Who is the Coolest Cat?!
Freddie Agabashian lookin’ a million bucks with his lean build, fag, Ray Bans and ‘GI Joe’ haircut. He is aboard his Kurtis Offy Champcar at the San Jose Fairgrounds Speedway, meeting date uncertain but the photo post is dated 1 January 1950…
Of more technical note is the ‘Offy 255 or 270’ cid, 4 cylinder, DOHC, 2 valve twin side-draft Riley carbed 300-350 bhp engine, hand brake and rear suspension of his Kurtis Kraft chassis.
Northern California Racing Association Champion in 1937, against drivers such as Duane Carter, Lynn Desister and Paul Swedberg. Post war Freddie took 3 Bay City Racing Association Midget titles from 1946-48 driving for Jack London and George Bignotti from 1947. He then turned his attention to Indycars.
Born in Modesto, California, Frederik was the son of a genious Armenian mathematician who began racing in his teens. He won in Champ cars and Stock cars as well which earned him a ride at Indianapolis for the 1947 race.
He competed at Indy from 1947-57 and is best remembered for his pole winning effort in 1952 in the unique Kurtis Kraft Cummins Diesel. Frank Kurtis’ revolutionary first Roadster chassis carried the equally innovative 400cid, alloy headed, magnesium sumped but still very heavy cast iron blocked 360 bhp turbo-diesel engine. The oil burner was tipped onto its side 5 degrees from horizontal to lower the engine and as a consequence its bodywork and aerodynamic drag.
Despite the cars bulk, it weighed over 3100 pounds Freddie and his team knew they had a fast car.
They ‘sandbagged’ in practice, never putting together a full quick lap in the month of May being fearful of the rulemakers changing the equivalence formula if the cars speed were clear. At the time the capacity limits were 6.6 litre diesels, 4.5 litre ‘petrol’ normally aspirated and 3 litre supercharged engines.
But come Pole Day at 5.45 with 15 minutes to go Agabashian gave the big heavy beast its head and popped it on pole! The race was not so happy, the turbo air intake became jammed with rubber and other track borne shite on lap 71 causing the interesting cars withdrawal but the promotional aims for Cummins were well and truly achieved.
Freddie’s best finish at Indianapolis was in 1953 when he placed 4th in another KK roadster, this time a more conventional Offy powered 500B chassis.
After he retired from racing Freddie was an Indy special comments broadcaster, he died in 1979.
Check out this YouTube footage about the unique, pole winning, the only time a diesel engine did it, Kurtis Cummins 1952 car;
Racing One, Historic Racing, Steve McKelvie
Tailpiece: Just watch me go fellas! Freddie, Kurtis Cummins, Indy ’52…