Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Bardahl Special, chassis #363

Here's a little history of the Kurtis 500B Bardahl Special driven in the 1955 Indianapolis 500 chassis number 363:

Commissioned by Andy Granatelli for driver Freddie Agabashian to run in the 1953 Indy 500 this car was a contender for the outright victory, and one of the fastest cars at the speedway that year.

Weighing in at only 1800 lb, sitting on a 96.5-inch wheelbase and powered by a 270 Offy made this a very potent package. Agabashian qualified in second position at a speed of 137.546 mph.

Bill Vukovich started on pole and dominated one of the hottest 500s in history. Agabashian ran strong dogging Vukovich until the 102nd lap - exhausted by the extreme heat - in a year when only five drivers went the distance - he was relieved by Paul Russo. They finished in 2nd place.

For 1954, Granatelli entered the Kurtis for driver Jim Rathmann. In practice the car was very fast, but a qualifying error erased their first attempt with what Granatelli insists would have been the speedways first 140 mph lap.

 Rathmann did not raise his hand to signal he was attempting to qualify and his run was not allowed. Granatelli protested the ruling. As the argument went on the engine was kept running and because Granatelli did not want competitors to see his new ram air induction system the hood was not opened which resulted in the engine overheating. The one of a kind 404-hp engine could not be repaired in time to qualify for the race.

Discouraged, Granateli sold the car to Racing Associates who entered the car in the last 500 in 1955. Driven by Cal Niday, the car qualified ninth at 140.302 mph but crashed out of the race on lap 170. 

The car was stripped of its mechanical parts and stored for the next 30 years in Southern California. In the mid '80s the car was discovered and a complete restoration began.

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