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1953 Hughes-Kircher Special

by The News Desk | Jan 12, 2021

One Off Sports Racer

Hailing from the postwar period, G.I.'s returning home would seek to replicate the European sportscar upon returning home. Charles Hughes was one such gentleman who would follow his interest in speed by purchasing a XK120 from a Mr. Kurt Kircher. Kircher, who had previously worked for GM developing V8's and the Powerglide transmission, at the time owned the Colorado based speed shop, Denver Import Motors. After becoming fast friends, they had decided to go about making their own car and took advantage of the excellent machine shop at their disposal and their combined, degree backed technical know-how. 

Their creation would initially use a Jaguar XK powerplant installed within an extremely light weight drilled tube frame chassis. The front suspension would also be sourced from an XK, while the rear would utilize a DeDion design with inboard drum brakes. Further parts would include a steering rack from an MG and a Halibrand rear differential. Responsible for the dramatic and stylish aluminum bodywork was Charles Lyons who, as you can see, heavily drew inspiration from open European sports cars of the period. 

Upon its introduction to the competition, success would quickly and consistently be found with podium results being all too common. However, as time would pass and larger manufacturers began to introduce more capable machines, the Kirchers competitiveness began to wane, and so it was decided to source a more powerful motor. 

The two had managed to get their hands on a fuel injected motor from a 300SL that was allegedly prepped for the Mille Miglia and therefore possessed a higher output than a standard road car. This move would go on to help the car continue its competition record, but the course of automotive development would ultimately leave its drum brakes not up to snuff with the latest race cars. 

Lyons, the designer, would officially become the second owner of the special sometime later. He was responsible for removing the race motor and swapping in another, standard road car gullwing motor during his time with the Kirchner (this will prove to be important detail).

The car would see several more owners, one of them being the Bugatti Collector, Carlton Coolidge, and later the Blackhawk Museum. Eventually, a Mr. Court Whitlock would take possession of the racer. Using the car as originally intended, the special would see further use on race circuits around the United States and would even make trips out to more exotic locations such as New Zealand, Singapore, and Malaysia. Whitlock would also be responsible for the cosmetic restoration by Moore's Automotive Archeologists. 

More recently, the story of the car would take a twist, when Jack Gallivan, looking to reunite his 300SL with its original motor, came to be aware of the matching unit under the hood of the Kircher. He approached Whitlock to swap the engines. With his interest beginning to wain on the special, he proposed that if Gallivan wanted the motor he would have to buy the entire car. Ultimately relenting, the Kircher would find a new home and another engine under its hood after the unmatched motor from the Gullwing was swapped. 

More recently, the car completed the Colorado Grand, and is ready for many more miles on the road touring or tearing up the racetrack. It was also invited to participate and be displayed at the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance. A spectacular creation of the mid-century, this open top special combines the best of classic 20th century styling with immense fuel injected power. Unlike anything else on the road, the Hughes-Kircher will surely make a unique addition to any collection.

ENGINE NO. 198.9807500078

- 2,996cc SOHC Inline 6-Cylinder Engine
- Bosch Mechanical Fuel Injection
- 240bhp at 6,100rpm
- 4-Speed Manual Transmission
- Independent Front with DeDion Rear Suspension
- 4-Wheel Drum Brakes