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1953 Kurtis Kraft 500S news, pictures, specifications, and information

Both Lou Brero Jr. and his father were known for their driving skills and highly competitive spirits. It wasn't just a sport for the pair, it was a lifestyle. It didn't matter what machinery they drove, from the price of the racing machine to the size of the engine, because they easily made up for their lack there of 'whatever', in every smooth turn and move on the track. Lou Jr. has always said that 'wealthy lumbermen do not drive $1200 dollar Kurtis cars with a 17 year old mechanic, wealthy lumbermen buy $37,000 dollar Ferraris with factory mechanics.' Nonetheless, both Breros were legends that managed 'Superior performances with hard to drive machinery.'

Lou Brero Jr. and his father purchased the '1953 Kurtis 500 in August of 1955, at Buchanan Field. From this day, in its original white body and red stripes, Lou Jr. came to know every inch of the Kurtis, both inside and out. He served as his father's mechanic for the majority of the races with the Kurtis, which was known for its quick starts and great acceleration. Thus, things were always looking good at the beginning of races, but didn't always seem to pull through by the finish line. At Santa Rosa in May of 1955, Lou Brero's first race with the Kurtis, he qualified on the pole amongst phenomenal competition such as Sterling Edwards and others. Unfortunately, the Kurtis suffered a broken axle and did not make a finish. The following year in 1956, Lou raced again at Santa Rosa, as well as other famous raceways such as Arcata airport in August where he went out with a broken crank, and in Seattle where the car went upside down at over 140 mph. Finally, the Breros defeated the mechanical aspects of the Kurtis, and won the cars first race in Salinas that same year with Lou's dominating driving abilities. Lou Brero had one more victory in the Kurtis in Santa Clara, and then drove his last race with the car in Sacramento, 1956. The final race in the Kurtis was driven by Lou Jr. at Nassau in 1956, who had a first in class and out-drove a factory Corvette. From that race, Lou Jr. became known as the 'kid in the red fire engine.'
Roadster
 
This KK500S, powered by Chrysler, was bought in 1953 by Indianapolis Driver Manuel Ayulo to run in the Carrera Panamericana. Unfortunately, Ayulo was killed before the race and the car was sold to John Fox who raced it in several SCCA races. The current owner purchased the car in 1955 and broke the rear axle the first time he drove it, however, he continued racing it with the differential locked and was able to keep up with the race leader, a 3.5 Ferrari Monza. The KK500S ate transmissions like no other unitl it was equipped with a solid championship car axle. The car continued racing with both father and son sometimes in a most spectacular fashion, as it often went off course.
Roadster
Chassis Num: KK45
 
Sold for $104,500 at 2007 RM Auctions.
This 1953 Kurtis 500S Racing Sports Car was brought to the 2007 Monterey Sports & Classic Car Auction presented by RM Auctions, where it had an estimated value of $100,000-$125,000. Under the bonnet is a Chrysler Hemi eight-cylinder with four-single BBL carburetors, aluminum intake manifolds, Vertex magneto and rated at 240 horsepower. There is a Jaguar XK120 four-speed gearbox and four-wheel drum brakes.

Over a thirty year period, Frank Kurtis of Glendale, California built over 800 oval track cars. Many were successful and enjoyed long and prosperous racing careers. While watching his cars race around a long oval track, it occurred to him that his chassis and suspension concept could translate nicely into road going sports cars. He launched a series of sports cars called the Kurtis 500 S, with around 25 or 30 being produced created. The very early versions featured a hand-formed aluminum body, such as this example. It began its life as an unused Kurtis KK chassis and originally outfitted with the optional Halibrand V8 quick change.

During the close of the 1980s, this car was treated to a reconstruction, using many old, original parts as possible, including the upper and lower nose panels, hood side panels, fuel tank, and Halibrand wheels. When parts were not available, they were replicated using period correct construction techniques. The reconstruction was completed in 1991 and has been in storage since.

At auction this lot found an interested buyer, willing to satisfy the vehicles reserve, and purchased the car for $104,500 including buyer's premium.

By Daniel Vaughan | Dec 2007
Roadster
 
This 1953 Kurtis 500S is powered by a 354 cubic-inch Cadillac engine developing 150 horsepower. It is fitted with Catton disc brakes and Halibrand cast magnesium wheels.
Roadster
Chassis Num: 029
 
Sold for $104,500 at 2011 RM Auctions.
The Kurtis 500S was designed to comply with the Federation Internationale de L'Automobile (FIA), the international racing organization, rules for sports cars. Approximately 20 cars were produced over a two-year period.

In the early 1990s, the resumption of The Mexican road Race - La Carrera Panamericana - was announced. Race car builder John Ward took notice, realizing that a pre-1954 vintage car was required to compete. Unfortunately, a 1953 500S was virtually impossible as only 14 cars are known to exist. John took it upon himself to reconstruct a series of vehicles conforming to the original design. He was able to locate Frank Kurtis' son, Arlen, who supplied him with sets of original frame side rails plus valuable insight about the original construction of the 500S cars. Body panels were made from factory tooling. Three cars were built.

John Ward won the La Carrera Panamericana, beating 112 other international entrants. This roadster - chassis number 029 - was one of the three cars built by Mr. Ward for the La Carrera. It is the sister car to John's winning entry and is powered by a 400 cubic-inch small block, dry sump Chevrolet engine with Brownfield aluminum cylinder heads and a NASCAR Jericho four-speed transmission. Other equipment includes an engine oil cooler, Joe Hunt magneto, a Quartermaster double-disc clutch, Grand National quick-change rear end, JFZ disc brakes, Lee power steering, Halibrand pin-drive knock-offs, stainless steel exhaust, 32-gallon fuel cell and an aluminum radiator.

In 2011, the car was offered for sale at the Monterey auction presented by RM Auctions. The car was estimated to sell for $150,000 - $200,000 and offered without reserve. At auction, the lot was sold for the sum of $104,500, including buyer's premium.

By Daniel Vaughan | Oct 2011
Roadster
Chassis Num: 3NE561747
 
High bid of $120,000 at 2011 Mecum. (did not sell)
This Kurtis 500S Roadster is one of 19 examples built. It has a rare 33 gallon fuel tank, full fenders, and a Chrysler Hemi V-8 engine with forged crank, solid lifters, and a 10.5:1 compression ratio. There are dual Carter 4-barrel carburetors and a Muncie 4-speed gearbox. There is a Halibrand quick change rear end and torsion bar suspension setup.
By Daniel Vaughan | Oct 2011
Roadster
Chassis Num: 500S-022
 
Sold for $203,500 at 2011 Gooding & Company.
This Kurtis-Kraft 500S was built in the Kurtis-Kraft shop in Glendale, California and delivered to its first owner with a DeSoto engine in 1953. Shortly after being sold, it was struck from behind and in May of 1954, was returned to the factory where the damaged tail and deck lid were removed in order to repair the fuel tank. The engine was also removed and replaced by a Chrysler Hemi, motor number C53-8-I5990. To make room for the larger displacement powerplant, new motor mounts were fashions, as were suitable exhaust and headers. The radiator, transmission adapter and steering system were modified to cope with the jump in horsepower, and the 500S received a Hunt Vertex magneto, and a new flywheel and clutch. It was then repainted and Halibrand kidney-bean sports car wheels were installed, in place of the steel wheels.

This roadster was purchased by its present owner on June 26th of 1976 from Eric Cameron, who was then liquidating his friend's Los Angeles estate. The car was kept in static storage for another three decades. In 2005, a restoration began, utilizing all the original alloy bodywork, chassis and suspension components.

Upon completion, the car was campaigned in UK vintage races, participating in everything from VSCC events to several appearances at the prestigious Goodwood Revival.

In 2011, the car was offered for sale at the Gooding & Company auction where it was estimated to sell for $275,000-$350,000. As bidding came to a close, the car had been sold for the sum of $203,500 inclusive of buyer's premium.

By Daniel Vaughan | Nov 2011
Frank Kurtis infatuations with automobiles began at an early age. His father owned a blacksmith shop located in Pueblo, Colorado that repaired automobiles and horse-and-buggy. The family later moved to Los Angeles, CA where Frank got a job working with Don Lee Cadillac, after lying about his age. By the 1930's, Frank was designing, building, and repairing racers in his four car garage located behind his house.

In 1941 he had created a car to be entered in the Indianapolis race which was driven by Sam Hanks. Near the mid-1940's, he had created two other racers designed for Indy. The first was for Ross page and the second was the Novi Special. The Novi V8 Specials were racing cars designed to compete at Indianapolis from 1941 through 1965. These were very fast and powerful machines that had a reputation for their handling, which had claimed the lives of two drivers.

During the 1940's, Kurtis fostered a reputation for his midget and Indy racers. In 1946, the Kurtis Miller Ross Page Special had been created and was ready to compete in the first Indy 500 after World War II. The rear faring was constructed of Plexiglas and powered by a 183 cubic-inch Offenhauser engine. It competed in the 1946-1948 Indianapolis 500 races.

By 1947 he had created the Kurtis-Kraft Special, his personal entrant in the 1948 Indy race. This one-off was built specifically to Frank Kurtis's specification and desire. During the 1948 season, it carried Frank to a 9th place finish at Indy and 12th in points. For the 1949 season, under the name of Wynn's Oil Special, it was driven by Johnny Parson and wearing the number 1 on its side, to a first overall finish at Indianapolis. The vehicle was later sold to Jim Robbins who drove it in the 1951 Indianapolis race where he finished with an impressive 2nd overall.

During the early 1950's, Kurtis continued to built Indianapolis and midget racers. He even began building sports cars which later evolved into the Muntz Road Jet. By 1952, the majority of cars entered in the Indianapolis race were designed and built by Kurtis Kraft.

In 1952, Herb Porter and Frank Kurtis built the Wolcott Special, also known as the Kurtis 500A. It ran at Indianapolis in 1952, driven by Joie James, where it set records and lap times of 140 mph.

The 500 S was constructed in 1953 where it quickly proved its potential at sporting events around the country. The 500 S was quickly followed by the 500 M. In total there were about 30 examples of the 500 S produced between 1953 through 1955. Most sat on a wheelbase from 88 to 100 inches in length. The engine was various V8's from American Companies such as Chrysler, Buick, Cadillac, Lincoln, Mercury, Chevrolet, and DeSoto. Because of this the specifications varied greatly. The body was constructed of aluminum or fiberglass and sat atop a ladder frame. The suspension was a live axle in the front and rear with torsion bars in the front. The cost of these cras was just under $5000. The 500S was used by privateers and the factory for racing endeavours. Drivers such as Briggs Cunningham, Frank McGurk, Jack Ensley, and Mickey Thompson drove a 500S. In 1954 Ensley won the SCCA B-Modified National Championship.

There were six 500 X cars produced during the mid-1950's. The cars featured a four-bar torsion suspension, hand-formed aluminum panels, and a 364 cubic-inch Buick nailhead engine with Hilborn fuel injection.

In 1956, Frank left the Kurtis-Kraft Company and his business partners to begin his new company called Frank Kurtis Company. The company continued to build midget roadsters, go-karts, and sports cars. Since then, the company has shifted their focus to designing airplanes. Contracts with Lockheed Corporation lead to the construction of Start Carts for the SR-71 Blackbird.

In 1968 Frank retired from the company leaving his son Arlen in charge.

During Frank Kurtis's illustrious career, he created vehicles that dominated the midget racing series, racers that filled the grid at Indianapolis, and sports cars that were street legal Indianapolis racer variants. His custom creations, such as his 1941 Buick was sensational which ultimately led to the Muntz Jet automobiles.

By Daniel Vaughan | Oct 2006
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RM Auctions Amelia Island Preview - 2014
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Unprecedented 10-day Auction Goes Where No Other Auction Has Ever Gone Before Mecum Auctions' record-setting 10-day auction, held Jan. 18-27, exceeded all expectations transforming more than 100 acres of land at Osceola Heritage Park in Kissimmee, Fla., into the nation's collector car epicenter. A total of 3,337 lots filled every building and 15 acres of tents with a total of 2,610 cars crossing the auction block and a huge selection of Road Art and memorabilia. With 1,811 vehicles sol...[Read more...]

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