A Report On The Accident That Killed Bill

 Vukovich In The 1955 Indianapolis 500-Mile-Race

       

 

 

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                       Analysis of Vukovich Death Car Identification

 

    This partial list was copied from the an official list of all Kurtis Kraft race cars built and is the history of Kurtis chassis 372 at Indianapolis.  The car was entered in the "500" in 1957 but not '58.   But in 1959 Frank Arciero did enter the car powered by a Masarati V-8 engine driven by Shorty Templeman but did not make the race.  It was never entered again.                              

 Year  Driver            Team                    Owner                   Car #   Model                  Year Built  Serial #

Note: The fact the car was entered in the 1957 race as the Caruthers/Birch Braun Special and driven by Don Edmunds but did not qualify is missing from this official list.

 

Pat O'Conner qualifying picture from 1954.  Car was owned and entered by Lindsey Hopkins and was almost identical to the configuration of the car Vukovich drove in 1955.

Qualifying picture of Vukovich from 1955.  Car is very similar to configuration of '54 Hopkins Special driven by O'Conner.  Differences include car number and placement of decals.

    The 1956 version with Jim Rathmann driving had a side pod, a different nose piece and a relocated fuel receptacle over the '55 car.  This may be the same nose work as on the '59 entry but not definite.  Fuel tank receptacle is in same location as '59 car. 

1957 car entered as the Caruthers/Birch Braun Special and driven by Don Edmunds is very similar to '56.  Car had what appears to be the same side pod and louvers as the '56 configuration.  Nose piece might be different but grill work could have been added to original '56 nose.

1959 Arciero Entry features a different side pod but same nose and grill work as '57 Birch Braun car.  Roll bar has been added per USAC rules.  Car had V-8 Maserati engine that utilized exhaust pipes or each side of the vehicle.

     The key to identifying the Vukovich death car is to compare the 1959 version to the car in the museum.  Above is a photo of the left side of the car from 1959 when entered by Frank Arciero.  Below that are three photos of left side and front of the car in the Holland museum.  Please note the similarities -- the side pod with the matching positioning of the louvers, the two raised areas on the hood probably to accommodate the Maserati engine, the angle of the roll bar and the fact both only have only one support, the positioning of the fuel respectable, the shape and style of the grill. (The grill insert has been taken out of the museum car.)  All museum photos taken by Henri Greuter.

 

 

Arciero car from 1959 below.

Right side 1959 Arciero Entry shows exhaust system on the right plus Maserati engine.

     On the right side of the car please note these similarities to the car in the museum in the three photos below -- the positioning of the louvers, the vent on the cowling, the angle of the roll bar and single support, the position of the air vent on the side of the car below the cockpit, the apparent cut of the body to make room for the big exhaust pipes from the Masarati engine, the matching zeus fittings.  Color engine photo below appears to show indentation on edge of cowling where the hood would close and which is evident in black & white image immediately above.  It is interesting that car in museum has same number as Rathmann's '56 version.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     Finding the serial numbers on Kurtis Race Cars can be a tedious process.  According to Kurtis experts, Kurtis was very inconsistent in where he placed the numbers, particularly on Roadsters.  Midget experts have told us that it was common for the serial number to be on tubing in the cowling area.  Roadsters were a different story and the numbers sometimes could have been painted over or tubing where the numbers were even replaced after accidents.  Therefore, it is almost impossible to confirm the identity of the car in the Holland museum through the serial number without completely disassembling it.

     For description of how car was initially identified and other information go to Vukovich Death Car Located page

 

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