Thursday, November 25, 2021

Three Slices ‘O Corvette Carmania Carved Up’

As should I go for the Pumpkin, Mincemeat or Cheesecake for Dessert? Uhm, may be a slice of All three, Wee-wee Mademoiselle, Mon Cherrie?


Ah, the Aroma ‘O Stuffing, did somebody say Stuffing? Uhm, Turkey, Pigskin and Pumpkin pie. Now All we need is a Chevrolet Corvette or three and Apple pie? Oopsdaisy, Think that’s a different Holiday?


As what better way to celebrate Turkey-Lurkey Day this year than with three vastly different topics wrapped around three slices ‘o Americana, Uhm Uhm Finger lickin’ good? As here’s the Main course Folks…


Cunningham Crusader’s

Although I never know when they’ll be on, meaning I miss many of their TV Airings, recently I caught two episodes of Motortrend TV’s Autobiography over thou Halloween weekend. The first was about Briggs Cunningham taking three 1960 Corvette’s to Circuit de la Sarthe at Le Mans, France. As this was the first year ever that those Thunderin’ front engine American V-8’s raced in le 24 Heurs du Mans. (61 years ago)


Whilst the second episode was All about that Manson Fellah’ and those Beach Boys Ferraris…


Funny, but when I think of Briggs Cunningham and Le Mans, for reasons unknown, I invariably think about his earlier creations, most notably his le Monster! When Briggs ran a pair of modified  Cadillacs in the 1950 event. Although I tend to forget that Cunningham was also a prestigious racer, and I believe this was the first of his many outings at Le Mans as a driver, then Age 43.


And whilst I tend to only think of Briggs Automotive accomplishments, arguably his biggest claim to fame was Skippering the winning yacht Columbia in the 1958 America’s Cup challenge.


Messer Cunningham led the most privileged ‘O life’s, having come from a family of considerable wealth, beginning with his Grandfather’s River Boating and Shipping concerns. As his father Briggs Sr. moved from the Meat Packing business, later becoming President and Founder of the Citizens National Bank, Director of the Pennsylvania Railroad and later Chief Financier of the Proctor and Gamble Company.


And that was before marrying into further Money when tying nuptials with Lucy Bedford, an heiress of the Standard Oil Company, her Grandfather E.T. Bedford being a Co-Founder and Director of the Oil Company! As Briggs attended his very first motor racing event, the 1930 Monaco Grand Prix on their Honeymoon.


Briggs ran his own Car Company aptly called BS Cunningham Cars between 1950-55 before shuttering it, due to running Afoul of IRS Tax laws requiring Boutique Constructors to show a profit after five years of business.


As Cunningham campaigned  his team’s Cunningham C Designation racecars, the C2R-C6R at Le Mans with modest results, before the catastrophe of the 1955 24 Hours of Le Mans along with his Tax issues saw him taking a brief respite from motor racing.


Wasn’t aware that Briggs was a founding member of the American Racing Club Association, )ARCA) the forebearer to today’s SCCA, but do know that Cunningham entered cars won the 1954-55 Sebring 12 Hours events, arguably his biggest accomplishment in racing…


And whilst Cunningham made his last appearance as a racing driver at Le Mans in 1963, then 56 years old.  The focus of the Autobiography TV show was upon the three 1960 Corvette’s he entered for that year’s 24 Heurs du Mans, with the cars being numbered 1-2-3.


As these chassis were extensively modified as the Godfather of Corvettes Zora Arkus-Duntov just so happened to have an experimental 283cid Small Block V-8 with Rodchester Fuel Injection on his Hands that he wanted tested in racing competition. Even though General Motors (GM) along with the other major American Manufacturers had pledged not to participate in Motor Racing as part of the AMA Ban following the 1955 Le Mans tragedy.


The TV show basically retraces the history of each car by denoting them according to their racing number at Le Mans. As the No. 2 car was the first to be reclaimed and is in the hands of noted Car Collector Bruce Meyer, who claims his is the most “Authentic” car since it was restored using many original parts.


If I remember correctly? Since it’s been awhile now and I didn’t scribble any notes immediately afterwards. The No. 1 car caught on fire at Le Mans and then was subsequently discovered in a Wrecking Yard!


The No. 3 Le Mans Corvette was the most elusive and hardest to find, before finally being uncovered when a 70,000sq ft Warehouse was being Cleaned out over a decade ago.


Coolest part about the #3 chassis was that after it was restored, it went back to Le Mans for the Vette’s 50th Anniversary complete with then 91 year old John Fitch at it’s controls! As Fitch and Co-Driver Bob Grossman had finished eighth Overall and 1st in Class in 1960!


Although I’m slightly Cornfused, since apparently John Fitch Died at the Age of 95 on October 31, 2012, which would have only been two years later…


As Y’all can read my previous No Fenders attempt at briefly chronicling Corvette’s History at Le Mans in the following story link below.


Or you might enjoy this Youtube video of Bruce Meyer with another of his Corvette racecars, the Nasty ’09 C6.R…