Feb 04 2019

Mystery Foto #5 Solved:Briggs Cunningham Driving His 1914 Mercedes Grand Prix Car at Sebring (1959)

Dick Gorman made a big challenge to see who can solve his never-before-published Mystery Foto.

Mystery Foto questions:

  • Identify as many automobiles and drivers as possible. Hint: There are at least two automotive legends in the Mystery Foto. One has an automobile named after him.

Briggs Cunningham (center) in his 1914 Mercedes Grand Prix Car which was a back-up and practice car for the 1914 French Grand Prix.

Henry Austin Clark, Jr. (far left) in a Mercedes.

Phil Hill (behind Briggs)  in the 1914 Peugeot L45 Grand Prix Two-Seater

  • Where and when was this photo taken? Hint: The race was held in Florida.

Sebring, Florida in March 1959.

  • This vintage race occurred before which significant race?

​According to Dick Gordon, who took the photo at Sebring, it was an impromtu drag race before the 1959 Sebring 12-Hour Race.

  • Kudos question: What did the hand signal in the Mystery Foto mean?

​The hand signal indicated the driver is slowing down or "I do not have control."

Comments (8)

Congrats  to Earl Grandal, Walt Gosden, Randy Reed, Hugh and Bill Hollingsworth for identifying Briggs Cuningham.

Kudos to Art Kleiner, Hugh and Bill Hollingsworth for correctly identifying the hand signal.


Howard Kroplick

Dick Gorman: This could be a difficult Mystery Foto because it was not something covered in the media and I just happened to be in the right place at the right time to get this shot. It is possible that I am the only one who photographed this moment….

The car is a 1914 Mercedes Grand Prix Car driven by Briggs Cunningham. It was taken in March of 1959 at Sebring, Florida in the morning before the 12-Hour Sebring Race began.

Briggs in the Merc, Henry Austin Clark Jr. in another Mercedes and Phil Hill in an Indianapolis Peugeot were having an impromptu drag race on the pit straight at Sebring.  Briggs saw a huge Pierce Arrow town car coming toward him from the opposite direction. He went into the classic SCCA hand signal of that period. (I am out of control, it is in your hands). Fortunately, a collision was avoided. This was shot with my old Minolta Super 35mm camera using Anscochrome film.


Briggs Cunningham in the 1914 Mercedes Grand Prix Car.

Henry Austin Clark, Jr. in another Mercedes.

Briggs Cunningham's hand signal indicating he is slowing down or "I do not have control." 

Phil Hill in the 1914 Peugeot L45 Grand Prix Two-Seater can be seen directly behind Briggs Cunningham'd head. This Peugeot raced in the 1916 Indy 500.

1914 Peugeot L45 Grand Prix Two-Seater. Courtesy of Dick Gordon.

Green Mercedes 300 SL Roadster

Type 45 Bugatti Royale or a Duesenberg Model J

Briggs Cunningham's Bugatti at the 1985 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance.

Briggs Cunningham

Briggs Swift Cunningham - A Brief Biography by Tom Cotter

Briggs Cunningham at the 1959 Sebring12-Hour Race.

1914 Mercedes Grand Prix Car. Courtesy of Paul Kierstein of The Revs Institute

The Grand Prix Car is now in the Collier Collection at The Revs Institute in Naples, Florida. The 1914 Mercedes Benz 41 BISS did not race in the 1914 French Grand Prix but was the back-up and practice car.

The #41 BISS can be seen on the far left.


Feb 03 2019 Earl Gandel 2:34 AM

Briggs Cunningham in an early Benz?  Plus, an obvious 300SLR. And is that Henry Austin Clark behind him?

Feb 03 2019 Walt Gosden 7:25 AM

My guess to the answers to the questions asked: Briggs Cunningham is in the car with his hands raised, do not have any idea why his hands are raised - he either won the competition or his car quit and would not run!
Austin Clark is at the wheel of the car behind this. The location is Sebring , Florida and this photo was taken at the time of the race.  The dark sedan in the background is a model J Duesenberg with either a Derham or Rollston body.

Feb 03 2019 Al Velocci 10:02 AM

Howard,  I ‘m quite sure the photo was taken at Sebring, I visited there in the 1960’s. The driver is Alex Ulman, the founder of the track. the photo was probably taken in 1960’s when the 24 hours race was instituted. The Mercedes in the background is the 300 SLR, a revolutionary design for the time with gull wing doors on the coupe.

Feb 03 2019 Randy Reed 12:54 PM

WAGS all. Briggs Cunningham in 1914 Mercedes GP, Henry Austin Clark in ???, Lindley Bothwell in 1914 Peugeot L45. Mercedes 300SL roadster, Packard/Stutz sedan in background. Sebring, Florida. Sebring 6/12 hour endurance race. Briggs is sayin’ “I win” or “I give up. The drugs are hidden in the belly pan”! smile

Feb 03 2019 Hugh 4:31 PM

It is Briggs Cunningham in a 1914 Mercedes GP car at Sebring. Behind him might be Phil Walters in the BuMerc and behind that is Briggs’ Peugeot circa 1913. There is a 1957 era Mercedes 300 SL roadster and a 1931 Marmon V-16 sedan. Briggs is likely signaling he is stopped so other cars will pass him.

Feb 03 2019 S. Berliner, III 9:49 PM

Just off the top, I’d say that’s a 1914 Grand Prix Mercedes and the driver’s signal is an exultant “I WON!”.  I can not make out enough of the car behind at left but that’s a M-B 300SL roadster beyond.  My first thought about the Big Black Beast at right was a Bugatti Royale but the wheels are wrong so maybe a W07 M-B Typ 770 Grosser Mercedes - neither one seems to have had a closed rear quarter panel saloon model, though.  ???  Sam, III

Feb 03 2019 Art Kleiner 11:15 PM

How about Daytona 500 in Florida, early ‘60s.
Hand signal indicates the driver will not move his car or his car is not running.

Feb 04 2019 Howard Kroplick 8:10 PM

Bill Holingsworth

Briggs Cunningham is in the Mercedes GP car (circa 1914+/-), Bill Spear is in the car to rear left, the blue GP car further to the rear left could be a Delage, if not, still mostly likely French. Behind the fence is the 300SL Roaster (1957-63). The mid 20’s sedan is not a Royale as they did not have spare mounted in the front fender. It could be a Bugatti, it could anything. The photo of the wheels is not clear enough to distinguish them, giving a hint as to the make of the car. Photo is taken at Sebring, probably before the 12 Hours Race in March. Cunningham’s arms are in the air because his engine has stalled at the start. Year of the photo would be in the 1960’s.

Feb 05 2019 Brian D McCarthy 9:09 AM

Even though his face is blurry in the photo, the only person that came to mind was Henry Austin Clark Jr. There’s an image of Henry in his 1923 Mercedes Racer within ‘The Walter McCarthy Photo Collection’. The image looks to have been taken at a race track, and the time period looks to be the same as Dick Gorman’s mystery foto. He’s either donning glasses or driving goggles in the mystery foto. Great photo capture Dick Gorman!

Feb 05 2019 Time Traveler 12:26 PM

Anyone think the gray car at left with Austie at the wheel might be Briggs’ Bu-Merc Mercedes? Howard, you posted this on Superbowl Sunday so obviously hands in the air means “Touchdown!”

Howard Kroplick
That’s funny!!

Feb 05 2019 S. Berliner, III 12:48 PM

O.K.; Briggs stalled out.  Exact same Peugeot L45 #8 - bravo, Dick!  300SLR - NO! - “just” a stock 300SL roadster.  Big Black Beast - no Marmon 16 I can find had a vertical windscreen.  The wheel is too small for a Bugatti Royale; Royale was Type 41; 45 was a small racer.  Can’t find any Marmon 16 or Deusy with a vertical windscreen and full sedan body AND a blind rear quarter panel.  Lots of club/sport sedans but their bodies end forward of back of rear wheel and most have an integral or external trunk.  Ditto Derham and Rollston.  Basically, no custom builders made a square-cut, full-bodied sedan.  So, what have we here?  If it was in the old car parade at Sebring, it probably survives and photos should be all over the Internet.  This is worthy of its own Mystery Foto!  Sam, III

Feb 07 2019 DON CORIE 2:13 AM


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