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TigerMobile part of MU tailgate scene

Saturday, October 25, 2008 | 7:49 p.m. CDT; updated 10:07 p.m. CDT, Saturday, October 25, 2008
Keith Miller opens the door of his 1969 Checker Cab limo to show a reporter the interior on Saturday, October 11, 2008. Miller and his family attend most of the Mizzou home games, bringing the tiger car to tailgate in Lot K on Mick Deaver Drive. Miller says the car requires a lot of upkeep, so he only drives it to the games and back.

COLUMBIA - Keith Miller won't ever need to hit the panic button to find his car after a game.

That's because Miller, who grew up following MU athletics, drives what he calls the TigerMobile, a 1969 Checker Aerobus that over decades has been transformed into an eye-catching salute to Mizzou. A horn that plays the first few notes of "Every true son" is just one of the features that call attention to the vehicle, which on home game days sits in Lot K just outside the shadow of Hearnes Center.

"It's been around (tailgates) since the early 80's," said Miller, a 43-year-old pipefitter from Columbia. "People all recognize it."

It would be tough to miss. The limo, 22 feet long, is covered in yellow with black paint for stripes. Two flat fixtures on top of the car represent ears, and a stuffed animal Tiger is perched on the car's hood. Smaller decorations like flags hang from the car's sides.

"Each year I try to come up with something new," Miller said. Last year, he added a stand pinned near the left rear tire. From there rises a flagpole with the American flag on top and a Mizzou flag underneath.

According to Miller, Ray Odom of Clinton was the original owner. Odom had four children who attended MU, resulting in his inspiration for the Tiger design. Odom sold it to Keith Miller's father, Lewis Miller, in the mid 1980's. The elder Miller worked as a mechanic in Clinton, which is how he knew Odom, Keith Miller said.

"My dad used to drive it from Clinton to Columbia," Keith Miller said. "I used to take it to baseball and basketball games."

He doesn't make those trips anymore, though, because the car has aged. Still, he said, "It'll do 65, 70 (mph)."

Keith Miller bought the car from his father in the mid 1990's, but said his dad still works with it.

"He's a big help," Keith Miller said. "(The work) can be tedious. I've had it repainted over the years. It took... four of us probably three days."

Despite the work, Keith Miller said he appreciates the fans' response.

"It's obviously a big hit," he said. "We'll yell MIZ and they'll yell ZOU. Everybody just thinks it's great."

In fact, Keith Miller cites reactions from kids seeing the car as one of his favorite parts of owning it.

"Ooh, look, a Tiger!" he said kids will shout. Passers-by like to set their kids on the hood next to the stuffed animal, he said, and sometimes take pictures.

His daughter, Elaine Miller, 9, is a big fan, too. Keith Miller said she protests whenever he mentions thinking of selling it. She's even asked her father to pick her up from school in the TigerMobile, but to no avail.

There's a big hill in front of the school, she acknowledged. "The brakes aren't that good."

Non-Tigers fans are often attracted to the car as well. At one point two weeks ago, four or five Oklahoma State supporters posed in front of the car for a picture.

"A lot of the opposing fans come by," he said.

He said while most fans from other schools enjoy checking it out, he hasn't taken it on a road trip, afraid the car could get treated poorly.

Like a lot of Tigers football fans, the TigerMobile has been part of the Mizzou scene through the team's strong years and lean ones.

"(In those seasons) we wouldn't get the response we do now," Keith Miller said.


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