An eccentric genius and engineering visionary, during his long career Harry A. Miller almost single-handedly transformed the face of American racing. His cars and engines dominated competition in the United States on land and on water for more than forty years. He was a constant innovator, pioneering the development of light alloy metals, aerodynamics, supercharging, both front and four-wheel drive and an amazing array of forward-looking ideas in automotive technology.
Miller's cars won the Indianapolis 500 a total of 10 times and machines powered by Miller or Miller-based Offenhauser engines won the big race another 29, not to mention 43 national championships.
On water, numerous Gold Cup and other major speedboat race wins were captured by craft powered by Millers.
At one time or another, almost every major speed and distance record was held by a Miller product. It is a record unequaled by any other manufacturer before or since. As a result, the name Miller has become synonymous with phenomenal success.
Harry Arminius Miller was born in Menomine, WI on December 12, 1875, the son of talented and artistic parents. From an early age he showed independence of mind and strong mechanical ability, leaving school as soon as possible to find his own way. He moved to Southern California in 1894 and grew interested in the burgeoning automotive industry, filing several early patents for spark plugs and other parts.
When he and his long-time friend Frank Adamson designed and built an improved carburetor, his career as innovative engineer began in earnest.
The Miller Carburetor and Manufacturing Co. was founded in 1909, the first of a number of business organizations Miller formed and led over the years.
Miller's aluminum carburetors soon became standard equipment on American racing cars and led him to the development of other lightweight components for high-performance and aviation engines.
In 1915, the Harry A. Miller Manufacturing Co. received its first order for a complete engine, as well as a request for a redesign of one of the famous double overhead cam Peugeot racing engines, which won at Indianapolis in 1913.
While these and other early projects were only moderately successful, it was during this period that Miller assembled a highly talented group of associates. These included master machinist Fred Offenhauser and brilliant draftsman Leo Goossen, men who were to bring into being most of Miller's seemingly inexhaustible supply of innovative ideas.
With this remarkable team, it was only a matter of time before successful racing engines and cars began to issue forth from the Los Angeles factory. Spurred by intense racing competition from the Dusenberg and Chevrolet Brothers, Harry Miller began to look toward the future with cars such as the fully enclosed and streamlined "Golden Submarine" built for Barney Oldfield in 1917.
Backed by financial support from Cliff Durant (son General Motors founder Billy Durant), as well as technical expertise from top drivers such as Tommy Milton and Ira Vail, Miller built the first of his legendary eight-cylinder double overhead camshaft racing cars in 1921. These beautifully crafted machines were immediately successful and laid the foundation of a racing dynasty that was to last for many years.