Briggs Cunningham, Sports Cars, Class of 1997
Even in his late 50s, it was difficult to keep Cunningham out of a race car. A wealthy heir to a meat packing fortune, his name was -- and still is -- synonymous with auto racing on two continents. No single man, perhaps, had a greater influence on the course of American road racing deveopment right after World War II, and he was really the last American until Carroll Shelby to produce a successful American sports car. His Cadillac and Chrysler-powered Cunninghams were the scourge of American tracks in their time, winning not only the Sebring 12-hour in 1962 (the next American-made car to win that grueling race was the Jim Hall Chaparral, 12 years later) but a national championship at March Field that old timers still talk about. His cars also placed third at LeMans, and later, three of them placed 4th, 7th and 10th. A pioneer of SCCA's sports car circuit, Briggs started racing in 1948. He produced the famed Cunningham sports car from 1950 through 1956. After abandoning his car building project, Briggs continued to race successfully, both driving and owning expensive European machines. Later he established the Briggs Cunningham Museum which was world famous and a gathering spot for the very highest ranked personalities from the world of international racing. A perfect gentleman, Briggs was not the playboy type. He didn't smoke or drink and was widely respected by all. Cunningham also won the 1957 America's Cup as skipper of the Columbia.