Frank Kurtis was a gifted pioneer of the sports racing car. This talented chassis designer created a series of brilliant racers from the 1920s onwards, many of them nimble dirt-trackers powered by the flathead Ford V8. All that racing know-how came to an impressive climax with ultra-competitive Indy cars that won the Indianapolis 500 four times between 1950 and 1955.
Along with other great racecar builders like Carroll Shelby and Colin Chapman, Frank Kurtis dreamed of building the ultimate road car. The result was the Kurtis Sport from Kurtis-Kraft, a good-looking sports car that appeared to great reviews in 1948. It was a pleasing two-door roadster with a rounded nose, sloping rear end and broad chrome rub rail to protect the bodywork. Understated double bumpers straddled an unobtrusive grille and the windscreen was raked. The well-furnished cockpit featured a full display of instrumentation and an ahead-of-its-time adjustable steering column. The Sport came with both a hard and soft top, with rather awkward clip-on side windows.
Customers could opt for anything from a build-your-own kit to a completed car, with various stages in between, as most of the components were proprietary items. However, a Kurtis Sport came together, the finished article did just what it said on the box. It had undeniably sporty looks, accelerated like a rocket, had a high top speed (faster than a Jaguar XK 120′ was Frank Kurtis’s proud boast), stuck to the road like glue and was highly maneuverable.
Unfortunately, it just wasn’t possible to hand build enough Sports to make the project financially viable and Frank Kurtis sold out in 1950. The new owner tried stretching the Sport into the Cadillac-powered four-seater Road Jet but that venture failed too, consigning the Kurtis Sport to automotive history.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
1948 (until 1950)
Mostly the 3.9 l (239 cid) Ford V8 (but other motors could be and were fitted)
Top speed of up to 140 mph (225 km/h) depending on engine
YOU SHOULD KNOW: Frank Kurtis tried again in the mid-1950s, producing a few 500M production sports cars, based on his 1953 Indy-winning design, that were mostly given fiber glass roadster bodies – but sadly they didn’t catch on and Kurtis was to end his automotive days building lumbering airport service vehicles.