Legendary American Sportsman Briggs Swift Cunningham II was introduced to motor racing by his uncle as a teenager just after the 1914/18 war and in 1930 he started racing cars founding the Automobile Racing Club of America in 1933 which was renamed Sports Car Club Of America (SCCA) in 1944 with his college friends Miles and Samuel Collier.
By 1940 he was building specials including the Bu-Merc which featured a Buick chassis and Mercedes SSK chassis. In 1950 Cunningham took to Cadillacs one Le Petit Pataud a Series 61 Coupé the other Il Montre fitted with a special body to Le Mans where the cars finished 10th and 11th.
Such was the success and popularity of the Cunningham Cadillacs that Brigg announced he would build an American car to challenge for over all victory at Le Mans in 1951. The first challenger the Cunningham C2R of which two were built managed an 18th place finish and retirement between them in 1951.
The Cunningham Continental C3 was a road car using a chassis derived from the racer with a Chrysler Hemi motor and an Italian body built by Vignale. 25 C3’s were built.
In 1952 Cunningham entered 3 Chrysler Hemi powered C4R cars into the Le Mans 24 hour race one of which had a Coupé body fitted. Like Pierre Levegh driving a Talbot Lago Briggs Cunningham spent over 12 hours racing at the wheel of his #1 entry unlike Levegh at that point he handed the #1 over to his co driver William Spear and between them they a 4th place finish behind the two winning Mercedes Benz team cars and a Nash Healey.
The C4-R’s would continue to be raced until at least 1956 clocking up at least 12 overall wins the best known of which was at the 1953 Sebring 12 hours where John Fitch and Phil Walters were at the wheel of the winning car. In 1954 Bill Spear and Sherwood Johnston finished 3rd to record the models best finish at Le Mans. Surprisingly Jaguar D-type designer Malcom Slayer observed that the C4-R chassis had “no effective diagonal bracing. It therefore twists so much that the door cannot work if one rear wheel is jacked up”.
Cunningham entered vehicles including Jaguars, Listers and and an OSCA among many more dominated SCCA racing for a period but never did win Le Mans. Briggs went of to win the 1958 America’s cup on his 12 metre yacht Colombia.
The car seen in these photo’s is a Continuation model, built with the co operation of the Collier Museum around the last Cunningham C3 chassis #5238 which never received it’s intended Vignale bodywork after Briggs shutdown the C3 manufacturing operation.
#5238 has been built as an exact recreation of a C4-R by Jim Stokes Workshops, Waterlooville, Hampshire, UK using a many parts donated by the Collier Museum and a body built by Roach Manufacturing who used a digital scan of one of the original C4_R’s as a template. Even the wheels have been cast in magnesium using the original Cunningham wheel moulds.
Ben Shuckburgh is seen driving the car at the Goodwood revival in 2011 and 2012, it is the fifth C4-R continuation to be built four examples were built in the 1990’s by Cunningham Historic Motor Cars, owned by Larry Black & Briggs S. Cunningham III that were authorized by the Cunningham family.
My thanks to Cunningham Motorsport Historian Lawrence W. Berman for the information on the build of today’s featured car.
Thanks for joining me on this “Once Around The Clock” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me again tomorrow. Don’t forget to come back now !