The clamor to share more of the history of John Furlow’s “Salem GMC Kurtis Byers” has been heard. Today’s article is from the ’58 book by Motor Trend called “Sportscar Specials” – authored by Bob Rolofson.
Let’s see what Rolofson had to share about what John Bond from Road & Track called – “one of the most beautiful sports cars in the world.”
Salem GMC Kurtis
Sportscar Specials, Trend Book 178 (1958)
The Salem GMC Kurtis was built strictly as a hobby by Steve Salem of Manhattan Beach, California. Originally he had planned to race the car, but gave up the idea because “I can’t afford it, and my current powerplant wouldn’t be enough of a contender in the class I’d have to race it in.”
Still lacking some interior finish and a final paint job on the Byer fiberglass body, Steve has invested a total of $2374.16 cash, and two and one half years of free time.
The frame is a Kurtis tubular unit, with solid axle and trailing arms at the front and leading arms at the rear. Springing is by transverse torsion bars fore and aft. The brakes are Lincoln units, mounted conventionally. Steering is reworked Ford with 2 turns lock-to-lock.
The GMC engine has a bore of 4 and 1/8 inches, stroke of 4 inches, capacity of 5246cc (320 cubic inches) mounts three 2 inch SU sidedraft carburetors, runs on a compression ratio of 9.2:1, and develops 268 bhp at 550 rpm. The transmission is from a ’37 Buick Roadmaster, ratios are variable with differential choices of 3:31, 3:78, and 4:11.
- General dimensions are as follows:
- Wheelbase 90”
- Overall length: 156 inches
- Overall height: 35 inches
- Overall width: 68 inches
- Minimum clearance: 6 and ½ inches
- Fuel capacity: 21 gallons
- Front tread: 58 inches
- Rear tread: 58 inches
- Tires: Front: 6.70 x 15
- Tires: Rear: 7.10 x 15
- Top speed: 141 mph to 156 mph
- Speed in the standing quarter: 110 mph
The amount of money and time that Steve Salem spent building this Byers Special was typical of a solid build from the era. Back in the ‘50s, it was commonly acknowledged that from start to finish, a sports car would take about 2000 hours to build – and that’s if you STARTED with a body!
In modern dollars, if you assume $50 per hour for 2000 hours, that’s 50 weeks of 40 hour weeks with 2 weeks off for the year, and a grand total of $100,000 in labor alone.
That’s one special car John Furlow has! Click here to learn more John Furlow’s “Salem GMC Special.”
Hope you enjoyed the story, and until next time…
Glass on gang…
Click on the Images Below to View Larger Pictures
The engine is set back halfway under the dash you can jut barely see the third port..No way a four banger would have 320 cu. inches ..
P.S. nice looking car.
~ Mel is correct, shadow obscures the rear of the engine almost completely.
5.2 liter four-banger? suppose it’s possible in passenger vehicle. no thanks. sc
Upon further examination of the photo, I now see where the last two cylinders are under the cowling – those SU carbs require a lot of adjusting and that last one would be a difficult task! The first thing that caught my eye in the engine bay pic was that the body appears to be white or a light color, so I thought that they had inserted an incorrect photo.
I agree with Glenn, it looks like a 4 banger to me. Not enough head bolts for a six.
Nice looking ride, however, it looks to me like they may have included the wrong photo for the engine compartment – it looks more like a four cylinder motor and I only see two SU carbs and not three. What does anybody else think? Also, the story says that the car used a ’37 Buick transmission, but the interior photo caption says that it’s a GMC tranny.
Nothing like the sound and torque of a straight 6… and John is one heck of a guy, one of the absolutely finest people you will ever meet. His car is also nothing short of amazing.