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.

Kurtis 500B

1953 Kurtis 500B

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

Photo Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s

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.

Update: Sold $550,000.

Kurtis 500H

1958 Kurtis 500H

Offered by Mecum | Indianapolis, Indiana | May 12-17, 2020

Photo – Mecum

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.

Update: Withdrawn.

Kurtis Sports

1950 Kurtis Sports

Offered by Gooding & Company | Amelia Island, Florida | March 8, 2019

Photo – Gooding & Company

Look familiar? No this is not a Muntz Jet. It’s the pre-Muntz Jet: the Kurtis Sports. Race cars built by Frank Kurtis dominated the Indy 500 in the 1950s, and he built some road cars as well.

The first Sports was built in 1948 and was based on a wrecked 1941 Buick. Power is from a 5.4-liter Cadillac V8 making 160 horsepower. It’s a good-looking car – good enough that when Earl Madman Muntz acquired the production rights to the car and moved production to Illinois, he didn’t really have to change that much.

Only 16 examples of the Kurtis Sports were produced before it became the Muntz Jet. This example was restored by Arlen Kurtis, Frank’s son, and has pretty extensive ownership history. Extremely rare today, the car should bring between $275,000-$350,000. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.

Update: Sold $263,200.

Kurtis 500S

1954 Kurtis 500S

Offered by Gooding & Company | Amelia Island, Florida | March 9, 2018

Photo – Gooding & Company

This is a Kurtis road car. But not just any Kurtis road car. This is Frank Kurtis’ Kurtis road car. Frank Kurtis built some of Indianapolis’ best race cars in the 1940s and 1950s and he also built some great sports cars. The 500S was based on his Indy Roadsters and kind of resembles an Allard J2X – which had a similar purpose.

This car is powered by a 5.7-liter Chevrolet V-8 making an estimated 400 horsepower. The body is aluminium. This chassis was sold to Frank Kurtis (and his son, Arlen) in the early 1980s as a disassembled car for the father and son team to restore.

The running gear they used was new (thus the huge horsepower rating from the Chevy crate motor) but it was an original 500S chassis. The Kurtis family sold the car in 2003 and the current owner bought it in 2014. Only about 26 500S road cars were built and this one has a pretty good story. It should bring between $125,000-$175,000. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.

Update: Sold $112,750.

Kurtis KK4000

1952 Kurtis KK4000

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.

Update: Not sold.

Update: Sold, Mecum Indy 2018, $291,500.

Kurtis Kraft 500G

1957 Kurtis 500G

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.

Update: Sold $308,000.

Kurtis Aguila

1962 Kurtis Aguila

Offered by RM Sotheby’s | Amelia Island, Florida | March 12, 2016

Photo - RM Sotheby's

Photo – RM Sotheby’s

Kurtis Kraft built some legendary race cars in the 1950s. Frank Kurtis won multiple Indy 500s with his chassis and they dominated the dirt track circuit in their day. Unfortunately, his designs didn’t necessarily keep up with the times and orders for Kurtis race cars dwindled as the 1960s began.

A rich Texas racer contacted Kurtis in the early 60s with the idea of turning an open-wheel car into a sports car and wiping the competition off the map with it. Kurtis countered that he could build him a car that, with removable fenders, could compete successfully in both open-wheel and sports car competition.

This Aguila is powered by a 5.4-liter Chevrolet V-8 making an estimated 350 horsepower. It has disc brakes and will seat two (find another open wheel car that can fit two across). It had a brief privateer career before the dawn of rear-engined cars rendered it obsolete by 1965.

With known ownership history and a nice, well-maintained restoration, this one-off has the special distinction of being one of the final cars built by Frank Kurtis. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.

Update: Sold $423,500.

Kurtis 500 Coupe

1955 Kurtis 500 Swallow Coupe by Allied

Offered by RM Sotheby’s | Ft. Worth, Texas | May 2, 2015

Photo - RM Sotheby's

Photo – RM Sotheby’s

Frank Kurtis began building race cars in the 1930s. They were midgets and the first one he built was for himself. But he was good at it – and people recognized that. His cars were so good that Frank Kurtis was the first non-driver inducted into the National Midget Racing Hall of Fame. After WWII, he tried his hand at fiberglass road cars and would go on to build five Indy 500-winning roadsters.

The Kurtis Kraft 500 was a racing car – an Indy Roadster. They built a (barely) fendered road version as well. What we have here is a KK500 racing chassis. The body is by a company called Allied that built bodies, specifically near-copies of the Cisitalia 202. It’s a short-wheelbase car and uses a 5.2-liter V-8 from a Lincoln that has been tuned to make 257 horsepower.

The car was built to compete in the legendary Carrera Panamericana, but the 1955 race was cancelled. It would, however, get to compete in the 1990 version of that race and some other vintage events as well. It’s one of only two Allied-bodied Kurtis cars known to have been built and should sell for between $140,000-$200,000. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.

Update: Sold $220,000.

Update: Not sold, Bonhams Scottsdale 2020.

March 2015 Auction Highlights

The Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance occurred in March, and with it, a slew of amazing sales, the first being Bonhams’ auction. The top sale was this much-ballyhooed (and rightfully so) 1930 Cord L-29 Town Car by Murphy for $1,760,000.

Photo - Bonhams

Photo – Bonhams

Of our feature cars, the top seller was the Stutz Super Bearcat for $1,012,000. The Templar Touring brought a more reasonable $60,500. Two cars failed to sell: the Thomas and the Wanderer.

The “French-Front” Oldsmobile sold for $94,600 and the 1911 EMF went for $242,000. And last but not least, the Wills Sainte Claire sold for $151,250. Click here for full results.

Next up is newly re-branded RM Sotheby’s and their Amelia Island sale, where the top seller was out featured Ferrari 400 Superamerica for $6,380,000. Other million dollar feature cars included the 427 S/C Cobra for $2,117,500, the Jaguar XJR-9 for $2,145,000, and a previously-featured Duesenberg that proves a paint job can go a long way. It sold for $1,155,000.

Another previously-featured car that showed up at this sale is the 1932 Marmon HCM Prototype. It brought $429,000. I’m going to call out this 1952 Kurtis 4000 that finished 5th at the 1952 Indy 500 as most-interesting non-feature car. It sold for $495,000.

Photo - RM Sotheby's

Photo – RM Sotheby’s

On a related note, the Miller 91 brought $770,000.  And the beautiful Stutz DV-32 sold for $522,500. Check out full results here.

The third Amelia Island sale (well, second if you’re going by the calendar… third in our rundown) is Gooding & Company’s sale. The top seller was a 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4 that has been in the same family for 40 years. It brought $3,300,000.

Photo - Gooding & Company

Photo – Gooding & Company

The top seller of our feature cars would’ve been the Maserati 200 SI, but it failed to sell (as did the Duesenberg from this sale). Instead, it is the AAR-Toyota Eagle for $660,000. The March-Cosworth went for $231,000 and the first Lotus ever sold to a customer sold for $247,500. Check out full results here.

Bonhams had another sale in March, in Goodwood. The top sale was our featured Frazer Nash Le Mans Coupe for $695,854. The other Frazer Nash failed to sell. Interesting cars included this 1961 Fiat-Abarth 1000 Bialbero Record Monza by Zagato for $94,089.

Photo - Bonhams

Photo – Bonhams

The H.R.G. Le Mans sold for $243,444. And the Audi Quattro Rally car sold for $368,210. Click here for full results.

And finally, Osenat’s March sale, in which our featured Aryathis failed to sell. The top sale was this 1939 Citroen Traction Avant 15/6 Cabriolet for $661,435. Click here for full results.

Photo - Osenat

Photo – Osenat