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Monday, January 11, 2016

The Kurtis 500 is a Car That Deserves to be Remembered


Copyright © 2016 Bold Ride LLC.

You might not remember the name Frank Kurtis the same you do Carroll Shelby or Enzo Ferrari. But the American-born race car builder deserves recognition for the accomplishments he amassed over his longstanding career as much as anyone. One of the last, and most beautiful platforms Frank Kurtis ever built, was the 500KK, and following 500SX.
The year was 1955, and after a long career of building midget race cars and Indy cars, Kurtis turned his attention to one last creation. The 500KK was born out of a need to be even faster, even more advanced than the rest of the field.


It was a tubular chassis with torsion bar rear suspension, and an x cross-brace smack dab in the middle. The body was designed by Jack Sutton in California, and was built completely out of aluminum, featured small front and rear overhangs, and a wraparound plexiglass windshield. To call this car unique for the time would be an understatement.

Engine choices were plentiful; buyers could opt for either a Ford flathead, a Chrysler Hemi, or a Cadillac V8. All of which suited the personality and style of the car with raw, unfiltered performance.


In total, 60 examples were built, with a few complete vehicles sold by Kurtis himself under the 500S moniker. But it wasn’t until the development of the 500SX Roadster that the platform was utilized to its full potential.

Only 12 Kurtis 500SX models were ever developed. Six were sold simply as rolling chassis, while four sold as kits—or so the story goes. Though there is some confusion as to the exact number sold and developed, history tells us that as many as four 500SX’s were completed by the factory, developed for racing.

But it wasn’t just some done-up 500S—it was a completely revamped chassis.


It was stiffer, more precise, and focused purely on track performance. The left suspension bracket was able to rotate while the right remained fixed firmly in place. It featured a fully tubular frame, a widened cockpit (per FIA rules), and both the battery and fuel tank placed as far back in the vehicle as possible to improve weight distribution. All said and done, the cars weighed 2,200 pounds, and cost $6,000 without the engine.

Today, finding a pristine Kurtis—let alone a 500SX series–will set you back as much as $500,000.

Photo Credit: Darin Schnabel / RM Sotheby’s