Offered by RM Sotheby’s | Auburn, Indiana | September 3-5, 2020
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.
Offered by RM Sotheby’s | Auburn, Indiana | September 3-5, 2020
Quin Epperly is another legendary mid-century name associated with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. His cars first showed up at the 500 in 1955 and would continue to run there until the mid-engined revolution took hold.
This car is another Offy-powered roadster, originally equipped with a 255ci inline-four. The competition history for this chassis includes:
1961 Indianapolis 500 – 33rd, DNF (with Don Branson)
1962 Indianapolis 500 – 5th (with Bobby Marshman)
1963 Indianapolis 500 – 28th, DNF (with Bud Tingelstad)
Like so many other Indy roadsters, it was once part of the Bob McConnell collection for a number of years. It has been restored to its 1962 500 livery. It really looks the part of bad-ass Indy roadster, doesn’t it? The pre-sale estimate is $350,000-$450,000. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.
Offered by RM Sotheby’s | Auburn, Indiana | September 3-5, 2020
Frank Kurtis was a legendary race car designer, and his 500B was an iteration of his earlier 500/500A cars. They first hit the track in about 1953, and they would be competitive for a few years thereafter, although they would eventually be topped by later, greater cars.
It’s powered by an Offenhauser inline-four, and the competition history for this chassis includes:
1953 Indianapolis 500 – 10th (with Jimmy Davies)
1954 Indianapolis 500 – DNQ (with Davies)
1955 Indianapolis 500 – 3rd (with Davies)
1956 Indianapolis 500 – 28th, DNF (with Al Herman)
This car was formerly part of the Bob McConnell collection, and it wears its 1955/1956 “Bardahl Special” livery. Only eight examples of the 500B were built, and this was the last. It’s an Indy podium finisher and is expected to bring between $350,000-$450,000. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.
Offered by Mecum | Indianapolis, Indiana | July 10-18, 2020
Emil Diedt was a California-based fabricator whose name is closely associated with post-war racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. This car, the Blue Crown Spark Plugs Special, competed at Indy in four consecutive years, from 1947 through 1950. It’s results were:
1947 Indianapolis 500 – 2nd (with Bill Holland)
1948 Indianapolis 500 – 2nd (with Holland)
1949 Indianapolis 500 – 1st (with Holland)
1950 Indianapolis 500 – 2nd (with Holland)
That’s the mark of a pretty dominant car. It’s powered by a 270ci Offenhauser inline-four that drives the front wheels, thus pulling the car through corners instead of pushing it. This car wears its Indy-winning livery and has spent time in the IMS museum, where it ultimately belongs.
Offered by Mecum | Indianapolis, Indiana | May 12-17, 2020
Frank Kurtis built some spectacular race cars in the 1950s, including this 500H. It was from the later years of Kurtis Indy Roadster production. I’m not really sure how many were produced, but if there were multiple, they were probably built between 1958 and 1960. That’s when they were campaigned.
This car is powered by a 252ci (4.1-liter) Offenhauser inline-four. The Kurtis-Offy was a nearly unbeatable combo at the Brickyard in the ’50s. The competition history for this car includes:
1958 Indy 500 – 23rd, DNF (with Johnny Tomson)
1959 Indy 500 – 7th (with Duane Carter)
1960 Indy 500 – 22nd, DNF (with Don Freeland)
Looking at a bunch of old Indy box scores, it’s possible that this was the only “H” example built. It appears to be the only one to run the 500. You can see more about this car here and more from Mecum here.
Offered by RM Sotheby’s | Amelia Island, Florida | March 6-7, 2020
This car is listed in the auction catalog as a “Silnes-Offenhauser Tomshe.” It was apparently built by Fred Tomshe, but was entered in various races as a Silnes-Offenhauser with Tomshe/Bardahl listed as the entrant. The car was commissioned by gangster George “Babe” Tuffanelli, who was part of the Chicago Outfit.
Power is from a fuel-injected 4.4-liter Offenhauser inline-four. It was entered in the 1951 Indy 500 with driver Ray Knepper, who failed to qualify. It did compete at Milwaukee and Langhorne later that year.
It’s been used at historic events since 2010, including the Monterey Historics. The constructor confusion here could be easily explained by that the possibility that the Tomshe build was based on a Silnes car. Who knows… the people who were there are no longer here. The pre-sale estimate is $125,000-$150,000. Click here for more info and here for more from RM at Amelia.
Offered by Barrett-Jackson | Scottsdale, Arizona | January 11-19, 2020
Eddie Kuzma built Indy roadsters in the 1950s and early 1960s. Kuzma won the 500 in 1952 with driver Troy Ruttman, the youngest person to ever win the race. Ruttman actually ran this very car at Indy in 1963, where he finished 12th.
This is a “lay-down” Indy roadster, meaning the 4.2-liter Offenhauser engine is laid on its side, protruding from the bodywork. This both reduced drag and increased the left-side weight bias, making it faster around ovals. The car was not used in USAC after 1963 (the rear-engined cars had arrived). Instead, it went east, where it was used as a super modified.
Unfortunately, Ruttman’s son, Troy Jr., was killed driving this car in an accident at Pocono in 1969. The car was purchased by Bob McConnell in 1980 and was restored by a later owner in 2004. The catalog lists this as a 1963 but also states it was built in 1961. Not really sure which is correct. Anyway, it is selling at no reserve. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.
Offered by Worldwide Auctioneers | Auburn, Indiana | August 31, 2019
Though not as well-known, Quin Epperly is a name that sits right there with Frank Kurtis, A.J. Watson, Eddie Kuzma, and Lujie Lesovsky when it comes to legendary builders of race cars during the “Roadster” era of the Indianapolis 500. Epperly actually worked for Kurtis before opening his own shop in the mid-1950s. His cars appeared at Indy from 1955 through 1960 and beyond.
The history of this car is interesting. Howard Keck had just won two consecutive 500s with Bill Vukovich driving his cars and was going for number three in 1955. Epperly had designed this streamlined special for Vuky to drive, but it wasn’t completed in time for the race. Instead, Vukovich drove a Kurtis for another owner. He was killed while leading the race.
Epperly completed the car with Keck’s help (money) anyway and installed a 385 horsepower, 4.4-liter Offenhauser inline-four instead of the V8 that was originally planned. IMS president Tony Hulman knew of the car and wanted it in the ’56 race, paying the entry fee for it in advance. But with Vukovich’s death, Keck lost all interest in racing and the car ended up stored in his shop until 1985.
The car became more or less legend until it was purchased and restored in 1990. And now it’s being offered for public sale. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.
Offered by Gooding & Company | Pebble Beach, California | August 16, 2019
We’re kind of saving the best for last for this year’s Monterey auctions. What we have here is an early Isotta Fraschini… with period Indianapolis 500 race history. Isotta was founded in 1900, and most of their surviving cars in private hands tend to be the big, beautiful ones from the late 1920s and early 1930s.
To see one this “early” – 13 years into their production – is pretty rare. The engine is a 135 horsepower, 7.2-liter inline-four. A monster. The Tipo IM was built specifically to compete at Indy at a time when many manufacturers were hoping for glory at the Brickyard for the promotional benefit that would surely follow. If only Indy still had that kind of manufacturer pull and aura of innovation. The racing history for this chassis includes:
1913 Indianapolis 500 – 17th, DNF (with Teddy Tetzlaff)
1914 Indianapolis 500 – 27th, DNF (with Ray Gilhooey)
Only six examples of the Tipo IM were built. This one DNF’d at Indy twice, first with a broken drive chain and again in 1914 after a blown tire resulting in a driver-ejecting spin and subsequent rollover. Gilhooey and his riding mechanic survived.
By 1917 it had been re-bodied in New York and sold to a private owner as a road car. It was restored by a later owner in the 1960s and was purchased by the consignor in 1995. Since then, the car has been restored again, this time to its 1914 Indy 500 specification. Many early 500 cars didn’t survive. This one has, and it’s wonderful. The pre-sale estimate is $3,000,000-$4,000,000. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.
Offered by Mecum | Monterey, California | August 15-17, 2019
1997 G-Force-Oldsmobile GF01
We’re starting here with Arie Luyendyk’s 1997 Indy 500-winning car. I have an unpopular opinion (influenced heavily by nostalgia) that the 1996-1998 Indy 500s were the greatest. I was up there for Fan Fest (or whatever it was called) as a kid and fell in love this era of open wheel cars. Between Arie and Buddy Lazier, I’m not sure who had a more profound impact on my love for the 500.
G-Force was founded in 1991 by Chip Ganassi and Ken Anderson, and they began building cars for the Indy Racing League in 1997. The car above was the very first GF01 constructed. And it was a beast. Powered by a 4.0-liter Oldsmobile Aurora V8, this GF01 took pole and the win at Indy in 1997 (other GF01s swept the podium). The competition history for this ex-Treadway Racing chassis includes:
1997 Indianapolis 500 – 1st (with Luyendyk)
1997 Texas 500 – 1st (with Luyendyk)
1998 Las Vegas 500 – 1st (with Luyendyk)
1999 Las Vegas 500 – 1st (with Sam Schmidt)
The car was restored by Treadway Racing in its ’97 500 racing livery and is just missing onboard telemetry and an ECU to make it functional. Indy 500-winning cars don’t change hands often, which makes this pretty special. Oh, by the way, the second-place car from ’97 is also offered at this sale. Click here for more info.
Update: Sold $440,000.
1995 Lola-Menard T95/00
In 1995, the Indy 500 was still part of the CART season. We’ve actually featured another Lola T95/00 with Indy history, but it was Cosworth-powered. This car is “Menard”-powered, which mostly means it features a turbocharged 3.6-liter Buick V6 built by-and-for Team Menard.
This Menard-entry in 1996 ended up winning the pole with Scott Brayton behind the wheel. Unfortunately, he was killed testing a back-up car in practice a few days after securing pole. Menard pulled Danny Ongais out of a nine-year retirement to run the car. He was 53-years-old on race day. This car’s competition history includes:
1996 Indianapolis 500 – 7th (with Danny Ongais)
Both of Brayton’s pole-winning cars (1995 and 1996) are being offered at this sale. I chose this one because of its amazing Glidden/Menards livery (and Campbell Hausfeld, a company local to me)… although the other Quaker State/Menards car is quite attractive (and a photo of a similar-liveried car hung on my bedroom wall as a kid). Click here for more info.
Update: Not sold, high bid of $150,000.
Here’s something a little older. Fred Gerhardt’s Fresno, California-built open-wheelers were all over the USAC circuit in the late 1960s. They were a competitive chassis that ran many races between about 1965 and 1971. Somehow, it is said that Gerhardt only built 11 examples. I think the “in 1967” part of that sentence was missing from the catalog.
This example is powered by a rear-mounted Ford 4.2-liter DOHC V8. It was purchased new by Walter Weir, who entered the car in the ’67 500 for F1 driver Lorenzo Bandini, who died at Monaco a few weeks before Indy. Thus, the competition history for this car includes:
1967 Indianapolis 500 – 28th, DNF (with Al Miller)
1968 Indianapolis 500 – DNQ, (driver unknown)
1969 Indianapolis 500 – DNQ, (driver unknown)
1971 Indianapolis 500 – DNQ, (with Bill Puterbaugh)
It has had several owners since and has been restored. It’s eligible for historic events and can now be yours! Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.