Tag Archives: Kraft

Thrills ‘n’ Spills – Chateau Impney Hill Climb

A couple of weeks ago the Hill Climb at Chateau Impney which ran from 1957 to 1967 was revived by the Hagley and District Light Car Club attracting over 200 Edwardian, veteran, vintage and classic entries which ran over an exciting course that was nearly doubled in length from the original 550 yards to 967.8 yards, just over 1/2 a mile.

FIAT S76, Duncan Pittaway, Chateau Impney Hill Climb

Stars on the hill included Duncan Pittaway’s stupendous flame belching FIAT S76 which proved an entertaining handful on the narrow winding course with it’s low revving 28.5 litre / 1,739 cui Goliath of an engine and spindly pram like wheels, Duncan was classified 197th overall and 13th in the Edwardian and Veteran class.

Bugatti Type 35B, Chris Hudson, Chateau Impney Hill Climb

Cocking a front wheel going into Raven’s Nest above is the Type 35B Bugatti driven by Chris Hudson which was classified 72nd overall and 12th in the Pre 1940 up to 3 litre / 183 cui class which was won by…

ERA R4A, James Baxter, Chateau Impney Hill Climb

… James Baxter, who was classified 6th overall, seen above kicking up the verge driving Mac Hulbert’s ERA R4D.

AC Ace Ruddspeed, Steve Gray, Chateau Impney Hill Climb

Steve Gray’s 1954 AC Ace Ruddspeed was on track just as an otherwise light spot of rain turned nasty, Steve’s afternoon time was 174th fastest overall of the day, 13th in class.

Mogan RIP Special, Charlie Martin, Chateau Impney Hill Climb

Charlie Martin can always be relied upon to display thrilling sideways driving skills driving the Morgan RIP Special, on this occasion he was classified 37th overall and 2nd in the up to 1500 cc Pre 1940 racing car class to Paddins Dowling driving the ERA R10B.

Grannie, Gary Clare, Chateau Impney Hill Climb

Gary Clare, who was classified 2nd in the Pre 1940 up to 1100cc racing car class and 91st overall, went one better than Charlie by managing to lift the inside rear wheel of “Grannie” exiting Raven’s Nest.

Frazer Nash TT Replica, Chris Batty, Chateau Impney Hill Climb

Front wheel lifter Chris Batty, 110th overall and 4th in the over 1500cc Pre 1940 sports cars class, is seen above exiting the roundabout in his 1930 Fraser Nash TT Replica.

de Dietrich, Richard Scaldwell, Chateau Impney Hill Climb

Richard Scaldwell, who regular readers may remember built the V8 powered GN JAP, used this event to debut his newly restored 1909 16.5 litre / 1006 cui de Dietrch which was classified 162nd overall and 4th in the Edwardian and Veteran class.

Napier Bentley, Chris Williams, Chateau Impney Hill Climb

King of the burn out’s at Impney was Chris Williams in his Napier Bentley which was classified 131st overall and 5th in the Pre 1940 racing cars over 3 litre / 183 cui class.

Kurtis Kraft KK 500G, Fred Harper, Chateau Impney Hill Climb

Another car probably not best suited to the discipline of Hill Climbing was Fred Harper’s Kurtis Kraft KK500G designed to run on the wide open space of Indianapolis, above Fred appears to have remembered a bit too late that he and his 1957 Indy Roadster have a roundabout to negotiate, relying on his earlier morning time Fred was classified 5th in the pre 1961 over 1500 cc class and 128th overall …

Sunbeam Rapier Series III, George Shackleton, Chateau Impney Hill

… one spot overall ahead of George Shackleton seen drifting his 1960 Sunbeam Series III on his way to a 10th place finish in the pre 1968 production saloon car class.

Lotus 20/22, Jack Woodhouse, Chateau Impney Hill Climb

Local man from Bromsgrove and first time hill climber Jack Woodhouse is seen above setting fastest time of the day in his 1962 Lotus 20/22 Formula Junior car, the Woodhouse family had cause for a double celebration as Jack’s Dad Mark won the Pre 1961 up to 1500 cc class driving an Elva 100 Formula Junior car.

Plans for next years event at Chateau Impney are well underway, and if you have never been to a Hill Climb before this one should certainly keep you entertained.

Thanks for joining me on this “Thrills ‘n’ Spills” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me again tomorrow when I’ll be looking at another Mercury. Don’t forget to come back now !


Indy Monza Daytona – Kurtis KK500C

In 1954 Kurtis Kraft built nine Kurtis KK500C roadsters and today’s featured car chassis #376 was entered for the 1954 Indianapolis 500 International Sweepstakes as the Merz Engineering Special for Fred Agabashian to drive.

Kurtis 500C, Silverstone Classic, Test Day,

Fred qualified the #77 for the 24th spot on the grid and finished in 6th place third best of the 9 KK500C’s which all made the start.

Kurtis 500C, Silverstone Classic, Test Day,

The following year Walt Faulkner took over the #77 for the Indy 500 and starting 7th went one better than Fred and finished 5th.

Kurtis 500C, Silverstone Classic, Test Day,

For 1956 chassis #376 was rebranded as the Hoyt Machine Co Special and entered in the Indy 500 as the #10 for Ed Eliian who qualified 14th but had to retire 40 laps short of the full distance with brake issues.

Kurtis 500C, Silverstone Classic, Test Day,

Jimmy Reece qualified the #5 Hoyt Machine Co Special 6th at Indy in 1957, but retired 18 laps short of the full distance with throttle issues.

Kurtis 500C, Silverstone Classic, Test Day,

In 1958 Gene Hartley failed to qualify the Hoyt Machine Co Special for the 500 but with Jimmy Reece back at the wheel the car finished 5th in the race of the Two Worlds at Monza.

Kurtis 500C, Silverstone Classic, Test Day,

After returning from Italy #376 was rebranded as the Wheeler Foutch Special and entered for Red Amnick for the Indy 500, Red qualified the #87 26th but retired after an accident and completing only 45 laps.

In April 1959 Dempsey Wilson qualified #376, now returned to Hoyt Machine Co Special colours, 4th for the Daytona 100 USAC race run at the then brand new Daytona Superspeedway.

Dempsey spun the #24 out at turn 2 on lap 28 of the Daytona 100 and then took over the #75 Racing Associates Kazuma for the 2nd event of the day a shortened 50 mile “Libre”, open to all comers, race from which he was flagged running in 9th place having completed only 17 of the scheduled 20 laps.

Chassis #376 was retired from competition in 1962 and was fitted with a V8 and clothed as a road car until 1995 when it was returned to the condition in which it is seen today, this car is considered one of the most original roadsters to have survived having never been converted to a super modified spec for dirt track racing.

My thanks to Willem Oosthoek and Jerry Entin at The Nostalgia Forum for anticipating my question regarding events at Daytona in April 1959.

Thanks for joining me on this “Indy Monza Daytona” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me again tomorrow when I’ll be looking at a seriously modified FIAT. Don’t forget to come back now !


2012 Ranchero Mirage Desert Classic Concours d’Elegance – Palm Springs

It is a huge pleasure to know that the 2012 Concours d’Elegance season got underway a couple of weeks ago in Palm Springs, not least because thanks to Geoffrey Horton I’ll be able to shore some photo’s of altogether sunnier climbs as Europe struggles to get spring underway.

Benz, Desert Cassic C d'E

Geoffrey sent me a stack of photo’s of which I have picked a few to give a flavour of the Desert Classic Concours d’Elegance today, starting with Barney Oldfield’s 1909 Benz about which at the moment I know very little, but which in the coming weeks I hope to find out more for a future post.

Delahaye, Desert Cassic C d'E

The only thing I know about this 1936 Delahaye 135 Competition is that the exquisite bodywork is by Figoni et Falaschi, likewise I hope to find out more for a future post.

Rancho Mirage Desert Classic C d'E

It looks like the air display team was flying Harvard trainers but I can’t be absolutely sure about even that !

Kurtis, Desert Classic C d'E

The 1946 Kurtis Millar was one of the few new cars built for the 1946 Indy 500, it was raced without success by Leon Duray in ’46, ’47, ’48, I look forward to sharing a few more of it’s secrets in the week leading up to the Indy 500 in May.

Dyna Flow, Desert Classic C d'E

The forth generation Buick Roadmaster is probably best remembered for the introduction of the Dyna Flow automatic transmission that had previously fitted to WW2 ‘Hellcat’ Tanks also manufactured by Buick. Dyna Flow was the earliest automatic transmission on a passenger vehicle to make use of a torque converter for smooth, if inefficient automatic changes of gears.

Kurtis 500M, Desert Classic C d'E

Above is one of around 20 Kurtis Kraft 500M models built between 1954 and 1955 complete with fibre glass body and 135 mph capability.

Gogomobil, Desert Classic C d'E

On the 15th October 1957 film maker Peter H. Backhaus and his wife Marlotte set off on a round the world voyage in a two tone red and white Goggomobil Coupé TS 300 similar to the one above. They reached Japan where a technical defect requiring new parts that were refused entry by customs officials meant that Glass GmbH who manufactured the Gogomobil and sponsoring the adventure ended up having to supply Peter and Marlotte with a new car, a later Isar T700 model which meant once they had completed their circumnavigation Peter and Marlotte had to film the entire journey to Japan a second time so that only the second car appeared in the documentary Backhaus made of the journey.

The entire enterprise took some 5 years, but the film “Traumreise zu Dritt – Im Goggomobil um die Welt” “Dream trip threesome – In Goggomobil around the World” was a huge hit when it was released in Germany in 1964.

ALFA Romeo T33, Desert Classic C d'E

Among the many racers from the late 60’s early 1970’s was this 3 litre / 183 cui V8 ALFA Romeo T33 sports prototype which appears similar to the 1971 spec 33/3 driven by Henri Pescarolo and Andrea de Adamich which out lasted the Porsche 917’s at Brands Hatch to win the BOAC 1000kms. Similar T33/3’s of Vaccarella / Hezemans and de Adamich / van Lennep survived to take a one two on the Targa Florio in 1971 after all the Porsche 908’s crashed. Despite the best efforts of the Andretti family, where he had been staying, to wear him out, Ronnie Peterson with de Adamich also won the Watkins Glen endurance race in a T33/3.

NuArt Can Am, Desert Classic C d'E

Finally anyone with cash burning holes in their pockets might like to consider purchasing a 700 hp NuArt Can Am and taking part in the spec series Unlimited Racing Championship which is scheduled to run with 4 ALMS ‘Heritage’ Series race weekends and eight additional race weekends.

My thanks to Geoffrey Horton for sharing today’s fabulous photographs.

Thanks for joining me on this ‘Desert Classic’ edition of ‘Gettin’ a lil psycho on tyres’ I hope you will join me again tomorrow. Don’t forget to come back now !


Indy Winning Roadster Heritage – Kurtis 500 S

Frank Kuretich was born in the Crested Butte a Colorado mining village to Croation immigrants in 1908. At six Frank started helping in his Dads blacksmith shop, in Sunnyside Utah, fixing horse shoes and wagons and automobiles as they began to populate the neighbourhood.

The economic instability of the times saw Franks family move to California where his Dad took a job with Don Lee Coach & Body Works in 1922. Standing over 6 feet tall at 14 years old Frank claimed to be 18 years old and landed a job as a helper to his father customising cars for Hollywood stars where his and his fathers names were anglicised to Kurtis by the personnel dept.

Kurtis 500S, Silverstone Classic

While at Don Lee’s Frank started an apprenticeship at seventeen and such was his skill that he swiftly rose to become manager working in the shop for a short time with designer Harley Earl before the latter left for General Motors in 1927. After work hours Frank engaged in building numerous hot rods and special and eventually started working on midget racers with Don Lee’s son Tommy building the bodies.

In 1937 Frank went to work for the Hollywood Trailer company where he learned to how the work tubing to build vehicle frames and by 1938 Frank had set up his own shop to build “virtually unbeatable” midgets of which he would build over 1000 supplied either complete or as kits.

Kurtis 500S, Silverstone Classic

During the 1950’s Frank also built 120 champ cars for the Indy 500, building 5 winners. During this time Frank also built several road cars selling the design for on which became the Muntz Jet. The 500S, as seen in todays photographs at last years Silverstone Classic, along with the fully enclosed body 500KK and 500M models are all based on the 1953 Roadster Frame and suspension as used by Bill Vukovich to win the Indianapolis 500 that year.

Kurtis 500S, Silverstone Classic

The 500S could accommodate any motor and transmission available between 1953 and 1955 when it was manufactured. Bill Strope appears to have been one of the more successful exponents on the track with his Mercury powered 500S. Of the 20 – 20 500S known to have been built 14 are known to exist during the 1980’s a further 24 continuation models were built with the approval of Frank Kurtis son Ahren.

Thanks for joining me on this ‘indy Winning Roadster Heritage’ edition of ‘Gettin’ a li’l psych on tyres’ I hope you will join me again tomorrow. Don’t forget to come back now !


Winning in the rain – Wynn’s Friction Proofing Special

To accommodate Ferrari Friday I got a little out of sequence with my posts celebrating the Centenary of the first running of the Indianapolis 500, today we are looking at the 1950 Wynn’s Friction Proofing Special, thanks to a photograph taken by Ed Arnaudin in 1980.

Indy80 016s

Frank Kurtis the designer of extremely successful midget, 1/4 midget, sports and sprint cars also designed and built some 120 Champ cars for the Indianapolis 500, marketed and manufactured under the Kurtis Kraft name.

His creations took five victories between 1950 to 1955, so it is no stretch to say Kurtis dominated at Indianapolis in the first half of the 1950’s.

The first Indy 500 winner Kurtis Kraft built was the Wynn’s Friction Proofing Special seen in today’s photograph, the car was powered with a ubiquitous, for the period, 4,424 cui / 270 cui 4 cylinder twin overhead cam Offenhauser motor.

Driving the Wynn’s Friction Special in 1950 was Johnnie Parsons who won the rain shortened ‘Indy 500’ on just his second attempt. Due to an engravers error, Johnnie’s name was spelt incorrectly on the Borg Warner trophy, an error that was not corrected until the trophy was refurbished in 1991. Until then I am sure Johnnie’s son Johnny probably enjoyed having his name on the trophy even though it was next to his Dad’s face.

Johnnie took part in 10 Indy 500’s from 1949 – 1958, his best finishes beside the win were 2nd in 1949 and 4th in 1956. Parsons also won the Turkey Night Grand Prix for midgets in 1955, a race won more recently by NASCAR drivers Jason Lefler in 1999 and Tony Stewart in 2000.

My thanks to Steve Arnaudin for scanning his Dads photograph.

Hope you have enjoyed today’s rained out edition of ‘Gettin’ a lil’ psycho on tyres’ and that you will join me again tomorrow. Don’t forget to come back now !

29 05 11 Errata, thanks to evidence provided by Tim Murray it turns out that as of 2005 the Johnny Parsons spelling error had not been corrected. Apologies for any confusion caused.


Fearless Freddy and the Cummins Diesel Special

Staying with the 1952 Indy 500 which I started to look at yesterday today we are looking at the Cummins Diesel Special, thanks to a photograph taken by Ed Arnaudin in 1982.

Cummins Special, Indianapolis Motor Speedway

The history of Cummins the diesel engine manufacturer dates back to 1919 Clessie Cummins set out to exploit the hitherto unrealised commercial potential of Rudolf Diesels high compression thermal engine which takes it’s name from it’s inventor the diesel engine.

Based in Colombus Indiana Cummins a self taught engineer was also quick to spot opportunities to promote his products through events like the Indy 500 and in 1931 entered a car built around a Duesenberg road car chassis fitted with an 85 hp Cummins deisel marine engine which started last but thanks to it’s fuel economy came home 13th and in the process became the first car ever to complete the Indy 500 without making a pitstop.

This car was subsequently prepared for use on the road and used by Cummins and his marketing manager WG Irwin on a promotional tour of Europe.

In 1934 Cummins returned with a two car entry the #5 powered by a two stroke diesel which went the distance coming in 12th and the #6 by a 4 stroke diesel which retired with transmission failure.

In 1950 Cummins returned to the Brickyard with the #61 Cummins Deisel ‘Green Hornet’ a 340 hp supercharged diesel sitting in a Kurtis Kraft chassis driven by Jimmy Jackson who started 32nd and retired after 50 laps of the rain shortened race. The Green Hornet would take the diesel land speed record at Bonneville after it was timed at 165 mph on the famous salt flats.

For 1952 Cummins held nothing back from their Indy 500 programme working again with Kurtis Kraft the chassis now accommodated a 380 hp 6.6 litre / 401 cui six cylinder turbocharged engine, mandated at twice the size of the gasoline powered vehicles in the race.

The motor featured an aluminium block and head with a magnesium crank case, this unit was lain 5 degrees off flat which gave the #28 three advantages, reduced centre of gravity, reduce the frontal area and thanks to the offset engine some of it’s weight could be distributed so that the car was heavier on the left (inside) wheels.

Fearless Fred Agabashian was hired to drive the Cummins Diesel Special on the recommendation of Kurtis. After the car was tested for the first time the team, comprising almost entirely regular Cummins employees who worked as engineers and mechanics apart from the driver, knew they had a veritable ‘Rocketship’ on their hands.

Fred sandbagged for much of the month of May until Pole day by lifting off on the back straight one lap cruising through a turn on another never completing a whole lap under full power so as not to draw attention to the ‘Rocketship’ capability of the car and risk having the rules changed.

Come 5:45 pm on pole day Fred and the heavy, 3,100 lb, Cummins Diesel Special fitted with a fresh engine made their mark on the world of motor sport by setting an individual lap record of 139 mph and a record 4 lap average of 138 mph.

Qualifying over 1 mph faster than the next nearest competitor in one of the most famous races in the world with a vehicle powered by what was in essence a truck engine subsequently repaid Cummins investment many times over in the volume of publicity this feat generated.

Having shredded their tyres in qualifying the Cummins team needed a different strategy in the race and planned to run a half a tank of diesel and make one pit stop for fuel and tyres. The heavy Cummins Diesel Special was in good company with Ascari and his heavy Ferrari, both cars bogged down at the start but climbed through the field.

Agabashain in the Cummins was running as high as fifth when the car probably claimed a world first, retirement due to…. turbo failure after 71 laps, the air intake for the turbocharger, placed low in the nose, had sucked up debris into the turbine housing damaging the blades.

Cummins however were not in the least disappointed they remain the only manufacturer of truck engines to have recorded an Indy 500 pole. An achievement possibly only eclipsed recently by the 4 victories Audi Diesels in the Le Mans 24 hours since 2006, interrupted by a Peugeot Diesel victory in 2009.

A small post script allegedly in 1953 a spark plug manufacturer was advertising its wares, in the 1953 Indy 500 programe, with a picture of the 1952 Cummins Diesel Special, the only car in the 1952 field without need of them.

My thanks to Steve Arnaudin for scanning and forwarding his Dad’s photograph.

Hope you have enjoyed today’s “Fearless Freddy” edition of ‘Gettin’ a lil, psycho on tyres’ and that you will join me again tomorrow. Don’t forget to come back now !