Miller's Engine Works

Harold Armenius Miller began his automotive career at the Pasadena Automobile Company in 1905. With his previous jobs as a mechanic and machinist for bicycle shops in cities like San Francisco and Salt Lake City, he gained experience with machinery and bettered his mechanical know-how.  Harry always had a relationship with understanding the physical manipulations of machinery and took a quick liking to the study at a young age. His mechanical aptitude allowed him to push boundaries and conjured up some of the most radical ideas, that would later be made a reality by his world class design and engineering team. 

Miller began working on his designs for an improved carburetor, applicable to the wildly popular Ford Model T's of the era. After filing and receiving his patent of this newly configured carburetor, Miller went straight to work in his large backyard shed on his Los Angeles property, and affectionately named his business "Miller Carburetor & Mfg. Co."

The success of the company soon caught the attention of the sons of Charles W. Fairbanks, who then bought Miller's carburetor company, renamed the company to "New-Miller Manufacturing Company" and was incorporated. With Miller's company and assets bankrolled by the hands of the Fairbanks brothers, production soared to an estimated 70,000 carburetors per fiscal year, and the company continued to pump out performance level Master Carburetors. 

Humble Beginnings & Master Carburetors

After making upwards of $1 million per year through carburetor sales, Miller had the cash flow to fund and support many of his expensive ideas and intensive projects. After acquiring a destroyed inline 8-cylinder, dual overhead cam Peugeot engine, Miller immediately went to work with his top notch team to build a better, more robust version of the Peugeot engine. This project was a major success and lead to the defiant racing dominance of Miller engines in american racing in the 1920s. The Miller straight eight was born, at 122ci per race spec, the engine outperformed the rest of the competition in sprint car racing. With it's integrated cylinder head design, this application could withstand vast amounts of boost via a crank driven centrifugal supercharger. 

The combination throughout the years adapted to meet the requirements of each race, and to meet the needs of the buyers -- more speed. Harry A. Miller Inc. equipment set records, time and time again. From one track to the next, Miller straight eight's were setting fastest lap records across the country, and even terrorized a few grand prixs across the pond in Bugatti dominated circuits. The Miller straight eights came in various displacements, most commonly in the 91ci, 122ci, and 183ci configurations, however it is believed that some engines have seen even more variety of experimentation. After-all, it is racing. Embodying the spirit of going faster by any means necessary to obtain that coveted black and white precious checkered flag.

 

Racing Dominance - 91ci, 122ci, 183ci

Collection of various competitors sporting Harry A. Miller Inc. racing tech throughout the 1920's and early 1930's. 

From the success of Miller's dominant performance engines, many sought out Harry A. Miller Inc. to sample their performance engineering. Of the vast variety of performance engines, many motor combinations have seen some time on the water in a speed boat. On the drawing board, were many designs of Miller marine motors, much like a bizarre W-24, three rows of eight cylinders all sharing a common crank,  and twin Supercharged V-16's shown in the accompanying images. 

Many engine configurations were fitted for sea worthy travel; 1,113ci V-16's, U-16's, 183ci I-8's, and even some of the later 220ci I-4's. Of the lot, none were more popular on the water than the speculated only two existing twin Supercharged 1,113ci V-16's. This twin motor configuration was fitted into the notable "Miss America VIII" speed boat with the hopes of crushing the boat speed record. Miss America VIII was originally fitted with twin Packard V-12's, known as being one of the most reliable marine engines at the time. However, Gar Wood and Harry Miller came up with these immaculate motors, capable of turning a deafening 6,000rpm  on the water, in hopes to break the current speed record held on water. 

On Land & Sea - 

Marine Engines

Later in Harry Miller's career, Harry hatched the idea of fitting his own personal L-29 Cord, decked out with aftermarket Woodlites, with a Harry A. Miller, Inc. 303ci V16. With this engine configuration, more road car worthy with it's significantly small bore and overall engine displacement, it became a great package for Harry's personal road machine. 

After catching the interest of one William A. M. Burden, Burden saw the potential of pinnacle automotive technology in Harry A. Miller, Inc. Miller and Burden immediately began planning what would become the first conception of a Miller Pleasure Line car. Taking the same layout of the 303ci V16 and mounting a crank-driven Roots styled supercharger, it became the infamous Supercharged heart of the 1932 Miller-Burden Pleasure Car. 

After the Miller-Burden Pleasure Car V16 engine was sold back to Harry A. Miller, Inc. (now under the command of Fred Offenhauser), the heavy and inefficient supercharging system was removed, replaced with four Winfield carburetors, and the displacement was lower to 231ci -- the V16 was going racing!

The V16 ended up in an indy car raced by William "Shorty" Cantlon, who turned 40 laps at the 1947 Indy 500, notably keeping with the pace of the other lighter Offy powered rigs. Unfortunately, Cantlon suffered a fatal crash at turn 1 that not only ended his life, but ultimately ended the Miller V16 in racing.  

The Miller V16's - 

303ci & 231ci

  1. "The Miller dynasty: A technical history of the work of Harry A. Miller, his associates, and his successors" by Mark L. Dees

  2. "Miller" by Griffith Borgeson with the Smithsonian Institution

  3. "The Last Great Miller: The Four Wheel Drive Indy Car" by Griffith Borgeson

  4. Old Machine Press - https://oldmachinepress.com/

References

For a more extensive history of Harry A. Miller please visit the Harry A. Miller display at the Speedway Motors Museum of American Speed for more details about the wonderful accomplishments of Harry A. Miller, or look to the many in depth publications regarding Miller and his engineering feats listed below. 

Reading List:

  • "The Miller Dynasty: A Technical History of the Work of Harry A. Miller, his Associates, and his Successors" by Mark L. Dees

  • "MILLER" by Griffith Borgeson with the Smithsonian Institution

  • "The Last Great Miller: the Four-Wheel-Drive Indy Car" by Griffith Borgeson

For Even More Information Please Visit:

  • Speedway Motors Museum of American Speed - Lincoln, NE

  • Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum - Indianapolis, IN

  • The Henry Ford Museum - Dearborn, MI

More Info

Visit

1155 Badder Drive

Troy, MI, 48083

Call

T: (248) 797 - 8781

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