Briggs Swift Cunningham Jr. was a millionaire with a penchant for racing.
His father was founder and president of the Citizens’ National Bank, and a director of the Pennsylvania Railroad. When Briggs was five, his father died and left his son and daughter half of his estate, a considerable inheritance they couldn’t touch until their 40th birthdays.
In 1930, Cunningham married Lucie Bedford, the granddaughter of a cofounder of Standard Oil. It was during their honeymoon in Europe that Cunningham saw his first motor race, the Monaco Grand Prix. It made a huge impression on him.
Cunningham joined two friends in creating The Automobile Racing Club of America. He learned how to race cars and began competing internationally in 1950. Two years later, he placed fourth overall at Le Mans when his co-driver Bill Spear got sick and he had to drive 20 of the 24 hours without relief.
He raced boats as well, and in 1958, he skippered the American 12-meter yacht, Columbia, to win the America’s Cup.
After he retired, Cunningham built the Briggs Cunningham Automotive Museum in Costa Mesa, Calif., to house all of the racing cars he collected during his lifetime. It remained open for more than two decades before changing ownership and moving to Florida.
He was inducted into the America’s Cup Hall of Fame in 1993 and the Motor Sports Hall of Fame in 2003.
Cunningham died Wednesday. Cause of death was not released. He was 96.