On Wednesday, February 27, the garage that serves as headquarters for the Mus um’s Pit Crew was formally dedicated as “Milt’s Garage” honoring the crew’s founder and guru, Milt Webb.
Milton “Milt” Webb was born in Riverside, California on May 1,1932. Not surprisingly for a guy who has never stopped working - even at 86 years old. Milt became a working man early. He started catching gophers for his neighbors, at a rate of 25 cents per catch. Not bad work (or pay) for an eight-year-old. When he was eleven, working with his dad, he earned money scraping gunk out of different engine components. By age 14, he’d saved up enough gopher-scooping and gunk-scraping funds to put a down payment on a motor scooter. By age 16, he’d saved up enough money to buy a used Ford Model A.
When Milt was 16, he’d begun working with his father Earl, fixing and tuning up cars. Soon, Milt found himself in Las Vegas, braving 100-degree heat with Earl, fixing up a customer’s Model A; the same car he’d bought himself. The Model A had a broken axle, and Earl wanted to show Milt a quicker (but just-as good) way too do the repair. Milt recalls this as his first “listening lesson,” which taught him the value of mentors with more experience. It’s a lesson he never forgot.
It was around this time that Milt had his first encounter with another future member of the Museum family. He had heard stories about a hot-rodder named Dick Teague, who was terrorizing the streets in and around San Bernardino High School - just a stone’s throw from the original McDonald’s hamburger stand. Fast-forward 40 years and these two young rivals crossed paths again at the Towe Ford Museum, where Dick was establishing the Museum’s research library.
It was around 1988 that Milt first set foot in the Towe Ford Museum, which had opened a year earlier. That year, the museum lent it’s yellow 1913 Model T Ford out to a parade to transport Mayor Ann Rudin, Sacramento’s first elected female mayor. It started out well, but at some point, during the parade, the T slowed down, shaking violently. Fearing the worst, Mayor Rudin stepped out of the car and walked the remainder of the parade-route. Not a great first impression for the new museum. So, director Ernie Hartley recruited Milt to do some volunteer mechanic work on the T whenever he happened to be in town.
Milt got the T up and running again and then turned his attention to the red 1938 Buick: the first car donated to the California. Milt got it humming too, with a rebuilt distributor, and it’s still running for the Museum’s outreach events today.
Milt’s first mechanic partner was Dave Eichner, who currently heads up the Museum’s Pit Crew. Milt and Dave comprised the entire mechanical crew with Dave quickly taking on the nickname “Little Milt”. Gradually, other volunteers began joining the Pit Crew the roster which now includes more than 20 members. Milt notes that a handful of pit Crew members have real professional mechanic experience while the rest have a zeal for fixing cars and are eager to learn new things.
Milt really enjoys coming down to the Museum and doing what he’s done for more than seven decades now; tinkering with things, fixing them, and making them run. He enjoys the “behind the scenes” nature of the Pit Crew’s work. One of our best assets is the ability to take our collection on the road and show it off thanks to Milt and the Pit Crew.
If you’re ever at the Museum looking for Milt, more than likely, he’ll be hunched over an engine, doing his part to help ensure no mayor, governor, council member, or other elected official, has to unexpectedly walk a parade route in Sacramento again.