Last week, we posted a picture of a custom-bodied 1954 Curtis 500 KK on Facebook, and many of you absolutely loved it. So we decided to give it more attention today.
Kurtis Kraft was a company founded by Frank Kurtis that designed and constructed race cars. The company built midget cars, quarter midgets, sports cars, sprint cars, Bonneville Cars and USAC Championship Cars. It was founded when Frank Kurtis built his own midget car chassis in the late 1930s.
Between 1949 and 1955, Kurtis also built a series of low-slung fiberglass-bodied two seat sports cars. He only managed to build about 36 models before he sold his company to Muntz - and his car became the Muntz Jet, but those 36 Kurtis cars are truly wonderful. It would appear that no two of the cars Kurtis made were alike. In many cases the cars came with Kurtis's own fiberglass body - a style which is very reminiscent of an Allard design – and aggressive Indy racer-like shape with a pronounced grill and cycle-style fenders. Many of them were built on a chassis that are directly descendent on the design of his IndyCar platforms.
A second option was for customers to simply purchase the chassis and have their own drivetrains installed, and hire a coachbuilder to fabricate bodywork the the owner's taste. The 1954 Curtis 500 KK, chassis number 51 was one of those custom cars.
Chassis number 51 started life as a simple Indy car chassis kit from Frank Kurtis. The first owner, Lou Borelli, took delivery of the chassis and immediately hired Bill Fisher to build him a supercharged 235 ci Chevrolet inline 6 to power his Kurtis. Borelli's car otherwise came with fairly standard Kurtis gear - a Ford three speed manual transmission, a Ford rear end, and drilled Lincoln drum brakes. He also commissioned a one-of-a-kind all aluminum body to be designed and built by California Metal Shaping. But Borelli was so anxious to try out the drivetrain on his new car that he drove it without a body around town while the skins were being constructed.
The proportions and some of the details are heavily influenced by Italian design of the time. The fender lines and egg crate grill bear more than a passing resemblance to the Ferrari 275 MM, which was introduced only one year earlier in 1953.
Whether or not one could argue the designers were overly influenced by the Italians, the mechanicals of the car are pure American, with the supercharged Chevrolet engine, Ford running gear, and pure Kurtis Indy car chassis.
Not only is this particular example of the 500 KK one of the best looking examples of a Kurtis, it is perhaps one of the most beautiful cars of any type.