The Miller that came to England

Motor racing’s followers after WWII were aware of the beautiful cars built by Harry Miller in the USA. Miller-engined cars had won the great 1922 Indianapolis 500-Mile Race and finished 1,2,3 in 1923. Consequently when Brooklands supporters heard that the mercurial Count Zborowski, who had thrilled them with his Chitty-Bang-Bangs and the Big Benz, was to appear with one of the 2-litre straight-eight Millers, anticipation was high.

While at Indy with a team of 130 single-seater Bugattis in 1923, the Count had ordered a 4WB two-seater Miller (engine HM8, chassis No 15), which he entered for the 1923 Brooklands August Bank Holiday Meeting. But it was far from ready, so non-started, and spectators had to wait until the Essex MC race day late in September. Its too-large wheels restricted it to 102mph, when 120 was expected of it. The engine revved only to 4000rpm instead of its 5000 potential, and the springs, right for Indy, were too hard for the Weybridge track. Miller’s top mechanic, Riley Brett, was sent over to England to sort it out.

Some of those crowded round the car thought it had eight vertical exhausts pointing down behind the chassis rail. In fact these were the carburettor inlet pipes, one • for each cylinder. The dry-sump lubrication, Delco coil ignition and unit gearbox would all have been noted. Much work had been done; one odd item was misfiring of two cylinders, found eventually to be due to the distributor cap being for a six-cylinder engine; whether a prank, sabotage or carelessness we will never know.

But when it eventually ran, the crowds were not disappointed. In the ‘Lightning Short’ handicap, it ran beautifully, to win at 93.47mph. In the longer race the Miller lost ground until it warmed up, then began to devour slower cars, running high on the banking before Zborowski sportingly pulled down to let Parry Thomas’ big Leyland come through to a most exciting 100mph bunched finish, the Miller second despite oil-pump faults.

The ever-keen Zborowski next took the car to the European GP at Monza. Again the oil pump failed, and a con rod broke after he had got up to seventh. It was a 1,2,3 Fiat victory, but Murphy’s Miller came fourth, Algaza’s sixth, the two being sent direct from New York to Genoa.

Zborowski brought the Miller out at the 1924 BARC Whitsun races but after a lap it fizzled out. Determined to do a proper road race he ambitiously entered it for the 1924 French GP at Lyons, with The Autocar‘s Sammy Davis crammed in beside him. Quite unsuitable, it retired after its front axle had practically fallen off. The Count intended to drive it in the Italian GP, but after joining the Mercedes team, he was then fatally injured.

By 1926 H Wright had the Miller and Dudley Fray drove it at Brooklands, but it lapped at under 78mph. At the final 1926 meeting it threw a rod. A consistent non-starter, it did some sand racing before being exported to New Zealand.