Auburn Fall | Lot 6154
1956 Kurtis 500 E
The Bill Akin Collection
$68,200 USD | Sold
| Auburn, Indiana
5 September 2020
- Offered from the Bill Akin collection
- Only one 500 E built in period
- Partially rebuilt by the son of the car’s original crew chief
- An exciting project to complete
- Eligible for vintage events
- Includes a radiator and oil tank, not currently on the car
Legendary constructor Frank Kurtis built three Indianapolis race cars in 1956: Two 500 Fs set to receive Novi V-8s, and one 500 E for Dan Levine’s Federal Engineering race team. The E was a mildly evolved version of the previous 500 D, now with the engine tilted to the left and the fuel tank filler cap relocated from atop the headrest to a position on the flat area of the tail.
The Federal Engineering Special 500 E made the starting field for the Indianapolis 500 an impressive six times between 1956 and 1962. Bob Veith brought it home seventh in 1956; its only other top-ten finish occurred in 1961, when driver Norm Hall claimed the 10th spot. Through those years, modifications were made by Levine’s talented crew chief, Russell Snowberger, to keep the aging car competitive.
The car was entered in the 1964 Indianapolis 500 but was never prepared for the race. From there, its subsequent history remains unknown. More than likely the craftsmanship of Kurtis Kraft and Snowberger was eliminated by a crude transformation to a rough and tumble supermodified—a fate which so often befell the aging race cars of the Golden Age of Indy.
John Snowberger, the son of the car’s original crew chief Russell Snowberger, has brought many of his father’s race cars back to life with his talented restoration skills. When he found a section of a rusty supermodified frame at Don Friend’s Detroit-area shop, his detective skills led him to the conclusion that it was the sad remains of the Federal Engineering 500 E. He then began the process of replicating the car using a surviving 500 D and period photos as a guide. The partially completed car was then purchased by Bill Akin for his collection.
A significant amount of work, completed to high quality standards, has set this reconstructed 500 E on the right track; it awaits a committed enthusiast ready to see the project through to completion. It is currently fitted with an incomplete mock-up Offenhauser engine, from which some parts may ultimately prove usable.
This car represents a unique and thrilling opportunity to bring back to life the only Kurtis 500 E which was ever built and, in the process, honor the memories of the talented individuals who made the Indianapolis 500 the world’s most famous race.