Earlier racing history: Elkhart Lake

airborneThe above photo is credited to “Jack Webster Collection” It was taken at Elkart Lake in 1952–probably the Kimberly Cup race on Sept 6.

There was no #65 listed in the available record, but William Taylor was listed as the MG above #64.

Briggs Cunningham ElkhartLake-1952-09-07e
The name on the number 68 MG was listed as Briggs Cunningham, “owner or driver.”

It is highly likely that that one was actually Bridget in her original trim, as my gramps would’ve taken delivery of her exactly one month before that date in Bridgeport & no doubt he’d have driven straight to Wisconsin, possibly as part of the Cunningham caravan out of Fairfield County.

elkhart lake start
Alas, Bill Spear showed up with an Osca & that was that. Here’s a shot of him & that car apparently taken at Watkins Glen a few weeks later. (The crash on that weekend of course ended pure street racing for good). bill spear osca wat-glen 52At Elkhart Lake Spear averaged 66.2 mph, according to this site which fills in some of the known background. Second place was Karl Brocken driving one of those infernal Porsches (probably Jack Horner’s #79). Third place went to John Von Neumann, also in a Porsche (#11). Among MG drivers finishing were the fifth place (#67, William Lloyd, also of the Cunningham team), sixth place (Jack McAfee–not listed on the above referenced sheet), seventh place (#87, Robert Salzgabre), ninth place (#51, Norman Carlson), and tenth place (Fred Allen, number not listed).

Here’s an interesting take on the Von Neumann Porsche, which was actually a chopped ’51 356 coupe with a 1500 cc engine and (possibly) upgraded brakes. Here’s a much more recent shot of that famous survivor:

von neumann porscheIt is impossible now to know exactly what happened to get Bridget into that last road race at Elkhart Lake, but I have a theory:

Gramps was enthusiastic but not much for following rules and something of a skinflint (by necessity; the family lived in a walk-up apartment). He had neither the temperament nor financial wherewithall to be SCCA material.

Cunningham and his team would have noticed the green MG shadowing the team’s trucks like a fighter escort on a bombing mission. Gramps would’ve probably shown some speed during the 1,000-mile treck.

Cunningham already had an MG in the stable but Lloyd was racing that. Gramps wanted to race but, with no SCCA membership he’d be barred. Lending his brand new semi-factory semi-special would not have been easy unless it was to an experienced–and obviously very rich–player. That Cunningham himself apparently drove Bridget in this race would have been an honor for gramps.

The other possibility, of course, is that gramps talked Cunningham into claiming the car as part of his own roster and that Chester Griffin drove Bridget himself, flying Cunningham’s flag and his number.

Either way, it explains the little scrap of paper with the signature on it that I found behind the flask in the Gentlemen’s Emergency Kit that came in Bridget’s glovebox, courtesy of the boys at BCW.

BSCunninghamautographcropped

I envision a little paddock-side introduction, discussion & perhaps a toast from the flask, after which Cunningham signed the autograph. The GEK was removed from the car soon after and stored for over 60 years. . . .

That Bridget apparently did not finish that first race we’ll put down to sorting issues. Given that gramps had only had the car for four weeks, the engine would have barely been run-in before that first race–if, indeed, it had been run-in at all!

Perhaps the trip itself was gramps’ way of “running in” his new sports car.

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About stuntmidget

I'm a poor mechanic and general wisenheimer. I love old cars and the stories behind them, true or not.
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