In the history of motor sport, Harry Armenius Miller was a genius and a visionary. He was also an
abysmal businessman, a factor that caused him significant angst but did not mitigate the breadth of his
achievement. Quite simply, the engines and cars that Miller built dominated American racing for almost a
This remarkable history began in 1915 when “Wild Bob” Burman stopped by Miller’s carburetor
factory in Los Angeles with the shattered remains of his Grand Prix Peugeot’s engine. The war in Europe
precluded Burman’s securing replacement parts from France, and he hoped Miller could build him a
duplicate. Miller did. After the Armistice Miller studied the Duesenberg and the French Ballot designed
by Ernest Henry, the man responsible for the Grand Prix Peugeot, and created his own masterpiece, the
183, which Jimmy Murphy drove to victory in the 1922 Indianapolis 500.
Scaling down his engine for the new formula in 1923, Miller provided the new 122 with a singleseater
body that was lithe, slim and, like virtually all Millers, gorgeous. Drivers had to be slim too; cockpit
width was a mere 18 inches. Approximately fifteen cars were built, “certainly enough,” as automotive
historian Griff Borgeson observed, “for the series to become highly perfected.” The proof was in the
racing. In 1922 Murphy’s winner had been the only Miller in the top ten at Indy, against Duesenberg’s
seven. In 1923 the winning Miller was one of six to finish in the money. Then, in 1924, while Duesenberg
won, eight Millers were in the top ten.
Miller’s response to Duesenberg’s centrifugal supercharger in 1924 was a bolt-on supercharger kit
for $1,200.00 (gear driven by the aft ends of the two camshafts). Supercharging sent bhp over 200 which
made the cars much faster. So fast, the race organizers put their heads together and declared a new
international formula of 1500cc or 91.5 cubic inches. Miller incorporated a supercharger from the outset
on his new “91”. Records fell like rain, all marks from one to one hundred miles on dirt tracks, 164 mph at
Muroc. Leon Duray’s 124.018 lap at Indy in 1928 was not bettered until 1937, the longest any record has
ever stood at the Speedway. Few cars wear the sobriquet “immortal” better than the Miller.
Briggs Cunningham was one of the first to use two-way radios at Le Mans in 1950 by installing them in both the LeMonstre and the Petit Pataud. You can see both cars at Revs. Learn more