Found! The Last Cunningham LeMans Corvette

Though not officially Chevrolet-sponsored, entrepreneur and auto enthusiast Briggs Cunningham entered three Corvettes in the 1960 24 Hours of Le Mans Grand Prix of Endurance with the support of Chevrolet engineers and Corvette icon Zora Arkus-Duntov. Two of the three have been restored to their LeMans grandeur, and you’re looking at the third. Modified and detached from its historic past by the transfer from one owner to another, the storied Corvette slipped through time incognito until 2011 when Rick Carr of Florida prepared to sell the car as part of his late father’s estate. Carr investigated the chassis number and soon this interesting customized Corvette became confirmed as “Corvette #1” from the 1960 LeMans. If you have an empty turntable in your subterranean garage or museum, this is your chance! Bid to win the historic Corvette in a No Reserve auction by RM Sotheby’s Amelia Island on May 22nd, 2021. Be sure to check out the full story at RMSothebys. Thanks to RM Sotheby’s for pictures and some details.

Custom fiberglass bodywork changes the look of the car from what was essentially a stock-bodied Corvette at LeMans. Cunningham himself and Bill Kimberly piloted the #1 car until a crash on lap 32 dashed its chances. The #2 ‘Vette suffered engine failure and retired at lap 207, and the #3 car went on to win the GT class with a solid 8th overall. Every Corvette benefits from lessons learned in competition racing, perhaps more than any other American car.

A 350 cid Chevy small block from 1970 fills the engine bay today. Interesting details that helped confirm the car’s provenance include an oversized fuel tank, evidence of the later-removed racing fuel inlet, bespoke brake ducts cooling original racing drums, wiring from the driver’s side roundel light at Le Mans required to illuminate the door number in the darkness, and more.

Many racing cars never get to grow old, and with this car’s stablemates Corvette #2 and Corvette #3 completely restored to roughly as-raced livery and condition, only this #1 car can be dissected and examined for evidence of the original modifications.

This LeMans photo indicates how far the Cunningham #1 has come. Would you leave it as-found or restore it to its first lap splendor?

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Comments

  1. leiniedude leiniedude Member

    Great story Todd! But Caterpillar yellow heads?

  2. Scott

    The Corvette gods might strike me down for this, but the custom body is not bad. That said, this car will inevitably be restored to its racing state, as it should be.

    Like 15
  3. sir_mike

    Please somebody restore this piece of history.

    Like 8
  4. DarrylB

    Unlike most cars listed as such this one is actually historic. If it was original I’d vote to leave the scars of age, but it’s been hacked at and modified. This is one of the few times I’d vote for a complete restoration.

    Like 13
  5. BlondeUXB Member

    Yeah, but…
    at this point it’ll be more re-creation than restoration.

    Like 3
  6. AMCFAN

    Not sure what the big deal is here. So one of three non GM sponsored race cars. The owners are taking advantage of the hype and value of the other two survivors.

    Yes it can be made back into a former race car clone of the original. At what price? It will never be original. With current events the cost to put back are far greater than when the other two were restored.

    I say leave it as is. It’s still a former race car that fact is true. The only reason to restore is to pump up the value and in the end no different than a restomod.

    Like 4
  7. Michael

    Am I the only one seeing that the three cars in the LeMans photos have quad headlights and this one has two?

  8. B.A. Schoen

    You have to put a motor in it.
    I’d be inclined to make it road worthy but not modernized too much.
    No need for 4 wheel disc’s, even mag wheels and radial tires.
    Put a crate motor in it, dress it period correctly and enjoy it.

    Like 2
  9. John S

    Wow! Interesting story for sure but there is not much left of the original car. Kind of reminds me of the George Washington’s axe joke: the axe’s handle has been replaced 3 times and the head twice, but it’s still Washington’s axe!

    Like 3
  10. Steve R

    Race cars were updated and often wrecked over time. It’s common for them not to have many original components left. The serious collectors know that. They are interested in the history of the car, the more important it was to the marquis or the greater it’s accomplishments the more forgiving they will be. They play in a different pool than people solely interested in street cars, originality is important, however provenance rules the day.

    Steve R

    Like 2
  11. James427

    After buying, collecting and selling classic cars for my entire life, I have learned that a car with a “story” will bring a lot more than a car without. This car has the kind of story that avid car collectors will be proud to tell so price will reflect that. I’ve owned Leman’s race cars before and there is a special feeling about being able to say which race, who drove and what the results were. Whoever buys this car will be buying the story that they get to tell.

    Like 11
  12. James427

    After looking at the photos, it looks like someone did some exploratory surgery digging for clues to the car’s past. Paint sanded down where the lemans #1 would have been, exposing the gas filler and chopping a huge hole in the back to see the original rear of the car underneath.

    Like 4
  13. Martin Horrocks

    James427 is absolutely correct. Assuming that RM Sotheby have 100% got this right, there will be a queue of people looking to own an ex-Cunningham Le Mans car. If the auction house is wrong, there´ll be a longer queue of lawyers.

    You can race and show this car at the very best events in the world. History is ongoing, and very soon no-one will remember what the car looked like in 2021, it will all just be part of the back story. I would love to see this car at Goodwood with a pro driver!

    Like 1
  14. Allen L

    The LeMans picture shows a four headlights front end, the car for sale, a two headlights, earlier model year front.
    Odd…..

    Like 5
  15. Ike Onick

    George Washington’s Original Axe For Sale. Head has been replaced 26 times, handle replaced 30 times.

  16. JYC

    Would be nice to have a picture of the car when it was new from customizing.

  17. JukeOfEarl

    I swear that this car was found and restored years ago.

    Although the restored car has the number 3.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iw1pEry1DTY&t=3s

  18. JukeOfEarl

    There was an article in the Corvette News or some place, eons ago, about a man that drove a GMC motorhome to the 87 Monterey Historics and bought what was supposed to be the #3 Corvette. Not the #3 Cunningham car, but the third Corvette ever made. he had all kinds of interesting troubles on the way. At the auction, drinks were served and I suspect he had a few.

    He got the car.

    I remember reading a letter to the editor, maybe in an old Motor Trend about a guy with a “53” Corvette that apparently at one time had a V8 in it. The Vin number showed it to be the #3 Corvette.

    So I always wondered if the guy buying the car at Monterey really did get the third Corvette or not.

    Jerry Seinfeld’s Carrera Speedster was sold at some high end auction and the buyer’s later sued him claiming it was fake. PS: I’ll take it.

    So I always wonder about cars like these.

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