The 1960 Corvette campaigned by American privateer racer Briggs Cunningham at the 24 Hours of Le Mans was sold on Saturday with the hammer dropping at $685,000 and the winner was none other than the grandson of Briggs Cunningham.
The former Le Mans-raced Corvette was auctioned by RM Sothebys at Amelia Island. With commissions, the total out-the-door price was $785,000 which fell below the pre-sale estimates of $900,000-$1.3 Million. The court-ordered sale concludes a remarkable and somewhat infamous journey for the No.1 Le Mans racecar.
The catalog description for the No.1 Le Mans racer offers the most detailed accounting yet for the nearly forgotten racecar which eventually turned up in a St.Petersburg, Florida warehouse in 2011. However, little of the original Le Mans Corvette was visible following major changes performed by a subsequent owner in the mid-1960s. Except for a few of the tale-tell signs that remained on the chassis, the car was only verified by its VIN which matched one of three 1960 Corvettes as raced at Le Mans.
Once the Corvette surfaced, a major dispute broke out over the car’s ownership including a claim that the car was stolen in the early 1970s. Following years of lawsuits and counter-claims, a federal judge ordered the race car to be sold with proceeds to be split among the remaining parties. The new owner will receive the car free and clear from previous claims and our hope is that it will be restored like the other two Le Mans-raced Corvettes were.
One of the stories presented in the auction catalog was Chevrolet’s back-door support for the Briggs Cunningham Corvettes which was approved at the highest levels by GM Ed Cole. Registration papers of the car at Le Mans lists Corvette Chief Engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov as the co-driver of the car along with Briggs Cunningham. The story goes that Chevrolet chief Ed Cole told Cunningham that Chevrolet would only provide continued support if Cunningham promised not to allow Zora behind the wheel. The reason presented was that Cole knew that Duntov was far too valuable to the automaker to risk in the dangerous 24-hour race. Cunningham kept his promise and Duntov’s seat was given to accomplished driver Bill Kimberly. That decision was said to cost Briggs Cunningham his friendship with Duntov for fourteen years.
The No.1 Corvette looked to be strong in the early going of the 24-hour race but several hours later it started raining. Following a driver’s change, Kimberly was handed the car all fueled up and with fresh tires. The rain continued and during his first lap, Kimberly lost control at the Maison Blanche corner where the car spun out and flipped over twice before landing upright on its tires. A fire broke out and the car was retired after just 32 laps completed.
Now with the No.1 Corvette back in the family and all the previous drama now in the rear-view mirror, the Cunningham family will be making some key decisions regarding the future of the car. We can only hope that outcome will be positive for all involved.
Thanks to Lance Miller, we have video of the auction as it happened:
Former Briggs Cunningham 1960 Corvette Le Mans Race Car Headed to Amelia Island Auction
Former 1960 Le Mans Racer Back in Legal Limbo Following Closure of Dealership
No. 1 Briggs Cunningham 1960 Le Mans Corvette Racer Found