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CATEGORIES (articles) > Manufacturers > Kit > Briggs Cunningham Cars

Briggs Cunningham Cars

Briggs Swift Cunningham II (1907 - 2003) was a racecar constructor, racing team owner, and racecar List of racing drivers—often described as a renowned racecar enthusiast—an American automobile manufacturer and collector, as well as, being a victorious America's Cup sailor (skipper of the Columbia in 1958), and inventor. The Cunningham, a device he invented to gain speed while racing sailboats, is named after him. Briggs was inducted into the America's Cup Hall of Fame in 1993.

His place in the history of automobile racing is as distinctive as his place in yachting. He was featured on the cover of Time (magazine) magazine of April 26, 1954, shown in front of three of his Cunningham racecars in competition, and the caption reads, “Road Racer Briggs Cunningham: Horsepower, Endurance, Sportsmanship” (see the link provided below).

In the Posey article of the October 2003 Road & Track magazine, Briggs Swift Cunningham—A Life Well Spent, the author stated that "by building and sailing his own ships, and building and racing his own cars, [Briggs Cunningham] epitomized the definition of the American sportsman." In 1997, Briggs Cunningham was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America. In 2003, he was named to the International Motorsports Hall of Fame.

Introduced to motorsports as a youngster when his uncle took him along to road racing events just after World War One, Briggs Cunningham began international automobile racing in 1930 with his college friends Barron, Miles, and Samuel Collier (who founded the Automobile Racing Club of America in 1933 that became the Sports Car Club of America in 1944) and continued in competition for thirty-six years. by 1940 he was building sports cars that were entered into Grand Prix races with other drivers. He entered his Bu-Merc in his first race as a driver at Watkins Glen International shortly after World War Two. It was a hybrid of a Mercedes and a Buick. Some of his hybrids also involved Cadillacs, Chryslers, and Fords. Cunningham was one of the first purchasers of the Ferrari barchetta, which was raced along with other brands he constructed or owned.

In 1951 Briggs Cunningham announced that he would build an American racecar for the Le Mans race, creating quite a stir on both continents. His team already had become a favorite of the Le Mans fans and the new automobiles proved his commitment to fielding a winning American team with native drivers and automobiles. The B. S. Cunningham Company of West Palm Beach, Florida began production immediately. A Cunningham C4-R won the 1953 Sebring 12 Hours. A Cunningham C5-R won first in its class in 1953 at the 24 hours of Le Mans Grand Prix motor racing and other Team Cunningham automobiles finished as high as third place overall.

By 1956 the Cunningham team was described as a dominant force in Sports Car Club of America, SCCA sanctioned sports car racing—a distinction the team retained for the next decade. Automobiles built by the Cunningham team were raced, as well as, Ferraris, Jaguars, Jaguar D-types, Maseratis, O.S.C.A.s, Porsches—and other brands—in Gran Turismo, GT, and Formula One. One of these set a record in 1954 that still exists. Sterling Moss and Bill Lloyd drove Briggs Cunningham's 1.5-liter O.S.C.A. MT4 (Maserati Tipo 4), at Sebring 12 Hours and, despite many high-powered competitors, became the smallest engine ever to win at Sebring. That racecar also has the distinction of being the first with wire-wheels to win that race. The next year, two other drivers from the team won Sebring in a Jaguar D-type.

Cunningham automobiles mostly were high-performance prototypes built by Briggs Cunningham and his racing team as racecars and for competition in motorsports during the 1950s, but a few have been adapted for street use and sometimes may be seen as historic personal vehicles. go-faster stripess were first used on his vehicles, blue stripes on a white Cunningham racecar was the tradition.

The Cunningham Corner, a portion of the Sebring Raceway was named for Cunningham and his team. Alfred Momo was the chief team mechanic. Drivers who were Cunningham racing team members or fellow drivers with Briggs Cunningham include,

Layout of Sebring International Raceway which shows the "Cunningham Corner" at the top
  • Dan Gurney
  • Lake Underwood
  • Ivor Bueb
  • Stirling Moss
  • Jack Brabham
  • Bruce McLaren
  • Mike Hawthorn
  • John Fitch
  • Roger Penske
  • Walt Hansgen
  • Archie Scott-Brown
  • Paul Richards
  • Lucie Cunningham McKinney
  • Bill Lloyd
  • Phil Walters
  • Sherwood Johnston
  • Bill Spear
  • Charlie Wallace
  • Ed Crawford
  • John Gordon Benett
  • Phil Forno
  • Russ Boss
  • Bill Kimberly
  • Augie Pabst
  • Denise McCluggage
  • Bob Grossman
  • Fred Windridge
  • Dick Thompson
The Briggs Cunningham collection of automobiles was turned into the Cunningham Museum and later, sold into another private collection.

Briggs amassed an astounding collection of automobiles that included the first Ferrari sold in the United States by Luigi Chinetti.

Carroll Shelby, who began his career following World War Two—racing at the same competitions as Cunningham and his teams—has exhibited the influence of Briggs Cunningham upon his similar quest to build a victorious American racecar—even adopting the Team Cunningham colors and reviving the use of Cunningham racing stripes.

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