America’ s Challenge to the Sports-Car Market
LATE in April details reached the Motor Sport offices from West Beach, Florida, of the new Cunningham sports-car, supplementing the preliminary announcement of this new make which appeared in last month’s issue.
The Cunningham is a very startling newcomer—startling as a very real sports-car emanating from a nation which has previously shown only sporadic and limited enthusiasm for cars in this class. Moreover, a team of Cunninghams is entered for the Le Mans 24-Hour Race, previously the preserve of British, French and Italian successes, Briggs S. Cunningham, who is the wealthy American sportsman behind this venture, making no secret of the fact that he hopes to win this classic race at record speed. Not only that, but the car is to be put into production, it is hoped by next winter when, although its output may be comparatively small, it could steal important sales from British and Continental sportscar manufacturers.
There is no doubt but that the Cunningham fully deserves the appellation of sports car. In a compact chassis of welded-up steel tubing, its wheelbase only 8 ft. 9 in., with a track of 4 ft. 10 in., is installed the new Chrysler V8 96.8 by 92.1 mm. 5,428-c.c. engine which, with inclined push-rod o.h.v., develops 180 b.h.p. at 4,000 r.p.m. At this speed the pistons move at below the critical 2,500 ft. per min. and 312 lb. ft. torque is delivered at 2,000 r.p.m. This output of than 38.4 b.h.p. per litre is given by the standard engine on a compression-ratio of 7.5 to 1, but modified Chrysler or Cadillac engines will be available at extra cost. Indeed, as with the best European specialised production cars, there is much choice in respect of the specification. Thus Carter, multiple Zenith or Stromberg carburetters may be had, ignition equipment may be Autolite, Mallory or Scintilla, fuel feed by mechanical and/or electric pump and the fuel carried either in an 18-gallon rear tank or two 16-gallon saddle tanks, one each side of the chassis.
Cooling is by pump, fan aided and thermostatically controlled; the electrical system is 6-volt, with a 130 amp/hr. battery.
The drive passes via a single-plate clutch and three-speed synchromesh gearbox to a de Dion back axle. Gear, ratios and two-speed or over-drive transmission are optional. Front suspension is by coil springs and wishbones, dual hydraulic shock-absorbers being used all round. There is worm and roller steering and it is especially intersting that centre-lock wire wheels, found in England only on Aston-Martin and H.R.G. cars, are used for this new American highperformance car. Great attention has been paid to brake cooling; the brakes have 12 in. dia. front and 11 in. dia. rear drums, are hydraulically-operated with a mechanical link-up between hand-lever and back wheels, and have a lining area of 241 sq. in. The Cunningham is 5 ft. 10 in. wide, 14 ft. 3 in. long, 3 ft. 4 in. to top of scuttle and has a 7.in. ground clearance. Its curb weight is quoted as 25 cwt. Tyres are 7.00-16 or 7.50-16.
The fine lines of the car are apparent from the accompanying photograph. The treatment of the facia, rev. counter, speedometer, oil gauge, oil and water thermometers, ammeter and fuel pressure and contents gauges separate dials on a neat centre-panel, shows that Cunningham has European ideals and intends to borrow only the power from his own country! Emphasis is lent to this by the Bugatti-like 17 in. spring-spoke steering wheel and general conception of the car. Upholstered in top grain leather, projections padded with foam rubber, the equipment includes radio, air-conditioning and, strange to us, safety-belts.
Seldom has the specification of a new car impressed us so profoundly. The immediate future, during those fateful hours at Le Mans on the 23rd/24th of this month, is likely to demonstrate the performance of the Cunningham. Certainly the new tubular-chassis XK Jaguar, lightened DB II Aston-Martin and Cadillac-Allard look like having a worthy adversary in Briggs Cunningham’s exciting new venture.