Cunningham C3 Coupe by Vignale

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C3 Coupe by Vignale





Introduced to motorsports as a youngster when his uncle took him to road races just after the first world war, Briggs Swift Cunningham II began international racing in 1930 with his college friends Miles and Samuel Collier, who in 1933 founded the Automobile Racing Club of America (renamed the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) in 1944). He continued in competition for 36 years.

By 1940 he was building sports cars for others to race. His first race as a driver was with his Bu-Merc, a modified Buick chassis with Buick engine, and Mercedes-Benz SSK body, at Watkins Glen shortly after World War Two. Some of his other hybrids involved Cadillacs, Chryslers, and Fords. Cunningham was one of the first to purchase a Ferrari barchetta, which was raced along with other marques he constructed or owned.

In 1950 Briggs Cunningham entered two Cadillac cars for Le Mans, one a stock-appearing Cadillac Model 60, the other a special-bodied sports car dubbed "Le Monstre." They finished 10th and 11th overall. On December 31, 1950 Cunningham participated in the 6-hour Sam Collier Memorial Race, the first automobile race held on the Sebring Airport race track, which was won by a Crosley HotShot. Cunningham finished 3rd in class and 17th overall in his Aston Martin DB2 Vantage LML/50/21, the first Vantage produced.

1955 was last year for the Cunningham marque of cars. The Internal Revenue Service rules of the time allowed such prototype low volume manufacturers 5 years to reach profitability before classifying the business as a non-deductible hobby.

Cunningham concentrated on competition automobiles; high-performance prototypes that Briggs Cunningham and his team built specifically for racing in the 1950s. In 1952, Vignale collaborated with Briggs Cunningham to jointly produce the Continental C-3. 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 aluminum and steel bodies by coachbuilder Vignale, after which they were returned to the Florida plant for completion. There were 25 Continental C3s produced: 20 coupes and five convertibles. They sold for $8,000 to $12,000. Notable owners included Nelson Rockefeller and a member of the Du Pont family. Of these 25 cars, 24 are known to have survived

Cunningham's announcement in 1951 of his intention to build an American contender for outright victory at the Le Mans race caused a stir on both continents. His team was already a favorite with the Le Mans fans, and the announcement demonstrated his commitment to fielding a winning team of American drivers and automobiles.

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