The first Curtiss P-1 off the production line (Ser No 25-410) had been used as an test machine throughout its entire life. For a time, it had been used to test an experimental inverted Allison air-cooled variant of the "Liberty" engine, but no change in designation had been made. However, when it was used as a testbed for the new 480 hp Wright V-1460-3 Tornado inverted V-12 air-cooled engine in June 1930, the designation XP-17 was applied. This experiment had not been performed by Curtiss, but rather by the Engineering Division of the USAAC, and the experimental designation was intended to indicate the test status of the airframe, and was not meant to designate a new experimental fighter prototype.
The XP-17 achieved a maximum speed of 165 mph at sea level and 161 mph at 5000 feet. An altitude of 10,000 feet could be attained in 8 minutes. Service ceiling was 21,400 feet. Weights were 2204 lb. empty and 2994 lb gross.
Since no production was envisaged, the engine cowling was a simple sheet metal shell designed to cover the engine without much concern for aerodynamics. The performance of the XP-17 was uninspiring, and the experiment went no further. The aircraft was scrapped in March 1932 after testing was completed.