• This Month's Issue

    We Take Stock of Two Record-Setting '75 Lambo LP400's

    Stephen Serio Recommends Five Under-$50k Cars

    Chasing the Testa Rossa: 1954 Ferrari 375 Plus Competizione

    $3.8m Hemi 'Cuda: Comer Rates the Sale, Cumberford Rates the Design

    Read More
  • SCM Platinum

    Over 200 cars that sold at auction covered in every issue of SCM. Our market reports include detailed information about the vehicle, including VIN, condition, options, and expert analysis from SCM's auction reporters.

    SCM Platinum is the largest database of collector cars sold at auction. Over 150,000 vehicles, including over 59,000 with detailed write-ups from our auction reporters.

    Now optimized for your mobile devices!

    Read More
  • Sports Car Market Magazine

    SCM is renowned for its unbiased coverage of the most prominent auctions around the world. Every issue of Sports Car Market is packed full of information you can't get anywhere else at any price. Find out the pro's secrets — what to look for and how much to pay for the classic of your dreams.

    Read More
  • Glovebox Notes

    SCM doesn't just cover collector cars. Every week, SCM reviews a brand new car online and in our newsletters, and there are new reviews every month in the magazine. Thinking of buying a new car? Check out our reviews!

    Read More
  • Insider’s Guide to Concours d’Elegance

    The 2014 guide includes a calendar of events and detailed descriptions of 21 featured concours.

    Read More

Recent Profiles

load more / hold SHIFT key to load all load all

1953 cunningham c 3 coupe


Millionaire American sportsman Briggs Swift Cunningham II was determined to win the Le Mans 24-hour race in an American car. In 1950 he entered two Cadillacs, one of which finished tenth. This motivated Cunningham to develop the C-2R sports car with a Chrysler V8 engine, tubular frame, De Dion axle and full independent suspension. The cars ran at Le Mans in 1951, with one finishing eighteenth, and he continued to campaign the cars in road races throughout the United States.

Cunningham determined that the C-2R was better suited as a road car, and therefore a more competitive race car, the C-3, was developed. Offered as a coupe as well as a roadster, they were intended to have base prices of $9,000 and $8,000, respectively. Cunningham quickly realized that his cost per finished car would be over $15,000, an approach to business that may work for Amazon.com but not for Cunningham. As a cost-cutting measure, he contracted with Carrozzeria Vignale Coachworks in Turin, Italy to construct the C-3 bodies.

The first C-3 coupe, named the Continental, was finished in time for the Cunningham team to race at Watkins Glen in September 1952. The car toured the country on the auto show circuit and a second car was displayed at the Paris Salon in October 1952.

Cunningham's West Palm Beach factory was able to produce a chassis per week, however, Carrozzeria Vignale Coachworks was unable to match that production. Even with Vignale's participation, the price of a C-3 increased to nearly $12,000, drastically limiting its market.

The car pictured here was first purchased by a Georgia doctor, Floyd W. McRae, who ordered the Continental coupe directly from Cunningham in the spring of 1953. It is recorded as being the fourth C-3 produced. He kept the vehicle until 1970 when, with 21,188 miles recorded, it was sold to the Harrah Collection. It was later sold to a noted sports car collector, Dr. Frederick Simeone, of Pennsylvania.

This Cunningham Continental coupe was stated to be in proper running order and in overall presentable condition. It is thoroughly race prepared and is eligible for historic racing and rallies.

{analysis}{auto}384{/auto} The 1953 Cunningham C-3 Continental coupe, C53-8-1086, sold for $77,300 (including buyer's premium) at the Christie's Pebble Beach Auction held on August 29, 1999.

Briggs Swift Cunningham was the consummate sportsman who, with almost unlimited resources, won the America's Cup with his yacht Columbia and was determined to win the 24 hours of Le Mans with an American-made machine. His first effort was with two 1950 Cadillac 62 Series sedans. One was stock, with the exception of twin carburetors, and the other was given a five-carburetor manifold and an aerodynamic body. The French called it "Le Monstre" and it finished eleventh with the stock Cadillac, dubbed "The Clumsy Puppy," one position ahead.

In September of 1950, in West Palm Beach, Florida, Cunningham formed the B. S. Cunningham Company and produced a race car prototype called the C-1. The C-2 quickly evolved and was equipped with Chrysler's new Hemi V8 that, with four Zenith carburetors, created 220 horsepower. Only a handful were constructed when arrangements were made with Alfredo Vignale to construct the C-3 with a wider fastback body.

C-4s, C-4RKs, C-5s and the C-6 followed, but they could not keep up with the new disc-braked C-type Jaguars. The closest Cunningham came to his objective of winning Le Mans was in 1953 when three of his cars finished in the top ten. Realizing that he would have to develop his own engine in order to be competitive with the European offerings, he sold his facility and directed his sporting activities elsewhere.

Cunningham's cars served as inspiration for the Corvette and the Cobra as he beat both Zora Arkus-Duntov, father of the Corvette, and Carroll Shelby at Le Mans. He was recognized by Time magazine with a cover appearance on April 26, 1954, photographed with his automobiles.

One unusual feature of the Vignale-bodied C-3 is its 55\" wide pleated-leather front bench seat with twin fold-down arm rests. In an era of stark, noisy, uncomfortable competition cars, the C-3 provided comfort for touring, as well as a strong competitive presence for racing. The team colors of white body and blue racing stripes were used by Cunningham and the racing stripes are often duplicated to this day. Cunningham's objective of producing a car that was adaptable for touring and racing, coupled with the fact that Chrysler Hemi engine parts are still readily available, make this a sweet machine. The main drawback is the Chrysler semi-automatic transmission. Rated a condition 3 in an earlier SCM auction report (November 1999, page 33), a few dollars could easily be justified to spruce up the trim and interior. You would still be bucks ahead of what a comparable Allard or Hudson Italia would cost.

Briggs Swift Cunningham III, following in his father's footsteps, is making a continuation of C-4Rs with a handmade body, early '50s Chrysler Hemi engine, and a title signed by Briggs Cunningham that dates from the '50s. Priced at $159,000, it indicates that the new owner of the vintage C-3 offered by Christie's made a shrewd buy that will continue to appreciate.-Carl Bomstead{/analysis}

Recent Blog Posts

  • "Paddy Power" (With Simon Kidston Cameo) +

    Paddy Power from Kidston.TV on Vimeo.   Read More
  • This Week's Classic Mystery Photo +

    The monthly Mystery Photo has been an SCM tradition for 25 years. Each week, we’ll share one of our “greatest hits” photos from the past and give you a chance to provide a new witty and provocative caption. Each week’s winner will be announced in the Newsletter. Share your caption Read More
  • Alex, the Viper and Timberline Lodge +

    My 23-year-old daughter Alexandra has had a summer of milestones. First, she graduated from Oregon State University, with a B.S. in Business Administration with a focus on Entrepreneurship and a minor in Writing. (Two years ago, following a year studying in France, she earned a diploma in International Business from Read More
  • October 2014 Cover Poll +

    Our Art Director, David Tomaro, has created three possible cover concepts, and we'd like to know which one is your favorite. Click here to cast your vote! In addition, please take a few moments and answer some questions about collector cars. It should all take less than a minute, and Read More
  • 600 Miles in an Air-Conditioned Amazon +

    Sometimes I just feel contrarian. A few weeks ago I drove our 1967 Duetto on the Porsche club-sponsored Northwest Passage. This past weekend, the Alfa Romeo Owners Club of Oregon had its annual summer tour. As I have five Alfas, naturally I decided to drive our 1967 Volvo 122S, a.k.a. Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4

Collector Car News

  • 1956 Ferrari 250 GT TdF and 1964 Shelby 289 Competition Cobra Headline RM London +

      Two significant competition cars headline RM's annual London sale, taking place September 8 at Battersea Evolution: a 1956 Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta Competizione ‘Tour de France’ and a 1964 Shelby 289 Competition Cobra. These two competition greats lead a roster of more than 70 blue-chip automobiles at the exclusive Read More
  • Corrected Dates For Hilton Head Island Motoring Festival +

      The Hilton Head Island Motoring Festival & Concours d’Elegance will take place October 24 – November 2. Jaguar Is the Honored Marque for the 2014 Festival. With nearly 80 years since the SS Jaguar name first appeared, the marque has far-reaching appeal and a wide breadth of history. Both Motoring Festival venues Read More
  • Final Results From Monterey: $428m +

    The six auctions of Monterey Car Week have released their official sales totals, and the numbers are the biggest we've ever seen: $428m for 828 cars sold, which averages out to $517k per car. That's a 39% increase beyond the $308m of Monterey Car Week 2013 and a 28% higher Read More
  • First Look: Preliminary Monterey Sales Total $400m, and a Post-War Ferrari Wins Pebble Beach Best of Show +

    Preliminary reports put the cumulative sales of Monterey Car Week 2014 at a whopping $400m, with 745 cars sold out of 1,235 offered -- growth of 30% over last year's cumulative $308m, and a bump in average sold price to $536k from $405k. The overall totals are sure to increase, once Read More
  • Bonhams Sells Ferrari 250 GTO for $38m! +

    A Ferrari 250 GTO hammered sold for $34,650,000 at day one of Bonhams' Quail Lodge sale. Including the 10% buyer's premium, the GTO was $38,115,000. Today's sale consisted of the 10-lot Maranello Rosso Collection. The Collection sold for a combined $65,945,000. About 100 more cars will cross the block on Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4