Auburn Fall | Lot 6151
1953 Kurtis 500 B Indianapolis
The Bill Akin Collection
$550,000 USD | Sold
| Auburn, Indiana
5 September 2020
- Offered from the Bill Akin Collection
- A significant example of a dominant design
- Four-time Indianapolis 500 competitor
- 1955 Indianapolis 500 third-place finisher
- Immaculately restored to historic no. 15 Bardahl livery
- Class winner at Pebble Beach and Amelia Island in 2010 and 2011, respectively
- Includes trophies and awards won by the car along with period and recent photographs, period correct inertia starter and battery cart, and a proper 17-inch Bell steering wheel
Legendary race car constructor Frank Kurtis built just eight 500 B roadsters at his Glendale, California shop. A revolutionary advancement over the highly successful 500/500 A, the Offenhauser-powered 500 B had the driveline on the left, helping the car to negotiate the banking at Indianapolis with greater speed than ever before. The Kurtis Kraft cars were a major force at the 1953 Indianapolis 500—the first seven finishers were all built in that storied shop.
This 500 B, the eighth built, is offered from the noted Bill Akin Collection. It made its Indianapolis debut in 1953 as the number 53 Pat Clancy Special. Sporting a gold and red livery, the car was originally piloted by Johnny Mantz, but it failed to find a starting place until Jimmy Davies gave it a try. At the very end of qualifying, Davies made it into the race with five minutes to spare, earning the 32nd starting spot. On race day, Davies worked his way up to third by the 70th lap but would suffer brake troubles, ultimately finishing in 10th place.
The car would compete at Indy three more times. In 1954, the car returned with the same owner and driver, still wearing the striking red and gold livery. This time, however, Davies was unable to find enough speed to make the field. In 1955, with Bardahl sponsorship and a striking black paint scheme, Clancy and Davies were back again. The car was performing well, allowing for a 10th-place start and a third-place finish. In its final appearance in 1956, Bardahl again sponsored Clancy’s car, though its number changed to 12. Now driven by 1955 Rookie of the Year Al Herman, the car crashed on the 74th lap, relegating it to a 28th place finish.
The car’s documented history ended with the wreck until it became part of the legendary Bob McConnell collection. Mr. McConnell had the foresight to collect old race cars at a time when they were often viewed as obsolete machinery with ever-depreciating value; when he found the car, the Offenhauser engine and other running gear components had long been removed. Remarkably, however, the plexiglass windshield with “Pat”—the original car owner Pat Clancy’s name—drilled into it somehow remained.
In 1989 Mr. McConnell sold the 500 B to John Mecom. When Bill Akin started searching for another Indy car to restore, he learned of the existence of the Clancy car and decided to purchase it and return the car to its striking Bardahl livery. Mr. Akin approached the project with the fervor for which he was famous and an unerring dedication to getting every detail correct. The restoration quality was such that it won its class at both the 2010 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance (along with the prestigious 2010 Tony Hulman award for the best race car) and the 2011 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance.
A historically significant and eye-catching Indy car, this well-recognized Kurtis 500 B Indianapolis 500 contender is a must-own for any serious racing enthusiast.