• This Month's Issue

    Brass Era Strikes Gold: $825k 1905 Fiat 60HP

    $183k 356B "Super" 90 With a Clark Kent Engine

    Is McLaren's MP4-12C a Future Collectible?

    The Horror of a Frankenstein 280SL

    The First Range Rover Climbs to $217k

    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
  • 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 Blog Posts

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4

Collector Car News

  • Meet Donald Osborne in Paris +

    Join Donald Osborne of Automotive Valuation Services and Ed Fallon of Cave Creek Classics for the annual SCM Rétromobile Reception. The reception will take place Wednesday, February 4, at 4:30 p.m. We'll enjoy wine and refreshments at the Café Le Jambon à la Broche. The reception will end at 6:00 Read More
  • First Look: Arizona Auction Week Breaks $270m +

    Auction houses have begun to report sales from Arizona Auction Week, and the cumulative $270m total has already eclipsed last year's record $253m. These numbers do not include post-block deals still in the works or sales figures from Russo and Steele or Silver Auctions. Barrett-Jackson sold more than 1,611 vehicles, Read More
  • Arizona Star Cars +

    Arizona Auction Week has arrived! Here is our star car roundup with links to all the online catalogs: At their Phoenix sale, RM will offer a 1955 Ferrari 250 GT Europa Boano "Low Roof" Alloy coupe (pictured above; RM estimate: $1.75m-$2.25m). RM's sale takes place January 14-16. View all the RM Read More
  • Watch Our New T.V. Commercial! +

    Read More
  • BMW CCA Foundation Auctions 2015 BMW "30 Jahre M5" at Barrett-Jackson +

    The BMW Car Club of America Foundation will auction off the last unsold example of the new 30th Anniversary Edition 2015 BMW M5 "30 Jahre M5" at Barrett-Jackson in Scottsdale, AZ on January 15. Broadcast live on Velocity at approximately 5:00 pm MT, the proceeds from the sale of the most Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4

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 Profiles

load more / hold SHIFT key to load all load all