As a racer on the dry lakes, Stu Hilborn worked his way through the ranks with his Model A Roadster before buying his first streamliner on December 7th, of 1941, the day Pearl Harbor was attacked. Hilborn entrusted his friend Eddie Miller to help him put together his newly purchased streamliner before he enlisted himself into the Army Air Corps that year.
It was while in the air force that a young Stu Hilborn came up with a revolutionary new way to feed more fuel to an engine. The technological breakthrough earned Stu the reputation as the Father of Fuel Injection.
On the cusp of final testing the injection system against his carburetors Hilborn crashed the streamliner. After getting the car back together Hilborn would hire Howie Wilson to drive his car and prove his new inventions success. Wilson would drive the streamliner to the 150 mph barrier, effectively silencing his critics. While the car broke all records that year, the design was seen as a piece of art. In April 1948 it appeared on the cover of Hot Rod Magazine and continued to campaign at the lakes regularly.
With Hilborns early days spent as a fuel man at Indy, he knew he needed his injectors on a car at the 500 to prove their superiority. The opportunity to bring his injection system to Indy came with help from his friends in 1952. Jim Travers, his long-time friend and helper in developing the injection system along with Frank Coons were working for Howard Keck as engine mechanics.
With their help and Hilborns small product sponsorship for the team gave him the opportunity to name the car the “Fuel Injection Special”. Veteran driver Bill Vukovich drove the “Fuel Injection Special” but crashed while leading after the 190th lap but still proved their worth at Indy that year and following years with Hilborn injection fueling 34 wins at Indy from the 1950’s to the 1970’s.
Hilborn credits his success to his friendship with Jim Travers that he made early in his racing career. Jim was truly a great friend who fueled Hilborns passion for all things fast. Jims engineering experience and engine building skills helped Hilborn refine the final design of his injection system and help him get going with his operations. Afterwards, Jim decided he would move on from Hilborn as best friends and push his new company, Traco with friend and fellow racing mechanic Frank Coon. Without those friendships, Hilborn may never have been able to seize the moment at Indy and make his mark at the 500 giving provenance to his brand.
This is why many of his early manifolds are marked Patent Pending Hilborn-Travers Los Angeles, CA.
Today, Hilborn Injection is still in business producing new fuel injection systems as they have since the early 1950’s. The other portion of their business is repairing vintage injectors like you see here in our display today for previous customers.
Anyone familiar with postwar racing activity in America will recognize Jim Travers as the “TRA” half of TRACO−the largest, most prolific and respected race engine supplier to elite competitors of the USRRC, Trans Am, Can Am, Formula 5000 series, Pikes Peak and other racing series throughout the sixties and seventies. Their success was an unprecedented tidal wave of engine building success that dominated American racing circles for three decades.