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  Article Image gallery (37) 500S-022 Specifications  
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Country of origin:United States
Produced from:1953 - 1955
Numbers built:30 - 35 (Including kits)
Designed by:Frank Kurtis
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:April 18, 2012
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Click here to download printer friendly versionFrank Kurtis was one of the successful 'Roadster' and 'Midget' manufacturers of the 1950s, with various evolutions of his 'Kurtis Kraft 500' taking five Indy 500 wins between 1950 and 1955. Kurtis' ventures into the sports car market were met with more mixed results but he certainly hit the nail on the head with the '500S' launched in 1953.

Effectively an Indy Roadster with two seats, the Kurtis 500S was built around a sturdy steel ladder frame. Solid axles were used on both ends with trailing arms and torsion bar springs. At the front, the springs were mounted transversely. Frank Kurtis offered considerable freedom to his customers with regards of the choice of brakes, gearbox and engine. Ordered by a Hudson dealer, the first example was fitted with a Hudson 'six'.

The 500S was clothed in a straightforward aluminium body with separate cycle fenders. On later models, the front and rear fenders were more closely integrated in the body and complete fibreglass bodies of the same design also became available. One of the 500S' most striking features was the grille constructed from a set of nine curved, large-diameter tubes mounted vertically ahead of the radiator. The Kurtis Indy racers used a similar design but on a considerably smaller scale.

One of the key figures in the 500S history was Bill Stroppe, who fitted a short wheelbase model with a Ford V8. He won straight out of the box and the during the following races, he gave far more exotic machinery a run for their money. Orders flooded in for the 500S, which was available in various states of completion, ranging from a kit to a completed car with the engine installed. Dubbed the 500KK, Kurtis even supplied chassis kits, which formed the basis for a wide variety of specials.

Production of the 500S spawned nearly three years with an estimated 30 examples 'built'. Of these, it is believed 19 were sold as complete cars. With cycle fender cars quickly becoming out of fashion, Kurtis developed the 500X (for experimental) with an all-enveloping body. A development of the original design, this Kurtis featured a more sophisticated multi-tubular frame. Not surprisingly, the new machine continued the 500S' winning ways.

Equipped with a wide variety of engines, including Cadillac, Ford and Chrysler HEMI V8s, the 500S was raced with great success throughout the United States by many of the country's leading amateur drivers. Most successful of all was Stroppe, who won numerous races in his car and even brought it to the Carrera Panamericana late in 1953. The spectacular Kurtis 500S remains as one of the era's greatest sports racers.

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  Article Image gallery (37) 500S-022 Specifications