Warren-Coburn-Miller

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History

 

The driver of a top fuel car is a lot like the quarterback on a football team, that is, he usually gets most of the credit for his teams success but he is the first one to admit that he couldn't do it alone. Such was the case with James Warren, the driver for one of the most famous teams in all of drag racing, the Warren, Coburn and Miller Top Fuel team, a team that was also known as the “Ridge Route Terrors.” That name referred to the road that ran over the mountains between the San Joaquin valley and the Los Angeles basin and it was reported that when the team was seen towing down to race at the southern California tracks it struck terror in the hearts of all the other dragster teams.

James Warren began driving in the late 1950’s but it wasn’t on a drag strip, it was on the local dirt tracks around his California home, but it wouldn't be long before he was hitting the drag strips of California and visiting the winners circle at those tracks on a regular basis. With his partner, Roger Coburn, James drove a series of cars that ranged from a twin-engine car with one Chrysler and one Chevrolet engine, to a lightweight blown dragster that ran with the best of the California breed. When businessman Marvin Miller joined the duo he brought his company’s sponsorship with him, and since Marvin ran a company that provided irrigation systems for the farmers in the Bakersfield area, the trio became know as the “Rain For Rent” team. Whatever you called them, the team of James Warren, Roger Coburn and Marvin Miller were winners wherever they raced.

That brings us to the subject car. Prior to 1968 Marvin Miller, who owned "Rain For Rent" had been a minor, somewhat silent partner with James and Roger. In '68 Marvin took a more active roll and ultimately stepped up and financed a full upgrade for the teams 1967 Woody car, Hanna body and better parts than the team had ever had. This was the first time Miller's name was actually on the car and his influence was evident as it was the nicest car they ever had ... period. It also ran as good at it looked. In 1970 the car got another shorty body and the full body was put in storage. The car with the full body was sold in 1971 to help finance their first rear engine car.

 

This is a great staged shot of arguably the winningest fuel dragster team of the 1960's. From left to right Roger Coburn, the late Marvin Miller and super-shoe -- James Warren. This was taken in front of the then state-of-the-art tower of Orange County International Raceway in 1968 before the car got its full body update for 1969.

 

James coming to a stop at Irwindale in 1968.

 

Warren doing a burnout and then leaving at Long Beach in 1968.

 

 

The car, in its new trim, made it national event debut at the 1969 NHRA Winternationals.

 

 

James Warren (in firesuit), Roger Coburn (hand on cage) and Marvin Miller in the pits of Orange County International Raceway.

 

In the pits at Irwindale. Check out the crew kicking back in their Mr. Ed trailer.

 

 

A scene repeated hundreds of times over the years - Roger Coburn helps James Warren suit up. OCIR 1969.

 

Burnouts at OCIR.

 

 

 

Lions burnout and leave in 1969.

 

 

The car in action at Irwindale.

 

James Warren is push started down the Dallas, Texas fire-up road.

 

Once in a while they would run the car sans the nose piece like here at Lions in late 1969.

 

 

 

Here's a classic match up during the PDA series at Carlsbad in 1969. Don Garlits appears to be in trouble at the hit as James Warren gets away clean.

 

James Warren 1969 handout.

 

The car at OCIR with its 1970 business coupe (shorty) body. This was done for two reasons, to save weight and the fact that Roger didn't like the nose piece as it made it too hard to work on the car.

 

 

Orangeline

 

Restoration

 

Without question the 1969-1971 Warren-Coburn-Miller fueler was one of their nicest and most feared. When "the orange car" came over the hill to play you knew they'd be in the thick of things. "The Ridge Route Terrors" was no idle threat!  James Warren drove, Roger Coburn tuned and Marvin Miller supplied the money.

This particular car was sold in 1971 to help finance their first rear engine car and had no history post WCM. Thankfully it stayed somewhat in tact for decades until 2001 when Dave Beck saw a photo of it at the Pomona Swap Meet. Beck found out the car was in San Jose and was for sale. He followed up the lead until he got it. Since then it has gone though a lot of chassis and body repair. It sat in his garage getting restored at the pace Dave could afford. Now, in 2007, the car is finally done and made its Cacklefest debut in 2007. This is how it got there.

Thanks to Warren Merriman for the restoration photos.

 

The 180" Woody car just fits into Dave's garage.

 

 

We'll pick up this story just after Beck finished straightening out the chassis and body.

 

 

 

 

The chrome and fuel tank were done early on.

 

 

Over the years Dave managed to collect most of the period correct parts he needed for the final assembly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dave installed the original Tony Nancy interior (and roll bar pads) that were incredibly in perfect shape.

 

 

 

Dave removes the body so it can go out for paint.

 

 

Paint and graphics blueprint.

 

Fortunately this was a popular car with the photographers so Dave has a lot of shots to use for reference.

 

One of Dave's prize possessions is this Kenny Youngblood drawing he got at the 2004 CHRR.

 

Next project was to align the engine.

 

 

 

Ready for engine mounts.

 

 

Chassis back from powder coating.

 

 

 

 

 

In early 2006 the car was painted and lettered ... next step the engine.

 

A very proud Dave Beck.

 

 

 

 

 

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It's not a Mr. Ed, but Beck found a period correct to transport the WCM car.

 

Orangeline

 

Fast forward to October 12-14, 2007 - Bakersfield, CA and the California Hot Rod Reunion when the Warren-Coburn-Miller car made its official Cacklefest debut.

 

Although it was on hand but not done for the 2006 CHRR, Beck's "Warren - Coburn - Miller" restoration was done and running for 2007. This was a marathon project that was well worth the wait.

 

At the event the car was pitted on "Digger Row" with some very high class company.

 

 

 

Orangeline

 

Cacklefest proper kicked off Saturday evening before a full house with a parade and introduction of the 64 participants including Dave Beck in his WCM restoration.

 

This was on the top of the locals most popular list was as James Warren, Roger Coburn and Marv Miller are local legends in Bakersfield and this particular Woody car was one of their best.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beck chose to self start the car (opposed to a push start) for its first outing so he too was towed back to the line.

 

 

After all the cars were taken to the top end of the track, the self start cars parked at and around the starting line area fired first. The push starts then began and never seemed to end.

 

 

 

Look for this beauty at future cacklecar events including the 2008 CHRR.

 

 

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