'From the Fishers Star by Betsy Reason'
Roger Miller enjoys sharing the name of the late country music singer, and
he has the title of the singer's hit song "King of the Road" painted on the wooden sideboards of
his restored 1953 Chevy half-ton truck.
When he's in the driver's seat, "I feel like 'King of the Road'," said Miller, 69, Fishers, who first heard the singer/songwriter on his car radio in 1958 and has been a fan since.
He came upon the truck in the hills of North Carolina, while visiting his cousin almost 20 years ago on a motorcycle trip. "I looked down the mountain, and there set this truck, kind of stuck in the mud in the backyard.
At that point, Miller knew he wanted it.
After negotiating a year with the owner, Miller dollied the truck home.
The truck was rusty, and the motor was tired, he said. Holes in the floor were covered with plywood, and "you could've fallen through them." Miller could see a lot of work ahead of him.
Today, the truck looks almost showroom new, said Miller, who spent 10 1/2 years restoring lt. He'll display his Chevy 3104 in sunday's annual Father's Day Car Show at Forest Park in Noblesville.
The event annually draws about 10,000 people, said Noblesville parks director Don Seal, and about 200 cars, according to Dave Shank, president of Central Indiana Vintage Vehicles, which sponsors the show.
The 2008 show was the biggest ever, with proceeds benefiting Normal Life of Sheridan, a care program for those with brain damage. The Indiana Transportation Museum is offering train rides from downtown Noblesville to the park.
"It's a lot of fun if you like to talk to people," said Miller of the show.
In restoring the truck, he spent about 10 times what he paid for it. He stripped the vehicle down to the frame, sandblasted it and primed it, and replaced brakes, brake lines and bearings. He sent out the engine and transmission for an overhaul, and replaced the rear end to allow highway speeds.
He had the seats reupholstered with Naugahyde, and the headliner and door panels redone with a cardboard material as close to the original as he could find. Miller installed seat belts, because there weren't any. He put in every original accessory available that he could find, even an original radio that sounds original.
There's still no air conditioning, he said. "Just vent windows and a(n air) scoop in the front."
He doesn't drive the truck much in the heat or the rain. He said the windshield wipers are the original vacuum-driven wipers that work pretty slow. One time rain was coming down so hard that he had to pull back one wiper to get enough vacuum so one wiper alone could better handle the job.
Miller's passion came from his father, an auto body repairman, who taught Miller the trade when he was a teen. He built a motor scooter at 13. After raising five children, he started restoring motorcycles when was 40, and currently is fixing up a 1963 Studebaker truck and a 1972 Fiat convertible.
Miller, who with his wife grew up in Tyner, Ind., has lived in Fishers for 35 years and said he feels a lot of nostalgia in owning the old truck.
"It brings back the days when I was in high school, and life was a little simpler back then."