Start of the 1960 Le Mans 24 Hours picture
Start of the 1960 Le Mans 24 Hours (photo credit: Bernard Cahier/

Le Mans Corvette 1960 – Car Profile

Over the years, I kept in touch with Mike as he would excitedly send me info about some new discovery (the original fuel-injection plenum or whatever) and snapshots of the car’s progress. In 1987, he trailered the car to the Monterey Historics at Laguna Seca for its first public outing. I couldn’t attend, and in any case the car didn’t parade around the track as planned because Mike had installed the clutch backwards (a strange mistake for a Corvette restorer). A few years later, he would bring the car East, to the big Corvette swap-meet at Carlisle. I agreed to meet him there.

The car looked exactly as I had remembered it. The extra hood latches, the bungie cord securing the trunk lid, the running lights above doors, the stainless-steel exhaust-flashing ahead of the rear wheels, the dechromed fenders, the blue velour upholstery, the jerky movements of the big mechanical tachometer, everything. It even smelled the same and sounded the same when he fired it up. It didn’t run trouble-free for the whole weekend, but I did get to drive it partway between the Fairgrounds and town, with crowds thronging the route and cheering us on. It was like a time machine. Magical.

Shortly thereafter, I heard that Mike had died. Of cirrhosis of the liver. Mike was an alcoholic. He had always said the value of the restored #2 Le Mans Corvette would pay for his retirement…but it was not to be. His widow sold the car, in magnificent condition, to a restaurateur on Long Island (for considerably less than it worth, I understand), who in turn sold it to Otis Chandler, a fabulously wealthy car collector (his family owned the Los Angeles Times back when the Times was a great newspaper) who treasured American muscle cars. When Chandler died in 2006, his estate sold the car to Mitt Romney-lookalike Bruce Meyer, another fabulously wealthy collector (a real estate investor), who owns it to this day. The last I heard, it was on permanent display in the Petersen Museum in Los Angeles.

#2 1960 Le Mans Corvette at Carlisle swap meet
August 1993, Mike Pillsbury drives the #2 1960 Le Mans Corvette through town of Carlisle as part of the Corvettes at Carlisle show. (photo credit: Steve Smith)
1960 Chevrolet Corvette Le Mans at 2008 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance Bruce Meyer
1960 Chevrolet Corvette Le Mans at 2008 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, as entered by Bruce Meyer (photo credit: Sports Car Digest)
Corvette Racing 2010 Le Mans 50th Anniversary
April 2010, Corvette celebrates 50 years at Le Mans, 1960 #2 Cunningham Team Le Mans competitor and 2010 #4 C6.R GT2 (photo credit: Richard Prince/GM Racing Photo).

Over the years, there have been various “experts” who’ve debated whether I owned the #2 car or the #3 car, even those who’ve insinuated that I may not even have owned one of the original Cunningham Le Mans Corvettes at all. But I know what I know. When I first took possession of the #2 car, you could still see the faint outline of the number “2” on its flanks (Cunningham had put the numbers on with electrical tape). And the serial numbers match (the #1 car was 3535; the #2, mine, was 4117; the #3 was 2538 – all confirmed in Michael Brown’s documentary of Chip Miller’s restoration of the #3 car). I know the difference. And I always will. You never forget the one that got away.


I wrote this piece for my children, who think I’m just some old dude who fixes their bikes and book-bag zippers. “No,” I’ve told them, “I used to be somebody. A real car guy. The Editor-in-Chief of Car and Driver in the Sixties.” “Sure, Dad,” they say, embarrassed for me. So I wrote this to prove my bona fides (not that they’d even know the meaning of the term) by creating an original story out of whole cloth and line-editing it (the kids pointed out that one doesn’t need proofreader’s squiggles in this age of computers). I never planned to see it in print. Then I showed it to Sports Car Digest’s Jamie Doyle and he expressed an interest in publishing it, so I thought I’d better double-check my facts. Knowing that the Corvette faithful were coming to Carlisle, Pennsylvania, last May 6th for the premiere of the movie, “The Quest,” about the restoration of the #3 car by Capt. Jack Sparrow-doppelganger Kevin Mackay (of the world-famous shop, Corvette Repairs, in Valley Stream, Long Island), I wangled an invitation. John Fitch himself was there, still the sharpest knife in the drawer at 94 years old. The #3 car was parked in front of the movie theater, and looked every bit as good as Mike Pillsbury’s restoration of the #2 car. That is to say, perfect.

I sought out Kevin Mackay in the audience. He told me that Briggs later forgave Zora. Fourteen years after the debacle at Le Mans, upon the occasion of Zora’s retirement from GM, Briggs was unable to attend the ceremony, but sent along a hand-written note saying he hoped Zora wasn’t still mad at him for not letting him drive the #3 car. Zora smiled his rueful Russian smile.

Chip Miller, who dogged the unknowing owner of the #3 car for years (“unknowing” because the #3 had inexplicably been restored as an ordinary 1960 Corvette; the airline pilot who owned it was blissfully ignorant of its history) before the owner caved in and sold him the car, had had the dream of reuniting Fitch and the #3 car for the 50th anniversary of the Le Mans race, but Chip died unexpectedly of an incredibly rare disease (amyloidosis; 3,000 deaths a year, worldwide) in March of 2004. Chip’s son Lance, who shares his father’s unbridled optimism for all things Corvette, leaped into the breech, took over the project, and fulfilled his father’s wish. Bob Grossman had also passed away (in 2002), but Fitch, then 92, was there in 2010 with bells on, and drove a ceremonial lap of the Circuit de la Sarthe in the #3 car. High fives all around.

#3 Team Cunningham Corvette that finished first in GT at Le Mans in 1960
Le Mans, France, June, 2010. Modern Corvette C6.R Le Mans entrants together with the #3 Team Cunningham Corvette that finished first in GT at Le Mans in 1960 (photo credit: Richard Prince/GM Racing Photo).

Lance has also created the Chip Miller Charitable Foundation for Amyloidosis Research, so if you want to help, please check it out at Chip’s motto was “Life is Good,” and he lived every minute of his life by it. God speed to the Millers and to Kevin Mackay, who has given new life to so many long-forgotten Corvette race cars.

Now, if only they could find the missing #1 Cunningham Corvette. Mackay traced its existence to as recently as 1974, but when he went down to Florida to search the neighborhood where it had been registered, nobody remembered the owner…or the car. My kids probably won’t get this either, but sic transit gloria mundi might be appropriate here.

[Source: Steve Smith]

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Show Comments (27)

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  1. Kudos to Smith. Alternative title could be “Cars I Have regretted Selling. Although certainly not on a grand scale like the Corvette, my list of regrettable sales includes a ’64 Corvair Spyder whose demise was ensured by Ralph Nader who stopped the progress of US small cars in it’s tracks and who later allowed another American disaster named Bush, a ’65 Mini Cooper S, and a 1986 Porsche 930.
    I often wonder who’s loving them, now?

    1. Sam, You may(?) know a little bit about cars and perhaps just stick to them as your comment about Bush is way off the mark. I can think of 16 billion reasons not to like whats happening now to our country. Hope I can afford to keep the classics that I now have. Bill

  2. Indeed, kudos to Smith. What a great read that brings up so many memories of cars missed. My most painful miss was the Aston Martin DB4 GT offered in the high teens somewhere around 1980.

  3. Best “one that got away”story. Mine was 908 that a dentist would trade me for my 912. Mine was street legal.his was broken motor. I passed as I needed a ride to work more than a race car. Stupid life.

  4. Steve:
    Great story! It’s always amazing how so many of our famous racers were somehow connected as they plied their trade. The Corvette was a common thread for many, including you as well. How cool is that?

    It must have been quite an experience working at R&T. I read R&T from cover to cover as a kid when you were working there. Great mag then.

    Speaking of R&T, I used to read and follow with interest the several articles about the Cyclops car, a whimsical beast, to say the least. Lo and behold, Cyclops II appeared at this year’s Amelia! Apparently its concept had bit others with the same bug. What a treat to ‘discover’ that again!

    Best to you,

  5. Steve: As Paul Harvey would say, “Now you know the rest of the story”. A great read. All of us gear heads have the had it and lost it stories…….the car I miss most was the ex-Hulme Brabham BT-8 I bought out of a South Carolina junk yard for $ 2,900. C’est la vie.

  6. Having two friends distract the gendarmes then leaping over a wall and an earthen dike, I ended up in the Cunningham pits at around 10 am at LeMans in 1960. Took a series of color photos with my Leica M-2 of the Corvettes and then on down the line. It’s about time I get my act together and scan these onto a CD. Regards, Steve Snyder

  7. Mr. Smith,

    Nicely done. I’ve no doubt grandpa is smiling after reading this compelling story and seeing the images of his beauties fully restored. If you’re ever in the Philadelphia area, visit the Simeone Automotive Museum; they have the Cunningham C4R that won at Sebring, and it still runs like a “beast”. Best regards,


  8. Mr. Smith
    Congrats on your article, very interesting to me and I’m sure many others. I wonder if I might offer a correction, which if I’m wrong I will apologize now. I believe that the vehicle that Briggs Cunningham bought from Bill Frick was a “Fordillac” It was taken to LeMans as a support vehicle, I believe.
    Once again, many congrats.


  9. Dear Mr. Smith,

    Thank you for a wonderful story. And not to worry about the kids – the best part of it is that they’ll come around…

    Once again a great story and thanks to SCD for putting it forward.

    Looking forward to the next one,


  10. A nice article, thank you for the insight……. A couple of things 10 times $6,000 is only $60,000 I would very much like to buy a Lusso for that amount. Also, the Cunningham money did not come from the meat packing business…….
    Brigg’s Dad was an early investor in P&G.
    One of my favorite days was when I went to the Cunningham museum in Costa Mesa…. John Burgess and I started talking and in about 10 minutes I realized that about an hour and a half had gone by. That man new his cars.

  11. Great, detailed account by Steve Smith of an amazing saga for Corvette’s first racing event at Le Mans. Steve and part of his story have a role in ‘THE QUEST’, which I wrote & produced and which Steve graciously mentioned in his article. This compelling story is summarized in the film, using archival footage, some of which has never seen before.

    A great recollection.

  12. A few comments about my “$2,000” D-Type: I was dropping off a Sadler Formula Junior at Donald Fong’s shop in Atlanta, Ga. when I noticed this D-Type with a damaged right front body being examined by a man taking notes. This insurance adjuster had written the car off as totaled and sold it to me on the spot for $400. It turns out that the “bent chassis” was only the bent front superstructure for the body supports. It wasn’t long before my body fabricator, Mike Saggars and I had a new body corner and repaired superstructure installed.

    Since it was illegal at the time to import a used automobile into Canada, I logged the car in as “under repair”. After a season of fun racing with the car , I had to get rid of it back into the USA. I figured $2,000 was a fair price for the car since our repair costs were only a few hundred dollars. While I can’t remember who bought the car, I was sold rather quickly.

    A current update: I bumped into Mike Saggars at Silverstone in 2008 after we had lost track of each other for more than 50 years. By a sheer stoke of fate we found out that our same D-Type was at this race. Mike and I visited the car and with it’s current owner – who knew our entire story about his car. And yes, it is currently a muli-million dollar car!

  13. I’m old enough to say I enjoyed reading Steve’s work in both Road & Track and with Brock Yates in Car & Driver back “in the day”. This was such a great article that I posted it on Twitter. I, too have several “woulda, coulda, shoulda” scenarios. First was a 1966 Hertz Shelby GT 350H which I bought in 1969 for $2700 from a Mercury dealer. It was an awesome street car…I used to “eat Corvette’s for lunch”. I kept it for 3 years and sold it for a 1969 Porsche 911L which I then had upgraded with a RS engine swap. When last I saw, on a Barret-Jackson Auction TV show, the GT 350H’s were going for around $200,000……. Second was a 1959 Ferrari 250 GT Coupe which was the personal driver of the head mechanic at Beverly Hills Ferrari. It was in impeccable shape, Ferrari red with valve covers that were so clean you could almost shave off their reflection. The price in 1980 was $15,000. I kept it for 1 day and then panicked….I realized, as was mentioned in the story and a Comment above, that this car would be a very, very risky “daily driver”….especially if and when it came to the inevitable repair and replacement parts bills. So I brought it back to the dealer, got my money back and bought a (Grey Market) 1972 BMW 3.0 CSI coupe with Euro specs and wood dash for $15,000. Great touring car and a wife pleaser……. Ah, but what is that Ferrari worth now!

  14. Steve-

    Awesome article, many thanks for taking the time to sit down and document it for everyone to enjoy. I was honored to fulfill my father’s dream of taking the #3 Cunningham Corvette back to Le Mans 50 years later with John Fitch at the wheel! Life certainly throws us all curve balls and I’m thankful I was able to enjoy the ride with Mr. Fitch – it’s a moment I’ll never forget. The ‘Quest’ certainly captured every moment, if anyone is interested in watching the film check out the website: Michael Brown and his team did an amazing job at capturing our adventures and sharing the story of each car that raced at Le Mans in 1960. Again, Steve – thank you!

    Much respect,

    Lance Miller

  15. Thank you, one and all, for your kind comments on this story.

    @ Paul in Florida: I’ve no idea where the #1 car was last seen in Florida. You might ask Kevin Mackay:

    @ Ronald Sieber & Jeffry Martini: Point of order. The Bonds, John & Elaine (who owned Road & Track) wanted to hire to as the Editor of Competition Press after they bought it from my mentor, Denise McCluggage, but I insisted on finishing college, so they hired Jim Crow. When I graduated, they hired me anyway, and having just bought the execrable Car Life, they set me to work on that. I got to write stories for R&T (road tests of offal like the Humber Super Snipe and a flurry of race reports) but never got on the masthead. Somebody built a Cyclops (originally envisioned as a cartoon by the great Stan Mott) years ago that graced the offices of R&T in the Costa Mesa office where I worked.

    @ steve snyder: I’d *love* to see your pics of the 1960 Le Mans. If SCD doesn’t publish them, please email copies to me.

    @ Briggs Cunningham: Thanks; I was a great admirer of your grandfather and spent as much time in his pits as he (and Alfred Momo) would allow. He was extraordinarily generous in sharing his experiences (and artifacts) of Le Mans 1960 with me after I bought the #2 car..

    @ Damon Crumb & David Randall: I stand corrected.

    1. Loved the Cyclops stories. “You can’t win a rally if you finish ? Minutes late; you also can’t win when you finish ? Hours early.

  16. Steve, that is a GREAT story!

    It especially resonates with me because I have recently enjoyed my own “boy meets, loses, and regains car” experience, with the first ’62 Ferrari 250 GTO, s/n 3223 GT. You can read the whole story by Alan Boe in the current issue of Cavallino, #188.

    I’m sure you pine a little, as I do, for the occasional opportunity to snuggle up to your old “lover” a little. But it’s a sweet yearning, because you have the great memories and the relatively pain-free intervening years which, had you kept the car, would surely have not been so easy!!!

    Thanks again for the super story, and for recalling all those great names in early American motorsport, when we were “boys”.


  17. Two other factoids, minor and major:

    1. It wasn’t dry ice the Cunningham mechanics packed in around the engine, it was plain old H2O-based ice, as may plainly be seen in this documentary:

    2. In this self-serving General Motors puff piece, Dick Thompson makes repeated references to the “excellent” brakes. WTF? The brakes started to fade dramatically after the rain stopped. Thompson repeatedly had to slow the car with the engine (months later, when I got the car, the tach’s tell-tale was still stuck way above what Cunningham had specified as the absolute red-line). The over-revving was what caused the engine to blow with a mighty “bang” just as Thompson’s co-driver, Fred Windridge, was passing the pits with about 4 hours to go. Still, nice to see the old “Detroit iron” banging around the Sarthe.

  18. Never say never. The #1 Car from the 1960 Cunningham team has been found! Long thought lost in the mists of time, Kevin Mackay has been searching for it for 19 years, diligently running VIN checks, chasing dead-end leads and staying in touch with his vast army of spotters. The car had last been registered in Florida in 1974, but when Mackay went down there for a look-see, there wasn’t a trace.

    What happened was, the guy who owned it all these years was as much a pack rat as a fastidious collector. When he died a few years ago, his son inherited not one but two 35,000 sq. ft. warehouses, jammed with enough automobilia fill Charles Foster Kane’s Xanadu. So, it wasn’t exactly a “barn find.”

    After a year of digging, the son unearthed the remains of the #1 car, modified almost beyond recognition. Someone had added enough fiberglass to make it look like a Devin-bodied car, but underneath all the Bondo bling, there was the original, mostly intact, even down to the original body (which had been singed at Le Mans).

    Curious, he called Larry Berman, the automotive historian who runs the eponymous Cunningham website. Berman in turn directed the guy (whose name won’t be revealed until the car is presented to the Corvette cognoscenti at the “Corvettes at Castile” event later this month) to Kevin Mackay, who did such a magnificent job restoring the #3 Corvette for Chip Miller and his son Lance.

    I called Kevin earlier today, who was looking at the #1 car as we spoke. He vouches for its authenticity (as he did with the #3 car when it was “autopsied” after Chip Miller bought it years ago). Kevin will be at the gathering of the Corvette faithful at the Carlisle, PA, fairgrounds this coming August 24-26, along with the (as yet) unrestored #1 Corvette. I hope to be there, too. Y’all come on down!

  19. My brother was Mike Pillsbury, the restorer of #2. To say the least, the restoration was his love, his passion, his life. His family and friends were very privileged to watch a man who got to live his dream. He could name any part of any Corvette not only by sight, but also by feel. I am so glad he got to see his dream realized. It brought a twinkle to his impish eyes! There is a picture of him posing with his #2 on the cover of The Corvette Restorer Magazine Volume #24, Spring 1996. Kudos to you brother! Love, Katie

    1. @ Katie,

      I worked with your brother for the better part of a decade helping him restore the #2 car. I was amazed at his diligence, knowledge and enthusiasm. I was astonished that he even found me, so many years after I had owned the car (he had the gumption to coax my whereabouts out of Road and Track, where I’d placed an ad for the car 20 years before).

      I unearthed a lot of new information about the car after Mike pestered me to get in touch with my old friend Briggs Cunningham, but on his own he amassed more than I ever could have collected. He was always eager to talk to anybody who had ever had anything to do with the car, and also managed to accumulate an astonishing pile of relevant bits and pieces.

      Now that the #1 car has been re-discovered and the Cunningham team is once again complete, I think every fan of the effort at Le Mans in 1960 owes Mike a debt of gratitude for having been the first to track down one of the original cars and restore it to its former glory.

      –Steve Smith

      1. Yes, I wish he was alive to have seen all 4 Corvettes. He was always on the road, searching for that “rare” Corvette or Corvette part. It was his passion. Very few people actually get to live their dreams like he did. Katie Pillsbury Skelton

  20. I don’t get it , these 1960 Corvettes never won, why all the hoopla? A poor showing for GM and America far as I’m concerned… Not much different today, Corvettes have NEVER won like the GT 40s….

  21. My “woulda, coulda, and shouldas”….Second place Sebring Porsche RS60 for $ 13,500 (1979), an Abarth Carrera (1976) $2,200. However, my successes, ex-D. Hulme Tourist Trophy winning Brabham BT-8 ($2,900 in 1976 from a SC junkyard) , the Lang Cooper ( $ 6,900…same junkyard), and the 1934 Ford Model 40 Special Speedster (Edsel Ford’s car). You win a few and you lose a few. Just don’t look back.

  22. I have a ‘one I shouldda bought’ story. In the mid sixties I was living in Auckland New Zealand, I would buy a car keep it about a year then sell and buy something else which you coud do without loosing money in those days due to to the New Zealand restrictions on importing cars creating a price situation that I have never encountered since! I saw this beautiful two door coupe on a car lot that at first I thought was a Lancia Aurilia body by Touring but on closer inspection saw that it had a Jaguar engine and running gear and the body was fibreglass. It was a stunning looking car and I went back to look at it several times, the dealer didn’t know much about it and in the end I passed on it. Price wise it would have been affordable for me as around the 500 pounds (about $1000) was my limit. Several years later I discovered that Bernie Ecclestone now owned this car as it was the original Ferrari F1 chassis that had won the 1951 British Grand Prix driven by Froilin Gonzales – it was Ferrari’s first F1 victory. The car had been brought to New Zealand, raced for a year or so then verious mods had been done with the engine finishing up in a boat the body discarded and the chassis sold to renown New Zealand car guy Ferris De Joux who had designed the beautiful GT body and fitted the Jaguar engine etc. Later, after I saw the car someone reunited the chassis and engine and sold it to Bernie where it remains in his collection (I believe) and must be worth several millions of $$$ .Yes I cry everytime I think of it. From Wikipedia…
    De Joux bought the Ferrari 375 that José Froilán González drove and won the 1951 British Grand Prix at Silverstone from New Zealand racing driver Ron Roycroft. He converted it into a Gran Turismo that looked like a genuine factory built Ferrari road car. It was an exquisitely proportioned car used by de Joux daily for the next four and a half years until he sold it. The car was restored back to a single seater by a Christchurch classic car enthusiast and is now owned by Bernie Ecclestone.