Frank Kurtis completed the frame and body in 1947. Ralph Taylor picked up the car from Kurtis and Hal Cole completed the build in late 1947.
Cole was the first driver of the 'City of Tacoma,' which featured a new four-cylinder un-supercharged Sparks 8-valve 4-cylinder engine, disc brakes and a cream and brown paint scheme. He competed in the 1948 Indianapolis 500, qualifying at 14th and finishing at 6th.
Jack McGrath drove the car at Indy in 1949, qualifying 3rd and finishing 26th. Joe James attempted to qualify in 1950, but was too slow at 127.438 MPH. Bob Gregg failed to qualify in 1950.By Daniel Vaughan | Aug 2011
Chassis #318 was the second of eleven Kk2000's built. The front suspension was changed in September 1948 by Ed Kuxma.
This was J.C. Agajanian's first Indy car. 1948-1951. Drivers were Johnny Mantz 1948-49. Walter Faulkner 1950 and Troy Ruttman in 1951.
The car was the Pole position car with a new record of 134+ mph in 1950 and was 2nd in the National AAA Championship in 1950.
The 'Don Lee Special' was built by Kurtis-Kraft in 1948 for Los Angeles businessman Tommy Lee, who named the car after his father, Don. Don Lee owned Don Lee Cadillac, an exclusive Cadillac dealership in Los Angeles and Don Lee Coach and Body Works, which built custom automobiles. Builder Frank Kurtis began his career as an apprentice at the Coach and Body Works. The Don Lee Special has a Kurtis Kraft 2000 chassis and a 270 cubic-inch 4-cylinder D.O.H.C. engine. Top speed was 130 MPH. Driven by Mack Hellings, it finished 5th and 8th at Indianapolis in 1948 (127.968 mph qualifying speed) and 1949 (123.280 mph qualifying speed) respectively. The car continued to be raced until 1959 including at Ascot with Jim Hurtibuse driving. He won the heat, the semi, the Trophy Dash and the Main Event - a Clean Sweep and also the fastest time.
In 1950, the Don Lee Special was featured in the MGM film 'To Please a Lady'
with Clark Gable and Barbara Stanwyck.
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. 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 | Sep 2011