• THE 2008 EXHIBITION •
The Bowes Seal Fast Company of Indianapolis is very possibly the longest running and most successful car-owner/sponsor in the history of the Indianapolis 500-mile race and American Championship racing. Charles and Robert Bowes became avid racing fans before World War I, but it was in 1930, along with the growing success of their Bowes Seal Fast Company that the brothers decided to sponsor a car racing in the Indy 500. That first involvement resulted in Louie Schneider earning third place in the “500” and was topped the next year when Schneider won the world’s biggest automobile race. Thus began a significant racing participation for the Bowes company that would continue for 40 years.
In 1956 Robert Bowes Jr. formed a partnership with master mechanic George Bignotti centered around a new Kurtis 500-G to be driven by Johnny Boyd. The new Bignotti-Bowes Racing Associates showed great promise and always ran near the front. However, it was not until young charger A.J. Foyt joined the team in 1960 that the wins started. Bowes, Bignotti and Foyt were the most formidable team in racing for the
next few years, winning the 1960 and 1961 National Championship, the 1961 Indianapolis 500 and eleven National Championship races.
Built new by Frank Kurtis for George Bignotti and Bob Bowes in 1959, KK500-J 119 was Kurtis’ second “laydown” roadster. The car went to Indy with Johnny Boyd assigned to drive, but early in the month he switched cars with teammate Jud Larson. Qualifying 19th, Larson was involved in a wreck not of his doing on lap 45. The KK then went to Milwaukee where it finished third in the hands of Don Freeland but sat out the remainder of the season.
During the winter, because the drivers did not like the car’s handling, Quin Epperly heavily reworked the car, replacing the frame from the cockpit forward with his trademark front axle, suspension and steering. The tail was retained as Kurtis built it but, forward of that, Epperly bodywork was fitted and hence the Kurtis-Epperly moniker.
In 1960, it was driven by A.J. Foyt at the pavement races of Indianapolis,Trenton and Milwaukee, the latter two venues holding two races a year. At the Speedway, Foyt qualified the Bowes Seal Fast 16th at 143.466 mph, but unhappy with the car’s handling, A.J. “clutched it” on Lap 90 for a DNF. However, at Milwaukee and Trenton’s four races, he had two runner-ups and a third-and-fourth place finish. That, combined with four wins he had in a dirt car, sewed up Foyt’s first USAC National Championship.