Kurti's power

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The Kurtis Kraft, Inc. is an American automobile manufacturer and a racing team that primarily by its success in the Indianapolis 500 has been known. The company was founded by Frank Kurtis in 1938 in Los Angeles (California) . Today the racing team is based in Glendale, California .

Racing vehicles


Midget racing car from Kurtis Kraft

In 1938 the company first built “ Midget Cars ” (miniature cars). This class enjoyed growing popularity. After the Second World War there was a displacement of 100 to 140 ci (1639-2294 cm³). One of the best-known engine suppliers was Offenhauser , a cheaper alternative was the engine of the Ford V8-60 with 136 ci (2229 cm³), built from 1937 to 1940. In the factory version it made 60 bhp (44 kW), tuning parts were relative cheap available. Kurtis Kraft offered both engine variants. By the early 1950s, the company had built 550 midgets and delivered a further 600 in modular form for customers to assemble themselves .

Indianapolis and Formula 1

Kurtis 500S

Frank Kurtis built his first racing car for the Indianapolis 500 in 1941. The car was driven by Sam Hanks ; two more followed. One of them was the first of the well-known Novi Specials . In 1947 he built the Kurtis Kraft Special for himself , with which he drove the 500 miles in 1948 and was ninth. The car was driven as Wynn's Oil Special by Johnnie Parsons in 1949 , who took it to victory. In 1951, Jim Robbins finished second.

From this he developed the KK2000 (1948–1952). This was followed by the long-lasting 500 and 500 S series , now often with Offenhauser four-cylinders. A special feature was the 500A which received a Firepower engine from Chrysler with 331 ci (5424 cm³). The V8 had hemispherical combustion chambers ( HEMI construction) and developed approx. 410 bhp (305.7 kW). The tests were so successful that other teams intervened and the organizer limited the displacement to 270 ci (4424 cm³). Chrysler adapted the engine, but it was unsuccessful in the new configuration, so the project was abandoned. Parallel to the 500 , the 4000 appeared, which was built into the 1960s.

Kurtis Kraft racing cars won the Indy 500 in 1950, 1951, 1953, 1954 and 1955 , and since these races were part of the automobile world championship , his name also appears on the Formula 1 winners' lists.

Sports car

The early sports cars from Kurtis resembled the later Muntz

From 1949 to 1955, roadworthy sports cars with GRP bodies were also manufactured.

Kurtis Kraft Tommy Lee Special

In 1937 Kurtis built a single vehicle for Tommy Lee , who owned a major Cadillac dealership ( Don Lee ) and media operations in Los Angeles. The car was built on a Ford V8 chassis and had visual similarities to the Cord 810 , from which it received the fenders and retractable headlights. The vehicle was constructed as a roadster without a convertible top and was able to take part in speed tests, for example on the Bonneville Flats, despite being street legal. The engine had been brought by Offenhauser from 3917 cm³ (239 ci) and 100 bhp @ 3600 / min (74.6 kW) to 4425 cm³ (270 ci) and up to 300 bhp @ 6000 / min (223.7 kW). The car also had a Columbia Dual Range rear axle with two reductions like the ones Auburn used. Allegedly the car cost US $ 25,000 - more than a Duesenberg . The Tommy Lee Special still exists. In 2007 it was auctioned for US $ 440,000 and in 2010 for US $ 258,500.

Kurtis Kraft Omohundro Comet Custom

Between 1947 and 1949, an unknown, but very small number of modern roadsters were built. This Kurtis Omohundro Comet Custom is considered to be the first post-war sports car from US production. One copy still exists.

Kurtis Kraft Sport

The first actual production model based on a single piece on the chassis of a Buick from 1942 was presented in 1949. The elegant, two-seater convertible had a wheelbase of 2540 mm and was 4293 mm long. A side-controlled V8 engine from Ford with 3917 cm³ displacement, which developed 100 bhp (74.6 kW) power, served as the drive . A manual three-speed gearbox transferred the engine power to the rear wheels. 36 of these vehicles had been built by 1950. Kurtis then sold the construction to Earl Muntz , who continued to build a revised version of these vehicles under his own name.

Kurtis Kraft 500 KK and 500 M

In 1954, Kurtis again launched a roadworthy vehicle, this time a two-seater roadster . The tubular frame chassis was based on the racing car with which Bill Vukovitch won the Indy 500 in 1953 and also had a 2540 mm wheelbase. Initially, Kurtis sold 30 of these frames under the name 500 KK to private customers, who fitted them with GRP bodies and engines of their choice. A further 20 frames were built into complete vehicles by 1955 and offered as the 500 M model. Also, the 500 M could be equipped with a motor according to customer requirements, standard but was a top-controlled V8 engine from Cadillac of 250 hp (184 kW) at 4600 with 5426 cc min -1 made. The engine power was sent to the rear wheels through an automatic transmission. The cars received an elegant GRP body from McCulloch Motors Corporation .

After that, Kurtis finally gave up the construction of roadworthy vehicles.


  • John Gunnell: Standard Catalog of American Cars 1946-1975. Krause Publications, Iola 2002, ISBN 0-87349-461-X . (English)

Web links

Commons : Kurtis Racing Cars  - Collection of Images

Individual evidence

  1. conceptcarz; Kraft Midget 1946
  2. a b concept car; Kurtis Kraft KK2000 1948
  3. conceptcarz; Kurtis Force 500A
  4. conceptcarz; Kurtis Kraft Tommy Lee Special 1937
  5. conceptcarz; Kurtis Kraft Omohundro Comet Custom 1947
  6. conceptcarz; Kurtis Kraft Sport 1949