One 500a owner on the car traits that helped Vukovich to rule at Indy
Joe Freeman is an enthusiastic vintage racer who regularly drives his leet of four classic Indycars – a 1915 Duesenberg, a 1946 sparksthorne ‘Little six’, a 1953 Kurtis 500A-Chrysler and the 1958 Joe hunt Magneto special Ewing-Offenhauser in which Eddie Sachs finished second in that year’s Indy 500.
A former president of America’s society of Automotive historians, Freeman runs Racemaker Press in Boston, a publisher of vintage American racing books, and was named Collector of the Year at last year’s Lime Rock vintage festival.
Freeman’s Kurtis is one of the 500As Chrysler used to develop its ‘hemi head’ V8 engine, which the company planned to race at Indianapolis in 1955. But after Sam Hanks set a world closed-course record with one of the cars at Chrysler’s 4.5-mile test track, the AAA cut the size for stock block-based engines and Chrysler shut down the project.
“Kurtis built four or ive 500As and at least three of them survive,” says Freeman. “the car is so pleasant and tractable to drive, it’s a delight. I believe the suspension, setup and general feel of that car at the time was the unfair advantage which allowed Bill Vukovich to do what he did, not only its low centre of gravity but also the fact that it was such a good-handling car. It became obsolete primarily because it was heavier than the later 500Bs and Cs that Kurtis built.”