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  • Writer's pictureDavid Story

*post update*Did Harry Miller play in a band or something?

Updated: Feb 19, 2020

Harold Arminius Miller, known to all as Harry, always sported that iconic mustache of his. He was an American race car designer and builder who was most active in the 1920s and 1930s. Miller has been described as "the greatest creative figure in the history of the American racing car".

Cars built by Miller won the Indianapolis 500 nine times, and other cars using his engines won three more. Millers accounted for 83% of the Indianapolis 500 fields between 1923 and 1928.

He first became involved with racing by designing and building carburetors. In the 1910s, Miller was making $1 million per year through sales of his carburetors. That was a lot of money in those days. His involvement with the racing side of his carburetor business led first to repairing and then building race cars. Inspired by multiple engine designs, including Duesenberg and Peugeot engines which had been serviced in his shop, he built his own 3.0 liter (183 in³) engine. It had 4 cylinders, dual overhead camshafts and 4 valves per cylinder. They were, even by today's standards, state of the art.

Even with all Miller's success, the depression hit his racing business hard and Miller declared bankruptcy in 1933. His shop foreman and chief machinist, Fred Offenhauser, purchased the business and continued development of the engine which today we know, of course, as the Offenhauser. Offenhauser, and later with business partner and three-time Indianapolis winner, Wilbur Shaw, developed the engine which raced successfully until the 1980s.

Miller and Preston Tucker, of the Tucker Car fame, worked together off and on until Miller's death in 1943. Miller, at the time of his death, was broke and Tucker helped Miller's widow pay his funeral costs.

Post Correction: Reader, Duane Mullen, caught a large error in my last post. It was the three-time 500 winner Louis Meyer that was associated with Fred Offenhauser and continued to produce the Miller engine designs, not Wilbur Shaw. Wilbur Shaw was involved with the IMS revitalization that took place after WW2


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