In December 1953, Road & Track wrote the following: “Frank Kurtis of Glendale, California, deserves full credit for being the first man in America to attempt to produce an American production sports car…”.
An example of Kurtis’ sports car bearing a 300 bhp Cadillac engine was tested for the article and the acceleration figures were characterized as, “the best ever recorded for any car anywhere, so far as we know. 0–60 in 4.7 seconds.” In 1956, Motor Life wrote, “The Kurtis 500S practically owned West Coast sports racing for a couple of years.” A 500S broke the Del Monte Forest track record by five seconds in Pebble Beach in 1954, and another was on the pole at 1955’s 12 Hours of Sebring. As the accolades mounted, Frank Kurtis earned his place in sports car history.
Story by Gooding & Company
Auction Sales History
1956 Kurtis 500S KK500 S015 – sold for $143,000 Unfinished until acquired by the late Warren Wetterlund, of Napa, California, in 1999 as “500M chassis and suspension” first invoiced in 1956. The chassis, originally outfitted for a Cadillac engine, was re-configured to use a 283-cubic inch Chevy mated to a Tremec T5 five-speed gearbox. A Ford nine-inch rear axle was chosen, and the Kurtis torsion bars were mated to Koni shock absorbers. The front brakes are Alfin drums, as fitted to most Kurtis cars in their era. The current owner purchased the Kurtis in 2005. A new red leather interior was installed at this time, and the white racing stripe was added. The front brakes were also converted to drums. Auction Source: RM Sotheby’s Monterey 2015
1954 Kurtis 500S KK500S024 – sold for $170,500 One of the First American Production Sports Cars. Restoration by Original Designer Frank Kurtis and His Son Arlen Kurtis. Representative of the Marque that Dominated the Indy 500 in the Early 1950s. Featured on Dennis Gage’s My Classic Car; Episode 16, 2008. A Fine Example of a Rare Performance-Focused Roadster. Auction Source: 2014 Pebble Beach Auctions by Gooding & Company
1953 Kurtis 500S Roadster – did not sell for $120,000 One of 19 built, this 1953 Kurtis 500S is an original example equipped with a Chrysler Hemi engine, Halibrand quick-change rear end and Lincoln brakes. Because of its large 33-gallon fuel tank and extra-full fenders, it is thought to have a history in Mexican long-distance road racing. It has been featured in the 2005 book “Cobra in the Barn” by Tom Cotter and in the March 1994 issue of Sports Car International magazine, and today remains a welcome attraction at vintage racing and rally events. Auction Source: 2011 Monterey Daytime Auction by Mecum
1953 Kurtis-Kraft 500S-022 – sold for $203,500 A Genuine Kurtis-Kraft Sports Car. Desirable Chrysler Hemi Engine. Complete with Factory Invoices Dating from 1954 One-Owner Car for the Past 35 Years. Recent VSCC and Goodwood Revival Participant. 2010 Goodwood Festival of Speed Class Winner. # Well-Suited for Vintage Racing and Driving Events # Offered from Prominent Kurtis Collectio Auction Source: 2011 Pebble Beach Auctions by Gooding & Company
1953 Kurtis 500S Racing Sports Car KK45 – sold for $104,500 The fantastic Kurtis we have the pleasure of offering here has a well-known and researched history. According to its enthusiast owner, this car began life as an unused circa 1954 Kurtis KK chassis. We understand that it was originally purchased from Kurtis Kraft with the optional Halibrand V8 quick change. The reconstruction of the car took place in the late 1980s before Jon Ward or Arlen Kurtis had begun their projects. Auction Source: 2007 Monterey Preview