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Features Frank Kurtis-Kurtis Kraft picture thread

Discussion in 'Traditional Hot Rods' started by guffey, Sep 24, 2012.

  1. Dad's 1932
    Joined: Dec 3, 2009
    Posts: 203

    Dad's 1932
    Member
    from Santa Rosa

    This is what one of the Kurtis boats look like . Yes they are fast . Looks like the Kurtis family has a lot of talent .I love all the stories . Thanks for sharing .

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    If this doesn't belong in this thread pm me and I will remove it . I just figured it show the Kurtis Family history which is great .
     
    Stogy and banjeaux bob like this.
  2. I think the boat belongs on this thread. It is a Kurtis Kraft!
     
  3. Rootie Kazoootie
    Joined: Nov 27, 2006
    Posts: 8,035

    Rootie Kazoootie
    Member
    from Colorado

    Kurtis' first Indy car.
     

    Attached Files:

  4. Dqracer
    Joined: Nov 10, 2013
    Posts: 2

    Dqracer
    Member
    from Kentucky

    Hi folks ,, new to this site, looks like a fun time with many pics to enjoy and knowledgable members. What brought me here was a search for info on Frank Kurtis, I have had in my possesion for 25+ yrs a 59' Kurtis Yamaha Half Midget, its a very nice lil racecar, my current physical health doesn't allow me to finish the restoration of this project.
    I would like to sell the car to someone that would appreciate it and give it a good home . It is 90% complete, just needs an period correct engine. I can send anyone pics if interested.
    Thank you
    Dallas
     
  5. F&J
    Joined: Apr 5, 2007
    Posts: 13,217

    F&J
    Member

    I believe this is an early Kurtis custom; made from a wrecked 34 LaS coupe. The owner was "Willet Brown"? and was a California rich kid.

    I cannot find any other pics of this custom.

    The rear skirts look like the optional 34 LaS skirts that had a hubcap attached to them from the factory.

    [​IMG]
     

    Attached Files:

    Stogy likes this.
  6. 50Fraud
    Joined: May 6, 2001
    Posts: 9,498

    50Fraud
    Member

    That LaSalle is nice! How did you learn that Kurtis built it?

    I have heard that Frank Kurtis worked for Don Lee Cadillac before the war. At the Petersen there is a customized '41 Cadillac coupe that Don Lee did for Clark Gable and Carole Lombard when it was new; I have wondered if perhaps Kurtis did the work on it.

    Dean, would you know anything about this?
     
  7. F&J
    Joined: Apr 5, 2007
    Posts: 13,217

    F&J
    Member

    Here you go; the Kustomrama site did a short spiel on Willet and the car:http://www.kustomrama.com/index.php?title=Willet_Brown's_1934_LaSalle
    That car seems to be of higher finish details than the Lee car? Can't really say for sure, but it appears flawless in finish AND styling...with nothing that does not flow. Superb:cool:. It's right up there with the famous coachbuilders of the day, IMO

    The only reason I found it, was by researching 34 LaS details for a car I was prepping for an estate. That car is picured below; you can see some of the orig LaS features that were either eliminated, or reused.
     

    Attached Files:

  8. Frank Kurtis did build the La Salle in '35 for Willet Brown. In the book "The Kurtis-Kraft Story" shows a side shot of the Willet Brown La Salle. Willet Brown worked for Don Lee then Tommy Lee. Willet ran Tommy's '35 FWD indy roadster at Muroc prewar. Willet inherited or bought Tommy's car collection included was the Danny Sakai modified as well as the Tommy Lee Speedster.

     
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  9. F&J
    Joined: Apr 5, 2007
    Posts: 13,217

    F&J
    Member

    Well, Willet and Kurtis certainly knew "Class". That car is even more incredible as you say it was built in 35. Imagine the looks it got then, when the much smaller factory built Auburns had the same boattail and windshield design..... The LaS is a monster of a car in person.


    I read that Willet was injured badly in a race wreck and later it caused his early passing.
     
  10. 50Fraud
    Joined: May 6, 2001
    Posts: 9,498

    50Fraud
    Member

    By "the Lee car", I imagine you're thinking of the Tommy Lee speedster. The Don Lee/ Clark Gable Cadillac I was speaking of is a very mild custom '41 Cadillac coupe, and the finish is quite satisfactory.
     
  11. Los Angeles Times
    October 17, 1993
    So Willet would have been about 30 y.o. when the La Salle was built. Both Frank and Willet were surrounded by class. Being partners in a Cadillac dealership at a time when most Cadillacs were custom bodied Willet would be well versed in what styles were being offered by Hollywood area Coach builders.
     
  12. F&J
    Joined: Apr 5, 2007
    Posts: 13,217

    F&J
    Member

    Yes, the speedster. Not to dismiss any of his work as less than perfect, the LaS just seems to be more of a look that would be expected from the leading body builder companies of that era. The Lee Speedster has some details here and there, that look more like a shop such as Barris, etc. What I guess I mean is that the LaS is more "stock" looking, and the Speedster is more of a handbuilt custom from a small local place




    I must have read the wrong info. I thought I found a page that said he had ongoing pain from a crash, and later, jumped off a highrise in despair. No clue where I read that.
     
  13. That was Tommy Lee.
     
  14. F&J
    Joined: Apr 5, 2007
    Posts: 13,217

    F&J
    Member

    Thanks for straightening that out.


    Back to Kurtis; Is it a fair statement that his eariest years were more of the custom body styling, and then he may have drifted over to racing and performance cars?

    I find it interesting that someone with those advanced custom body skills, would drift away. But then again, the depression kind of squashed the custom body trade for the wealthy.
     
  15. 50Fraud
    Joined: May 6, 2001
    Posts: 9,498

    50Fraud
    Member

    I agree with this observation almost completely. The speedster has a number of quirks to its appearance, and does not look like the work of a top-notch coachbuilder. I think it's a disservice to Barris to say that it looks like their work!

    The LaSalle, by contrast, looks quite beautiful.
     
  16. F&J
    Joined: Apr 5, 2007
    Posts: 13,217

    F&J
    Member

    My poor choice of words. i was not dissing Barris or anyone, Geo is my hero, BTW.

    What i meant was a local small shop "such as" Barris or others, that did customs as we know of, (like done through the 50s,) compared to a shop that can build a suitable new body for a new Duesenberg chassis. The two builds are not the same in detail type or feel.
     
  17. 1turbobrick
    Joined: Sep 10, 2011
    Posts: 62

    1turbobrick
    Member

    Kurtis spent his early years working for Don Lee Cadillac doing custom body work. In 1937 he built the Tommy Lee Special for Tommy Lee. At some point in the late thirties he was building midget race cars for Don Lee's race team. He also built other custom one-off cars in the late thirties and early forties. In 1949 he introduced his own street car; the Kurtis Sport. It was a failure and after 17 cars were built the entire project was sold to Earl Madman Muntz. Muntz had Kurtis re-engineer the car, adding length to incorporate a rear seat. Muntz then went on to manufacture about 400 Muntz Jets. Through the early fifties Kurtis focused on Indy cars and was a dominant force at Indy for a number of years. He then started offering his Indy car chassis to customers to build their own street car bodies on. A number of these survive today...the 500S, the 500M, the 500KK and the 500SX.

    The Tommy Lee Special along with a Kurtis Sport, 2 500KKs and a 500SX reside in the same collection today. I've had the good fortune of driving or riding in all these cars and they are absolute beasts!
     
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  18. 50Fraud
    Joined: May 6, 2001
    Posts: 9,498

    50Fraud
    Member

    I think the Tommy Lee car belongs to Fred Phillips. Does he have FIVE Kurtises?
     
  19. 1turbobrick
    Joined: Sep 10, 2011
    Posts: 62

    1turbobrick
    Member

    Yes
     
  20. Rikster
    Joined: Dec 10, 2004
    Posts: 5,780

    Rikster
    Member

    Here are three more photos of theLaSalle. I found the photos on the Cadillac Database site.

    They are bit small... but still very interesting.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    And a bit larger version of the photo that was already posted.. to have a better look at this beauty.
    [​IMG]
     
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  21. 1turbobrick
    Joined: Sep 10, 2011
    Posts: 62

    1turbobrick
    Member

    Unless I'm missing something, those are two different cars, aren't they?
     
  22. F&J
    Joined: Apr 5, 2007
    Posts: 13,217

    F&J
    Member

    I can't say with nothing to back it up :) , but both cars have 34 LaS bumpers only a one year style.

    The light colored one; is it in bare metal? The hoodside is not latched, so are these mocked up, unfinished plain hoodsides? The black car has the stock LaS venti-ports on the hoodsides.

    on the black car; those chromed lower front fender mouldings...those are modified original LaS parts that originally tied right into the running boards. It seems like he reshaped the back part to curve back in. The light car is lacking these, as well as the custom small step where the running board was

    the LaS grille is missing on the lighter car. Do these things all say that it was the same car, but going through changes in mock up?

    The chromed wheel discs on the front of the dark car are optional 34 LaS discs, and those wild rear skirts are also stock optional 34 LaS skirts that came with the center hub cap attached to them.

    Both cars appear to have the optional 34 LaS banjo steering wheel.

    The article says it was built in 35 from a wrecked coupe, so to make a twin, they would have had to buy another almost new coupe to do it.

    thanks for those pics!
     
  23. Karrera
    Joined: Jan 19, 2008
    Posts: 169

    Karrera
    Member

    I fell in love with Kurtis cars when I saw this at Amelia Island in 2009 - since then I always look to see what other Kurtis creations show up - I never knew he built such a wide array of stuff.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    and this one in 2010...

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
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  24. hugh m
    Joined: Jul 18, 2007
    Posts: 2,148

    hugh m
    Member
    from ct.

    I think Frank Kurtis had so many accomplishments after he built his customs that he never got enough credit for them...he was way ahead of most of the folks who get tons of props for their work.:)
     
  25. wicarnut
    Joined: Oct 29, 2009
    Posts: 3,468

    wicarnut
    Member

    Thanks! Great Thread, Love the history. John
     
  26. MoparMontana
    Joined: Nov 11, 2005
    Posts: 107

    MoparMontana
    Member

  27. Futura63
    Joined: Dec 3, 2011
    Posts: 146

    Futura63
    Member
    from N/W ohio

     
  28. 50Fraud
    Joined: May 6, 2001
    Posts: 9,498

    50Fraud
    Member

    The first road race I ever attended was at Chino CA in 1953. The main event was won by Stroppe's Merc-Kurtis.
     
  29. Here is a picture of my Kurtis Midget copy which I use for hillclimbing.

    [​IMG]
     
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  30. oj
    Joined: Jul 27, 2008
    Posts: 6,247

    oj
    Member

    Both Zeke and Ed Justice used to work at Kurtis Kraft, Zeke would talk about it with pride.
     

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