My favorite period for American innovation in general was the 1930’s. Prior to WWII, the brilliant minds of our land weren’t as concerned with measurable results as they were with just plain old invention. Guys like Howard Hughes were throwing caution and reliability to the wind and developing all kinds of contraptions that might have only worked once… if at all. But the imagination and the balls it took to publicly demonstrate these ideas was something that just wasn’t around after the war. For obvious reasons, the country became less obsessed with future possibilities and more concerned with what our people could produce right now; both effectively and reliably.
Harry Miller is my favorite example of these early mad scientists. And although Harry dabbled with both sea and air contraptions, he was really the “Howard Hughes” of the automotive world. You know him mostly for his racing engines, but Harry thought bigger early and often. In the mid-1930’s, he moved away from Cal-i-for-nia and formed a partnership with Thomas Hibbard in New York City. To make a long story short, Hibbard was a frustrated car designer that had just quit GM and was looking for greener pastures that gave him enough freedom to really let his design pen flow.
Together, the two planned to build a mid-engine sports car the likes of which no one had ever seen before.
Of course, Hibbard and Miller were both dreamers. And, as often the case with dreamers, their visions didn’t always match. Hibbard eventually grew tired of the innovator’s lifestyle, the arguments, and the lack of pay and decided he needed to make a real living again. He went on to lead the design division for Ford leaving Miller to fend off both employees and investors on his own.
He failed miserably and found himself surrounded by discontent and lawsuits. Eventually, he gave up the ghost.
But before all of this shit hit the fan, Miller and Hibbard were able to complete a few sketches and that is what you see here. Miller’s original concept was to power the car with a blown Miller 91 eight-cylinder. However, as investors dropped off and the house began to crumble, he began to think about the affordability of the newish Flathead Ford V8.
Nothing was ever built, but I love looking at these sketches… And I love thinking about the dream the two must have had. It never would worked and both men probably knew that deep down inside, but that didn’t stop them.