1954 Kurtis 500KK
Black with Black Leather
In the 1940s and 50s, Kurtis made a name for itself building midget race cars and Indy 500 cars. By 1953, the company had also introduced a sports car known as the 500, which drew heavily on the successful Indy Roadsters for suspension and frame. The cars could be ordered in varying states of completion from a rolling chassis to a fully completed car. The cars often had fiberglass bodies and American V8 powerplants from companies like Ford, Lincoln, Cadillac, and De Soto. The cars were quite successful in road racing and rally events, winning the SCCA-B Championship in 1954. Approximately 60 examples were built in all.
This particular car is the 51st example built and is surely one of the most unique examples, with a stunning custom one-off aluminum body by Cal Metal Shaping and unusual supercharged 235 cid Chevrolet inline-6, which was custom-built by “California Bill” Fisher. The car retains its original major components including engine, drivetrain, chassis, and body. It has known history from new, is very thoroughly documented, and has been restored to award-winning condition.
The car’s story begins in 1954, when the chassis was supplied to Frank Kurtis’ friend Lou Borelli, who drove the car without a body while the body was being constructed. The engine has an Italian S.C.O.T. supercharger and twin Zenith sidedraft carburetors and was built by California Bill Fisher, who purchased the car in the early 1970s from its second owner, Al Borelli (Lou’s brother). The suspension is by torsion bars all around, and the brakes are drilled Lincoln drums as fitted to their Carrera Panamericana cars. The engine uses a Cuno self-cleaning oil filter with oil cooler. The engine is mounted offset to the right to provide clearance for the belt-driven supercharger (mounted next to the block). The car retains its original Mallory ignition system and Nicson valve cover. The clutch, 3-speed transmission, drivetrain, and differential are early Ford items.
Fisher sold the car to a Gene Cesari in the Northeast, who kept the car for about 20 years. The car sat for 18 years, and a restoration was started in 1999. The restoration was completed while David George, owner of DL George Coachworks, owned the car. He sold it on to a collector in 2006. The restoration included new brakes, hydraulic system, shock absorbers, belts, and wheel bearings and seals. The starter, water pump, radiator, and carburetors were rebuilt, and a new exhaust system made to the original pattern. The engine was sympathetically rebuilt, and the supercharger was also rebuilt with new alloy rotors machined from billet. The flywheel was surfaced as well, and new clutch fitted. The entire electrical system was rebuilt, including all wiring, spark plugs, spark plug wires, and a modern alternator and gel battery fitted. The gearbox was rebuilt with new gears and bearings as well. The body was stripped and repainted in two-stage Sikkens black urethane, a new black leather interior fitted, and new Dayton wire wheels with Dunlop racing tires fitted. A fuel cell was also installed, along with all new fuel lines, dual Facet pumps, and Holley regulators and filters.
The current owner has had Stewart Hall look after the car, including maintenance, sorting, and additional restorative work, nearly $82,000 in all since 2007. The rear end was rebuilt and a Watts linkage designed, fabricated, and installed to improve the car’s handling. Countless other items were repaired and adjusted to ensure that the car is event-ready. Indeed, the car has done well at events, winning the 2009 Road & Track “Car We Would Most Like to Drive” trophy at the Quail Motorsports Gathering, as well as the 2011 “Amelia Award” at the Amelia Island Concours.
The car is fantastically documented with photos and receipts from its early life. Even the invoice for the raw sheet aluminum to make the original body, dated September 19, 1955 is included. There are many other original invoices present as well, including from California Bill and Kurtis Sports Car Corporation. There are also period photos of the chassis without body, and of the body buck. There are also photos from throughout the car’s life.
The car is in excellent shape, with high quality paint on a superb aluminum body. The car was run for several years in bare aluminum to show of the lovely body, which speaks to the craftsmanship and integrity of the body. The black paint is excellent, with almost no signs of damage or use, while the detailing is excellent. The through-hood quick release oil filler beautifully executed, as are the subtle vents behind the rear wheels and atop the rear fenders. The wire wheels have drilled knock-offs that evoke the Pegaso Z102 Le Mans, while the bulging rear haunches and deeply offset black wire wheels add a sinister and purposeful stance. The proportions and lines are breathtaking, and equal or better to the work of the finest Italian designers of the period. The car has a number of Italian influences, such as the large egg crate grille and faired in headlamps. The trim is excellent throughout, including the glass and lights. The car has Cibié headlamps, which adds further to the car’s European flavor.
The interior also has a decidedly European feel, with large Jaeger primary instruments and snug fitting bucket seats. The car has a full complement of auxiliary instruments, made mostly by Stewart Warner. A period boost gauge and mechanical clock are also installed. A competition-inspired aesthetic prevails, with no upholstery other than the excellent black leather which covers the seats. The remaining panels such as the floors are exposed aluminum. Competition lap harnesses have been fitted, and a fire extinguisher is also installed.
The engine compartment feels very special with large Rootes type supercharger and polished alloy valve cover. The installation of the engine is tidy, and there are functional updates such as electric cooling fan and modern alternator. The supercharger is a work of art with beautiful castings and safety wiring throughout.
This is an outstanding opportunity to acquire a true American one-off sports car of the highest caliber. Originally built by some of the most famous names in the SoCal car community, the specification is totally unique, with gorgeous custom aluminum body and supercharged inline-6. The car’s early history is extremely well-documented, and its entire history is known from new. In recent years, it has received an award-winning restoration, and has participated in a number of prestigious events. It is visually stunning, totally unique, and eligible for touring events and historic racing.
Fantasy Junction +1 510 653 7555 Emeryville, California 94608 USA
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