Offered by Gooding & Company | Pebble Beach, California | August 13-14, 2021
When it comes to classic Indy cars, not much beats a Kurtis-Offenhauser. The 500C was introduced either in late 1953 or early 1954. Only nine were built. Despite their build date, the cars were raced for years at Indianapolis – as late as about 1959.
This particular car is interesting in that it started out as a 500C that debuted at the Speedway in 1954. It ran there through 1957, including:
1956 Indianapolis 500 – 8th (with Rodger Ward)
After 1957, it was sold to a different team, who had Eddie Kuzma cut the car up and update it with Kuzma parts. At that time, the Kurtis chassis was discarded and ultimately purchased by someone who would go on to have it restored in the 1980s to as it was in 1956. So, from that first original car, there are now two cars, one of which is still a Kurtis. Kind of weird, but that’s what happens.
Power is from a 4.2-liter (255ci) Offenhauser inline-four estimate to produce 400 horsepower with Hilborn mechanical fuel injection. The car is expected to sell for between $250,000-$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 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
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 | 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.
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.
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.
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.
Offered by RM Sotheby’s | Amelia Island, Florida | March 12, 2016
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.
Offered by RM Sotheby’s | Ft. Worth, Texas | May 2, 2015
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.