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Thread: Cunningham C1 1951

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    Feb 2005

    Cunningham C1 1951

    Introduced to motorsports as a youngster when his uncle took him to road races just after the first world war, Cunningham began international racing in 1930 with his college friends Miles and Samuel Collier, who in 1933 founded the Automobile Racing Club of America (renamed the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) in 1944). He continued in competition for 36 years.

    By 1940 he was building sports cars for others to race. His first race as a driver was with his Bu-Merc, a modified Buick chassis with Buick engine, and Mercedes-Benz SSK body, at Watkins Glen shortly after World War Two. Some of his other hybrids involved Cadillacs, Chryslers, and Fords. Cunningham was one of the first to purchase a Ferrari barchetta, which was raced along with other marques he constructed or owned.

    In 1950 Briggs Cunningham entered two Cadillac cars for Le Mans, one a stock-appearing Cadillac Model 60, the other a special-bodied sports car dubbed "Le Monstre." They finished 10th and 11th overall. On December 31, 1950 Cunningham participated in the 6-hour Sam Collier Memorial Race, the first automobile race held on the Sebring Airport race track, which was won by a Crosley HotShot. Cunningham finished 3rd in class and 17th overall in his Aston Martin DB2 Vantage LML/50/21, the first Vantage produced.

    1955 was last year for the Cunningham marque of cars. The Internal Revenue Service rules of the time allowed such prototype low volume manufacturers 5 years to reach profitability before classifying the business as a non-deductible hobby.

    By 1956 Team Cunningham, which also fielded other marques, was described as a dominant force in SCCA sports car racing a distinction the team retained for the next decade. The team traveled in a caravan with tractor trailer vans that contained the automobiles, mechanics and equipment, and set up in the pits to serve every mechanical or personal need of the team. This contrasted with the typical arrival into the pits of a single race car on a trailer, and was described as "impressive" by driver Lake Underwood. The team's chief mechanic was Alfred Momo.

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