Briggs Swift Cunningham II
N.Y. Times Obituary

 

CUNNINGHAM-Briggs Swift II. America’s Cup Winner and motorsports legend dies at 96. Briggs Swift Cunningham II, who was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, and lived the majority of his life in Westport, Connecticut, died in Las Vegas, Nevada on July 2, 2003. Mr. Cunningham was the son of a Cincinnati financier and businessman who funded the start-up of Proctor & Gamble. While attending Yale University, in New Haven, Connecticut, Briggs developed a love of yacht-racing, which lead him to international recognition when he skippered the Columbia to victory in the 1958 America’s Cup yacht race. In the 1930s Mr. Cunningham and two friends formed the Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA) to promote racing in the New York area. In 1940 he began designing and building his own cars. After World War II, Briggs founded the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) and competed in his first race at Watkins Glen, New York driving his “BuMerc”-a hybrid Buick/Mercedes of his own creation. In 1950 Mr. Cunningham began his quest to win the 24 Hours of LeMans race in France. To legitimize the image of American racers, Briggs decided to build his own car; an Americanmade sports car that would be competitive with the best that Europe had to offer. He was the first American to drive an American car in the 24 Hours of LeMans. Teaming first with Cadillac and then with Chrysler and their new “hemi” engine, Briggs designed and built the Cunningham car. From the first C-1 to the most successful C4R, the Cunningham cars were marvels of American design and engineering. Briggs Cunningham gained the respect of racers worldwide and created a style of car which served as an inspiration for the Corvettes and Vipers of today. Over the next twenty years, Mr. Cunningham continued to design and build innovative race cars. Through strategic alliances with Jaguar, Maserati and Roger Penske, Briggs continued to enter cars in races worldwide including the 24 Hours of LeMans, the U.S. Grand Prix at Watkins Glen and the Presidents Cup at Virginia International Raceway. Mr. Cunningham was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 1997 and into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame this past April. Mr. Cunningham is survived by his former wife, Lucie Bedford Warren, of Westport, Connecticut and their three children, Briggs Swift Cunningham III of Lancaster, Kentucky, Lucie Cunningham McKinney of Westport, Connecticut, and Cythlen Maddock of Palm Beach, Florida, and 16 grandchildren and 29 great-grandchildren. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Norwalk Hospital, Norwalk, Connecticut.

~ Published in The New York Times on July 6, 2003

   

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