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Frank Kurtis

FRANK KURTIS ranks among the outstanding race car builders of all time. Turning out his first Indianapolis-type car in 1941, he produced a breath-taking, low-slung chassis for the front-drive Novi Special in 1946. Orders for more cars quickly followed. A pair of revolutionary chassis came from his shops in 1952. One of them was that year’s Indianapolis 500 pole winner, constructed for Cummins Engine Company, with a six-cylinder turbocharged diesel truck engine mounted on its side. The other 1952 chassis was the first of the so-called “roadsters,” built in collaboration with Frank Coon and Jim Travers for car owner Howard Keck and driver Bill Vukovich. Vukovich led a substantial portion of the 1952 Indianapolis 500 race and then won with the car in 1953 and 1954. From 1946 through 1959, Kurtis-Kraft chassis (both “roadsters” and “uprights”) won no less than 55 National Championship races, including 43 from 1949 through 1953 alone. From 1952 through 1957, his cars dominated the Indianapolis 500 lineups, the first 13 finishers in 1953 all being Kurtis-Krafts. In addition to a number of sprint cars and sports cars, Kurtis also built several hundred midgets, both as complete cars and in kit form.