1956 FERRARI KURTIS 500D
This Kurtis 500D roadster was made in Glendale, California in 1955, but it went to Indianapolis the long way ---through Italy. The Italian affiliate of engine additive company Bardahl bought the car in almost complete form, less an engine. It was shipped to Italy, where Ferrari was to install a 4.4 liter, 6 cylinder engine like those used in Ferrari's 121LM Sports cars. The engines proved to be fast, but unreliable, often shearing their flywheel bolts because of their massive power. Giuseppe Farina, the 1950 Grand Prix World Champion, was at the end of his career and wanted to cap it off with a try at Indianapolis.
In 1955, Ferrari was overwhelmed by Mercedes, in both Grand Prix and sports car racing. They announced that the Bardahl Kurtis would not be ready for Indy because of the time it took to create a new transmission case and gears to adapt the Ferrari motor to the special Offenhauser three-speed gearbox that came with the car.
After Ferrari lost interest, the Kurtis was farmed out to the Maserati brothers in early 1956. At that point, they were running OSCA in Bologna, a ;manufacturer of small capacity sports racing cars. The Maseratis finished the Kurtis and it came to Indianapolis in 1956, with Farina still the assigned driver. Although he had tested the car on the high banking at Monza, Farina was unfamiliar with the Indy oval and, once there, time ran out before he got up to speed. The proud Italian was offended after he could only lap the Speedway at 134mph, when an unknown, Earl Motter, took the car around at 136. The slowest qualifier that year averaged 139, and the Kurtis Ferrari was not seen at the Speedway again.
Years later, Luigi Chinette, Jr. found the car in Switzerland and returned it to the United States. He engaged Francois Sicord, who restored it over a number of years. The Kurtis-Ferrari was an interesting concept and with proper development might well have been a contender.