When Elliot “Chip” Miller and Bill Miller (no relation) tried to sell Chip’s 1954 Corvette at the Antique Automobile Club of America’s (AACA) Hershey show in 1973, they were told that their car wasn’t old enough to be granted entry. At that point, the two gentlemen decided that there needed to be a venue for folks who liked cars, even if they weren’t considered “classics” at the time.
“We had placed the car in the booth, Chip reversed his business card and used it as a sign under the windshield wiper,” Bill recalls. “The sign said, ‘1954 Corvette $6,500. Will return every hour on the hour if you have interest.’ There were no cell phones back then, so this was our way of meeting someone should they have an interest in the car. The second hour back, Chip found the business card on the floor of the car. He figured that someone had liked the car and didn’t want anyone else to know it was for sale.
Chip returned the business card to the windshield and a short time later, someone pulled up in a golf cart and asked who owned the car. Chip thought it was probably the person interested in the car, so he greeted the person, only to find out that it was an official of the meet. The official said the Corvette was a “used car” and was not allowed to be sold because it was not 35 years old or older. “
The very next year, on September 26, 1974, the duo rented the Carlisle Fairgrounds for $600 and held the very first “Post War ’74” event. Almost 600 vendors set up in more than 800 spaces, while 6,000 spectators paid the $1 admission to enter the event in search of parts for their “not-old-enough” vehicles. The next year, the event was officially changed to Carlisle ’75, and the momentum began brewing.
Each of the events over the next few years was a complete success, and in 1977, a second event was added to the calendar, now known as Spring, and Fall Carlisle, respectively. As things grew, Carlisle Events wound up purchasing the Carlisle fairgrounds in 1981. From there, sellout events gave way to more events on the summer calendar. Special events were founded around specific makes and models of cars. Events held at the Carlisle fairgrounds now include Carlisle Import & Performance, Carlisle Ford Nationals, Carlisle Chevrolet Nationals, Carlisle Chrysler Nationals, Carlisle Hurst Nationals, Carlisle Truck Nationals and Corvettes at Carlisle.
The official said the Corvette was a “used car” and was not allowed to be sold because it was not 35 years old or older. – Bill Miller, Carlisle Events Founder
The Carlisle fairgrounds themselves were constantly evolving into a car-friendly environment with permanent buildings, paved walkways and plenty of accommodations for both vendors and attendees. To date, the Carlisle‐based events bring in $98 million annually to the local economy in Central Pennsylvania and the spring show is the organization’s biggest draw of the year with nearly 100,000 enthusiasts converging on the region.
Ironically, the duo of Chip and Bill Miller are slated to receive one of the highest honors the AACA can bestow on an individual(s) “who made an exceptional contribution to the hobby by preserving antique automobiles and motorsports vehicles, exhibiting their vehicles, promoting the hobby, engaging in sustained, noteworthy activities that have positively impacted the hobby and using his/her position in the hobby for philanthropy and service to others.”
They will both receive the 2019 AACA Museum’s Automotive Heritage Award. Sadly, we lost Chip Miller to Amyloidosis in 2004, and his son Lance Miller has picked up the torch on his behalf. Both Lance and Bill Miller will receive this award on October 9th, at the AACA Museum’s “Night at the Museum” gala and silent charity auction on October 9 in Hershey, Pennsylvania.