Sammy - The Legend
Who is Sammy Miller? Learn about the man and his storied career. Find out more below.
Samuel Hamilton Miller was born in Belfast on 11th November 1933.
During the second world war, Sammy was evacuated to the countryside, where he and his friends would play on their bicycles, traversing waste ground and bomb sites.
This would provide the foundation for his off-road riding skills!
After receiving a Villiers motor for his birthday, Sammy built his first ever motorcycle at 17 years of age.
He dubbed it the ’S.H.S’ (Samuel Hamilton Special) and began winning local trials events in the surrounding Belfast area.
Sammy on his passion for motorcycles:
“I remember when we were kids at Templepatrick, seeing the guys testing bikes up and down the Antrim Mile. We have so many great races like the Ulster GP and the North West 200. It was the ultimate. I started getting a passion for it at about 10 years old, and here I am, still playing with motorbikes.”
Mounted on his SHS, Sammy entered the 1953 Scottish Six Day Trial.
Boarding a ferry from Belfast docks to Glasgow, he then rode to the start of the event in Edinburgh.
His first of many entries into the SSDT, he eventually finished 6th and was given the Ben Nevis Newcomer’s award.
Sammy would go on to win 5 Scottish Six Day Trials.
At 20 years of age, Sammy marked his first notable racing victory at the Cookstown 100, riding an AJS 7R to victory at 73.97 mph – one of the fastest times ever recorded in the series at the time.
Sammy’s father, Alexander Miller is pictured to his right.
After signing for Ariel’s works trial team, Sammy moved to Birmingham, nearer to the factory at Selly Oak.
It was there that he would develop and tune the trials machine that he would grow to be associated with for many years to come – a 500cc Ariel HT5 with the registration GOV 132.
For years, Sammy was racing in Grand Prix competitions, whilst competing at the highest level in off-road trials during the off-season.
Sammy famously won the North-West 200 in 1958, pipping the great Mike Hailwood to pole position.
Between 1956-1958, Sammy won the North West 200 and Leinster 200 three years in succession, as well as finishing 3rd in the World GP in Monza.
Despite realising success at world championship level, Sammy eventually grew disillusioned with roadracing, citing the sport’s over-reliance on engine and machine performance, rather than the skill of the rider. After the 1958 racing season, he would walk away in order to focus his efforts almost exclusively on trials competition.
One of Sammy’s proudest victories came in the 1962 Scott Trial, a year where the course was reckoned to be in the worst condition in its history, due to a week of heavy rain which caused trials reporters to describe the terrain as ‘porridge’.
Miller finished 40 marks ahead of his nearest rival, marking one of his 7 wins in arguably the most arduous trial event in the calendar.
Moved to New Milton, Hampshire, where he founded a motorcycle parts business – Sammy Miller Equip. This would provide a home for Sammy’s workshop and motorcycle restorations.
The shop was originally located on Lymington Road in Highcliffe, before it moved to Gore Road in New Milton.
Sammy grew the company to become one of the main distributors for trials gear and accessories in the UK, before selling the business in 2007.
With the British motorcycle industry on its knees, Sammy understood that the writing was on the wall. He was introduced to Francisco Bulto, of the Spanish trials marque, Bultaco, and the pair set about developing a new trials machine.
After 12 days working together in Spain, they had created the Bultaco Sherpa T, a bike that changed the sport of trials forever.
Sammy’s success on this machine in the 1965 SSDT effectively signalled the end of heavyweight four-stroke trials machines, and paved the way for the ’Spanish Armada’, of lighter two-strokes.
Victory in the inaugural European Trials Championship, a forerunner to the FIM Trial World Championship.
Sammy would win the event again in 1970.
A journalist once wrote: “his sheer mastery on sections which had hitherto defeated the whole of a top-class entry would sometimes produce a roar from spectators like a goal at a football match, such was the level of excitement his efforts aroused.”
Sammy won gold in the 1971 International Six Days Trial, held in the Isle of Man.
The ISDT, hailed as the ‘Olympic Games’ of motorcycling, was a series of annual events in which countries pitted their best riders against each other in a gruelling six-day enduro-style race against the clock.
Riders were responsible for maintaining their machines throughout the six days, highlighting the necessity for mechanical nouse, as well as reliability from motorcycle manufacturers.
Sammy managed to win 9 gold medals for Great Britain.
After retiring from international trials events, Sammy joined Honda to oversee development of their trials machines, as well as managing their trials competition team.
Following a trip to Japan, he designed Honda’s first trials machine, the TL 250, which featured his signature ‘Hi-Boy’ frame.
During this time, Sammy travelled to far-flung corners of the globe, promoting and teaching the sport of motorcycle trials.
Having collected and restored a number of rare and interesting motorcycles, Sammy opened up his private collection for public viewing.
The Sammy Miller Motorcycle Museum was born!
Sammy on starting the Museum collection:
“After retiring from international events, in about 1970, all of a sudden, I got the idea that it’d be nice to have some of my old racing bikes. The North West 200 NSU, the bike I won the Cookstown on, the Norton I won the Munster on, and so on. So I started collecting all my old racing and trials bikes. The double garage at home wasn’t big enough. I extended that, and that wasn’t big enough. It’s just a passion that got out of control.”
Less than a month before his 50th birthday, Sammy chalked up an historic 1000th trials victory riding a 310cc Armstrong.
Several years previously, Sammy had built a prototype trials bike with a friend, Andrea Mosconi, who had supplied the Hiro engine.
After Sammy decided not to go into production, Mosconi teamed up with Armstrong, who produced a machine largely based on the ‘Miller’ original.
A journalist once wrote: “during the peak years of his trials career, Miller gained a reputation for being unapproachable. At sections he would have a grim look on his face and see and hear nobody, so intent was he on what he was doing.”
Sammy acquired an old New Milton farmhouse in disrepair.
He converted the premises with picturesque views into what is now the current location for the museum today!
With the Museum collection continuing to grow, the first of the Museum extensions were granted.
In 2005 the Racing Hall was officially opened by John Surtees CBE.
One of the most impressive sections of the Museum, the racing gallery is not to be missed on your visit!
Sammy was included in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List for Services to Motorcycle Heritage.
He was awarded an MBE at Buckingham Palace by King Charles III.
An extension to the front entrance and atrium of the Museum was opened in 2015 by Murray Walker OBE and John Surtees CBE.
The impressive 2-level entrance includes a viewing platform where visitors can see across to the Isle of Wight.
A 10,000 sqft two-storey glass fronted extension – the Upper Gallery – was officially opened by the Duke of Richmond on 22/07/2021.
The Museum now houses more than 450 historic motorcycles, almost all of them in working order.
“To restore an old wreck of a bike that hasn’t run for 80 years, rebuild it and take it out into the courtyard and fire it up and have a ride on it, well there’s nothing that beats that for me.”
A few of Sammy's Accolades
- 11 times successive British Trials Champion.
- Twice European Trials Champion (World Championship).
- 13 times successive Hurst Cup winner.
- 18 times successive Walter Rusk Trial winner.
- 5 times winner of the famous Scottish Six Day Trial.
- 7 times winner of the World’s most arduous trial the “Scott Trial” on the harsh and unforgiving Yorkshire moors.
- Winner of 1482 Trials events.
- 9 Gold medals at International Six Day Enduros.
- Irish Motocross Champion.
- 1955 Irish Sand Racing Champion.
- Winner of most Irish Road races, including winning the North West 200 and the Leinster 200 three years in succession.
- 1955 - Successfully competed in the Leinster 200, German GP, Skerries 100, Ulster GP, Italian GP and Aintree.
- 1956 - Successfully competed at Silverstone, North West, Cookstown 100, Isle of Man TT, Aintree, Leinster 200, Killinchy 150, Temple 100, Ulster GP, Kirkistown and Monza GP.
- In 1957 successfully competed at Lurgan Park winning twice, Oulton Park, North West 200, Cookstown 100, Leinster 200, Killinchy 150, Temple 100, Silverstone and Aintree.
- Third in the World Grand Prix Championships on a works Mondial.
- Sponsor of the British Classic Trial Championships.
- Isle of Man TT Results: 5 starts, 1 retirement when leading and 4 Silver TT reps.
- Until a few years ago Sammy was still winning Trials and competing in classic road race events throughout Europe and as far away as New Zealand.
- 2007 - Inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame.
- 2014 - Named FIM Legend.
- 2021 – The first motorcyclist ever to be awarded the Guild of Motoring Writers President’s Trophy.