RIP Stuart Hilborn, the Father of Mechanical Fuel Injection

01 Stu Hilborn

Stu Hilborn, the early days (Photo courtesy Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum)


Stuart Hilborn was born in 1917 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. He was the son of a migrant worker who moved to southern California when Stuart was young. He died on December 16, 2013 at the age of 96. He was the inventor of the first successful mechanical fuel injection system for racing applications.

“For Racing Applications” is a key phrase. One of the early problems with fuel injection was the transition from partial to wide open throttle (WOT). Hilborn’s FI system was targeted at racing applications where transitional performance wasn’t a concern. Hilborn’s only concern was that of racers – WOT performance, and Hilborn’s system did it better than anything else.


02 Stu Hilborn

Hilborn at Muroc (Photo courtesy Hilborn Fuel Injection)


Hilborn began racing at Muroc, a California dry lake now part of Edwards AFB, in 1938. As with most racers at that time he had trouble with carburation that was based upon OEM units obviously not intended for racing. Hilborn’s Model A with a Ford flattie was fast, but not necessarily more so than his fellow competitors.

When WWII drew the US into the global conflict and suspended Hilborn’s need for speed, at least on land, he became part of the US Army Air Corps (later the USAF). During his tenure with the Air Corps he developed his first FI system at a machine shop close to his base in Mississippi.

After the war, while working as a chemical engineer for a paint company, Hilborn designed and built his first workable fuel injection system and installed it in a streamliner that he had purchased for $75. He then became the first hot rodder to go over 150 MPH at Muroc.


03 Classic Hilborns

The classic Hilborn SBC setup (Photo courtesy Hilborn Fuel Injection)


I never built an engine with Hilborn fuel injection. The only fuel injection system that I ever fiddled with was the Bosch system on my ‘78 Rabbit, and unlike the other Bosch components on the car, it required very little attention.

But I built a bunch of scale models in the ‘50s and ‘60s. Lots of 1/25 Fords and Willys gassers. Of course, they all had tiny Hilborn injectors.


04 Stu Hilborn

Stu Hilborn (Photo courtesy Hilborn Fuel Injection)


Thanks Stu, not only for a great product, but lots of great memories.