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.