Briggs Swift Cunningham was one of America's great sportsmen, an accomplished road racer and an America's Cup winning sailor among many accomplishments. In 1950 he journeyed to France to participate in the 24 Hours of Le Mans with a pair of Cadillac’s, finishing a remarkable tenth and eleventh overall. He realized that modified American production cars were not going to be competitive so he launched his own company to build racing sports cars and eventually achieved a best placing of third in 1953 with Phil Walters and John Fitch driving the Cunningham C-5R. In order to qualify as a manufacturer Cunningham had to make production cars, the Cunningham C-3. Based on the C-2R race cars, the Cunningham C-3 chassis was built in Cunningham's West Palm Beach, Florida factory, then shipped to Italy where Vignale built, finished and trimmed the Michellotti-designed coachwork. Power was supplied by the same 331 cubic inch Chrysler Hemi V-8 which powered the race cars. With raised compression, precision assembly and a proprietary Cunningham log manifold with four Zenith downdraft carburetors the engine probably made 220hp instead of the stock Chrysler's 180hp. The chassis employed independent front suspension (from modified Ford components), live axle rear suspension, coil springs, hydraulic shock absorbers and Mercury drum brakes. According to Briggs Cunningham himself only thirty C-3s were built of which 26 were coupes like this (other sources say as few as 18.) It is one of the last built and represents Cunningham's final, evolved and developed, design.
This car has a wonderful, unique story. Its first owner was a Dr. Kane in New York and it was sold in 1957 by his estate, eventually ending up with a dealer in Massachusetts. The next owner was a professional airline mechanic who drove it in summers back and forth to Logan Airport in Boston. In 1961 he was transferred to Chicago but stored the Cunningham in Massachusetts where it remained even after he returned to the area until it was acquired from him in 1998 by the preceding owner, a professional auto mechanic. A year later he began an eight year restoration which has resulted in what must be the best, most accurate, carefully preserved Cunningham C-3 in the world. When acquired it was, aside from a repaint at some time in the Fifties, completely original and untouched. The restorer carefully researched the car and its history, visited other Cunningham C-3s and saved every possible piece that could be used. What couldn't be reused was carefully re-created using the original parts as patterns. It was painted with enamel, just like Vignale used. All the important components are original: engine, transmission, axle, etc. Details, like brackets and the marks of the Vignale panel-beaters, were restored as they were assembled by the Cunningham crew in West Palm Beach and Vignale in Turin in 1954. The only deviation from originality has been to change to stainless steel fasteners -- with correct period markings -- for safety, reliability and longevity. The bumpers are non-standard but have been with the car since time immemorial and are believed to have been installed at Momo Corporation in Queens, New York, Cunningham's center of racing operations and point of delivery for this car to its New York-based first owner.
It is finished in its original livery of two-tone Green with Tan leather upholstery, is powered by its original Chrysler industrial engine with Cunningham 4-Zenith carb log manifold driving through a Chrysler Fluid Drive transmission. The workmanship, both on the original car and in the restoration, is magnificent, right down to fine etched patterns in the interior trim, door handles, instrument bezels and steering wheel spokes. A set of fitted luggage is strapped behind the seats. It comes with a massive file of Cunningham history, original brochures, photos, old paperwork and details of the restoration. It has had only three owners from new. It is a magnificent automobile and a reminder of the spirit and accomplishments of Briggs Cunningham, one of America's great sportsmen. Sit in it for a minute and its quality speaks eloquently from every surface.
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