By Andy Starr
Stuart Hilborn became hooked on dry lake bed racing the first day he visited El Mirage Dry Lakes in California in the late 1930s. So much so that he built and raced his own competitive race cars. One day, Stuart asked a very young Wally Parks to time his run at the ¼ mile mark. This was a first. And one has to wonder if Wally got some inspiration that day. And while Stuart seldom talked about drag racing, you could say that indirectly he was one of its first participants.
As time passed, Hilborn built the first fuel injector manifold for the flathead engine. It was this invention that catapulted him to success. Despite the naysayers, this first fuel injector powered his streamliner to a record breaking 150.50 mph at El Mirage in 1947. It didn’t take long before demand for the Hilborn injector forced him to quit his job as a chemical engineer and manufactured injectors. By 1952, almost every car in the Indy 500, including the Ferrari, was equipped with Hilborn Fuel Injection.
Hilborn had several mentors that included Eddie Miller, a friend and neighbor in Los Angeles. Miller helped Stuart build his streamliner in the ‘40s. In fact, everything Hilborn learner about fabricating he learned from Miller. Another mentor, Howard Keck, an Indy car owner in the early 1950s was another strong influence in Stuart Hilborn’s life.
Stuart was a member of Keck’s pit crew for several years and was greatly impressed by his philosophy that “if you can’t run to win, then don’t run at all” and his creative strategies in competitive racing. It was Keck’s passion for thinking outside the box and Hilborn’s chemical engineering background that allowed them to run the entire 1949 Indy 500 non-stop. Something that had never been done before or since. It was also the 1952 Indy season that Keck’s crew became the first to practice the timed pit stop giving them an another early advantage.
Stuart Hilborn was a very humble and non-confrontational person who was surprised by his success. He loved his life and what it had provided him. Stuart was very grateful for everything he had. Hilborn also had a solid personal and industry reputation. So much so, that as his patents ran out, his fuel injection manifolds were copied by several others over the years. Yet, it was Hilborn’s name users remembered and associated with fuel injection so sales have remained strong.
Hilborn Fuel Injectors have a fairly large product line. With the rise of customization and numerous heads/block combinations available, they sometimes have difficulty making quick turnarounds on product that requires special processes and/or special matching requirements.
As a manufacturer, Hilborn Injectors takes raw castings and machines them into either IR manifolds or blown hat and scoop injectors. They also manufacturer nozzles, pumps and other mechanical fuel injection accessories for racing. Hilborn has also moved into the EFI market which covers street and race applications.
Hilborn was one of the first companies to invest in CNC machinery because it would be impossible to make affordable fuel injection products without them. Machining castings even with CNC equipment requires a bit more “baby sitting” since the castings can sometimes be different due to core shifting. It’s just not as easy as installing a billet block and walking away.
Because Hilborn has a large number of products and custom services, they rely heavily on customer input for information on their existing product line and services and testing of new ideas and components.
To see their products, visit the Performance Racing Industry (PRI) show in Indianapolis, the LA Roadster Show, the NSRA in Louisville and the Goodguys Nationals.
You can contact Hilborn’s Main Office, Mechanical Sales and Technical Support at 949-360-0909.
EFI Sales and Technical Support 215-643-4607.