The Jalopy Journal
Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by Ryan, Jul 11, 2022.
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Great write-up! Badass! Thanks, Ryan!!!
Burnin' the midnight oil, boss?
Miles Collier in Briggs Cunningham's 1939 BU-MERC Special chasing down
Hugh Bancroft in a 1927 Delage at the 1940 New York World’s Fair Grand Prix
image from the Miles Collier Museum
Briggs Cunningham's 1939 BU-MERC Special circa 1945
photo by Smith Hempstone Oliver (image from the Revs Digital Library)
Briggs Cunningham's 1939 BU-MERC Special
photographer unknown (image from the Revs Digital Library)
Interesting that he found an SSK body in the junk yard! It appears that only 40 were built to start with. Half were race cars so attrition on those would be high. Still a lucky find even then
That’s pretty cool. I guess with all that torque in a light package it probably went like stink. I do know that those long straight eights will break the crank in 2 at high RPMs so he must of chugged around the racetrack. Would love to hear an audio recording of that.
Love them sports rods! But isn't it really more Buick than MB? It coulda been the "MerBU" - which might even sound better! All due respect to Mr. Cunningham, who was definitely a hot rodding, road racing pioneer who built a series of incredible cars.
I wonder how the "Old Grey Mare" fits into that style of racing.
I took these pics at last years Pinetree Jamboree.
Great story Ryan, thank you. I will admit my ignorance, I didn't know about this car. Seems like Buick powered home built specials beating the best from Europe is a bit of a tradition, what with this car and the famous yellow Junk Yard Dog. I'm kind of surprised that he chose a straight 8 over a V8; I thought the straight 8's were more known for smoothness and low end torque than for high end horsepower.
I noticed a column mounted shifter? No clutch pedal. Was an auto trans fitted?
There is a clutch pedal… missing a pad, so it’s hard to see… I assume it had the 3-speed but haven’t found any details.
I've seen pics of this before but never paid much attetion to it. Boy am I dumb! That thing's so rad!
Somewhere I heard that the Chrysler 300 got its inspiration from Cunnigham's LeMans efforts. The 300 F.I.A. Omalagato rule. I first saw the Bu-Merc in Cunninghams museum in Costa Mesa Ca. around 1967
Thanks for this. I knew about the car but never realized it survived.
When Cunnigham raced the Bu-Merc he used an alias so his mother, who hated racing didn't know what he was doing
Thanks,enjoyed the notes;
Miami/south Florida,is a great place to grow up in the 40s,50's n 60s as a kid totally in too race cars n hotrods!!
Names all around me,you'all now look at as big history,were just parts of my race car world.
I'll name a few,Eddie Rickenbacker,Briggs Cunningham an Jim Rathmann,but many more also.
Other states had nothing on Florida race wise.
For those all into the BS school of nothing happened out side of Calif. Dream on.
This is kind of a setup article… I’ve got a few more coming on Briggs and the way he attacked the learning curve of international Grand Prix racing.
All too cool, Most of what I knew of Briggs Cunningham was from reading Tom McCahill, stories from 50's magazine articles.
You just have to know who's "wrecking yard" to go look in.
No Buick V8 until 1953 and the Buick Donor may have been a new off the lot car.
I was referring to Ford's V8...
A hot rodded long stroke 320 in a sports car.
I would luuuv to drive that.
Very Cool . Briggs used what was the fastest at the time . Hopped it up and used what He found for a body . Very Cool . Sounds like a true Hot Rodder .
Engine has been replaced at sometime. Sporting a 1948-1949 in that picture spread. Great story.
Happy to see some coverage of Foreign Label Hot Rods.
Those floating fenders are the cat’s pajamas!
Great thread. Thank you for sharing this.
Growing up in SoCal I spent a lot of time at Briggs Cunningham's Museum in Costa Mesa. I don't remember the Bu Merc, but, then again, there were a lot of great cars to see.
Great to see the pictures of this car and to learn its story.
Must have been a brilliant and driven guy. Those of us familiar with sailing, (kind of like racing, at the opposite end of the speed spectrum!) are familiar with the 'cunningham', a very important control line that moves the maximum draft of the sail fore or aft, adjusted to suit windspeed. The cunningham is one of his inventions. Amongst many other accomplishments he also skippered a boat to victory in the America's cup. Fascinating.
I had no idea about his sailing adventures. I think he also gets credit for jazzing up the International racing color scheme for American racing teams - white bodies and a blue chassis - which was a color combo first intended for open wheel cars. Since the chassis isn't visible on full bodied cars, he put two large blue stripes down the centerline of his team's cars. Cunningham stripes are still around, and often used by major manufactures, like Shelby, Ford and Mopar.
“For all intents and purposes, Briggs Cunningham is the grandfather of American Grand Prix racing. You probably know his name from his Corvette efforts at Le Mans…”
As a young kid reading everything about American racers in all automobile events, Briggs Cunninham was one of the awe-inspiring guys. He had a ton of backers and that allowed his creativity to do all sorts of stuff. The three similar Corvettes out of all of the historic cars was our favorite. American sports cars challenging the fastest European race cars with something from Detroit.
Racing in Europe, the USA and many years later, what he did for sailing in the America’s Cup effort in 1958, had a long time lasting memory, for us.
As consistent sailors of sleek sailboats for the last 20 years and as a teenager scouring the local Alamitos Bay on 18 foot Malibu Outriggers every summer after surfing was a challenge. It was a fun way to stay involved when the wind came up. It was the best of the best situations. Surf in the early morning in glassy waves was always the goal. Then, when we were dead tired and the wind came up, back to the Long Beach Alamitos Bay to go sailing in the fast (then) Malibu Outriggers on the bay waters. The outriggers were pretty close to the original concept. The cross beams were tied on to the support the pole/canvas/netting deck to the outrigger.
No fancy clip in brackets, aluminum latches or sliding spinnaker poles, it was large round wooden beams and bamboo with ties that had to hold while sailing or we would be in the water at first blast of wind. It was fun being the driver, but the most fun was to climb out on the poles/decking to the outrigger when sailing across the bay in strong winds. If I did not get out there fast enough, we went sideways and flopped into the water. There was a fine line of knowing how much weight (me) to put out on the outrigger and keep a steady hull cutting through the water as fast as we could go. Sailing influence started early and so did admiration for those that could sail and sail well.
Briggs Cunningham had the early technology and skills to win the 1958 America’s Cup and have a stronghold in the sailing industry. (Cunningham name for sail adjustment)
“Over the course of his life Cunningham amassed a large and varied collection of automobiles, including many of his own former racing cars. After relocating to the West Coast, he purchased a property at 250 E. Baker Street, Costa Mesa, California and established the Briggs Cunningham Museum to house his collection. A 40,000 sq. ft. building became the museum gallery, which opened officially on 5 February 1966.”
“The museum was in operation for twenty-one years. Expected changes to capital gains tax laws prompted Cunningham to consider closing the museum in late 1986. Instead, the 71 cars in the museum collection were sold to Miles Collier, the son of long-time friend Cowles "Miles" Collier, and relocated to Naples, Florida as the Collier Automotive Museum Collection. The Collier Collection later became part of the Revs Institute display.”
Even though, we lived within 10 & 20 miles of the Costa Mesa Museum, we never were able to spend time there. Sometimes, shopping on the other side of the freeway at our favorite grocery store, was close. But, we did not have time to spend at the museum. So, no photos or memorabilia.
Over the years of sailing, we have been influenced by Briggs Cunningham. So, we have a couple of old America’s Cup Sailboats hanging around our house. One in our granddaughter’s room and the other in our office.
But, the influence of those Corvettes helped us along in SBC v8 power for our own cars.
Separate names with a comma.