The Briggs Cunningham Corvettes: The 3 Cars That Raced At Le Mans and the 60th Anniversary Cunningham Corvette
- Who is Briggs Cunningham
- Zora Arkus-Duntov and Briggs Cunningham
- C1 Briggs Cunningham Corvette Modifications:
- No. 1 Briggs Cunningham 1960 Le Mans Corvette Racer
- No. 2 Briggs Cunningham 1960 Le Mans Corvette Racer
- No. 3 Briggs Cunningham 1960 Le Mans Corvette Racer
- The 60th Anniversary Cunningham Corvette is a Modern Masterpiece
- 60th Anniversary Cunningham C8 Corvette Debuts #33
- Lingenfelter Cunningham 60th Anniversary Corvette
- Lingenfelter Cunningham 60th Anniversary Corvette Special Features:
- 2021 C8 Cunningham Corvette Edition #1
- Photo from Bloomington Gold 2022 of C8 Cunningham Corvette Edition
All three of the 1960 Briggs Cunningham Corvette race cars that competed at Le Mans have now been accounted for. For the purposes of this article, we will look at the new 60th Anniversary Cunningham Corvette, as well as the three Corvette Cunninghams that were the predecessors of this great automobile.
No. 1, No. 2, and No. 3 were the first Corvettes to compete at Le Mans. All three of Cunningham’s Corvettes were configured the same. Chevrolet’s own effort to take part in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, backed by the company, wouldn’t start until 2000.
Who is Briggs Cunningham
Prior to discussing the first, second, third, and the 60th Anniversary Cunningham Corvette Special Edition, we should take a brief look at the legacy of Briggs Swift Cunningham and his historical relevance in relation to the Corvette.
Briggs Swift Cunningham II was born on January 19, 1907, and died at the age of 96 on July 2, 2003. He came from a wealthy Cincinnatti family and was an American entrepreneur and sportsman. He is most famous for winning the 1958 America’s Cup skippering the yacht Columbia and appearing at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Mr. C was an American racing legend, and race team owner. He produced some of America’s first post-war modern sports cars and is known for constructing some of racing’s most iconic race cars. To sports car enthusiasts, he is known for his Cunningham C4R and C4RK Le Mans racers. During his racing career from 1950 to 1963, he dominated the American auto racing scene and also built one of the most competitive American auto racing teams of all time.
Among Corvette aficionados, he is best known for his three Cunningham 1960 Corvette Sports Cars. Briggs Cunningham was inducted into the Hall of Fame at the National Corvette Museum during
their 25th Anniversary Celebration in 2019.
In 1993 he was inducted into the America’s Cup Hall of Fame at the Herreshoff Marine Museum in Bristol, R.I., in 1997 he was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America and he was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2003.
Another honor is the Cunningham Corner at Sebring International Raceway which is named after Briggs Cunningham and his team.
According to the Cunningham website, “His goal was to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans in an American car with American drivers. Even though he never achieved that goal, his team did amass an impressive list of wins at Sebring, Elkhart Lake, Bridgehampton, and other venues.”
Cunningham is also known for his development of the racing stripe. His three Le Mans race cars wore a blue line down the center of his white racecars.
Zora Arkus-Duntov and Briggs Cunningham
In 1960, Zora Arkus-Duntov, persuaded wealthy racecar veteran Briggs Cunningham, who had raced Le Mans for a number of years, to run a trio of Corvettes in the 1960 Le Mans 24-hour race.
Briggs agreed and bought three 1960s from Don Allen Chevrolet. These three cars carry an enormous amount of prestige within the Corvette community, as well as among those who support endurance racing.
Despite Chevrolet not officially supporting the team, Zora did so surreptitiously and aided the program with expertise and support. Although Chevy agreed to be part of an industry-wide ban on racing, Ed and Zora were eager to use racing as a means to build the reputation of Corvette around the world.
The Three Cunningham Corvettes were optioned to the hilt:
- Sintered-metallic brake linings
- Quick-ratio steering
- Close-ratio four-speed transmission
- Limited-slip gear carriers
Prior to shipping the cars to Europe, they outfitted them with a set of modifications. Alfred Momo, the team’s chief mechanic, along with unofficial help from Zora Arkus-Duntov, modified the Cunningham C1 Corvettes in preparation for the race. They were all wearing white and blue.
C1 Briggs Cunningham Corvette Modifications:
- Stewart Warner gauges
- Halibrand quick-release fuel cap
- Halibrand knock-off wheels
- Firestone racing tires
- Koni competition shock absorbers
- Bendix fuel pumps (a primary and a backup)
- An additional front additional sway bar
- 37-gallon fuel tank
- Brake ducting from the grille area
- The cooling duct from the drivers side front bumper area (directing cooling air to the driver through the footwell)
- Two seats from a Douglas C-47 Skytrain aircraft
- Sebring exhausts that exit in front of the rear tires
The 24 Hour Le Mans race took place on the 25th and 26th of June. The Le Mans race lined up the cars according to their engine size, and the 1960Cunningham Corvettes were in the first three positions with their 283-cubic-inch fuel-injected small-block V8s. Of the three cars, two Corvettes crashed. There was one Corvette that was still running as the chequered flag fell. This was Corvette’s first race at Le Mans and the one Corvette won its class. Corvettes have been racing at Le Mans ever since.
Briggs was unhappy with the finish of the cars and stopped the entire Corvette program. Briggs then returned the engines to Chevrolet and Bill Frick took care of getting rid of the cars. The two crashed Corvettes were sent back to America where they went through a restoration process, including being repainted in their original color (white). The car that won Le Mans was kept by Duntov, who also kept all of its parts for his personal collection.
The 1960 Le Mans winning car is currently on display at The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. It is still owned by Zora Arkus-Duntov’s family, but it is not on display there either.
No. 1 Briggs Cunningham 1960 Le Mans Corvette Racer
The No. 1 Briggs Cunningham 1960 Le Mans Corvette Racer was driven by Briggs Cunningham and Bill Kimberley in the 1960 24 Hours of Le Mans. Not long after taking over the wheel from Cunningham, Jim Kimberly rolled the No. 1 car. It was sidelined by the crash on lap 32, never finishing the race.
No. 1 Briggs Cunningham 1960 Le Mans Corvette Racer was sold for $785,500 (including commission) at the RM Sotheby’s auction that was held in Amelia Island, Florida May 22, 2021. The RM Sotheby’s auction coincided with the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance.
Although this is a large amount it is actually well below the estimate of between $900,000 and $1.3 million for the no-reserve sale. However, much of what was in the car was removed or swapped out, including the engine, no doubt this was reflected in its selling price.
The 1960 Le Mans racecar is chassis No. 00867S103535 and wore the racing number 1. The car was thought to be lost forever. No. 1 had gone missing for decades until it was finally found in 2011 and sitting in storage in St. Petersburg, Florida. And just as is often the case with items like this, the truth of who was actually the owner remained disputed with multiple parties laying claim to it.
Finally, the judge ordered that the car be sold, with the proceeds to be split and the new owner to be given a clear title.
No. 2 Briggs Cunningham 1960 Le Mans Corvette Racer
Dick Thompson and Fred Windridge drove Number 2, the first of four Corvettes in history to compete at Le Mans. Number 2 was one of three entries from Briggs Cunningham.
We know, based on our findings, that this white No 2 1960 La Mans Corvette has not won any finish line firsts. Yet, it’s one of the most famed race cars in racing history. It is, however, one of four Corvettes that crossed the starting line at Le Mans in 1960 which was the first year the Corvettes competed in the 24-hour endurance race.
Car number two slammed into a sandbank and it was brought back for repairs to its right-front fender. It went back on the track and lasted nearly to the end of the race when its engine finally gave out.
The No 2 has had several owners along the way. After the race, the No. 2 was bought by a National Zinc employee. Next, an auto journalist named Steve Smith bought the car for $3,800. He decided to sell it and took an ad in Road & Track classifieds but it did not sell so he got an Earl Scheib paint job in Royal Blue in hopes it would sell but no luck. Eventually, he traded it at Vasek Polak, a Manhattan Beach, California, who was a Porsche dealer where the car was put in a yard. The story gets thin as some of the parties have since passed, but apparently, Mike Pillsbury suspected a car in a junkyard was one of the Cunningham Vettes. Mike sanded it down and discovered a white with a blue stripe car. The car was put back together and in 1987 at the Monterey Historic Automobile races the No 2 made its debut. The car was sold again. Lance Miller helped track down the car and for collector Bruce Meyer. Meyer, founding chairman of the Petersen Automotive Museum, bought the Corvette in the late 90s. In 2001 Bruce Meyer took the Corvette to the Goodwood Festival of Speed.
From what we read, the No 2 Briggs Cunningham still sees track time and Bruce even drives it on the street.
Although No. 2 may not have been a winner on the track, it’s far from a loser. In 2016, at the San Marino Motoring Classic, the Historical Vehicle Association awarded its highest honor, the Preservation Award, to the car recognizing its authenticity and complete intactness. It won the Corvette class at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in 2008.
No. 3 Briggs Cunningham 1960 Le Mans Corvette Racer
The No. 3 Briggs Cunningham 1960 Le Mans Corvette Racer, driven by John Fitch and Bob Grossman, was the most successful, having won its class and eighth place overall.
Towards the end of the race, one of the mechanics mistakenly unscrewed the radiator cap and the majority of the coolant leaked out of the radiator and was lost. Because of the track rules, nobody was allowed to put fluid in the radiator. The No. 3 spent the last hour stuffing the engine compartment with ice, stopping after every lap to re-pack it.
Corvettes at Carlisle co-founder Chip Miller set out to find and purchase the 1960 Le Mans Class-Winning #3 Corvette and restore it. His ultimate vision was to take it back to Le Mans in 2010 and get a legend of the past, the great John Fitch, to be the driver to mark the 50th anniversary of its great victory.
Mr. Miller was deprived of fulfilling his vision. Tragically, a rare disease called Amyloidosis developed and left him unable to complete his goal, and take the car back to France for the 50th anniversary of the win.
To the thousands of fans who frequented the Carlisle Events at the PA Fairgrounds for car shows between 1974 and his death in 2004, Elliot Chip Miller was a fixture. He is one man that is well-remembered and recognized by many throughout the show’s duration.
With Chip’s passing, his son Lance and the Miller family carried out his lifelong dream of seeing the #3 Cunningham Corvette return to France. All the various sub-stories in the film’s plot tie into the emotional journey of a son’s commitment to fulfilling his father’s final wish.
The Miller family, co-owners of Carlisle Events has owned the No. 3 Corvette for many years.
The Iconic Le Man 1960 Briggs Cunningham #3 Corvette appeared at the Amelia Island Concours d’ Elegance along with the Lingenfelter Cunningham 60th Anniversary Corvette.
Recently, Irwin Kroiz and the Miller Family – avid Corvette collectors – came to an agreement for an undisclosed sum to buy the Corvette. So now, the No. 3 1960 Cunningham Corvette will join the many other famous Corvettes in the Irwin Kroiz Collection. A number of highly sought-after Corvettes are part of the Irwin Kroiz collection. He shares select cars with guests at the Bloomington Gold Corvette show and the Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals car shows and many have been covered in Vette Vues Magazine.
The 60th Anniversary Cunningham Corvette is a Modern Masterpiece
The 60th Anniversary Cunningham Corvette is a Modern Masterpiece. It’s every car enthusiast’s dream to have a collection of cars that range from classic beauties to modern-day masterpieces, each representing a certain time in automobile history. However, very few collectors can have an entire collection representing just one make and model, let alone multiple generations. Luckily for some lucky collectors, a limited edition of sixty 60th Anniversary Cunningham Corvette Special Editions will be offered.
60th Anniversary Cunningham C8 Corvette Debuts #33
The Chip Miller Amyloidosis Foundation, in partnership with Cunningham Automotive, proudly debuted the 60th Anniversary Corvette, a limited edition in northeast Florida’s Amelia Island Concours d’ Elegance. The #33 60th Anniversary Limited Edition Cunningham C8 Corvette was raffled and proceeds went to the Chip Miller Charitable Foundation. (The Iconic Le Man #3 1960 Briggs Cunningham Corvette also appeared at the Amelia Island Concours d’ Elegance.)
The original race car is well known in North American motorsports history as The Pennsylvania Slingshot. It dominated Le Mans in 1960 after winning the 12 Hours of Sebring and 300-mile Mexican Road Races before then. This racing machine was powered by a fuel-injected 6-cylinder engine with twin superchargers, producing approximately 600 horsepower. Briggs Cunningham raced it for five years, including appearances at Le Mans, 24 Hours of Daytona, 24 Hours of Sebring, and 1000 km Nürburgring. After being retired from active competition, it was donated to The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn Michigan where it has been on display since 1962.
Lingenfelter Cunningham 60th Anniversary Corvette
The Lingenfelter Cunningham 60th Anniversary Corvette pays homage to the 1960 Briggs Cunningham Corvette Race Cars. In total, 60 limited edition Cunningham Corvettes will be made. Celebrating six decades, the new 60th Anniversary Cunningham C8 Corvette features an all-new, fully loaded 3LT package and exceeds expectations. The car is equipped with Lingenfelter 603HP, 580 ft/lb LT2 motor.
Lingenfelter Cunningham 60th Anniversary Corvette Special Features:
- Cunningham Aero Package
- Halibrand Style Forged Aluminum Wheels
- Alcon Pro-System Brakes
- Z51 suspension
- 8-speed DCT transaxle
- Lift kit
- Dual roofs
- GT2 sport seats with Twilight Blue seat backs
- Tension Blue trim
- Right color seat belt.
This special Corvette won’t be in this year’s Le Mans race, but it borrows the design of the 1960 ‘Vettes that participated. There are two blue stripes in the center of the white C8 and they are augmented by additional blue trim work.
It has a large spoiler as part of an aerodynamic upgrade, which features the number 3 in honor of the 1960 Le Mans-winning race car driven by John Fitch and Bob Grossman.
The HRE wheels are modern-day equivalents of five-star racing rims from years past.
Part of the design package is special interior trim.
Under the C8’s engine cover are some notable upgrades. Lingenfelter equips the Special C8 with plenty of performance parts, including a custom carbon intake manifold. Cunnigham Automotive claims the final result of their tune is 600 horsepower, a big improvement over a stock C8.
This is coupled with an upgraded 95-millimeter throttle body and Corsa exhaust, resulting in a deep, sonorous growl.
Up front, Lingenfelter installed its front C8 lowering kit, and upgraded Alcon / RB brakes have been installed on all four corners.
According to Cunningham Automotive, only 60 of these limited edition cars will be produced, and, yes, they will be expensive. Starting at $159,995.
2021 C8 Cunningham Corvette Edition #1
The #1 C8 Cunninghan Corvette sold at Barrette-Jackson Scottsdale Auction in January 2022 for $187,000.00
Below is the Barrette-Jackson listing:
Lot #1441 – This is the Cunningham 60th Anniversary C8 that was displayed during this year’s Amelia Island and Greenwich Concours, as well as at the Detroit Motor Bella and SEMA in Las Vegas. This car is built #1 of 60 proposed cars, although the Chip Miller Amyloidosis Foundation (who raffled off the car) specifically requested #33, as that was Chip Miller’s favorite number. No expense was spared in the development of these special cars styled by Peter Stevens, the famed McLaren F1 designer. This fully equipped 2021 3LT car features bespoke exposed carbon-fiber front and rear decklids, a specially tuned naturally aspirated 600hp Lingenfelter LT2 V8 engine, upgraded Alcon Pro Sport brakes, bespoke HRE forged aluminum Halibrand-inspired 20- and 21-inch wheels and Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires. It also has a Motorsports-derived wing and all exposed carbon-fiber ground effects. This car was built in celebration of Briggs Cunningham’s historic class win at Le Mans in 1960, the marque’s first win in international competition.
Photo from Bloomington Gold 2022 of C8 Cunningham Corvette Edition
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