Ground zero of the project was Beck’s shop. Beck set about the task of building the short-block using primarily components that had already been earmarked for the project.