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C-3 Vignale Continental Cabriolet
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Country of origin:United States
Produced from:1953 - 1954
Numbers built:5
Introduced at:1952 Geneva Motor Show
Price new:$14,000
Designed by:Vignale
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:October 13, 2015
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Click here to download printer friendly versionIn 1950, American millionaire Briggs Swift Cunningham got a first taste of the 24 Hours of Le Mans; he fielded a pair of Cadillacs that finished 10th and 11th. One of the cars was heavily modified with a slippery body, nicknamed by the locals as 'Le Monstre' for good reasons. The impressive result first time out ensured the team would also have an entry the following year.

The plan was to return with a purpose-built and completely American 'Cunningham' sports racer. However, to qualify for an entry as a manufacturer, Cunningham had to produce at least ten cars in a twelve-month period. He quickly realised that he could never achieve that number by building and more importantly selling competition cars alone, so a proper road car was developed alongside the sports racers destined for Le Mans.

Known as the C-3, the Cunningham road car was inevitably only a thinly disguised derivative of the C-2 that raced at Le Mans, at least under the skin. The chassis was formed by a conventional steel ladder frame with double-wishbone suspension at the front and a live rear axle. On all four corners coil springs and telescopic absorbers were fitted at a time when leaf springs were still the norm. Hydraulic drum brakes, supplied by Delco, were fitted as standard.

Through one of his high school classmates, who was now an executive at Chrysler, Cunningham had managed to secure a supply of the latest HEMI engines at about half price. Displacing just under 5.5 litre and equipped with four Zenith carburettors, the big V8 produced around 235 bhp in road going trim. It was mated to a Chrysler Fluid Drive semi automatic gearbox, which allowed the driver to select a low or high range, which both had two gears.

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  Article Image gallery (13) Chassis (2) Specifications