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Briggs Swift Cunningham II (January 19, 1907 – July 2, 2003) was an American entrepreneur and sportsman. He is best known for skippering the yacht Columbia to victory in the 1958 America's Cup race, and for his many appearances at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
|Born||January 19, 1907|
Cincinnati, Ohio, US
|Died||July 2, 2003 (aged 96)|
Las Vegas, Nevada, US
|Other names||Mr. C|
|College team||Yale University|
Cunningham was born in Cincinnati, Ohio on 19 January 1907. The family were prominent, long-time residents of the Cincinnati area. Cunningham's grandfather had amassed considerable wealth operating river boats and in shipping, then had gone into the meat packing business with son Briggs Swift Cunningham Senior. The meat packing business was eventually known as Evans, Lippencott & Cunningham. Cunningham Sr. later became founder and president of the Citizen's National Bank, as well as director of the Pennsylvania Railroad, among several others. Cunningham Sr. was also the chief financier of soap company Procter and Gamble. William Cooper Procter would be Cunningham's godfather.
Cunningham Sr. died when Briggs was five years old. The estate was structured such that the Cunningham heirs did not receive full control of the estate until age forty.
Cunningham's maternal uncle was Dr. Ashton Heyl, a former Rough Rider. Heyl had installed a Hispano-Suiza aircraft engine in a Dodge touring car. As a boy Cunningham was a passenger during some impromptu street races in the car with Heyl.
On 2 October 1929 he married Lucie Bedford, the granddaughter of E.T. Bedford, a co-founder and director of Standard Oil. The couple spent an extended honeymoon in Europe, where Cunningham won a concours with a Mercedes Benz SS delivered to him personally by Rudolph Caracciola. It was also during this trip that he attended his first major automobile race, the 1930 Monaco Grand Prix. When the couple returned to the US they settled on the Long Island Sound.
During World War II (WWII) he tried to enlist in the US Navy but was deemed ineligible due to a combination of age and a pre-existing condition. He instead joined the Civil Air Patrol, flying submarine patrols off the east coast, first in a Fairchild and later a Sikorski S39B amphibious airplane, both paid for by himself.
By building and sailing his own ships, and building and racing his own cars, he epitomized the definition of the American sportsman.— Sam Posey, former racing driver and journalist, 
Owing to his mother's concerns about the dangers of automobile racing, Cunningham did not pursue a driving career until after her death, but did race sail boats competitively.
Cunningham partnered with his father-in-law Frederick T. Bedford to purchase the eight meter Loke in 1928.
In 1929 he bought the six meter Akaba, and renamed her Lucie — the first of two of his boats with that name. In 1930 Cunningham commissioned Clinton H. Crane to design a new 6 meter, also to be named Lucie. She was built at the Henry B. Nevins Boatyard in New York in 1931. He spent part of his honeymoon sailing the new Lucie. Cunningham won 6 world titles in 6 meter yachts.
F.T. Bedford commissioned the 12 meter Nyala as a gift for Cunningham and his daughter Lucie when they married.
Cunningham bought the schooner Brilliant from the Coast Guard after WWII, and modified it in an attempt to increase its speed. In 1953 he donated the Brilliant to the Mystic Seaport to be used as an off-shore classroom.
Cunningham was part of the syndicate that commissioned construction of the 12 meter sloop Columbia to contest the first post-war America's Cup race in 1958. The original choice to skipper Columbia in the America's Cup was Cornelius "Corny" Shields, but when he was sidelined by heart troubles Cunningham stepped in and led the boat and crew to victory.
Racing driver and team ownerEdit
Cunningham began racing internationally in 1930 with brothers Cowles "Miles" Collier and Sam Collier. These college friends of Cunningham's established the Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA) in 1933, which became the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) in 1944. Cunningham took part in the first ever SCCA race. He was described as one of the most successful drivers in SCCA sports car racing at the time.
Cunningham became an early member of the Road Racing Drivers Club, an invitation-only group that honors drivers, officials, and journalists that have made significant contributions to the sport.
Cunningham's racing team arrived at the track accompanied by a large transporter that was both extensively and lavishly equipped, along with the drivers, a retinue of professionals and mechanics, and the cars. The team's chief mechanic was Alfredo Momo.
On 31 December 1950 Cunningham raced an Aston Martin DB2 in the 6-hour Sam Collier Memorial Race, the first automobile race held at the Sebring Airport race track. Cunningham finished third in class and seventeenth overall. His car, serial number LML/50/21, was one of the first, if not the first, DB2 Vantage built.
1955 was the last year that Cunningham built his own cars, the company having run out the five-year grace period that the Internal Revenue Service allowed low-volume manufacturers to become profitable.
Cunningham continued in international competition from 1930 until 1963, when he dissolved his Le Mans team. His final race was in a Porsche Carrera GTS (Type 904) at Sebring in 1966 with John Fitch and Davey Jordan.
Number 5 SpecialEdit
Cunningham owned the car in 1933, and the next year sold it to Gil Pirrung of Missouri.
This special was based on the chassis, drivetrain and running gear of a 1939 Buick Century. Cunningham had Phil Shafer modify the car by lowering the Buick Straight-8 engine and moving it back in the chassis. The engine's compression ratio was raised. The body and radiator came from a wrecked Mercedes Benz SSK, and were adapted to the Buick chassis by Byron Jersey.
In 1940 the Bu-Merc appeared at the Worlds Fair Grand Prix at the New York Fairgrounds. Driven by "Miles" Collier, it did not finish due to an accident.
Cunningham drove the Bu-Merc at the first Grand Prix held at Watkins Glen in 1948, where he finished second. After receiving a 1949 version of the Straight-8 and chassis modifications suggested by Buick's Vice President of Engineering Charles Chayne, the car appeared at Watkins Glen the next year with Cunningham driving to a third place finish.
The car appeared at Palm Beach on 3 January 1950. Driven by Cunningham, it finished second.
On 23 September that year the car was driven by Cunningham again at Watkins Glen, and finished second. At this race Samuel "Sam" Carnes Collier was killed while driving Cunningham's Ferrari.
"Petit Pataud" and "Le Monstre"Edit
The first was a stock-appearing Cadillac Series 61 that the French dubbed "Petit Pataud"; possibly a reference to a puppy in a French children's book from the 1930s. Changes to the car were minimal, and included a dual-carburetor intake manifold, brake cooling ducts, a second fuel tank, and extra lights.
While engine swaps were illegal, body modifications were permitted, so a second Cadillac had its stock body removed and an entirely new body that was lower and narrower than the original fabricated in aluminum over a metal tube framework. The new body was designed and built with the help of engineer Howard Weinmann from Grumman. Another feature was the use of five carburetors. This car was nicknamed "Le Monstre".
The Collier brothers partnered to drive "Petit Pataud", and finished in tenth place. Cunningham and co-driver Phil Walters were in "Le Monstre", and finished eleventh.
B. S. Cunningham Company carsEdit
To prepare for his next attempt at Le Mans, Cunningham bought the Frick-Tappet Motors company and relocated the operation from Long Island, New York to West Palm Beach, Florida, renaming it the "B.S. Cunningham Company".
The first product of the new company was the Cunningham C-1, powered by a 331 cu in (5,424 cc) Cadillac V8. Only one was built. Very similar to the C-1 were the three subsequent C-2Rs, all built to racing specifications. Cunningham substituted a 331 cu in (5,424 cc) Chrysler FirePower V8 for the Cadillac in the C-1. The C-2R first appeared at Le Mans in 1951.
To be homologated as a manufacturer for Le Mans, Cunningham undertook to build 25 examples of the C-3 road car. The C-3s used an upgraded version of the Chrysler FirePower V8. Production of the C-3 is variously reported to have been twenty-five (twenty coupes and five convertibles) or twenty-seven (eighteen coupes and nine convertibles).
The next racing car for the B.S. Cunningham Company was designed by G. Briggs Weaver. Two C-4R roadsters were built, as well as a single C-4RK coupe with truncated rear bodywork. The cars debuted at the 1952 24 Hours of Le Mans.
For 1953 a single all-new C-5R was prepared for Le Mans. The Chrysler V8 engine remained, with power increased by 10 hp (7.5 kW). When the car arrived for the 1953 Le Mans, French observers named it "Le Requin Souriant" — the smiling shark.
Among the earliest cars that Cunningham raced or lent to race was a series of MGs. In 1934 he owned an MG J2 that he personally drove in select ARCA events. Two years later he loaned his MG K3 Magnette to "Miles" Collier and George Rand, who campaigned it in Europe. Cunningham's supercharged MG TC appeared alongside the Bu-Merc at the inaugural Watkins Glen Grand Prix in 1948. Driven by Haig Ksayian, the TC finished first in class and third overall.
Cunningham had originally planned to enter a team of "Fordillacs" at Le Mans. The cars were 1949 Fords with Cadillac OHV V8s installed. The conversion had been designed by Bill Frick and was built by Frick-Tappet Motors.
In 1949 Cunningham partnered with Alfredo Momo, and bought Ferrari 166 Spider Corsa 016-I from Luigi Chinetti. This was the second Ferrari in the US, the first being a Tipo 166 MM Touring Barchetta, chassis 0002 M, sold to Tommy Lee in Los Angeles in the first quarter of 1949. 016-I was the first Ferrari raced in the US.
In 1954 Cunningham's 1.5-liter O.S.C.A. MT4 driven by Stirling Moss and Bill Lloyd was the outright winner of the 12 Hours of Sebring. The team won at Sebring again the following year, this time with a Jaguar D-Type.
Cunningham entered a Stanguellini of just 750 cc for the 1954 race at Watkins Glen, with driver Marshall Lewis. The car won its H Modified class, while John Gordon Bennett was second in a Cunningham O.S.C.A. MT4 1450.
For 1960 the displacement rules for Le Mans were changed to permit cars with engines larger than 3.0 L. With GM's tacit support and with assistance from Zora Arkus-Duntov, Cunningham began preparing a trio of Corvettes for the race.: 293–299 As a trial before Le Mans, two Momo-prepared Cunningham Corvettes were entered in the 1960 12 Hours of Sebring, but neither car finished. At Le Mans Cunningham entered three Corvettes and one Jaguar E-Type. Drivers for the cars were Cunningham and Bill Kimberley in the #1 Corvette, Dick Thompson and Fred Windridge in the #2 Corvette, John Fitch and Bob Grossman in the #3 Corvette, and Dan Gurney and Walt Hansgen in the Jaguar. The #1 Corvette driven by Kimberly went off the course and caught fire on lap 32, and the #2 car went out with engine trouble on lap 89, as did the Jaguar. The #3 car began to overheat, and the pit crew packed ice around the engine to cool it. It finished in eighth place overall, with a fifth place in the GT category and first in the GT up to 5.0 class.
In August 1960 Cunningham bought a Maserati Tipo 60 "Birdcage", that he drove in the 1961 24 Hours of Le Mans with co-driver Jim Kimberly. The pair finished eighth overall in the car, and third in class.
Cunningham also owned two different Stanguellini Formula Junior cars; a front-engined 750 cc car and a rear-engined 1100 "Delfino".
In October 1961 a Cooper T53 owned by Cunningham appeared in the US Grand Prix. The entrant of record is the Momo Corporation, and the car was driven by Walt Hansgen, who crashed on lap 14 of his F1 debut. The chassis was later sold to Roger Penske and became the Zerex Special, then was resold to Bruce McLaren and became the first car raced by the McLaren team.
A Fiat-Abarth 1000 Bialbero Competition coupe owned by Cunningham, prepared by Alfredo Momo's Momo Corporation, and driven by Bruce McLaren won the 1961 3 Hours of Sebring for Grand Touring cars up to 1 L.
Over the course of his life Cunningham amassed a large and varied collection of automobiles, including many of his own former racing cars. After relocating to the West Coast, he purchased a property at 250 E. Baker Street, Costa Mesa, California and established the Briggs Cunningham Museum to house his collection. A 40,000 sq ft (3,716.1 m2) building became the museum gallery, which opened officially on 5 February 1966.
The museum was in operation for twenty-one years. Expected changes to capital gains tax laws prompted Cunningham to consider closing the museum in late 1986. Instead, the 71 cars in the museum collection were sold to Miles Collier, the son of long-time friend Cowles "Miles" Collier, and relocated to Naples, Florida as the Collier Automotive Museum Collection. The Collier Collection later became part of the Revs Institute display.
Cunningham was featured on the 26 April 1954 cover of Time magazine, along with three Cunningham racing cars.
He was survived by former wife Lucie Bedford Warren and their three children, Briggs Swift Cunningham III, Lucie, and Cythlen. He was also survived by wife Laura Cramer Elmer and two step-sons.
- In 1981 Cunningham was the first American marque to be featured at the Monterey Historic Automobile Races.
- In 1993 he was inducted into the America's Cup Hall of Fame at the Herreshoff Marine Museum in Bristol, R.I.
- Cunningham was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2003.
- In 2013 an athletic field at the Hill School was named in honour of both Briggs Cunningham II (class of 1924) and Briggs Cunningham III (class of 1950).
Le Mans resultsEdit
|1950||Briggs Cunningham||Phil Walters||Cunningham "Le Monstre" Spider||S 8.0||232||11th|
|1951||Briggs Cunningham||George Huntoon||Cunningham C-2R||S 8.0||223||DNF|
|1952||Briggs Cunningham||Bill Spear||Cunningham C-4R||S 8.0||252||4th||1st|
|1953||Briggs Cunningham||Bill Spear||Cunningham C-4R||S 8.0||299||7th|
|1954||Briggs Cunningham||John Gordon Bennett||Cunningham C-4R||S 8.0||283||5th|
|1955||Briggs Cunningham||Sherwood Johnston||Cunningham C-6R||S 3.0||196||DNF|
|1960||Briggs S. Cunningham||William Kimberly||Chevrolet Corvette||GT 5.0||32||DNF|
|1961||Briggs Cunningham||William Kimberly||Maserati Tipo 60||S 2.0||303||8th|
|1962||Briggs Cunningham||Roy Salvadori||Jaguar E-Type FHC||GT +3.0||310||4th||1st|
|1963||Briggs S. Cunningham||Bob Grossman||Jaguar E-Type Lightweight||GT +3.0||283||9th|
12 Hours of Sebring resultsEdit
|1952||William Spear||Bill Spear||Ferrari 340 America||DNF|
|1953||Briggs Cunningham||Bill Lloyd||OSCA MT4 1350||S1.5||153||5th||1st|
|1954||Briggs Cunningham||Sherwood Johnston||Cunningham C-4R||S8.0||104||DNF|
|1955||B. S. Cunningham||John Gordon Bennett||Cunningham C-6R||S3.0||54||DNF|
|1956||Briggs Cunningham||John Gordon Bennett||Jaguar D-Type||S5.0||168||12th|
|1957||Briggs Cunningham||Bill Lloyd||Jaguar D-Type||S5.0||2||DNF|
|1958||Alfred Momo||Walt Hansgen||Jaguar D-Type||GT3.0||16||DNF|
|1959||Briggs Cunningham|| Lake Underwood
|1960||Jaguar Distributors of New York||John Fitch||Chevrolet Corvette||GT5.0||27||DNF|
|1961||Momo Corporation||William Kimberly||Maserati Tipo 60||S2.0||171||19th|
|1962||Briggs Cunningham||John Fitch||Jaguar E-Type||14th||1st|
|1963||Briggs Cunningham||John Fitch||Jaguar E-Type||DNF|
|1964||Briggs Cunningham||Lake Underwood||Porsche 904 GTS||9th||1st|
|1965||Briggs Cunningham|| John Fitch
|Porsche 904 GTS||20th|
|1966||Briggs Cunningham|| John Fitch
|Porsche 904 GTS||S2.0||148||DNF|
World Sportscar Championship resultsEdit
- Wright, G. Frederick (1917). Representative Citizens of Ohio Memorial—Biographical. The Memorial Publishing Company. pp. 169–173.
- Parker, Paul (6 January 2015). Klemantaski: Master Motorsports Photographer. Motorbooks. p. 114. ISBN 978-0760346440.
- "Lot 87 — Patek Philippe. An outstanding and unique stainless steel perpetual calendar wristwatch with phases of the moon, amagnetic balance and applied painted Arabic numerals". Christie's.
- "Briggs Cunningham". The Telegraph. 5 July 2003.
- Pace, Harold (December 25, 2004). Vintage American Road Racing Cars, 1950-1970. Motorbooks. ISBN 978-0760317839.
- Conwill, David (April 2020). "Briggs Cunningham, the man who tried to build an American Ferrari". Hemmings Classic Car.
- Cotter, Tom (11 March 2011). "Italian Flair and American Muscle". New York Times.
- Markmann, Charles Lam; Sherwin, Mark (20 September 2017). Builders and Drivers of Sports Cars. Edizioni Savine. ISBN 978-8899914301.
- "Lucie Bedford Cunningham Warren, 104". WestportNow. 20 July 2012.
- Cockburn, Matt (15 August 2012). "Lucie Bedford Cunningham Warren". Lucie.
- "LUCIE BEDFORD WED TO B.S. CUNNINGHAM; Ceremony Takes Place in Trinity Church at Southport,Conn". New York Times.
- Shea, Terry (November 2018). "Briggs Swift Cunningham II". Hemmings Classic Car. pp. 82–85.
- Goodwin, Carl (5 August 2011). They Started in MGs: Profiles of Sports Car Racers of the 1950s. McFarland Publishing. ISBN 978-0786460526.
- "Briggs Swift Cunningham- A Life Well Spent". Road & Track. October 2003.
- "Briggs Cunningham". Motor Sport.
- Jemail, Jimmy (8 February 1960). "THE QUESTION: Do you take your wife racing? (Asked of leading sailboat racers)". Sports Illustrated. p. M1.
- "History". Lucie — 6 Meter Sloop.
- "Lucie US55". Lucie — 6 Meter Sloop.
- Riise, John (9 September 2019). "Briggs Cunningham: Sportsman, Gentleman, Sailing Gadget Inventor". Latitude 38 — 'lectronic Latitude.
- Edey, Maitland (25 August 1958). "Inches, Ounces, Seconds". Life. pp. 82–86, 89–92, 94.
- "Yacht: Nyala". Classic Yacht Info.
- Jobson, Gary. "Briggs Cunningham 1907 – 2003". National Sailing Hall of Fame.
- "Happy 85th Birthday, BRILLIANT". Mystic Seaport Museum. 20 April 2017.
- "Briggs Cunningham". Sports Car Club of America.
- "Members". Road Racing Drivers Club.
- Pruvot, Christian. "Which is precisely the first Aston Martin "Vantage"?". Aston Martin scrapbook.
- Allen, Phil. "Briggs Cunningham Biography". Virginia International Raceway History Pages.
- "*Updated* The Briggs Cunningham Special Revisited". The Old Motor. 1 November 2013.
- "Briggs Cunningham's DOHC Frontenac Equipped Ford "T" Sprint Car". The Old Motor. 10 September 2013.
- "1939 Buick - Mercedes". Revs Institute.
- McKelvie, Steve (6 April 2013). "The Healey Silverstone".
- McCahill, Tom (1 January 1951). Tom McCahill on Sports Cars. Fawcett Publications, Inc.
- "Palm Beach — Date: 3.1.1950". Racing Sports Cars.
- "Watkins Glen Grand Prix — Date: 23.9.1950". Racing Sports Cars.
- "Sebring 6 Hours — Date: 31.12.1950". Racing Sports Cars.
- "1950 Cadillac — Serial No. 506111399". Revs Institute.
- Lamm, John (8 December 2017). "The Monster of Le Mans". Revs Institute.
- "1950 Cadillac — Serial No. 506112964". Revs Institute.
- Boddy, Bill (January 1951). "Those "Le Mans" Cadillacs". Motor Sport. p. 8.
- "THE LESSONS OF LE MANS". Motor Sport. August 1950. p. 389.
- "1951 Cunningham — Type: C-1 Prototype". Revs Institute.
- Boddy, Bill (June 1951). "The new Cunningham". Motor Sport. p. 296.
- "1952 Cunningham — Type: C-3 Continental Coupe". Revs Institute.
- Robinson, Aaron (31 January 2019). "Briggs Cunningham: The Connecticut Yankee who battled the best of Europe". Hagerty.
- "1952 Cunningham — Type: C-4R". Revs Institute.
- "1953 Cunningham — Type: C-5R". Revs Institute.
- "Cunningham Sets Record But Finishes Third in Le Mans Race". Popular Mechanics. August 1953. p. 85.
- "1955 Cunningham — Type: C-6R". Revs Institute.
- White, Gordon Eliot (26 March 2015). Offenhauser — The Legendary Racing Engine and the Men Who Built It. Echo Point Books & Media. p. 117. ISBN 978-1626541054.
- Engerud, Ivar (7 December 2013). "Amerikas første Ferrari" [America's first Ferrari] (PDF). Motor (in Norwegian). pp. 34–37.
- O'Neil, Terry (14 December 2015). N.A.R.T.: A concise history of the North American Racing Team 1957 to 1982. Veloce Publishing. ISBN 978-1845847876.
- Seielstad, David N. (August–September 2015). "016I Spyder Corsa" (PDF). Cavallino.
- Ernst, Kurt (17 May 2017). "Upcoming Simeone Demo Day relives the 1954 24 Hours of Le Mans". Hemmings.
- "Lot 340 The Ex-Bill Spear/Sherwood Johnston , 1955 Maserati 300S Sports-Racing Spider". Bonhams. 12 Jul 2013.
- Ernst, Kurt (30 June 2017). "Team Cunningham Lister Jaguar "Knobbly" to cross the block in Monterey". Hemmings.
- "1959 Lister Costin". Classic Driver.
- Ludvigsen, Karl (2014). Corvette - America's Star-Spangled Sports Car. Bentley Publishers. ISBN 978-0-8376-1659-9.
- "1961 Maserati — Type: Tipo 60 "Birdcage"". Revs Institute.
- Brown, Allen (24 November 2019). "Cooper T53 and T53P". OldRacingCars.com.
- "Lot 621 — The Ex-Bruce McLaren Briggs Cunningham Team Sebring 3-Hours winning, 1961 Fiat-Abarth 1000 Bialbero Competition Coupe". Bonhams.
- "Lot 204 — The Ex-Bill Kimberly/Dr Dick Thompson/Augie Pabst, Briggs Cunningham Le Mans Team, 1962 Maserati Tipo 151 Sports-Racing Berlinetta". Bonhams.
- Clymer, Benjamin (12 August 2017). "Three Cars Owned By Briggs Cunningham Are Coming Up For Sale Next Weekend". Hodinkee.
- Lamm, John (5 May 2017). "250 E. Baker Street". Revs Institute.
- Collier, Miles. "The Evolution of a Collection from Cunningham to Collier". Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance Insider 2015. pp. 20–25.
- Chin, Chris (23 June 2018). "Briggs Cunningham's Classic Cars Celebrated in Greenwich". Automobile.
- Lloyd, Barbara (5 July 2003). "Briggs Cunningham, 96, Racecar Pioneer and Sailing Champ". New York Times.
- "Paid Notice: Deaths CUNNINGHAM, BRIGGS SWIFT II". New York Times. 6 July 2003.
- Didtler, Mark (15 March 1996). "Cunningham is Ready to Turn Corner at Sebring". The Orlando Sentinel.
- "Featured Marque History". WeatherTech Raceway.
- "History". Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance.
- "Briggs Cunningham, Sports Cars, Class of 1997". Motor Sports Hall of Fame of America.
- "Hill School dedicates two new athletic fields". The Merciry. 6 October 2013.
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