I climb inside, flip the important thing and press the starter. The Ford flathead V-Eight is immediately activated and shortly settles in sluggish movement. I pull the gear lever to the left and to the rear, participating the primary gear within the three-speed transmission. Launch the clutch and the white-sided whitewall convertible tires will wiggle down on the convertible, with broad shoulders and thick shoulders.
We’re previous associates, this previous roadster and myself; A lot of the 70 miles on the odometer come from the time I drove it for a report from MotorTrend eight years in the past. Nonetheless, I actually cannot imagine I'm again within the automobile that appeared on the quilt of the September 1949 concern – the very first concern – of MotorTrend journal. Or, extra unbelievably, that I drive her into the newly refitted MotorTrend Group headquarters in El Segundo, California.
This Kurtis sports activities automobile from 1949, serial quantity KB003, the third of the 18 fashions ever constructed and the primary mannequin sequence, is a useful a part of MotorTrend's historical past. And it got here residence.
The sports activities automobile was constructed by Frank Kurtis, who started his car-making apprenticeship within the early 1920s in a physique store owned by L.A. Cadillac seller, Don Lee. Lee's boutique specialised in creating customized vehicles for Hollywood stars. Not solely did Kurtis learn to form and weld metallic, he additionally collected Harley Earl's methods in physique design and drawing. Sure, that's Harley Earl, who additionally labored for Lee earlier than founding the Artwork and Shade part of Normal Motors – the prototype for all trendy automotive design studios – in 1927.
Kurtis-Kraft, Inc., the corporate based by Kurtis within the late 1930s, drew the majority of his cash by distributing a whole bunch of oval midgets, in addition to pilots for the well-known Indy 500; Kurtis vehicles gained 5 of the six 500 races held between 1950 and 1955. Simply previous to the beginning of the Second World Struggle, Kurtis had constructed a phenomenal mercury-powered sports activities automobile for a rich breeder, Denver Hughes, Invoice Hughes. He would have charged Hughes solely $ 900 for the automobile. Hughes later bought it to a Hollywood director for $ three,200, and simply after the conflict, he modified fingers once more, this time for $ Eight,000 reported.
It is vitally seemingly that Kurtis would have heard about this sale. Across the identical time, he had custom-made a Buick from 1941 and turned it right into a two-seater sports activities automobile that he had pushed to Indianapolis for the 1948 500. That 12 months, that impressed lots of people at Gasoline Alley, together with the Ford Scion Benson Ford. who invited him to construct copies. All this recommended that there was a marketplace for a brand new sort of sports activities automobile, combining straightforward American energy, responsive European fashion driving types and contemporary, trendy fashion.
The 1949 Kurtis sports activities automobile was this automobile.
It was a smart selection for the primary cowl of MotorTrend. With the postwar economic system booming, a supply of jobs and prosperity, American auto lovers had been able to rejoice and it’s California that the social gathering began. It was the epicenter of the explosion of creativity that spawned the rodeo scenes and customized vehicles of the late 1940s. These echoes nonetheless resonate in a state that at present homes studios designed for nearly each main automobile producers of the planet. The Kurtis had been the product of this fabulous, feverish and loopy atmosphere of vehicles. It was the identical with MotorTrend.
Robert E. "Pete" Petersen, a 21-year-old editor of Tyro, printed the primary concern of Scorching Rod journal in January 1948 to fulfill the wants of lovers who wished their vehicles to go quicker and do higher, which put them in touch with the builders. elements and equipment they wanted. Whereas he was engaged on constructing his personal automobile, Frank Kurtis recommended that Petersen additionally publish a magazine overlaying new automobiles.
The success of Scorching Rod journal – circulation was 85,000 copies per 30 days in 18 months – however annoyed at not with the ability to entice the promoting of conservative conservative builders of the California automotive counterculture, Petersen adopted swimsuit recommendation. "Pete as soon as informed me that Frank Kurtis was one in all MotorTrend's inspirations," confirms famed director of hot-rod and basic vehicles, Ken Gross.
Petersen himself took the photographs of KB003 when the primary concern of MotorTrend was produced. In the meantime, his good friend Walt Woron has tweaked his first column. "We wished a magazine that might curiosity overseas exhibitors, sports activities automobile lovers, customized automobile lovers and the identical curiosity for the proprietor of a serial automobile," writes Woron, "a magazine which presents the developments of the automotive sector: future designs, novelties within the car, information from the continent, developments in design. "
The private reference to Frank Kurtis might clarify why Petersen selected the Sport Automotive as a canopy for his new journal somewhat than, say, a Chevrolet sedan, the best-selling automobile in the US that 12 months. However the selection was additionally a unusually cautious affirmation of MotorTrend's mission assertion.
Two years after the Kurtis blanket was printed on the quilt, a senior GM government in Detroit spurred on the key Opel mission, a secret program within the hallway, that featured a sports activities automobile with a fiberglass physique who, like Kurtis, used many common productions. automobile parts underneath its curved pores and skin. The title of GM's government? Harley Earl. And the automobile? He first drew the eye of the general public because the EX-122, one of many stars of GM's Motorama Present 1953 on the Waldorf Astoria Lodge in New York. However you already know it higher than the Chevrolet Corvette. Frank Kurtis had the thought. GM had the cash.
There may be additionally a Deep Scorching Rod reference to KB003. In August 1949, after the MotorTrend photograph shoot, Petersen's right-hand man and Scorching Rod founder Wally Parks drove the specifically geared up Bobby Meeks engine to Edelbrock at 142,515 mph. through the first nationwide velocity assessments of Bonneville. . Parks signed the quilt of the glovebox, proper subsequent to the small plaque commemorating his feat, shortly earlier than his dying in 2007. "It's the one automobile I ever signal," he mentioned. to its proprietor, DeWayne Ashmead, "as a result of it’s the solely automobile worthy of my signature."
It's now as much as us.
As I write, the Kurtis sports activities automobile is parked within the middle of the brand new MotorTrend group headquarters in El Segundo. He’s surrounded by proficient individuals who create and handle the content material of all of our iconic automotive media manufacturers – together with Scorching Rod, Automotive, Roadkill, 4Wheeler, Tremendous Road, Head 2 Head, Truck Development, Lowrider and Wheeler – by our video on MotorTrend TV platforms on demand and MotorTrend Community, in addition to our web sites, magazines and social networks.
The Kurtis are our touchstone, our unique artifact. It reminds us how far MotorTrend has come and, as we have a good time our 70th anniversary this 12 months, we’re all impressed to proceed to maneuver it ahead, to inform tales to everybody who loves vehicles and their tradition.
I feel Pete would have accepted.
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