Dave Miller and the shopping cart

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Here’s the story behing the infamous photo: Dave Miller lost his battle with cancer. He passed away, too young, in the Spring of 2020, and now we’re just left with all the cool bikes he built, and the memories. Racer, tuner, innovator he was a So Cal moto legend.

One of the most iconic images of Dave is a photograph that I took when I worked at Motocross Action Magazine in 1976, and here’s the story of that photo. The Bazzer and Dick Miller had hired me on to be the assistant editor at the magazine, a low paying job that nowadays would be an intern. Little did they know I would’ve paid them to work there. Anyways the pay wasn’t great, but one of the benefits (besides testing new bikes, meeting all the motocross stars, traveling to the races, unlimited film, and paid race entries) is that I would get paid gas mileage – as long as the drive included something to do with a magazine article. I needed to document the mileage and justify it. Since I lived in Costa Mesa, and Motocross Action Magazine’s offices were in Encino in those days I had a long commute. It was one of those schemes where the efforts probably didn’t outweigh the actual monetary gain, but regardless I need every penny I could get and I never passed up a chance to beat the system. One of my jobs at MXA was to do a monthly article called Tricks of the Trade, which were new products. This usually entailed get corporate press releases from the motorcycle industry and making fun of them. A perfect job for a cartoonist. One day in order to rack up some mileage (The Valley back home to Orange County) I planed to go to Miller Mano in Anaheim. My excuse was to review some new products that Dave had come up with. The 76 Suzuki RM 250 that year was a hit. It was a solid privateer workhorse, and Miller Mano developed a cool radial head for the cylinder. I came up with a clever little photo of it actually looking like a head with a hat on top. But that wasn’t enough when Dave’s around. Somehow we came up with the concept of the shopping cart bike using other Suzuki parts laying around his shop Dave’s innovation and creativity with fabricating must’ve wore off on me because I came up with all kinds of crazy ways to build this kooky contraption. We took the thing out back behind Dave’s shop, and my idea was to have him pop a wheelie and kick some sand at the same time so it would look like a roost. I think I timed it the photo perfect, but I always regretted that one of the shocks fell over midway through the action take. (Mike Chamberlain may be credited with moving shocks forward but I can lay claim to lay them down as this photo proves. JK because people had already done before ‘76 but I thought some of the younger guys might be gullible enough to believe me). Back in those days we used film obviously, and I was super disappointed that one of the shocks had fallen backwards when I got the photo proof sheets to review after the film was developed. Another little cool detail is back in those days Dave drank Dr Pepper nonstop, and it was like a running joke with us and the Saddleback crew. Note how we used a can of Dr Pepper for the carburetor. Finding an empty wasn’t too hard to find in his shop, they were all over the place. Dave’s expression in this picture will always capture his wild imagination and fun sense of humor. Almost 45 years later this picture will always remind me of a fun day spent down at Miller Mano, where everything was sano. Rest in peace buddy, you’ll always stay alive in our memories.

Written on September 26, 2023