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Kurtis Kraft was an American designer and builder of race cars. The company built midget cars, quarter midgets, sports cars, sprint cars Bonneville Cars and USAC Championship Cars. It was founded by Frank Kurtis when he built his own midget car chassis in the late 1930s.
Frank Kurtis of American racing fame built the first prototype Kurtis Sports Car in 1948 based on a wrecked 1941 Buick. It caused such a sensation that he began manufacturing the curvaceous little car under the Kurtis name in 1950. Divinely understated, the Kurtis harbored the formidable 331 cid Cadillac V-8 engine and Cadillac three-speed gearbox. The first production model topped 142 mph at Bonneville and made the front cover of the very first Motor Trend magazine. Only 16 Kurtis cars were built in Glendale, California, before Earl Muntz moved production to Illinois under the Muntz Jet banner.
Kurtis built some very low glass-fiber bodied two-seaters sports cars under his own name in Glendale, California between 1949 and 1955. Ford (US) running gear was used. About 36 cars had been made when the license was sold to Madman Muntz who built the Muntz Jet. In 1954 and 1955, road versions of their Indianapolis racers were offered.
500SX specifications: 6600cc V8 engine, tubular chassis, alloy body, front suspension-solid axle, rear suspension- Hailbrand Champ quick change, Koni shock absorbers, steering-worm and roller, Disk brakes- on all 4 wheels, wheels- hailbrand kidney beans.
Two Kurtis Kraft 500 racing chassis known to have been fitted with Allied bodies, the car is fitted with the short-wheelbase Swallow model. It was equipped from new with a potent Lincoln V-8 engine and three-speed manual transmission, and it was reportedly originally intended for the 1955 Carrera Panamericanas, but the event was unfortunately cancelled. The 1948 Cisitalia 202 by Pininfarina is widely recognized as having set the styling mold for just about every other Italian sports car of its era, and it is so influential that one is kept in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Even in its day it was recognized as something special, to the point where it was copied not only by Italian coachbuilders and manufacturers but also Southern California customizers.
Bill Burke, the builder of a famous “belly tanker” and an employee of “Pete” Petersen, made a mold off of a 202 that had been purchased by his boss. With Mickey Thompson and Roy Kinch, he formed the Atlas Company, which later became known as Allied, and they began building fiberglass copies of the Cisitalia’s styling for various American chassis and drivetrains.
Kurtis Kraft created over 550 ready-to-run midget cars, and 600 kits. The Kurtis Kraft chassis midget car featured a smaller version of the Offenhauser motor. The National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame describes the combination as "virtually unbeatable for over twenty years." Kurtis Kraft created 120 Indianapolis 500 cars, including five winners.
Kurtis sold the midget car portion of the business to Johnny Pawl in the late 1950s, and the quarter midget business to Ralph Potter in 1962.
Frank Kurtis was the first non-driver inducted in the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame (U.S.). Zeke Justice and Ed Justice of the Justice Brothers both worked at Kurtis-Kraft after World War II. Zeke Justice was the first employee at Kurtis-Kraft.
The FIA World Drivers' Championship included the Indianapolis 500 between 1950 and 1960, so many Kurtis Kraft cars are credited with competing in that championship. One Kurtis midget car was also entered in the 1959 Formula One United States Grand Prix driven by Rodger Ward. It was not designed for European-style road racing and with an undersized engine it circulated at the back of the field for 20 laps before retiring with clutch problems
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