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Hot Rod History


Pete Millar


The Car Toons of Pete Millar
Remembering The Father Of Arin Cee And His Comic Strips For Car Guys
Photography: Images From The Millar Family Collection And The Source Interlink Archives

A year ago, Tales from the Strip: The Hot Rod Comics and Drag Racing Cartoons of Pete Millar opened at the Pasadena Museum of California Art. It was exciting to see the work of our favorite comic book artist hanging in a fancy gallery. Although he's best known for his drag racing comics, Pete Millar was also the creator of Arin Cee, Rod & Custom's cartoon mascot in the Fifties and Sixties.

Pete was born in Oakland, California in 1929. According to his wife, Orah Mae Millar, he was drawing from the time he was little and drag racing from the time he was in high school. He joined the service at 16 (his father signed papers allowing him to go). In the early Fifties he was hired as an engineer at Convair, where he met Orah Mae; they were married in 1954.

Pete was making a good living drawing technical illustrations for the aerospace industry, but really wanted to make it as a cartoonist. He pitched his idea for car-themed cartoons to Hot Rod Magazine. "Don't quit your day job," they told him. At R&C, editor Spence Murray told him, "You're hired." Millar's cartoons were used to dress up our tech articles. Arin Cee made his first appearance in 1955.

In 1959, Pete did what Hot Rod told him not to--he quit his day job and went into cartooning full time. He and partner Carl Kohler were contracted by Petersen Publishing to create a comic book about cars. Carl lasted one issue, but Pete produced CARtoons from his home for four years. In 1963, Petersen announced that they were taking over production of CARtoons; Pete could submit art to the new editor for consideration. Instead, he started another magazine, Drag Cartoons.

In addition to laughs, Drag Cartoons provided an inside look at drag racing. Pete--who raced throughout the Sixties--knew the sport and the racers, and filled his cartoons with real cars and real people. He took some satirical jabs, but never a cheap shot--and he was always funny. His jokes were helped by his skillful caricatures. With a few pen strokes, he could draw a face as recognizable as a photo. His daughter Robin told us that racers started avoiding Pete when he had a camera, so she became his undercover photographer. "His work was a documentary of drag racing in the Sixties," Orah Mae commented. "Many racers have told me that they bought the magazine to look for themselves. They felt that if they saw themselves in a Pete Millar cartoon, they knew they'd made it."

In 1968, Pete stopped drawing Drag Cartoons and moved to Europe with Orah Mae and their daughters, Robin, Debra, and April. They lived in Sweden and later in Spain, and camped their way through Finland, the Soviet Union, and several Eastern Bloc and Mediterranean countries. Pete paid the way by drawing cartoons for American magazines, picking up checks (if they showed up) at embassies wherever they went. During these years, he developed his fine art skills, making additional money selling oil paintings. For examples of Pete's more recent fine art sculptures, visit

After returning to the U.S. in 1971, Pete introduced a variation on Drag Cartoons called Drag Comics, printed in a color newspaper format. He became a successful illustrator and model builder for court trials, where his drawings and models were used to demonstrate traffic and industrial accidents.

Pete made a welcome comeback to drag racing at the 1993 NHRA California Hot Rod Reunion, and returned annually to sign autographs and sell collections of his well-loved comics. He continued to draw--never losing his sense of humor or his edge--until his death in 2003. At that year's Hot Rod Reunion, thousands of fans witnessed Bob Muravez's fuel dragster deploy its 'chutes at half-track, releasing the ashes of Pete Millar.

In the years since, Orah Mae and Robin Millar have continued to attend this and other vintage drag races, promoting Pete Millar's Drag Cartoons and CD collections of his work. Their booth is a magnet for lifelong fans who loved his cartoons, and racers who loved being the object of his humor.

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Insert 1
Millar created the character Arin Cee (pronounced just like R&C) for Rod & Custom. This is Arin Cee's first appearance in the "little pages" in November 1955. Early cartoons had Arin solving some mechanical problems--in this case removing a busted rear axle stub with a coat hanger. Later, his antics would become more funny and less informative.
Insert 3
He really got to show off his skills with this detailed cutaway illustration of the R&C Dream Truck, published in the May 1958 issue
insert 4
In the same issue as the Dream Truck drawing (below), he continued the cutaway theme and parodied himself by having Arin Cee perform his own "cutaway" on Pete's coupe.
Insert 5
In addition to his skill as a cartoonist and a technical illustrator, Pete Millar was a talented painter. An artist he met while living in Sweden encouraged him to get involved in oil painting. This self portrait was done in 1969, during that time.
Insert 6
A young Don "The Snake" Prudhomme and car owner Lou Baney were the recipient of the Millar treatment in this strip, from Drag Cartoons in 1968.
Insert 7
In August 1961, R&C got a new look and a larger size. Pete must have been getting some encouragement to update ol' Arin Cee, judging by the conversation going on between the character and his creator.

Insert 8
Many of Pete's cartoons involved competition between old time hot rods and modern musclecars. In this 1967 strip from Drag Cartoons, a roadster is blown apart in probably the most literal "exploded" view ever created.
Insert 9
Sure enough, a younger hipper Arin Cee appeared in the newer, bigger R&C. This is from the August 1963 issue. Other artists would try drawing Arin Cee, but none of the other Arin's had the sparkle that Millar's did.
Insert 10
Pete's extremely elaborate birds-eye-view" drawings were very popular. This one, for the cover of Drag Cartoons from March 1965, depicts real dragsters, including his own green Intruder (left center), plus 100 little sight gags.
Insert 11

Ed Iskenderian was one of several aftermarket company owners who hired Pete to draw cartoons for their ads. This one is from late 1972.
Insert 12
The character in this 1967 Drag Cartoons strip may have been by inspired Big Willie Robinson, the famous LA street racer. Look at the detail in the front suspension.
Insert 13

Pete worked for Car Craft too, providing illustrations for the Tech Talk department for many years.
Insert 14
Early drag Racer Dick Kraft was respectfully ribbed in this strip published in the revived Drag Cartoons in 1999. Kraft seems to prefer drag racing the way he did it best.
Inset 15
Pop `n' Rod appeared in Popular Hot Rodding in the early Seventies. Talking cat sidekicks were another favorite Millar device, and Pop (or is it Rod?) is similar to the cats Fomoco and Val Covers, who wisecracked their way through the pages of CARtoons and Drag Cartoons.
Insert 16
Not to be outdone by the space program, or by Tommy Ivo's four-engine dragster, Santa swapped his reindeer for four blown Hemis and flew his sleigh across the cover of CARtoons in 1963. The detail in this painting is extraordinary for a comic book cover.
Insert 17

Insert 18

1953 America's Most Beautiful Roadster
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