Rick D’louhy and I can’t stand ambiguity.
Smoke and mirrors are not our friend. Conjecture and wild tales while fun – cause irreparable harm to the truth. Clear, precise, first-person facts are what we’re after, and that’s one of the reasons we’ve traveled to libraries, homes, and families across the country to get the facts and stories straight – in the pursuit (with your help) to restore the former glory to this genre of cars.
Today’s story is the result of one of our visits to the John Bond Archives at Kettering University in Flint Michigan. John Bond was the publisher of Road & Track magazine back then, and had a special affinity for the class of cars we call “specials.” When I was interviewing his son a few years ago, he shared with me that the archives of his father were entrusted to his dad’s former college – GMI which is now known as Kettering University. It was on one of these trips to Kettering that we found the source of today’s story.
Press Release Photo and Caption:
Accompanying the press release was the photo with caption below. The press release follows the photo in our story today. Those of you “Californians” out there will recognize the setting of the photo – the statuary in front of the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, California. This spot was used frequently for car photos back in the day.
Press Release: Premier Showing of Kurtis 500-M Sports Car
Release Date: December 15th, 1954
Stamped: December 13th, 1954
Taber & Renwick: Public Relations Counselors
Hailed as the newest, yet “most proved” sports car on the road, the Kurtis 500-M made its debut before auto industry representatives, AAA contest board members, sports car enthusiasts, and the press today in a premier showing at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.
The 500-M is a product of the Kurtis Sports Car Corporation, Los Angeles, world’s largest builders of racing cars. Frank Kurtis, president, when interviewed during the ceremonies, stated,
“In creating the Kurtis 500-M, we have attempted to build a machine combining the maneuverability and handling qualities of a competition model with the beauty, dependability and all-weather comfort of a family car. Professional test drivers and pleasure drivers, who have put the car through its paces, tell us we have succeeded.”
In appearance, the Kurtis features a low silhouette, smooth flowing lines, and a distinctive recessed treatment of the door panels. The body is of composite steel and fiberglass construction, mounted on a tubular steel chassis patterned after Billy Vukovich’s Indianapolis winner, which was also built by Kurtis. Torsion bar suspension is provided both front and rear to give maximum stability.
The car shown above is equipped with a Cadillac 230 horsepower engine and hydromatic transmission. Top speed is given by the manufacturer as over 125 miles per hour. The new Kurtis has a 99” wheelbase, 56” tread, 49.5” overall height with the top up, and weighs 2500 pounds.
Kurtis engineers, giving the basis for the “most proved” claim, pointed out that Kurtis chassis design and handling qualities have been proven on race tracks and sports car courses in thousands of miles of successful competition. In addition, the stock engines have been proven in millions of miles of city, highway, and competition driving.
Many thanks to Kettering University for their permission to share these materials with you. We appreciate the support of David White and Jane Gunderson in every way.
Still questions remain….in one source I found that the fiberglass bodies were made by McCormack Plastics. Those who know Rich McCormack who made the McCormack car have no such memory of this – and for such a big project I’m sure they would have remembered. Time will tell and research moves forward.
Hope you enjoyed the story, and until next time…
Glass on gang…
Click on the Images Below to View Larger Pictures
Frank Kurtis’s son Arlen Kurtis is still around. i suggest you contact him to fill in the blanks on the plastic Kurtis cars.
Am enjoying all the great mass of material you are posting on this site. You have one busy life !.
You can say what ever you want about special built cars, but the Kurtis’s truly stand out in the crowd. They were well made and there were so many interesting variations… Pretty darn fine.
Is there any book on Just the Kurtis Kraft Street Cars? or does the Kurtis Kraft book cover them? is it briefly covered?any color photos?
Hi Jose…The Kurtis Kraft book is the best book out there. There’s another book by a Kurtis employee published years earlier – The Kurtis Kraft Story – but it’s from a different perspective. Of course I posted color photos of a Kurtis 500-M just a few days ago on Forgotten Fiberglass as part of the Milwaukee Masterpiece. Hope you saw them 🙂