Jump to content


Photo

Briggs Cunningham


  • Please log in to reply
31 replies to this topic

#1 Magee

Magee
  • Member

  • 379 posts
  • Joined: February 03

Posted 02 July 2003 - 21:57

(Just received this from the Vintage Racing List)

Briggs Swift Cunningham, 96, a renowned competitor in sports car racing and
competitive sailing, died July 2, 2003 at his home in Las Vegas from
complications of Alzheimer's disease.

>From the 1940s to his last race in 1965, Cunningham was a fierce sports car
racing competitor who also skippered the Columbia to win the 1958 America's
Cup. After winning many road races in the United States, he was the first
American to challenge the Europeans in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1950.

In 1950 he established an automobile manufacturing and development company
to build his own cars to compete with the Europeans. The first Cunningham
C-1 was designed around a Cadillac engine. His most successful sports car
was the C-4R, which won multiple races in the 1953 and 1954 U.S. racing
seasons. Cunningham's winning designs helped establish American automobiles
as credible Le Mans competitors and won the respect of European and American
racing enthusiasts. He also established the American racing colors: white
body with blue strips down the middle.

In addition to his status as the first American to race in Le Mans,
Cunningham also set the course for American leadership in the America's Cup
yacht racing challenge. In 1958, after a 21-year hiatus of the event, he
won the race in the syndicate's 12 meter yacht, "Columbia " which
established a winning tradition for American yachts that would last until
1983,

He also played a part in the development of the Chrysler Hemi "300"
high-speed engine and all fin- and water-cooled brakes in the 1950s.

After retiring from racing, Cunningham and his wife Laura opened the
Cunningham Automotive Museum in Costa Mesa, California, to display his
personal collection of automobiles. The museum closed in 1985; the
collection of cars was sold to Cunningham's lifelong friend, Miles Collier
Jr., who keeps the collection in a private museum in Florida.

With Miles Collier Sr. , he formed the Automobile Racing Club of American
(ARCA) in 1934. Cunningham was also a founding member of the Sports Car Club
of America, and he was member number one ( the oldest member ) of the New
York Yacht Club.

Cunningham also received accolades and numerous awards in automotive car
racing and sailing circles

He was noted for his philanthropic work including, Hills school for Boys
Pottsdown, PA, Mystic Seaport, CT among many. Cunningham was born Jan. 19,
1907 to wealthy Cincinnati financier Briggs Swift Cunningham and his wife
Elizabeth Kilgour in Cincinnati, Ohio. The senior Cunningham was the
principal financier and part-owner in the ventures of two young partners who
developed a bath soap that floats: William Cooper Proctor and James Norris
Gamble. Proctor was the Godfather of Briggs Cunningham II.

He is survived by his wife of 40 years, Laura (nee Cramer) of Las Vegas, son
Briggs S. Cunningham III of Danville, Ky., daughters Lucie McKinney of Green
farms, Conn., and Cythlen Maddock of Palm Beach, Fla., and step-sons Bill
Elmer and Joe Elmer, and 19 grandchildren. 31 Great grandchildren

Services will be Aug 8th 2:30 pm @ Pacific View Cemetery, 3500 Pacific View
Dr, Corona Del Mar, CA In lieu of flower's send to donations to Alzheimer's
Association.

Advertisement

#2 Lotus23

Lotus23
  • Member

  • 1,006 posts
  • Joined: October 02

Posted 02 July 2003 - 22:50

While BSC led a full long life, it's still sorrowful to hear of his passing.

I worked for him at the '63 LeMans when he ran his team of E-Jags there. I will never forget the kindness with which he treated all members of the team, down to the lowest guys on the totem pole -- and none were lower than I. During the race I was assigned to the signalling pits, which at that time were located just after the Mulsanne turn. We communicated with the pits via landline.

My (unnamed) employer the previous year had worked us the full 24 hours with no breaks, and we'd had to scrounge chow on our own, paying for it out of our own pockets. But BSC allowed us to take scheduled breaks, had food brought out to us, and treated us like human beings: kindnesses I shall never forget.

A class act. May he rest in peace.

#3 Jack-the-Lad

Jack-the-Lad
  • Member

  • 1,388 posts
  • Joined: March 03

Posted 02 July 2003 - 23:35

A class act, indeed, and a true enthusiast. He will be greatly missed. His kind are few and far between these days...

Jack

#4 WDH74

WDH74
  • Member

  • 1,125 posts
  • Joined: March 03

Posted 02 July 2003 - 23:58

The current issue of Road & Track has a short piece on Briggs Cunningham, about his induction into the Motorsports Hall of Fame. Truly sad news.
-William

#5 Ron Scoma

Ron Scoma
  • Member

  • 244 posts
  • Joined: October 02

Posted 03 July 2003 - 00:33

Just a sad FYI:
Respectfully,

Ron Scoma

Briggs Swift Cunningham, 96, a renowned competitor in sports car racing
and competitive sailing, died July 2, 2003 at his home in Las Vegas from
complications of Alzheimer’s disease.
From the 1940s to his last race in 1965, Cunningham was a fierce sports
car racing competitor who also skippered the Columbia to win the 1958
America’s Cup. After winning many road races in the United States, he
was the first American to challenge the Europeans in the 24 Hours of Le
Mans in 1950.
In 1950 he established an automobile manufacturing and development
company to build his own cars to compete with the Europeans. The first
Cunningham C-1 was designed around a Cadillac engine. His most
successful sports car was the C-4R, which won multiple races in the 1953
and 1954 U.S. racing seasons. Cunningham’s winning designs helped
establish American automobiles as credible Le Mans competitors and won
the respect of European and American racing enthusiasts. He also
established the American racing colors: white body with blue strips down
the middle.
In addition to his status as the first American to race in Le Mans,
Cunningham also set the course for American leadership in the America’s
Cup yacht racing challenge. In 1958, after a 21-year hiatus of the
event, he won the race in the syndicate’s 12 meter yacht, “Columbia “
which established a winning tradition for American yachts that would
last until 1983, He also played a part in the development of the
Chrysler Hemi “300” high-speed engine and all fin- and water-cooled
brakes in the 1950s.
After retiring from racing, Cunningham and his wife Laura opened the
Cunningham Automotive Museum in Costa Mesa, California, to display his
personal collection of automobiles. The museum closed in 1985; the
collection of cars was sold to Cunningham’s lifelong friend, Miles
Collier Jr., who keeps the collection in a private museum in Florida.
With Miles Collier Sr. , he formed the Automobile Racing Club of
American (ARCA) in 1934. Cunningham was also a founding member of the
Sports Car Club of America, and he was member number one ( the oldest
member ) of the New York Yacht Club.
Cunningham also received accolades and numerous awards in automotive car
racing and sailing circles
He was noted for his philanthropic work including, Hills school for Boys
Pottsdown, PA, Mystic Seaport, CT among many. Cunningham was born Jan.
19, 1907 to wealthy Cincinnati financier Briggs Swift Cunningham and his
wife Elizabeth Kilgour in Cincinnati, Ohio. The senior Cunningham was
the principal financier and part-owner in the ventures of two young
partners who developed a bath soap that floats: William Cooper Proctor
and James Norris Gamble. Proctor was the Godfather of Briggs Cunningham
II.
He is survived by his wife of 40 years, Laura (nee Cramer) of Las Vegas,
son Briggs S. Cunningham III of Danville, Ky., daughters Lucie McKinney of
Green farms, Conn., and Cythlen Maddock of Palm Beach, Fla., and step-sons
Bill Elmer and Joe Elmer, and 19 grandchildren. 31 Great grandchildren
Services will be Aug 8th 2:30 pm @ Pacific View Cemetery, 3500 Pacific
View Dr, Corona Del Mar, CA In lieu of flower’s send to donations to
Alzheimer’s Association.

#6 diego

diego
  • Member

  • 390 posts
  • Joined: June 01

Posted 03 July 2003 - 00:38

RIP, and thanks for all the great machines.

#7 cabianca

cabianca
  • Member

  • 641 posts
  • Joined: September 00

Posted 03 July 2003 - 00:48

Godspeed, Briggs. You were easily the most important individual in getting road racing reestablished in America after WWII.

#8 mickj

mickj
  • Member

  • 142 posts
  • Joined: April 02

Posted 03 July 2003 - 03:06

RIP To a great sportsman.

#9 Ray Bell

Ray Bell
  • Member

  • 53,731 posts
  • Joined: December 99

Posted 03 July 2003 - 03:27

Originally posted by cabianca
Godspeed, Briggs. You were easily the most important individual in getting road racing reestablished in America after WWII.


Certainly an individual, if not the most important...

His efforts at Le Mans, at carbuilding in an era when it was all pioneering, laudable always.

#10 Paul Medici

Paul Medici
  • Member

  • 441 posts
  • Joined: August 99

Posted 03 July 2003 - 03:41

Watched one of his Masers win at Bridgehamption in 1961; the first race I ever attended. Knew he was an avid sailor as well, but didn't realize that he was also the first member of the NYYC.

Thanks Briggs and God bless.

#11 WGD706

WGD706
  • Member

  • 956 posts
  • Joined: August 02

Posted 03 July 2003 - 07:49

Briggs Cunningham has died at the age of 96. The son of a wealthy Cincinnati financier who made several fortunes in business, including being the initial backer of Proctor & Gamble. Briggs Jr inherited the fortune when he was seven and as a result enjoyed a highly privileged upbringing at Yale, where he developed a passion for sailing which would result in his later career as an owner and captain in the America's Cup yacht racing competitions.

Cunningham became interested in automobile racing in the 1930s and formed the Automobile Racing Club of America which promoted events. Cunningham did not himself drive as his mother did not wish to do so but in 1940 he began building his own cars, the first being a Buick fitted with a Mercedes body. Cunningham was a founding member of the

Sports Car Club of America and in the post-war era began racing himself. After linkming up with Ferrari importer Luigi Chinetti he mounted his first bid to win Le Mans in 1950 with the unlikely Healy-Cadillac.

After Le Mans the team resumed the American season with Briggs having successes in his Healy Cadillac and Sam Collier campaigning the Ferrari 166. Tragedy struck at Watkins Glen when Collier was killed in the Ferrari in a race in which Briggs finished second in the Healy-Cadillac. In the end Cunningham decided that he had to build his own cars if he wanted to make any impact in Europe and he acquired a company to develop the first Cunningham racers. Although success in Europe eluded the team the cars did begin winning in America and in 1952 the company introduced the Cunningham C4R which led at Le Mans. Cunningham Cars continued to be raced at Le Mans until 1955 when the company was closed down for tax reasons. Cunningham became a Jaguar importer and ran a US factory team with a trio of D Types and enjoyed much success with driver Walt Hansgen. In the late 1950s Cunningham embarked on the task of winning the America's Cup for America and in 1958 defeated the British entry to win the Cup for the United States with his yacht Columbia.

Cunningham continued to run cars in both Europe and America, including running F1 drivers Jack Brabham and Bruce McLaren in his Jaguars at Laguna Seca and Riverside in 1960. He became a Formula 1 entrant the following year when he entered a Cooper-Climax in the United States Grand Prix. The chassis was later sold to Roger Penske and it became the Zerex Special and ultimately was sold on to Bruce McLaren and was the first car raced by the McLaren team.

Cunningham's Jaguars continued to appear at Le Mans until 1963 when Cunningham effectively retired from the sport. he raced a few more times, his last race being at Sebring in 1966. He then opened the Cunningham Automotive Museum in Costa Mesa, California, to display his personal collection of automobiles. The museum closed remained open until 1985.

Cunningham's efforts helped to establish American automobiles as credible Le Mans competitors and won the respect of European and American racing enthusiasts.

http://www.grandprix...ns/ns11434.html


(Sorry, I missed that this thread had already been started and am not allowed to merge/delete. If Don could do that for me, I'd appreciate it, as would several others, I believe.)

#12 Doug Nye

Doug Nye
  • Member

  • 8,307 posts
  • Joined: February 02

Posted 03 July 2003 - 09:07

Rest in peace -

Most unusually for almost any such prominent motor racing personality I cannot ever recall hearing anyone have a bad word to say about Briggs Cunningham...

...a remarkable man, and in enthusiast terms, absolutely one of us.

I am confident you would all have liked him.

DCN

#13 Dennis Hockenbury

Dennis Hockenbury
  • Member

  • 656 posts
  • Joined: April 03

Posted 03 July 2003 - 13:21

I cannot claim to have "known" Briggs Cunningham.

In a previous part of my life, I was very involved in 12 meter sailing and Briggs was, even 30 years ago the Grand Old Man of that scene. I would run into him at various events, usually in Newport, and on the odd occasion I would have the opportunity to talk with him about his racing life. A subject he always seemed to enjoy discussing.

While I enjoyed his stories about the road racing scene in the U.S. during the late 40's and 50's, I was always drawn to his stories regarding "his" guys and their exploits in Europe and the U.S.

Always a gentlemen, always entertaining, never too busy to spend a bit of time with an interested enthusiast.

All American racing enthusiasts should know of his contribution to the sport.

He will be missed.

#14 wildman

wildman
  • Member

  • 288 posts
  • Joined: September 00

Posted 03 July 2003 - 16:32

As Bruce McLaren so famously wrote, "I believe that life is measured in achievement, not in years alone." By that standard, Briggs should've outlived Methusuleh. Thanks for all the great memories.

#15 bill moffat

bill moffat
  • Member

  • 1,407 posts
  • Joined: October 02

Posted 03 July 2003 - 16:50

"I guess I've had an accident".

John Fitch's words upon returning (on foot) to the Cunningham pit having comprehensively totalled his C5 in a 140mph end-over-end accident at Rheims.

Rest in peace Briggs.

#16 David Birchall

David Birchall
  • Member

  • 2,998 posts
  • Joined: March 03

Posted 03 July 2003 - 17:44

Met him very briefly once. What a great guy. His contribution to motor sport in N. America and Europe must stand as an example to all. My fantasy car was always a Cunningham Lightweight E Type. David B

#17 marat

marat
  • Member

  • 311 posts
  • Joined: February 03

Posted 03 July 2003 - 19:39

Briggs Cunningham came to Le Mans with his bravour and sportmanship. He has never been
forgotten and the image he gave of America is still alive.

#18 dmj

dmj
  • Member

  • 1,956 posts
  • Joined: August 01

Posted 03 July 2003 - 21:13

We lost two very important people in just few days, both in respectful age of 96. Rest in peace, Mrs. Hepburn and Mr. Cunningham.
The fact Cunningham never fullfiled his great wish of winning Le Mans is one of cruel facts that always make me sad - both man and team certainly deserved to win!
But as this is racing forum and highlight is understandably on racing cars I'd like to remind you that Cunningham also made one of best-looking American cars ever... and some say it was one of the best in much more fields besides faboulous looks.

Posted Image

#19 D-Type

D-Type
  • Member

  • 8,022 posts
  • Joined: February 03

Posted 03 July 2003 - 21:32

I endorse everything that the previous have said.

Briggs Cunningham was above all a patriot. His Cunningham cars were designed with one purpose - To win Le Mans for America . Similarly his defence of the America's Cup was for his country.

He was also a sportsman, in the old fashioned sense. Not for him to produce a car and say he was going to put it into production one day. Only when he had set up a factory to make and sell cars was he prepared to say he was racing a prototype.

If he had not shown the way I wonder whether we would ever have seen Ford at Le Mans.


Because of him, the world is a better place. What more needs be said?

Advertisement

#20 Magee

Magee
  • Member

  • 379 posts
  • Joined: February 03

Posted 04 July 2003 - 21:14

Here's another posting from the Vintage Racing list:

Briggs was a great competitor and his loss is deeply felt, but there is
no reason to embellish a career that certainly needs no help. Without in
any way intending disrespect for Briggs, please note that:

He was hardly the first American to compete at Le Mans - Jimmy Murphy
won the French GP there in a Duesenberg in 1921, but the 24 hour
endurance classic was first run in 1923. American cars and drivers took
part in the race as early as 1925, with Chrysler and Stutz among the
early entrants. The first American drivers at LeMans were Charles Moran
and Alfred Miranda, driving a du Pont. They retired after 20 laps. Miles
Collier, later a Cunningham team driver, first drove at Le Mans in 1939
in an MG Special.

Likewise, international racing colors were first specified for the 1907
French Grand Prix, though at that time the American colors were to be
white with red.

So much history is simply repetition of unsubstantiated facts; I hope
that these notes will clarify the true role Briggs Cunningham played in
encouraging American sports car racing at home and in Europe.

Jack Rubin
USA

#21 Richard Jenkins

Richard Jenkins
  • Member

  • 6,127 posts
  • Joined: November 00

Posted 07 July 2003 - 08:08

RIP Briggs Cunningham. A talented man indeed. :(

#22 Richard Neale

Richard Neale
  • Member

  • 301 posts
  • Joined: May 02

Posted 07 July 2003 - 21:57

Briggs Cunningham's Memorial Service is at the Chapel, Pacific View Cemetary, Newport Beach
on August 8 at 2:30 p.m.

#23 cabianca

cabianca
  • Member

  • 641 posts
  • Joined: September 00

Posted 08 July 2003 - 05:41

Further to Jack Rubin's comments, Cunningham was not involved in founding either the ARCA or the SCCA, the two racing organizations with which he is identified. I believe this misinformation, as well as that re the first American to race at Le Mans, came from the wire service interviews of a family member. Briggs was certainly the most important single figure in ensuring the success of American sports car racing after it's launch at Watkins Glen in 1948 by Cameron Argetsinger.

#24 bill moffat

bill moffat
  • Member

  • 1,407 posts
  • Joined: October 02

Posted 11 July 2003 - 12:53

the passing of Briggs Cunningham may have been of great significance to ourselves, but seemingly not so to Autosport magazine.

5 paltry column inches of lukewarm obituary. Similar prominence was given to midweek F3 testing at Snetterton and Marcus Gronholm's painful elbow....

#25 Dennis Hockenbury

Dennis Hockenbury
  • Member

  • 656 posts
  • Joined: April 03

Posted 14 July 2003 - 20:28

Posted Image

#26 Doug Nye

Doug Nye
  • Member

  • 8,307 posts
  • Joined: February 02

Posted 14 July 2003 - 22:28

:kiss:

DCN

#27 Dennis Hockenbury

Dennis Hockenbury
  • Member

  • 656 posts
  • Joined: April 03

Posted 15 July 2003 - 02:23

Doug,

It must have been very special to drive Le Monstre in memory of Briggs Cunningham at the FOS. How is the old beast doing these days?

BTW, congrats to you and the FOS team. By every account, another memorable event.

#28 Doug Nye

Doug Nye
  • Member

  • 8,307 posts
  • Joined: February 02

Posted 15 July 2003 - 07:26

The old beast is doing pretty well thanks.

As for 'Le Monstre' the old lady is in truly wonderful form. Its steering is quite low-geared and light and yet incredibly accurate. Though you can't see the corners (of the car) you can aim your own section of it remarkably accurately - until you arrive too fast at a corner covered in dust by the preceding hillclimb car and lock wheels.

Oh yes - it also goes much better - I discovered - if the dopey driver does NOT switch off the electric fuel pump on the startline. And the period Cadillac hooter raised a few smiles too.

Tell you one thing though - you should see the size of the birds you pull with a car like this....Moss was envious.

DCN

PS - Thanks for your regards to the organising team - mine is a subsidiary role as historical consultant and for anyone who saw the sub-head on my preview in 'The Daily Telegraph' describing me as 'Organiser of the Festival of Speed' - thus inferring 'singular' or ' the principal' - this is UTTER tripe perpetrated by a know-nothing sub-editor and was ABSOLUTELY not down to yrs trly 'cos I never even saw a page proof.

I am mortified...really crushed 'cos it made me look like a total fantasist before great people for whom I genuinely care.

It is HORRIBLY embarrassing and an insult to the true team headed by Charles March and with Richard Sutton as Director of Motorsport with Lloyd McNeill as his assistant - plus all the non-motoring Goodwood organisers who make absolutely everything else work as well as it does.

Mind you - I must look on the bright side...after ten years trying we really seemed to have fixed the weather! And as a PPS - really great to have met so many of you, at last. :up:

#29 Brun

Brun
  • Member

  • 510 posts
  • Joined: April 02

Posted 15 July 2003 - 12:05

Originally posted by Doug Nye
Tell you one thing though - you should see the size of the birds you pull with a car like this....Moss was envious.


Am I the only one with this image in my mind: flocks of large, chubby women around Mr. Nye's car?? :blush:

#30 dmj

dmj
  • Member

  • 1,956 posts
  • Joined: August 01

Posted 15 July 2003 - 19:06

Originally posted by Brun


Am I the only one with this image in my mind: flocks of large, chubby women around Mr. Nye's car?? :blush:

No.

#31 Ray Bell

Ray Bell
  • Member

  • 53,731 posts
  • Joined: December 99

Posted 15 July 2003 - 21:10

Originally posted by dmj
No.


Second that... my first thought...

#32 robert dick

robert dick
  • Member

  • 936 posts
  • Joined: October 02

Posted 19 February 2007 - 09:31

Cunningham website :

http://www.briggscunningham.com/