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Old 09-19-2011, 05:05 PM   #1
AVANTI R5
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Default Car Treasure Unearthed

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Until recently, an old coupe with whitewall tires sat outside a barn in Madison, Conn., rusting among the pieces of junk in the backyard of a local firearms engineer.
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Dustin Drankoski/The Wall Street Journal A C-3 recently found in a Connecticut barn.



On Sunday, it will be a star. Auto aficionados from across the country are expected to come check out what had been the last missing piece in a small but notable collection of classic cars built by famed millionaire yacht and car racer Briggs Swift Cunningham.

The recently discovered treasure was one of only 25 C-3 sports cars built in the early 1950s by Mr. Cunningham, a Connecticut bon vivant and son of a wealthy Ohio banker who rose to fame racing cars and skippering his yacht Columbia to victory in the 1958 America's Cup race.
After it was located in April by a Cunningham devotee, the coupe will be displayed to the public for the first time at the Fairfield County Concours D'Elegance this weekend.

"It's like uncovering an Egyptian tomb," said Bill Scheffler, co-founder of the classic-car show.
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Dustin Drankoski/The Wall Street Journal Chuck Schoendorf's 1952 C-3.



The search for the last unaccounted-for C-3 coupe began in January, after financier Martin Gruss helped organize a reunion of Cunningham fans around the Cavallino Classic Ferrari car show in Palm Beach, Fla.

"I met other owners who had a similarly bent chromosome that causes us to have an above-average interest and passion in Cunningham cars," said Chuck Schoendorf, an insurance broker in Rowayton, Conn., who has spent years restoring his own Cunningham C-3.

Only 23 out of 25 owners had been located at the time, and the suspicion that the car could be in the hands of an owner who didn't recognize its worth took hold of Mr. Schoendorf.

The 24th car, one of five convertibles in the run, was located this spring in New Jersey.

"I soon got hooked on the idea of the hunt for the last car, finding that diamond in the rough that you don't even know still exists," Mr. Schoendorf said.
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Dustin Drankoski/The Wall Street Journal Car enthusiast Chuck Schoendorf



The allure of the C-3 dates back to the postwar era, when Mr. Cunningham became engrossed with the 24 Hours of Le Mans sports-car race in France. Determined to win the exclusive race in an American car of his own design, he used his family's wealth to build a small car-manufacturing plant in West Palm Beach.

He initiated a small run of 25 two-door road cars outfitted with powerful American Hemi V8 engines made by Chrysler. The elegant bodies were shaped by Vignale in Turin, Italy.

While Mr. Cunningham never won the Le Mans race, he was heralded as an American sportsman for finishing as high as third place, and appeared on the 1954 cover of Time magazine. He shut down the car-manufacturing plant in 1955, but sold the cars for up to $14,000 apiece, the equivalent of $100,000 today. Many ended up in the hands of America's elite, including Nelson D. Rockefeller, Edmond Du Pont and ironwork scion William A.M. Burden.

Mr. Cunningham died in 2003. The cars would switch hands multiple times throughout the years. So Mr. Schoendorf began his search for the last Cunningham C-3 with an unofficial register of the cars first created in the 1980s by a C-3 owner looking for parts. Self-described Cunningham motorsport historian Larry Berman had updated the list earlier this year on his website, briggscunningham.com, but still didn't know the whereabouts of the 25th car.

Mr. Schoendorf started with the last-known owner in the 1980s, firearms engineer Harry Sefried. He located Mr. Sefried's obituary in local newspaper clippings and began calling family members. Finally, in April he tracked down Mr. Sefried's daughter, Leslie Lockard, who was living in Pennsylvania.

"When Chuck called me, and asked to see the car, I said, the car wasn't lost, I knew where it was the whole time," Ms. Lockard said. "It was something he was very proud of—it had become a part of my father."
Her father had died in 2005, and his Cunningham C-3 remained uncovered, rusting amidst a backyard pile of yard equipment and mechanical parts.

Driving up to Connecticut to show Mr. Schoendorf what he called "the barn find of the year," Ms. Lockard recalled vivid memories of her father dropping her off at school in the Cunningham C-3. She said her father was an avid car enthusiast. He would tell her that when he met Briggs Cunningham, Mr. Cunningham was happy the car ended up in the hands of someone who would truly appreciate it.

Ms. Lockard, who plans to hold onto the C-3, said she always knew the car's value but was daunted by the prospect of an expensive restoration project.
"When I finally saw it in person, it gave me goose bumps," Mr. Schoendorf said.
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Old 09-20-2011, 11:25 AM   #2
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how do they fix something with that much rust? do they replace the metal or do something magical to dissolve the rust away? Just curious.

Also, if her dad was so proud of the car why did it rot outside for all those years? And if she knew it was so special, why didn't she take care of it? Weird.
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Old 09-20-2011, 11:38 AM   #3
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I wondered the same thing. My guess is she had no clue about the value of the car and could care less until someone came looking for it and brought up how valuable it was.
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Old 09-20-2011, 11:49 AM   #4
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which begs the question: how valuable is it?
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Old 09-20-2011, 12:27 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Tristar Racing View Post
I wondered the same thing. My guess is she had no clue about the value of the car and could care less until someone came looking for it and brought up how valuable it was.

Very much this. If she really cared she could have gone to target or sears and bought a tarp for it at the very least.

now that it is found and worth something, she wants to hold on to it to create a demand, saying how emotionally attached she is to drive up the offering price...

Clever girl.
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Old 09-20-2011, 08:08 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by monovich View Post
which begs the question: how valuable is it?
Whatever someone is willing to pay for it.
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Old 09-20-2011, 08:15 PM   #7
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That's surface rust it'll buff right out :-P
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Old 09-21-2011, 10:21 AM   #8
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There are many out there so keep your eyes open. I have made some great finds but none like this.
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Old 09-21-2011, 10:39 AM   #9
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which begs the question: how valuable is it?
I'll give them $100.58, then build it up for a demolition derby
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Old 09-21-2011, 11:18 AM   #10
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LeMons car methinks!
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Old 09-21-2011, 05:30 PM   #11
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That car isn't that rusted and they used way more steel back then.
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