CHASSIS NO: S818207
• Certified by Cunningham Motorsports Historian as a Former Briggs Cunningham race car
• Raced by Briggs and continually raced by famed journalist Denise McCluggage
• Matching numbers car
• Rare piece of history and believed to be all-original
Race log - Cunningham XK140 MC DHC.pdf
3.4-litre DOHC straight six-cylinder engine, double SU H6 carburetors, four-speed manual gearbox, front suspension transverse wishbones with torsion bars, rear rigid axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs, rack and pinion steering; wheelbase: 102”
This 1956 Jaguar XK140 Drophead Coupé possesses legendary American racing history. Purchased new by Briggs Cunningham and raced by Briggs as well as famed lady journalist and racer Denise McCluggage, this may be the unexpected find of the decade. It had been sitting in a garage for almost 30 years when the current owner found the long-lost car and gave it a careful tune up. Presented here in what is believed to be all-original condition, it brings with it not just well-earned patina, but early American SCCA racing pedigree.
As beautiful as she was fast, the XK140 was the Jaguar’s successor to the groundbreaking XK120. With a more spacious cockpit and legroom, improved brakes, rack and pinion steering, new telescoping shock absorbers and the first Jaguar option for automatic transmission, the new XK iteration was more than just a revision. The exterior enjoyed a small evolution including more pronounced bumpers, a sleeker grille, and more chrome trim, but fortunately the new XK retained the voluptuous curves that made the XK an icon of the post-war age.
The Drophead Coupé model, presented here, offered a sturdier canvas top that stowed behind the seat, a fixed windscreen, side windows and a small backseat as well as a walnut-veneered dashboard and door trim that reminded the driver they were in the lap of British luxury as well as behind the wheel of a racer. This particular MC (SC, special equipment in the UK) boasted a 3,442 cc, dual overhead cam, straight six-cylinder engine, which breathed through double SU H6 carburetors and was undeniably formidable on the blacktop.
During this period, Briggs Swift Cunningham became a Jaguar dealer and also purchased his first batch of Jaguars for his racing team. This car was actually among that first batch. Heir to the Swift meatpacking family, Briggs was independently wealthy and had an unquenchable thirst for sports. He was well-known, not just for his own exploits, but for launching careers and backing people he believed in, and Denise McCluggage was one of the lucky, albeit worthy, recipients of his generosity. McCluggage isn’t merely famous because she was a female journalist-turned-racer. She is celebrated because she was one of the true great car journalists in history and a seriously talented driver. The only journalist to ever be inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame, she garnered countless awards and was founder of what would become AutoWeek. Early in her career, McCluggage, working as a sportswriter, was on assignment at a Yacht Club in Connecticut when she met Briggs scooping ice cream for the kids. A friendship was forged, and the legendary journalist got her true start in racing. Among the most famous of Denise’s cars was a XK140 Drophead Coupé. This legendary Jaguar was the second competition car Denise McCluggage continually raced for Briggs in the SCCA and photographs of her with the car are included in the sale.
This particular Jaguar, chassis number S818207, was certified by Cunningham Motorsports Historian, Lawrence Berman, to be the original XK140 Briggs raced at Beverly Airport in 1956. Records show the car was raced there by Briggs then officially raced six more times on record by Denise McCluggage, which led to a first-place class C victory at Montgomery Airport in New York on August 19, 1956. This well-known piece of history was thought to have been lost to time by a myriad of Briggs and McCluggage enthusiasts until the current owner uncovered it in a garage. So, the story goes, Briggs held onto the Jaguar for a few years. Around the time McCluggage moved on to a Porsche, Briggs sold the XK to a close friend who kept it and stored it properly until he was elderly. He then sold it to a gentleman who let it sit in his garage for almost three decades. When the current owner uncovered this legendary Jag, he put it through a gentle but thorough tune up but left the presumed all-original car unaltered. In seeking certification by Lawrence Berman, the tell-tale sign for him was the pedals. Briggs chief mechanic, Alfred Momo, always bent Briggs’ cars’ pedals in a specific way to enable easier toe-heeling while racing. When the bent pedals were confirmed, all the pieces to the puzzle began to fit.
So, here it is at last, Denise McCluggage’s long-lost Briggs Jaguar. She spoke of it in numerous interviews and the car existed in photographs, but it wasn’t until a lucky twist of fate that it was uncovered, sleeping in a California garage. This numbers-matching piece of history appears to be all-original; it has matching chassis and engine numbers, a nod from the Cunningham Motorsports Historian and all the glorious patina that this storied racer has earned. This rare car presents an even rarer opportunity.