The CD-12 (Curtiss Direct-Drive) history extended over several years. Development began in 1915 with the K-12, using the historic design skills of Charles Kirkham; and in competition with the popular Hispano-Suiza. The high power and low weight goal was a great challenge. So it was not surprising that the aluminum monoblock and several other advanced features, including the reduction gearing, presented substantial problems. Unable to overcome these difficulties, Kirkham left Curtiss in 1919, and his successor, Arthur Nutt produced a derated CD-12, without the reduction gearing of the K-12, in 1921.
This artifact was a production prototype, while the other three in its series were sold to the U.S. Navy. In November, 1921, the Navy Curtiss Racer CR-1, powered by a Curtiss CD-12 engine, won the Pulitzer Trophy. CD-12 engines also powered the Curtiss CT Torpedodropper and Navy Curtiss 18T triplane racer. Further development produced the 1922 D-12, a successful engine for both racing and fighter aircraft.