One of the more amazing feats in automotive history was when, in 1950, Briggs Cunningham took a basically stock Cadillac Series 61 Coupe to Le Mans and placed it in tenth place. Co-driven by Miles and Sam Collier, college friends of Cunningham’s and founders of the Sports Car Club of America in a race that fewer that half of all cars entered managed to finish, the Colliers managed an average speed of 81.5 MPH for 24 hours.
The car, along with a modified Caddy with an aluminum body, dubbed LeMonster by the French, that placed 11th that some year are on display at the Collier Museum in Florida. (see link, below)
After the race, Briggs Cunningham had the car modified and used it as a tow car! I went to the Cunningham Automotive Museum that used to be in Orange County in the 1980’s, and it had a license plate and current California tags. They actually fired the car up and drove it off when I was there, and although the engine was basically stock internally, the dual exhaust made it sound more like a race car than any Cadillac I ever heard. I’d like to think that the then 76 year old Cunningham would take the old car out for a spin and drive down highway one with the windows down to listen to the exhaust.
Before it drove off, I took a peek inside it and noticed it still had the radio inside. Supposedly, the Collier Brothers listened to the radio while tooling around the course as the 3897 pound Coupe (about what a modern V-8 Camaro weighs!) leaned over like a sailboat.
The photo shows the addition of a tach and also that the car had a “Three on the Tree” transmission and shifter.
The main reason any of this happened is the amazing 331 cu. in. Cadillac V-8 was one of the more advanced engines on the planet. In fact, the 3rd place finisher, and Allard, was powered by the same motor in a much lighter car. Cunningham wanted to put the engine in a much lighter ford based car and call it a “Fordillac”, but was informed that he needed to make a bunch of those to enter the car in the race, he just stuck with the two Cadillacs.
The fact that a basically stock luxury car sedan could compete at this level and place ahead of every one the Jaguars and Ferraris at one of the worlds premier races was no mean feat.