United States

Meet RSM Pursue Your Passion Winner: Joe Miller

ARTICLE  | 

Business Valuations Supervisor | Dallas, Texas

In today’s age of flexible work environments and optimized logistics, many individuals enjoy traveling. For me, the means by which to travel is my passion. I’m a first-choice advisor with RSM, and my passion is building and restoring cars.

While a career in and of itself, I’m self-taught in this subject. My father is a computer engineer and my mother is an interior designer. I rebuilt my first engine before I turned 10 years old. When I turned 16, I built my first car, a 1969 Volkswagen Beetle. In high school, I received a medal at the national Harley Davidson and Yamaha motorcycle repair competition. Throughout college, I earned income by working as a mechanic. To date, I’ve repaired or restored more project vehicles than I can remember, and I’ve done it all out of passion.

My passion is more than getting from point A to point B. It’s beyond gasoline fumes and exhaust noise. It supersedes hot metal and tire smoke and makes me happy whether I’m covered in grease or polishing a fresh paint job, idling in a traffic jam or cruising down the freeway. My passion is about the means, not just the end. Just as the thousands of components in an automobile work together in harmony, restoring a car requires that physics, engineering, math, chemistry, economics, history, and art all come together in one form or another. It’s the conglomeration of these disciplines that fuels my passion; the perspicacity that comes with analyzing complex systems, overcoming engineering challenges, problem solving, and aesthetic design.

In October 2019, I took a small amount of savings to an address listed on a photo-less classifieds advertisement that read along the lines of “Old car…does not run…needs work”; a rural property outside of [city/state]. As cliché as it sounds, sitting next to a barn was the silhouette of what any avid car enthusiast could identify from 100 yards away, a ’55 Chevy. Resting in between deflated tires and rusty patina was the shell of a 1955 two-door Chevrolet Bel-Air; the first and most revolutionary of what would later be known as the “Tri Fives”; the 1955, 1956, and 1957 Chevrolet sedans. I was already excited, but I was soon surprised again to discover that the car maintained its original legal title, with the original purchaser memorialized as the owner. Although this seller was acting as an intermediary on behalf of the owner’s estate, this was legally a one-owner 1955 Chevrolet that was manufactured in [city/state], sold by a Chevrolet dealer in [nearby city/state], and has spent its entire life driving on [state] roads. After studying the car’s derelict condition and learning the significance of the car’s history, my mind was made up. This car needed to be saved and I was in a position to do it. The seller and I discussed consideration, shook hands, and loaded the project onto my trailer. After coercing the barely-rolling chassis into my garage, I realized that this was the first time this car was shielded from the elements in decades. The piles of rust and detritus falling onto my garage floor were a portent of the challenges to come. This was going to be my Magnum Opus.

Completing this project will require all of the 5 C’s: Caring, Curious, Collaborative, Courageous, and Critical Thinking. The process of restoring a car from scratch, while daunting, can be broken down into three discrete phases:

  1. Make it run and drive.
  2. Repair the body and apply paint.
  3. Complete the interior and exterior with peripheral components and accessories.

This car was merely a frame, shell, and a title; no steps could be skipped in the process because it needed everything to begin with. The drivetrain in it was better suited as a boat anchor. The body required rust repair and panel replacement. The interior was as barren as the dirt patch the car was parked on when I rescued it. However, the chassis was straight and the VIN number was intact, and that’s as solid of a project foundation as the U.S.A. steel that these cars were built with.

If it’s any testament to my ability to complete the project, I’m proud to announce that in less than one year I’ve completed Phase 1 of this project. This 65 year-old car drove under its own power on July 4, 2020, celebrating its independence from the effects of time. Phase 1 was by far the most capital-intensive portion of the project, and shoehorning a modern computer-controlled V8 engine, automatic transmission, and ancillary systems necessary to stop, start, and steer has exhausted my capital reserves. With enough time (and social distancing), I can carry on, but this is where I’m asking for your consideration and help. Financial assistance at this point in the project will help maintain progress. There is much to do in the next two years, and your help now will help me finish what is already in motion.

This is a COVID-19 compliant project and requires minimal interaction and travel. It will require a lot of learning, creativity, skill building, and discipline in the next two years. Just as RSM’s Generations employee network group supports sharing knowledge, experiences, skills and resources across experience levels, restoring this 1955 Chevrolet can do the same. This car stands as a testament to the way of life nearly 70 years ago. It represents the technology, materials, and demands of a bygone era. I’m passionate about restoring this car because while traveling is enjoyable, I think it’s important to remember where we came from and how we got here.

Thank you for taking the time to read about myself and the biggest project I’ve ever undertaken. I’m confident that together with your help I can succeed.