Cunningham C3 Cabriolet by Vignale

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C3 Cabriolet by Vignale





The first Cunningham, logically tagged C-1, was a smooth low-slung roadster with a 331 cu. in. Chrysler Hemi mounted in a strong tubular chassis with an independent coil-spring front suspension and a De Dion rear. Only one C-1 was completed and it was equipped for road use.

In 1951 came the evolutionary C-2, actually named C-2R, of which three were built for serious racing.

Cunningham concentrated on competition automobiles; high-performance prototypes that Briggs Cunningham and his team built specifically for racing in the 1950s. A few, adapted for street use, were personal vehicles. In 1952, Cunningham introduced the Continental C3 road car. Production began in his West Palm Beach plant where his team of mechanics installed 331-cubic-inch Chrysler hemi V-8s in a Cunningham C-2R racing chassis. These were shipped to Turin, Italy to be fitted with aluminium and steel bodies by coachbuilder Vignale, after which they were returned to the Florida plant for completion.

 The first C-3 coupe, named Continental, was finished in time for the Cunningham team to drive to Watkins Glen in September 1952. It then toured U.S. auto shows while a second car was displayed at the Paris Salon that October. “Production” got underway by early 1953.

Unfortunately, while the Palm Beach Works could build a chassis a week, Vignale needed almost two months to complete the rest of the car. A planned cabriolet derivative was shown at Geneva in March while assembly continued at a snail’s pace. Ultimately, just five cabriolets and 20 coupes would be built, the former carrying a delivered price of exactly $11,422.50. It was as close as Briggs ever got to a production model. Briggs’ remaining competition efforts would be made with further variations on his original theme: the C-4R, C-4RK, C-5R and C-6R.The C-3’s ladder-type tube chassis was almost identical with the C-2’s, but the De Dion rear end gave way to a far simpler and more reliable coil-sprung Chrysler live axle located by parallel trailing arms. Brakes were a combination of 11 inch diameter Mercury drums and Delco actuating mechanisms. Wheelbase remained at 105 inches initially, but was later stretched two inches for more proper 2+2 seating. The V8 used was basically as supplied by Chrysler Industrial except for Cunningham’s own log type manifolds with four Zenith downdraft carburettors. With the semi-automatic Chrysler transmission and a 235bhp Hemi engine, the C-3 Continental Competition Coupes were good for sub-seven-second, 0 to 60 mile per hour runs.

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