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 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 Bonhams | Goodwood, U.K. | September 12, 2015
Photo – Bonhams
Lance Reventlow. He was an American born in London. He was also an heir to the Woolworth fortune. His step dad won the Targa Florio. These things were the perfect storm for an American forming his own Formula One team.
Scarab was the name of the cars that were built between the late 1950s and early 1960s. They were designed by Tom Barnes and Dick Troutman and financed and raced by Reventlow (other guys raced the cars, too). The front-engined open-wheel cars were built for the 1960 Formula One season and it didn’t go well because the rear-engined revolution was already under way. Scarab only had one start in Formula One: 10th place at the 1960 U.S. Grand Prix with driver Chuck Daigh (although the tried to compete in two other races, one a twin DNQ and one a twin DNS).
After that, they campaigned the car in International Formula racing at races at places like Goodwood. But sports cars were their mainstay. Originally, this car was powered by a Scarab-designed, Offenhauser-style straight-four but it now has a 3.6-liter Offenhauser straight-four – one of only 55 such engines built.
This car is historic event eligible and has definitely been used, even though the restoration is great. The car is coming from a collection of Scarab cars, with one more assembled F1 car among them (of three built). American-built F1 cars are very rare and while this car wasn’t dominant, it is a piece if history. It should bring between $1,100,000-$1,500,000. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.
Offered by RM Sotheby’s | Fort Worth, Texas | May 2, 2015
Photo – RM Sotheby’s
A.J. Watson and Fred Offenhauser are two legendary names associated with the Indianapolis 500 – names that, to Indy faithful, are right there with Foyt and Unser. Watson built his first car (for himself) in 1947. In 1955 he modified a Kurtis KK500C which ended up winning the 500. In 1956, Watson built his first Indy Roadster from scratch. He would go on to build only 22 more.
This car was built in 1960 and was run for a few years thereafter. Its competition history includes:
1960 Indianapolis 500 – 30th, DNF (with Len Sutton)
1960 Milwaukee 200 – 1st (with Sutton)
1961 Indianapolis 500 – 19th, DNF (with Sutton)
1961 Milwaukee 200 – 2nd (with Sutton)
1962 Indianapolis 500 – 31st, DNF (with Allen Crowe)
The ’62 500 was the final race for this car (because it was crashed), which didn’t fare too well there. It is powered by a 4.2-liter Offenhauser straight-four. The car was discovered in the early 1980s and was restored thereafter to its 1961 Indy livery. It has been back to Indy since (driven by Sutton in some warm up laps) and was displayed at the NHRA museum.
Watson Roadsters are very rare – even more so in private hands. This one should bring between $700,000-$800,000. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.