By Ted Gushue
Ted Gushue: Start from the top. What exactly is this Miura?
William Nielsen: It’s a 1967 Lamborghini Miura P400 that has been in my family since 1970. It was my grandmother’s cousin’s car and he lives in the same time I grew up in, so we were the closest family.
TG: It’s a pretty bold move to live in the middle of Illinois with a Miura back in the Seventies.
WN: He was an electrical engineer for an alarm company and he didn’t have any family, he wasn’t married, so he’d always been a car guy from 16 onward. Him and his buddies were into buying cheap cars, working on them. As his career developed, he was shopping around for a better car. He had his eyes on a Ferrari, but his boss bought a Ferrari, and he was like, "I got to get something else".
His buddies, the Ulrich brothers, they had an auto shop. They initially tipped him off. "Hey, we know this guy from Wisconsin. He’s going to be in town with this Lamborghini Miura and another gentleman that has a Maserati Ghibli". They set up a race between these two cars. "You should come out and watch these two cars race."
The Miura won, the story goes, and that settled that. It turned out the guy who owned it was interested in selling, so over the next few months they worked out a deal. The other funny part was, he bought the car and the Ulrich brothers, after he bought it, they felt kind of bad because they were like, "We knew it kind of needed some work. Now that you have it, we’ll help you work on it."
TG: Yeah, good guys.
WN: He had it, and the next town over in Skokie, and that’s the town he worked in, and he would drive it to work every day. Obviously not in the winter, but he enjoyed working on it, making his own modifications. He worked at an alarm company, so he put a car alarm on it, put it together himself. I don’t know if you’ve seen pictures, but he modified the covers to the carburetor, fabricated his own, so those are a cool feature that I think looks better than what Lamborghini did.
TG: Very cool. When did the car get parked?
WN: Around late ’80s, ’88, ’89, he pulled it into his garage to work on the brakes, and I think he was doing some clutch work too, and the project got stalled. I’m not sure if it was getting parked, I know his mom passed away around that time. It was maybe for a variety of reasons it got stalled.
WN: That was about that time, it had to be around then, I can’t remember specifically, but I had been in it driving when I was around six or so. I was born in ’84. For the rest of my life it was just this thing in the garage that as a kid I’d always want to go see it.
TG: Yeah, of course.
WN: I always thought it was cool, but some people in the family kind of ... You know how it is, some people just don’t get it or they’re not into it.
TG: So what was the impetus to get it out of the barn? Tell me about how that came about.
WN: About two years ago his health was deteriorating. His siblings were trying to take care of things, he’s still alive now, but they were trying to prepare for his potential passing in the coming years. It would be easier to take care of a lot of that stuff, like how things get divvied up, while he’s still around. They were trying to figure out what to do with the car and thinking about selling it, and I spoke up for it. "Hey, this is a really special thing that’s been in the family. It’s important to me. Let’s not just sell this to the first guy who walks by."
No one in the family really knew the value of it. I knew it had more value than they did, but even I didn’t even know the true value of it or whatever. I reached out to my friend Cam who I’ve been friends for a while, I know him, he works on cars and stuff. I reached out to him and, "Hey, my family’s got that car."
In-laws reached out to him, the family’s kind of like, "Hey, if you want to deal with it, the car is yours. We’re trying to unload his stuff." They gave it to me and Cam and I worked out a deal. I wanted to stay involved in the process. "Hey, I don’t want to just sell this. I don’t even want to just sell this to you. I don’t know a ton about cars, but I want to bring this thing back to life."
TG: Yeah, this is an important family heirloom.
WN: Yeah. "Keep me involved. I don’t want to just call and check in on how you’re doing." It’s been great. We’ve built this group of people around it. Anything I didn’t know, just kind of, "Hey, who can we get a hold of that we can bring in to help us out?" Our other friend who races off-road buggies, he was doing engine work, mechanical stuff. You know, really taking our time with it, deciding how we want to go about it. So the first couple months, we got it out of the garage, we secured it at another location. Now it’s research time, digging into the story, figuring out where Jay was, that was my relative, where he was in his work, and what do we want to do. Do we totally want to restore it? We eventually we decided, no, we don’t want to do that. It’s worn here because he drove it. We wanted to leave all that stuff.
TG: Yeah. What was the reception like at car week?
WN: Oh, it was great. I had no idea. I’ve never been to car week before, so just being there was great. But then also, the reception, people love the car. We were there, you saw, I can’t remember how many other Miuras there were there, ours was the only one that had a pretty consistent crowd around it. With the fiftieth anniversary, you’re seeing a lot of them everywhere and it was kind of cool to see ours stood out compared to all these more perfect ones. People were really appreciative. The execs from Lamborghini were there, and some of those guys we talked to were there in ’65 working, so it was cool to talk to them and see how excited they are that these little pieces here and there are intact and the way they remember them. Talking to the judges using it as comparisons to other cars.
TG: What’s it like to drive?
WN: It terrifies me. We haven’t replaced the tires yet, so always concerned something could go wrong at any moment it’s kind of squirrel-y. But the noise, I’d say, is the most standout thing to me. I haven’t been in a ton of other cars, but it has a pretty unique purr and cadence to it. Even starting up takes a while to turn over. The first time I remember we got the engine going, we still had the rear end off, the headlights weren’t working, it was night and we were working all day. We got it going and driving around the parking lot was such a crazy feeling.
TG: Do your friends just think you’re the luckiest dude in the world?
WN: They either don’t get think I’m the luckiest dude or they think I’m an asshole.
TG: Some combination of the three, no doubt.
WN: Probably! [laughs] They’re all accurate accounts at this point I suppose. Anybody that wants to see it or come have a ride in it, I’ve been trying to set that up for them. I flew my little cousin out here for the photoshoot with Jeremy Cliff. He’s, let’s see, 14-years old, he’s one of the only other guys in his family who’s interested in cars at all. "Come on, we’re going to do this photo shoot." I’ve put it out there with friends, family, even people I don’t really know. If you want to see it I’ll make it happen, I want people to enjoy it.
That was probably the best thing about taking it to car week. Being able to share it, seeing people enjoy it is really special.