Le Mans, The Post-WW2 Years.
1952 Cunningham C-4RK
By 1951 the Cunningham practice was to use “R” to designate racing cars. The “K” added to this one referred to Dr. Wunibald Kamm, a German scientist brought to this country after World War II. Reducing drag coefficient was his special area of expertise, Kamm being the first to demolish the theory that race cars were most competitive with long, pointed tails. Aerodynamically efficient Kamm-back coupes proliferated after the war. This Cunningham is a Kamm-back but with a difference. It is the only car known to have received the personal touch of Dr. Kamm himself, who made a quick trip to West Palm Beach to flatten this Cunningham’s tail.
With its high beltline, low roofline, twin scoops on the cowl and louvers all over, the C-4RK looked absolutely menacing. Nevertheless, the car’s claustrophic cockpit had persuaded Briggs that this was one Cunningham in which he did not care to compete. Consequently, driven by Phil Walters at Le Mans in 1952, the car was indeed intimidating as it stormed into the lead shortly after the start, with a pair of Ferraris and a Jag in frantic pursuit. The pace was too hot to last. A car has to finish to win, and the C-4RK didn’t. Valuable time was lost when Walters’ co-driver Duane Carter, who was used to driving the oval at the Indianapolis, smacked into the sandbank at Tertre Rouge and spent nearly two hours digging the car out. By midnight the C-4RK succumbed to the valve gear trouble that had also finished the race for the Fitch-Rice C-4R roadster, leaving Briggs alone on the course in the remaining Cunningham.
Nonetheless, while it was running, the C-4RK had proved as ferocious as its appearance. Walters’ 105.6 mph second lap was the Cunningham team’s best that year, and was even a bit quicker than the winning 300SL Mercedes’ fastest lap as well.
Here is my self built 1952 Cunningham C-4RK from a French Provence Moulage rain kit.
I have always been attracted to Briggs Cunninham's American racecars, especially those that raced at Le Mans.
Nice write-up David! When we get to 1953, I will post a few Cunninghams, as I am a fan of the marque too. Do you get the feeling you and I are the only Le Mans fans here?
In the meantime, how about the Team Cunningham transporter?
That would be great Harv. I actually will skip 1953 for the time being because I did not do a kit build for the winner that year and have not dug out my others to take pictures. If you would like to add some from 1953, that would be great.
I have 1954 ready to go. Yes, not to many Le Mans fans but there are a few. Hope to entice some more. Love that transporter.
I do have written for the 1953 year ready to go.
@david-green So here are my 1953 Le Mans cars. Back in the 2000-01 period Quartzo (a Vitesse sub-brand) made several of the 1953 entrants, including the Rolt/Hamilton winner below.
Quartzo also made the 2nd place Moss/Walker car No. 17:
The C-Types did well, with no retirements. I have one more C-Type, the No. 20 car entered by Ecurie Franchorchamps, driven to 9th place by Kaurent and de Tornaco.
I'm sure Ixo or Quartzo made the 4th place No. 19 car, but somewhere along the way I neglected to buy one.
Third place went to Briggs Cunningham's team with Phil Walters and John Fitch in the No. 2 Cunningham C-5R. Powered by Chrysler's hemi-V8, it must have impressed the European crowd, including someone from Dinky Toys, who made a diecast of it. It reached the highest speed in the race, clocked on the Mulsanne straight at 155 mph. Their 3rd place finish was the best Briggs ever did at Le Mans. Bizarre made my model (BZ037) around 2003 or 2004.
For Christmas some years ago, after I expressed an interest in Peter Hearsey's impressionist print of the C-5R, my wife bought it for me. It actual hangs in our living room, it just seems to fit in there with all our other knick-Knacks. The print is signed by Hearsey and John Fitch. My wife (bless her) also had Hearsey re-marque the print, consisting of a pencil sketch of the C-4RK driven by Moran and Bennett to 10th place. Another Bizarre model (BZ112), which could almost stand in for the 1952 car, having the same number.
BTW, I got to see the real C-4RK in Costa Mesa CA in 1982 when Briggs still had his museum open there. Here's a pic of it sitting next to a C-4R roadster.
My last model from the race is another Quartzo, the Aston Martin DB3S of Parnell/Collins. It DNF'd in the second hour due to an accident. Pretty car though.
You have done an outstanding coverage of the 1953 Le Mans race here. I'm glad that you selected the Quartzo models for inclusion. Now discontinued, they remain some of my favourite Le Mans models both in detail and accuracy. I have the Jaguars by Quartzo but not the Aston. Those Bizarre Cunninghams are outstanding. Seeing your C-4RK, I realize that I should have included the #1 car for 1952, not the #3 car that I photographed, which is the number for the 1953 entry.
The Cunningham cars were shown in Watkins Glen, NY. some years ago when they were on loan from the California museum. They had two on display at that time in the 1990s. I missed the California museum but did get to Watkins Glen.
I really like your Peter Hearsey print. As soon as I saw it, I went to my study to see if I had any by him. Unfortunately not, but I do have two by Keith Woodcock. I've shown here his 1962 E-Type at Tertre Rouge, with the Cunningham E-Type ahead of the Ferrari GTO. This is signed by Briggs Cunningham and Ray Salvadori from that later time when Cunningham stopped making his own race cars. My other is from 1984 with the Group 44 Jaguar, also signed. I treasure these prints as I'm sure you do also.
Hopefully, more of our fellow Diecast Zone members will become interested in Le Mans and similar sportscar racing. Thank you Harv.
@david-green David - Check out another print I have, almost the same vantage, but from 1963, by Graham Turner. Pictured with it are the 1st and 2nd place cars in 1/43. I've since upgraded the 250 P to a LookSmart; the GTO is by Kyosho. The left signature is hard to make out but I think it is one of the GTO drivers, Gerard Langlois van Ophem.
That is another great print Harv. I like your model pair shown with it. I have the 250P built by Starter, also an IXO issue but would prefer the LookSmart version. While I have several GTOs, I don't have that No.24. I appreciate you sharing these.
I'll likely do 1954 sometime next week.
I agree, and I look forward to it continuing. Much more fun that way.
This is really interesting material...thank you!
I'm also a fan of IMSA, WEC, Can-Am, and just about any type of road racing and have some cars in 1/43 scale from the 50s through the 2000s. I just haven't taken photos of them yet. I just haven't had the time in the last few months to take pictures of my collection, it looks like I might be able to get back to some picture taking now that things have slowed down around the house and I have some more "free" time. I enjoy the F1 series David started and you both have very nice collections of race cars.
It is nice to find members with similar interests. Your input is very welcome with or without pictures. Formula 1, CanAm and other racing will continue to feature in The Diecast Zone as Harv, myself and many others add posts. We love posting and getting replies. Thanks for your kind comments.
The Jaguar D-Type #15 of Peter Whitehead and Ken Wharton was a DNF.