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1952 Cunningham C-3 Continental Coupe Prototype

The 1952 Cunningham C-3 Continental Coupe Prototype was a remarkable piece of automotive engineering, boasting a Chrysler eight-cylinder, hemi-head V8 engine with four Zenith downdraft carburetors. With a displacement of 331.1 cubic inches, this powerhouse generated an impressive 220 horsepower at 4000 rpm. Here are some key details about this iconic vehicle:

  • Year: 1952

  • Serial Number: 5224

  • Wheelbase: 107 inches

  • Weight: 3460 pounds

Described as having "spine-jolting acceleration" and "ridiculous ease of motion," the Cunningham C-3 captured the hearts of automotive enthusiasts of its era. Equipped with a modified Chrysler Hemi engine, it offered remarkable low-speed torque and impressive performance figures. The car's top speed reached about 135 mph, with a cruising speed of 107 mph. Depending on the transmission, it could achieve a zero-to-60 mph sprint in as little as 6.9 seconds.

Briggs Cunningham, the visionary behind the C-3, aimed to qualify his cars for Le Mans, which led him to establish his own automobile manufacturing venture. Despite initially planning to produce 25 cars in 1952 and 50 in 1953, production numbers fell short, with only 18 coupes and 9 convertibles making it off the assembly line. This limited production, combined with the high cost of manufacturing, made the Cunningham C-3 a rare and exclusive vehicle.

Designed by Giovanni Michelotti and built by Vignale in Turin, Italy, the Cunningham C-3 stood out not only for its performance but also for its timeless and elegant design. In 1953, it earned recognition as one of the world's 10 best contemporary automobile designs, cementing its status as one of the most exciting American sports cars of its era.

The Cunningham C-3 Continental Coupe Prototype remains a coveted collector's item today, celebrated for its exceptional engineering, performance, and timeless design.

First 8 photos by: Peter Harholdt

Last 9 photos by: RM Auctions