Hit The Dirt: 1947 Kroft Special Sprint Car

What set sprint car races apart from other forms of auto racing in the first half of the 20th century was the short distances they covered. In an era when going the distance was all the rage, sprint races kept the action short and sweet. These cars tore up short tracks around the world and hardly, if ever, required stops for fuel, driver changes or other maintenance during the races. If you want to own your own unique piece of sprint car racing history, check out this custom built 1947 Sprint Car found here on craigslist in Northwest, Indiana with an asking price of $5,000. Thanks to Pat L for the tip!

This car is said to have been built in 1947 by the seller’s grandfather, Floyd Kroft, who raced the vehicle through the 1960s. At that point the seller’s father took the wheel and kept it on the track through the 1970s. It is said to have been used for exhibition and shows through the 1990s before being put away.  Storage issues resulted in water damage and rust, and the Ford 272 Y block will likely need to be rebuilt, though the frame is said to be solid. The seller also has numerous photo albums and a long letter regarding the car’s history, but they don’t mention much of it in the ad. Does anyone have any memories of this car?

The term sprint car became popular with auto racing media in the 1950s, but some historians state that sprint car racing developed right along side most other forms, starting in the 1890s. In 1951 AAA cited sprint car racing as, “… the class between midget and championship speedway cars” in a narrative discussion of their non-championship divisions. Some cite this as the time in which sprint car racing became its own division of open cockpit racing. While the history of sprint racing is not definitive, this car is definitively cool. Who is ready to hit the track?

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Comments

  1. whmracer99

    That’s just cool.

  2. Dean

    Would be really bad ass if you could make that street legal.. Imagine the looks you would get driving that down the street with some goggles and a scarf around your neck

    • whmracer99

      Had the same thought though I think I’d skip the scarf with the open wire wheels spinning that close. Would be a big Caffeine and Octane hit.

      • Derek

        Isadora Duncan for the scarf.

      • Dave Wright

        You know how that turned out for her!!!

      • Kevin

        Isadora Duncan would most likely agree with you about skipping the scarf!

      • sluggo

        WOW,, that is an obscure bit of trivia, but super interesting.

        See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isadora_Duncan

        A real wild woman…

    • Poppapork

      It would have antique plates i dont see that it would be dificult at all. No tech inspection needed, install some stop lights and maybe blinkers so you dont have to stick your arms out and your good to go in most states….

      • BL

        Would need a transmission as well, since these cars used an in/out box and were push started. No alternator, battery, starter, or charging system.
        Extensive and expensive modifications would be necessary to drive this car on the street.

      • Poppapork

        “BL” he said if it could be street legal, not if it would be comfortable on the streets. Plenty of old cars had cranks for starting for example. There is no law mandating a trans either

  3. Steve R

    Leave it as is or return it to how these cars were raced in the late-40’s or early-50’s. Trying to turn it into some form of street car by bolting on headlight, tail lights, license plates and mufflers would damage the cars appeal. Not many survive, It’s a direct link to a bygone era, why mess it up.

    Steve R

    Like 1
  4. Bob

    I don’t have any memories of the car , nor do I remember a 272 Yblock in 1947.

    • mark

      That is because all the Ford V-8s for about 18 years prior to that were flat heads.

    • ROAR

      Basic rule about race cars–they are intended to RACE so when you need to make an improvement like a better engine, you do it you also usually have more than one engine so if one blows you can swap another in and continue racing next day or week!

      Like 1
  5. mark

    Needs to have a flat head Ford V-8 to be period correct.

    • Kevin Tapply

      At some point in it’s life it likely did have a flattie, but as time and technology progressed the engine was upgraded to the Y-Block… a very common engine in its day in this class of race car. I admire the owners and their will to maintain the heritage of this car. The late 40’s and early 50’s were a time of incredible change in America and no industry reflected those changes better or faster than the American Automobile Industry. We are at a time where the automobile, as many of us know and love them, will cease to exist. Fully autonomous vehicles are on our roads today and there is no avoiding the adoption of this technology in our society. Preserving these small, yet important, pieces of our heritage is vitally important. I hope that whomever is fortunate enough to own this will restore it to it’s original state just as it was that day when Mr. Kraft drove his last race in it.

  6. Jack Homen

    Robin Miller here you go…

  7. healeydays

    That is cool time capsule and at that price it’s a steal even if you had to put a couple dollars into it getting it running. I would restore it to period with a flathead and try to leave as much patina as possible.

  8. sluggo

    There is ways in most states to title and get plates for a “Special interest car” and while some states have period inspections, most dont. BUT who says you leave on ALL that stuff to pass inspection?? As long as you dont try to use as a daily commutter MOST cops would only pull you over just to talk about it or get their picture taken in the car, MOST would leave you alone and just say “On my way to cars & coffee” or whatever.
    But VERY Cool time piece and good find, would be a show stopper wherever it goes.

  9. TriPowerVette

    Most of these cars had no transmission. They had what is called an “in-out box”. In traffic, you would need to carry a spare clutch, to replace the one you just burned up, before you could come home (and a spare right leg).

    • Brakeservo

      I don’t know about you, but I use my left leg on the clutch pedal . . .

      • TriPowerVette

        Doh!

        What’s sad is, I really thought about it, before I wrote it. But my mind’s eye was facing the driver…

        You are correct, sir.

  10. sluggo

    I am sure some concessions could be made to make it more drivable, Race car gearing also can be challenging, But its already a V8 instead of a flathead so, not like anyones gonna care,,

  11. stillrunners lawrence Member

    wow….50’s period correct with that Y block….my 32 Ford frame had everything from a flattie Ford to a flattie Lincoln on to a Y-block and then a FE motor….used the same mount as the Y-block….it was just an old roundie round car…….

  12. ROAR

    Unfortunately many now look at old cars primarily as potential investments, Race cars were made to RACE! when you couldn’t win with whatcha brung you modified it!!
    I don’t want to see AN fittings and aeroquip on cars before the 40’s, it became available ‘war surplus’ at 25c/# after WW-II ended, before that it was brass and steel. My 1940 GP car doesn’t have a bolt or nut etc. except a few safety items like steering that wasn’t available at the hardware store then.
    I’d buy in in a snap but I have no space for another, $5000 for a vintage racer HEAH!

  13. BL

    ByWould need a transmission as well, since these cars used an in/out box and were push started. No alternator, battery, starter, or charging system.
    Extensive and expensive modifications would be necessary to drive this car on the street, but would be really cool to see it restored. What a blast it would be to vintage race it. Hold on tight!

    • whmracer99

      I had wondered about the push starting it as well but it sure doesn’t look like the rear of the body was set up for that. I’d have to wonder if somewhere along the way it got raced either in a class that allowed starters and batteries as I’d guess the original would have been run off a magneto without starter or battery or a true transmission.

      • Norm Wrensch

        pushed by hand

  14. Frank magaro

    Be great starter car for events here in Pa. Northeastern museum of racing Big in this area, central Pa.

  15. Rankton

    that supposed “272 Y block” not only did not exist in 1947, it looks suspiciously an awful lot like a small block Chevy

    • Kevin Tapply

      Not unless SBC engines had two valve cover studs through the top of the valve cover..Definitely a Y Block engine.

  16. Courtney Jean Williams

    Hello! Brian Corey, this is so beautifully written! Thanks so much !
    To answer your question about the 272 Y block, yes, it was put in later when my dad restored it. Ford V8 flat head was the original motor.
    Thank you all so much for your passion about racing.
    I will scan the letter and post it here just so you may enjoy the story.
    The car is currently pending sale for $10k. Kevin , you were wonderful to speak to as well.
    Have a great evening everyone.

  17. Kevin Tapply

    Spoke with the owner yesterday. She has accepted a $10k offer for this.

  18. cc8

    I
    The Kroft Special now resides in New Zealand. I saw it yesterday on a truck prior to delivery to it’s new owner .

    • Kevin Tapply

      What a pity that this piece of American race history left the country.

  19. cc8

    “What a pity”? It took a Kiwi to step up and save it! 10k isn’t out of the way for a lot of people, so Everybody in the USA ( including you Mr Tapply) had the same chance , and didn’t have to pay all the extra to get it home… exchange rate freight, taxes, etc etc would at least double the cost of purchase if not more by time it arrives in New Zealand. There are many instances of cars going the other way, at ridiculous prices that Kiwis couldn’t afford to match. e.g. Bruce McLaren’s personal road going M6B coupe that sold to the USA in the 1980s for over $3m…. part of our heritage.

  20. Kevin Tapply

    I can tell you first hand that the seller did not act fairly in the bid process, nonetheless I genuinely hope you Kiwis enjoy it. It does my heart good to know that every time you Kiwi’s see it you will reflect on one of the most amazing periods in American Automobile Racing Heritage.

    • Brakeservo

      The write-up says this was a Craigslist offering, so what was the unfair bid process? As far as the car leaving the country, so what?? I’ve bought a number of cars from NZ and never felt bad about taking them home across the ocean. I was simply willing to pay more than anyone else.

  21. cc8

    Sorry but you have the wrong idea . We don’t have these cars for shows and museums in NZ . We still race them balls out no holds barred. Look up “the roaring season” , or Leadfoot , or Southern Festival of Speed. Lots of these specials were built in NZ and raced here, Check this out from about three minutes in.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hrxoswlbdi4
    No cotton wool and Pebble Beach and airconditioned trailers and paddock shows here.

  22. Kevin Tapply

    Do they still hold this “Motoring Event” in Queenstown? I hope so and I look forward to seeing this awesome piece of Americana being returned to its former glory and raced in NZ. Hope everyone enjoys it.

  23. Brakeservo

    Not just this but ALL cool cars should be driven and used – restore ’em, drive ’em, wear ’em out, repeat!

    Like 1
  24. Jeff

    I grew up around this car. Sure wish I had the opportunity to buy it. Floyd was mechanical genius

  25. Kevin Tapply

    I tried hard to buy it. Unfortunately it went to New Zealand. While some of our history was lost, NZ has a rich history of Sprint car racing and now they have some more. Hope it gets lots of attention.

    Like 1

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