Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Some Interesting La Carrera History
Since there has been so much interest in Ron Lee's 55 Kurtis GT coupe and people asking for some history on the car I thought it would make fro some great reading. The history on this beautiful car is as rich as it gets with regards to who owned it, what it was intended for and how it came to be.
Of course, the car got it's roots from the legendary race car builder, Frank Kurtis who had first-place finishes at Indy from 1950-1955. Better yet Kurtis cars finished one two three in 1951 and took the top 11 spots in 1952 and top 13 in 1953. Kurtis tried to build street machines but didn't do too well. From 1948 to 1949 he built 22 sports cars. Frank tried selling the 500KK, 500S and 500M series which were based on the successful Indy 500 Roadster chassis he designed. It is believed that something like 18 of 500M roadsters were built with about six known to be on the road today. He built fewer than 30 of the 500S cycle-fendered roadsters, like those that Bill Stroppe raced.
World famous auto customizer George Barris got his hands on one of cars from Frank Kurtis himself to see what he could do with it after it had been raced for a while. Since it was a little worse for wear Barris drove the car over to the world renown Mickey Thompson to work it over and whip it back into road worthy shape. While it was at Mickey's shop without asking permission Mickey and his crew made their own mold of the car. Later Mickey made not one but two castings of the car which they planned to race in the 1955 La Carrera Panamericana. Just about the time Mickey got the two cars built there was an announcement made that the La Carrera Panamericana would not be run in 1955 as a result of so many deaths not only in La Carrera Panamericana but in another crash that is know today as the single worst crash in the history of auto racing in which a Mercedes killed 82 people and 76 were maimed for life.
It was made worse by the fact that the car/engine/wheels was built of magnesium and the fire could not be put out with water. Not only did Mercedes withdraw from the race but they discontinued all racing for a bunch of years before returning. 27 people had died during the first five years of the La Carrera Panamericana, giving it one of the highest mortality rates per race in the history of motorsport.
It's interesting to learn how many things were effected by these two racing events.
Ron Lee's Curtis was restored in the early 90's and raced in La Carrera Panamericana in 1991. It currently has a Lincoln V8.
In my oppinion there is nothing more beautiful than a beautiful car with fresh dirt and grime on it having just come home from a race. (Well, mabey second.)