The Original Pleasure Car

After the introduction of Harry A. Miller and William A. M. Burden, came the idea to build one of the most technologically superior cars of the era. With the Pleasure Line intentions fresh in mind, Miller now had the opportunity to build a front-runner for his road-bearing line. 

Development of the Miller-Burden Pleasure Car came soon after the gentlemen settled on a concept. Of these concepts, Leo Goossen had drawn out several different layouts of the proposed Pleasure Car. Amongst these were the closed-cabin speedster, the dual-cowl phaeton, and shorter wheelbase V8 version of what became the Miller-Burden Pleasure Car. The finalized concept called for beautifully swept clam shell fenders, chromium plated hardware throughout, and a chassis finished in a similar gleaming fashion. The car had every intentions of becoming an absolute beauty queen of automobiles. 

Above, the original Burden chassis in development at the Harry A. Miller, Inc plant in Los Angeles, CA – circa 1931

The drivetrain consisted of Miller’s 303 cubic inch V16, adorned with a crank driven roots-styled supercharger. Claimed to generate around 500bhp, this combo would then send power to a transfer case, where driveshafts headed to the front and rear of the car powered Miller’s coveted Front Drive and rear drive. This all-wheel drive configuration was unheard of for the early 1930s, however that was Harry’s plan all along — to wow the public with this street driven goliath. 

The quest to build this dream machine ultimately faced many set backs. The car took much longer than originally anticipated, with many design changes along the way to produce a functioning car that was soon well above the original budget. After Harry A. Miller went bankrupt in 1931, the project fell into the hands of Miller’s lead machinist Fred Offenhauser.

Above, the original Miller-Burden 303ci V16 engine in development. Shown is the Supercharger, dual-Bosche magnetos, and intricate fuel rails – Harry A. Miller, Inc plant. Los Angeles, CA. 1931

As a no-nonsense, effective builder, Fred and the rest of the talented Harry A. Miller Inc. team finished the Pleasure Car with cycle fenders in front and rear, mounted directly to the brake plates, and the car received an all-painted black treatment to keep costs to a minimum. The car could finally be delivered to the customer.

Once Burden took ownership of the Pleasure Car, stories claimed immediate dis satisfactory as the anticipation for such a superior road machine grew sour with long lead times and an overall cost well exceeding the original agreed price of $35,000. It has been rumored that at speeds over 100mph the car would shake as Burden had high hopes for his ‘immaculate’ conception and Goossen later described the motor to have never ran well, and never achieving it’s 500bhp hype.

As fate would have it, Burden sold the car within the year, heading to a prospective buyer at a steal. Years later, representatives on behalf of Harry A. Miller Inc. offered to buy the car, solely for it’s 303 cubic inch V16. After the engine was divorced from the chassis and body, the combination was never seen again, and the original Pleasure Car body and chassis was lost to time. 

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