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.
Offered by RM Sotheby’s | Phoenix, Arizona | January 17-18, 2019
Classic race cars take a special breed of person. They’re high-maintenance cars and you can’t exactly take them to the local cruise-in. And the older they are, the crazier they can be. Before big money moved in, there were a lot of people with a lot of different ideas building cars that ran within inches of each other. They were individuals, not spec cars. And because of that, old race cars are awesome.
This car was built by Lujie Lesovsky’s L.A. Lesovsky Race Car Engineering, an open-wheel race car constructor active from the late-1940s through the early-1960s. It’s a short-wheelbase car powered by a Meyer-Drake Offenhauser inline-four making 300 horsepower.
Well there you have it – three Indy 500 starts with a podium finish. The car was also raced in period by Bill Holland and Len Sutton, the latter of which wrecked the car in a race in 1955. After that, it never raced competitively again. It was preserved and later restored to its “Blue Crown Special” livery.
This Offy-powered Lesovsky is one of very few such cars that survive today. They don’t change hands often, but when they do the prices make you take note. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.
Offered by Mecum | Monterey, California | August 25, 2018
Photo – Mecum
The DW12 was IndyCar’s new chassis beginning in the 2012 season. Named for the late Dan Wheldon, the DW12 is expected to be the series’ base chassis through the 2020 season. Built by Dallara, this chassis, #037, won the 2016 Indy 500 with rookie Alexander Rossi behind the wheel.
The engine in this car is a twin-turbo 2.2-liter Honda V-6 tuned to make about 625-ish horsepower. It still wears the distinctive blue and yellow NAPA livery that Rossi took to victory lane as well as the 2016 Honda Speedway aero kit. You’re probably wondering why this “2012” Dallara won the 2016 Indy 500. Well, here’s the Indy 500 competition history for this chassis:
2012 Indianapolis 500 – 12th (with Alex Tagliani)
2013 Indianapolis 500 – 24th (with Tagliani)
2014 Indianapolis 500 – 20th (with Jack Hawksworth)
2015 Indianapolis 500 – 16th (with Gabby Chaves)
2016 Indianapolis 500 – 1st (with Alexander Rossi)
That’s right, it’s run five Indy 500s, winning the last time out (and what a race it was). The official entrant was Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian… which is a mouthful. Indy 500-winning cars rarely change hands and many of them are owned by the Speedway Museum itself. So it’s rare that one is out in the wild – especially one that could technically still compete. Here’s your chance to grab a piece of history. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.
Offered by Bonhams | Amelia Island, Florida | March 8, 2018
Photo – Bonhams
Now we’re talkin’. Here is an Indy car from the early 1950s, back when these cars ran on dirt more often than pavement. It predates other Kurtis cars, namely their Indy Roadsters. Frank Kurtis built some of the most dominant race cars of this era and, especially in the early 1950s, they won just about everything.
The KK4000 was new for 1951 but race cars then tended to be fielded for years, even after they ceased to be competitive (a different KK4000 was raced until 1975). The 4000 series was a development of the earlier 3000 series and featured a lighter construction, thus making it faster. It’s powered by a 4.4-liter Offenhauser straight-four – probably the most legendary race car engine of all time.
Only 12 examples of the KK4000 were built and they rarely change hands. The race history of this chassis includes:
1952 Indy 500 – DNQ (with Allan Heath)
1953 Indy 500 – ?
1954 Indy 500 – 21st, DNF (with Pat O’Connor)
1955 Indy 500 – 30th, DNF (with Ed Elisian)
1956 Indy 500 – DNQ (with John Kay)
It was entered in the ’53 500 but I can’t find who drove this chassis that race and if it even qualified. Bonhams doesn’t seem to know either. This car raced up through 1959 before it was retired and sold to a collector. It has been restored to 1955 race spec. This is a very rare, very historically important race car (this was the car Elisian was driving when he pulled over and tried to help Bill Vukovich after his fatal crash). It should sell for between $275,000-$350,000. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.
Offered by Worldwide Auctioneers | Scottsdale, Arizona | January 17, 2018
Photo – Worldwide Auctioneers
Indy roadsters, as this style of race car is often called, are the coolest cars that ever raced at Indianapolis. These were driven by men who muscled them around the track, two hands on a steering wheel that looked like it came out of a bus. Frank Kurtis’ cars – when equipped with that Offy underhood – were unstoppable in the 500.
The KK 500G was an evolution of earlier Kurtis 500 cars but with upgraded aerodynamics. This particular chassis was at one point owned by Smokey Yunick – his first “major league” open-wheel race car. It’s competition history includes:
1957 Indianapolis 500 – 5th (with Andy Linden)
1958 Indianapolis 500 – 30th, DNF (with Paul Goldsmith)
After it’s brief history on the Championship circuit, it was used a supermodified car before being rescued by a major Indy roadster collector and restored to the condition you see here. It’s still powered by the legendary 4.2-liter Offenhauser straight-four. Only 14 Kurtis-Kraft 500Gs were built and they’re one of the best-looking of their type. This one should bring between $300,000-$375,000. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.