Kurtis 500E

1956 Kurtis 500E

Offered by RM Sotheby’s | Auburn, Indiana | September 3-5, 2020

Photo Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s

Frank Kurtis built quite a few race cars in his day, but he only built one 500E. In fact, he only built three cars in 1956 in total, two of which were Novi-powered 500Fs. The E was produced for the Federal Engineering race team, and it was an evolution of the earlier 500D, except the engine was tilted to the left and the fuel cap shifted places on the tail.

The engine would’ve been an Offenhauser inline-four. The car currently houses a mock-up of an Offy, but it’s not actually powered. The competition history for this chassis includes:

  • 1956 Indianapolis 500 – 7th (with Bob Veith)
  • 1957 Indianapolis 500 – DNQ (with Billy Garrett)
  • 1958 Indianapolis 500 – 14th, DNF (with Bob Christie)
  • 1959 Indianapolis 500 – 14th, (with Jimmy Daywalt)
  • 1960 Indianapolis 500 – 17th (with Shorty Templeman)
  • 1961 Indianapolis 500 – 10th (with Norm Hall)
  • 1962 Indianapolis 500 – 21st, DNF (with Chuck Hulse)
  • 1964 Indianapolis 500 – Never arrived

Yeah, it was raced at Indy, a lot. It was supposed to go back in ’64, but they never ended up preparing it. The car’s trail went cold, until John Snowberger, went on the hunt for his dad’s old race cars (his father, Russ, was Federal Engineering’s crew chief for many of those Indy appearances). He found a rusty old frame in a Detroit-area shop, which later turned out to be the remains of the 500E. It has been semi-restored, and is now expected to bring between $90,000-$120,000. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.

Update: Sold $68,200.

Rambler Cross Country

1956 Nash Rambler Cross Country

Offered by Mecum | Indianapolis, Indiana | July 10-18, 2020

Photo – Mecum

Rambler is one of the most confusing American automotive marques. The first Ramblers were produced in 1900. They would become a product of the Jeffrey company in 1914, and Jeffrey became Nash during WWI.

Nash would later produce Rambler-branded cars, up until 1958, when Rambler became its own marque again (before once more becoming a model under the AMC brand). The 1956 Rambler was completely redesigned, and some seem to think it was its own marque beginning in 1956. The ’56 and ’57 Ramblers were pretty cool looking, especially in wagon form as shown here.

Power is from a 3.2-liter inline-six that was factory rated at 130 horsepower. Production totals are hard to come by for the $2,326-when-new Cross Country wagon, as the totals are combined with the mid-level Rambler Super Station Wagon. Between the two models, 21,554 were built. Turquoise is one of the best 50s colors, making this wagon a winner. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.

Update: Sold $24,200.

Elva Mk I/B

1956 Elva Mk I/B

Offered by Bonhams | Knokke-Heist, Belgium | October 5, 2018

Photo – Bonhams

Elva Engineering Co. Ltd. was founded by Frank Nichols in 1955. The first series of cars, the Mk I, were based on a previous Nichols creation, the CSM, and were sold as bare rigid tubular chassis with a live rear axle. Some assembly required.

In 1956 the Mk I/B was introduced and it came with an engine – a 1.1-liter Coventry  Climax straight-four. The streamlined fiberglass body was actually built by Falcon Shells and it’s estimated that only 14 were built. This example was road raced around the Midwest its first owner, seeing track time at the likes of Road America and more.

This car was expertly restored in the early 2000s and still shows very well. It is thought to be the final Mk I/B built and is expected to bring between $160,000-$260,000 at auction. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.

Update: Sold $165,398.

Fina Sport Convertible

1956 Fina Sport Convertible

Offered by Bonhams | Carmel, California | August 24, 2018

Photo – Bonhams

The Fina Sport was a dramatic and beautiful American-built, Italian-styled, 1950s dreamboat designed and constructed by automotive engineer Perry Fina. Fina gained a lot of knowledge working for Fiat and Isotta Fraschini – both in their early years – before returning home and setting up shop in New York to fine tune other people’s cars.

The first model he built under his own name was a coupe and then he opted for a convertible. Styled by Vignale in Italy, it clearly blends American and Italian lines. Power comes from a 5.4-liter Cadillac V-8 good for 250 horsepower.

Fina only built a few cars and this is the only restored example in existence. The restoration was completed earlier this year and it’s ready and eligible for all the major shows. A rare car from a manufacturer that barely got anything out the door, this convertible should bring between $750,000-$950,000 at auction. Click here for more info and here for more from Bonhams.

Update: Sold $775,000.

Buckler Mk V

1956 Buckler Mk V

Offered by Brightwells | Bicester, U.K. | June 24, 2018

Photo – Brightwells

Derek Buckler was one of many enterprising Britons who wanted to build light sports cars in the aftermath of WWII. Based in Reading, he set up shop in 1947 and managed to churn out about 400 cars through 1962. The intended destination for his cars were race tracks.

These are not common cars today. As you can see, they are tiny and look a little basic. But this two-seat roadster made up for any design demerits while on track. The Mk V is powered by a 1.2-liter straight-four from a Ford Prefect. Top speed? 80 mph.

The Mark V was the first car Buckler built (but so named so others wouldn’t know), becoming available in 1949 and lasting through 1955. A slightly lengthened Mk VI was also offered. This would be a great car for hillclimbing and welcomed at most such events. It should bring between $8,000-$10,500. Click here for more from Brightwells.

Update: Withdrawn.

’56 DeSoto Fireflite

1956 DeSoto Fireflite Convertible

Offered by Barrett-Jackson | Palm Beach, Florida | April 12-15, 2018

Photo – Barrett-Jackson

DeSoto was introduced as a new marque by Walter Chrysler for the 1929 model year and in 1933 Chrysler took it upmarket. In 1955 they introduced the Fireflite as their top-level car. For 1956 the cars were mostly carried over, but the introduction of the Adventurer put the Fireflite as the mid-level car in DeSoto’s lineup.

For 1956 the Fireflite could be had in four different body styles (plus a limited package on the convertible to commemorate the car’s use as the Indy 500 Pace car in 1956). A non-Pacesetter Convertible would’ve run you $3,454 in 1956 and 1,485 were built (pace cars included).

Power came from a 255 horsepower, 5.4-liter V-8. A no expense spared frame-off restoration was performed and the car wears two-tone Shell Pink and Charcoal. It looks like ice cream on wheels. DeSoto Convertibles always bring big money at Barrett-Jackson auctions, but most of those are ’57 or ’58 cars. It’ll be interesting to see if this beautiful car brings as much. It is coming from the famous John Staluppi Cars of Dreams Collection. You can read more here and see more from this sale here.

Update: Sold $225,500.

Continental Mark II

1956 Continental Mark II

Offered by Mecum | Houston, Texas | April 5-7, 2018

Photo – Mecum

Here is one of the loveliest American cars of all time. When it was released in 1956, it was the most expensive car sold in America. In 1956 the base price was $10,400 – the same as a Rolls-Royce and double the price of a Cadillac. And this was no Lincoln. Ford knew they were making a special car and created the Continental Division to produce this car under a separate marque.

It was so opulent that it only lasted two years, through 1957. It’s powered by a 285 horsepower, 6.0-liter V-8 (the ’57s got 300 horsepower). While Mark IIs look best in white (opinion) I really love this 1950s pastel blue with wide whitewalls. The interior is the same shade of blue, mixed with white.

In beautiful condition, this Mark II was once owned by socialite Lolita Armour. It’s one of just 2,550 examples built in 1956 and one of only 2,996 built in total. They’re rare, but they’re around. Click here for more info on this one and here for more from Mecum in Houston.

Update: Not sold, high bid of $42,000.

Update: Not sold, Mecum Indy 2018, high bid of $35,000.

Update: Not sold, Mecum Harrisburg 2018, high bid of $40,000.

Riffard-Renault Tank

1956 Riffard-Renault Tank Record

Offered by Artcurial | Paris, France | February 9, 2018

Photo – Artcurial

I’m just going to go ahead and say it: this looks like one of those tin toys that kids played with in the 1950s. In reality, it started life as one of two custom-built Guépard race cars that were built in 1952 and 1953. Both competed in a race in 1954 and this one crashed.

The owner took it and while repairing it, decided to turn it into a World Speed Record car. Designed by Marcel Riffard, it’s a sleek, Renault-powered streamliner with a body by Heuliez. The engine is a 750cc four-cylinder and it’s unknown if it ever attempted any records, but it did do a speed run in 1998 after decades in a private collection. It’s a unique car and should bring between $18,000-$30,000. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.

Update: Sold $70,090.

Tojeiro-Butterworth

1956 Tojeiro-Butterworth AJB Sports

Offered by Bonhams | Paris, France | February 8, 2018

Photo – Bonhams

Here is another one-off sports racing special carrying the name of John Tojeiro. In this case, Tojeiro wasn’t really involved with building the car at all. Instead, a racer named Major Ronald Clare Clifford Palmer bought a chassis from Tojeiro’s company and built his own car, using an engine from Archie Butterworth.

Butterworth had been designing and driving race cars since the end of WWII and had created a series of small four-cylinder engines for Formula 2 competition. It was one of these engines that Palmer and a friend purchased to install in this car. It’s a 1.5-liter flat-four, race-prepped and ready to run.

The body was custom built and pretty much looks like they sprayed liquid fiberglass over the components and let it dry. It’s a tight fit, which helps keep the weight down. The current owner bought it in 2011 and this thing has been completely gone over. It’s raced in historic events are some great tracks around Europe and now it’s someone else’s turn to enjoy it. It should bring between $110,000-$160,000. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.

Update: Not sold.

DB HBR5

1956 D.B. HBR5

Offered by Gooding & Company | Scottsdale, Arizona | January 20, 2018

Photo – Gooding & Company

Charles Deutsch and Rene Bonnet teamed up for the first time in 1938, applying both of their surnames to automobiles. In 1947, they would shorten it to just “D.B.” and would continue building cars through 1961 when Bonnet ventured out on his own, until his new company was scooped up into Matra.

The HBR5, of which we’ve already featured a highly customized example that has different body work than this car, was a sports and racing car built between 1955 and 1961. In total, 450 were built and this one is powered by a 65 horsepower, 848cc flat-twin. That’s a decent amount of power from such a tiny engine.

But with a lightweight fiberglass body, these were stout cars in their class on the track. For example, this car, while owned by famed designer Brooks Stevens, competed in the 1957 12 Hours of Sebring, failing to finish with drivers Guy Storr and Hal Ullrich. D.B. cars don’t come up for sale often (I’ve featured nearly every one of them in the past five years and we’re now standing at “four”). This one should bring between $100,000-$130,000. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.

Update: Sold $47,300.