18/3/1925 - 11/6/1998
Vel was born in 1925 in Lead, South Dakota, the only son of Yugoslavian immigrants. Moving to Southern California with his parents, Vel graduated from high school in Torrance, California, and served in the Pacific Theater in WW l l as an aerial photographer with the US Army Air force. Upon returning from the service, Vel entered the car business at Oscar Maples Ford running that dealership, and in 1954 he was able to buy his own Ford dealership in his home town of Torrance. He learned early on while working at Maples that the motto - Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday - was the way to sell cars. It didn't take him long to have a winning team, Hall of fame members Scotty Cain, Eddie Gray, Marvin Porter and the legendary Parnelli Jones all drove the Vel's Fords. From the mid-fifties through the late sixties the Vel Miletich Ford team ruled west coast stock car racing, running as many as 3 cars and winning over 30 main events. Winning races helped make Vels one of the leading Ford Dealerships, In nearly thirty years of existence, Vel's Ford won several national sales awards, and set several Southern California sales records for the Ford Motor Company. One of his drivers was Torrance's Parnelli Jones who later with Vel's support, would win the 1963 Indianapolis 500 and become a racing legend. The relationship with Parnelli grew to the extent that they soon became business partners. Parnelli Jones Enterprises was formed in 1964 by Vel Parnelli and Marvin Porter. Under his guidance as chairman of the board, in a few years the business grew from a single local tire store to over 45 retail locations, three wholesale warehouses and a racing tire distributorship in a multi-state area. In 1967 Vel brought Parnelli Jones on board as a partner in his successful Ford Dealership where it operated continually until the mid eighties when Vel decided to semi-retire. At about the same time, Vel and Parnelli formed what was to become one of the most formidable auto racing teams in that era. In a span of less that ten years, their race cars won back to back Indianapolis 500's, five USAC championships and victorious in a total of 53 Indy car races with 100 top three finishes. Through Vel's leadership the team was the first to introduce several innovative racing systems, from quick release refueling and venting, the first Cosworth Formula One engine turbo-charged for Indy car use, and in car radio use, Vel's was the best and his drivers were also, Mario Andretti, Kevin Cogan, A.J. Foyt, Joe Leonard, Danny Ongias and Al Unser.