Cadillacs at White House

Cunningham, Cadillac, Le Mans

For the 1950 Le Mans 24 Hours the American sportsman Briggs Cunningham entered two Cadillacs, one being standard and the other extensive modified. One was a standard Cadillac Series 61 sedan whereas the other, nicknamed by the French “Le Monstre,” used a Cadillac 61 chassis but with a special body constructed as an experiment by an aerodynamicist from Grumman Aircraft to lower wind resistance and reduce weight. The team at Frick-Tappett Motors on Long Island, working closely with the designer and Cunningham, prepared both cars. Le Monstre’s engine was still fairly standard, but with five carburetors. It was successful in that it was substantially faster in top speed than its unmodified sister. French journalists also had a name for that standard Cadillac, Petit Pataud (little clumsy puppy).

Le Monstre was driven by Cunningham and Phil Walters who was a very accomplished driver in his own right as the prewar Midget racer “Ted Tappet.” Walters was an owner of Frick-Tappett, makers of the Fordillac, a kind of hot-rodded Ford with a more powerful Cadillac motor. The Cunningham Cadillac sedan was piloted by brothers Miles and Sam Collier who were good friends of Cunningham. Here the two cars pass in line through the dangerous White House Corner (part of that house being visible to the right) which led onto the Le Mans start/finish straight.

The obvious damage to the right front of Le Monster arose from a Phil Walters practice crash and the resulting informal repairs. In spite of this and other first time troubles both entries finished the race with the sedan in 10th position and Le Monstre following in 11th due to an early sandbank excursion by Cunningham that cost four laps. Today these two icons of Le Mans history remain in their original Le Mans condition in the Collier Collection in Naples, Florida.

Photo by Louis Klemantaski ©The Klemantaski Collection – http://www.klemcoll.comn


One comment

  1. Jim Sitz · · Reply

    Le Mans 1950 was an introduction of Briggs Cunningham
    for myself. I had followed the previous years event with
    something called a Ferrari winning, however the idea of
    an American team with Cadillacs struck me as Bold and Exciting,!

    To make it more personal, my employer was publisher of
    automotive books and had new coupe 61 model, the same
    as driven by Colliers to 10th overall, That was impressive
    since it was pretty much standard except for the carbs and
    hood straps.

    Fast forward to 1956 and my going to Sebring 12 hour event
    and here in Briggs pit was the actual Le Mans Cadillac in
    his favorite metallic blue livery and towing a D type Jaguar
    to the race, Amazing to me that he did retain the old War Horse.

    jim sitz
    Oregon USA


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