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Lot 614: Kurtis-Kraft 500S Sports Racer Continuation

Grand Palais Sale, Bonhams (7 February 2013)

Frank Kurtis was one of the biggest names in the history of US auto racing. His cars dominated the Indianapolis 500 race in the early 1950s, winning every year but one from 1950 to 1956, and continued to feature prominently until the end of the decade. Of Slovenian extraction, Frank Kurtis was born in Crested Butte, Colorado in 1908. He later worked on the Don Lee Racing Team's midget cars and in the late 1930s built his own midget car chassis, calling it the 'Kurtis-Kraft'. Kurtis is credited with making an estimated 550-plus midget cars and some 600 kits at his Glendale, California factory, and he also built quarter-midgets, sports cars, sprint cars and championship (Indianapolis) cars. The latter were powered by the ubiquitous Offenhauser engine while the midgets used a smaller version of the classic four-cylinder 'Offy'. In 1986 Kurtis became the first non-driver inducted into the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame, which describes the combination of a Kurtis-Kraft chassis and Offenhauser engine as 'virtually unbeatable for over 20 years.' Frank Kurtis died in 1987. Commencing in 1949, Kurtis built some low-slung glassfibre bodied two-seater sports cars using Ford running gear, approximately 36 of which had been made when the project was sold to Earl 'Madman' Muntz in 1955. These first Kurtis sports cars had been intended for road use but their creator's next undertaking was to build one specifically for competition purposes. The result was the 500S, which was directly derived from the championship car chassis, featuring a wide X-braced perimeter frame, live axles and torsion bar suspension. This running gear must have seemed somewhat crude by contemporary European standards (and when compared to most American passenger cars) but it was robust and well suited to the smoothly surfaced US road courses of the day. Looking like a slightly corpulent Indy car fitted with mudguards, the 500S featured a nine-bar front grille recalling that of the Kurtis-Kraft racers, and was designed to accommodate a variety of American V8 engines. Powerful and fast, the Kurtis-Kraft 500S won numerous SCCA races driven by the likes of Briggs Cunningham, Chuck Daigh and Bill Stroppe. Only a relative handful of Kurtis-Kraft 500S sports cars was completed in period by the factory, leading to demand exceeding supply in more recent times, a situation not unlike that of the Shelby Cobra. Fortunately for collectors, Arlen Kurtis, Frank's son, specialises in the restoration of his father's original cars and has begun building a series of 'continuation' cars at his Bakersfield premises. This Kurtis-Kraft 500S continuation car is believed to have been built circa 1990 as its first known competitive outing was in the 1991 Carrera Panamericana driven by a Mr Ward. The car was then sold to Joquille Limited of Shoreline Drive, Florence, Oregon and in 2004 was purchased by the current vendor. A new gearbox and rear axle were fitted in 2006/2008. Since acquisition, the Kurtis-Kraft has raced at the Grand Prix Historique de Tunis (2008, 2010 and 2012), Coppa Monza Intereuropa (2011 and 2012) and Bologna San Luca hill climb, etc. The car's best results are 1st and 3rd in class at Monza, 2nd overall twice at Tunis and 1st in class twice at Bologna. Presented in its Monza 2012 livery, this exciting, all-American, V8-engined sports-racer is offered with old US Certificate of Title, Austrian registration papers and current FIA HTP documents.

Lot Details
Auction Grand Palais Sale
Bonhams, Paris, France
Lot Number614
Outcome NOT SOLD
Hammer Price-
Hammer Price (inc premium)-
Condition rating0
Registration number
Chassis numberKK 500S 031
Engine number1
Engine capacity (cc)
Engine - cylinders
Number of doors