Kurtis Kraft Kopy: 1947 Kurtis Midget Racer

If posed the question “If you could travel back in time, where would you go?”, chances are you might not answer with “1923, Los Angeles, California – the Don Lee Coach and Body Works shop.” But if you could go there – you would be surrounded by the creative energy of legendary American auto designer Harley Earl, rows of custom Cadillacs for the rich and famous, and young Frank Kurtis – creator of record-breaking racers like the 1947 Kurtis Kraft Midget Racer found here on Craigslist thanks to reader Peter Rettig.

Born in Colorado in 1908, the son of a Croatian immigrant, by 1923 Frank Kurtis had become a skilled metal blacksmith and craftsman – who joined his father working for Don Lee’s Coach and Body Works Shop. It was at the shop that Frank grew artistically and academically – learning design and aesthetics from Harley Earl (who soon would be snatched up by GM). Frank used what he learned both at the Lee shop, and for his own profit by buying junk cars, sprucing them up, adding speed, and selling them for a tidy profit.

Soon after the Depression hit, Don Lee’s shop folded up and Frank struck out on his own – finding a niche in building and repairing track racers. He soon built a reputation for quality, speed, and design – with observers loving his midgets and roadsters for their performance as well as style. His business grew, until the war – but Kurtis was able to make ends meet with military contracts and building children’s toys. Soon after our victory, Frank had a string of design, racing, and engineering successes – including introducing aircraft building techniques and components into midget racing, dominating races, and even creating the 1947 Kurtis-Omohundro (the first post-war American Sports Car that became the Muntz Jet).

The seller of this Kurtis says its actually a copy “…chassis done by a well-known builder in 1964…” and says the car has never been built. It includes a V8 Ford Flathead, which looks to be period appropriate for the build. It seems to have much of the necessary basics for a successful project, as well as NOS items. Personally, I think this a stunning beauty – and really wish midget racing enthralled me more. At $7.7k, it might be an amazing way to re-create a Kurtis classic, and re-live a wonderful period in racing history!




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  1. Joe Haska

    These midgets are very cool collectable and lots of them even get raced, though its gentlemen racing. I know of a few friends who restored them and forgot one very important fact, they called them midgets for a reason. If your over 6′ and 200 lbs. it is not going to be a good fit. I am not, I just need to find a good friend that is ,and I could be the driver. Dream on!

  2. geomechs geomechs Member

    All right! A Midget racer with a Ford V-8. They really sang when one of those was powering it. Actually that V8-60 wasn’t a great engine to push a full-sized car or pickup around. It was only 136 CID and was built from 1937 to 1941; terminated, according to my resources, by a war ordinance order specifying a six cylinder engine. Henry Ford hated six cylinders and, due to a lot of demands for a more economical six, Henry came up with the V8-60. It cost as much to build as the V8-85 and wouldn’t pull a limp (noodle) out of a pail of lard. BUT—it was an amazing engine to power Midget racers. This would be a lot of fun to put together and get running. Of course you would have to find a track and have a bunch of friends who share the same passion.

    Like 1
    • Chinga-Trailer

      The V8 60 lived on in France for many years, powering the coolest Simcas up intil the end, about 1959 I think. It outlasted the original flathead V8.

      Like 1
      • Solosolo ken TILLY Member

        I might be wrong, but I think it also powered my Father’s 1948 Ford V8 Pilot in Rhodesia. They were an English car and as is well known, they were taxed on H.P. stroke and bore.

        Like 2
  3. stillrunners stillrunners Member

    What he said……maybe a little high for an entry project….

  4. Solosolo ken TILLY Member

    UK Ford Pilot 1948

    Like 2
    • geomechs geomechs Member

      Always liked the Pilot. I saw one up close about 15 years ago and would love to have one for myself. I knew they were V8 powered but I wasn’t aware that it was the V8-60. Cool.

  5. exartist

    Oh this is tempting and it’s not even that far from me.

    Look away! look away!

  6. Bill B

    Great vintage race project for not a lot of money……wish I was younger…

  7. Alan Preliasco

    This could be a fun project if you are planning to do the work yourself. The Atlantic Coast Old Timers racing club is very active in New England and participates in exhibition racing throughout New England. However, you can buy complete, running Kurtis Copy Midgets for $10,000 or less that are ready to go. Look at the classifieds on acotnews.org.

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