One-of-a-kind vintage vehicle, the Strother MacMinn LeMans Coupe has won the hearts of auto aficionados all over the world. This distinctive coupe was created by automobile designer Strother MacMinn and was modeled after the slick, aerodynamic race cars that took part in the illustrious 24 Hours of LeMans endurance competition.
The Strother MacMinn LeMans Coupe was initially displayed to the general public at the 1956 Los Angeles Auto Show, where it attracted notice right away for its cutting-edge engineering and futuristic styling. The coupe was equipped with a limited-slip differential, a four-speed manual transmission, and a Cadillac V8 engine. One of the most modern and effective vehicles of its era, the vehicle also included power steering, four-wheel disc brakes, and a completely independent suspension.
Strother MacMinn, a renowned expert in automotive design, may not have built any of the Le Mans coupes he intended to enter in the race of the same name, but he still left behind enough ideas and instructions for just about anyone to build one themselves. In fact, one team of restorers plans to follow his instructions to the letter with one of the two Le Mans bodies known to exist.
While it has been asserted that MacMinn, who studied auto design under Frank Hershey as a young man and later rose to become one of the most well-known and influential professors at Pasadena’s Art Center School (later Art Center College of Design), never created a vehicle for mass production, his work history includes time spent in a number of production studios, including the one Hershey established to create the 1938 Opel Kapitan. Additionally, MacMinn contributed writing and artwork to a number of modern automotive periodicals, such as Road and Track, where he met another sports car aficionado in editor John Bond.
Bond started using a series of articles in the magazine in 1957 to investigate what it would take to win Le Mans with an all-American car. Bond was generally dissatisfied with the lack of American representation in the winner’s circle at the 24 Hours of Le Mans (and specifically at Briggs Cunningham’s lack of success in the race).
He compiled a list of requirements over the course of four articles with the help of a group of engineers: 88-inch wheelbase, 189-inch overall length, 48-inch tread, and 46-inch height. The Corvette’s V-8 would provide the engine’s power, and the powertrain would include a front/mid-mounted engine and a mid/rear-mounted transaxle like a modern Corvette.
According to MacMinn in his book Sports Cars of the Future, “the frame itself is incredibly tough and basic, comprising two straight parallel box beams, which keeps the cost on this custom built component low.” “Buick brake drums are used, and modified Cord hubs are used to drive them. Even the wheels are constructed of common materials. To reduce head resistance and weight as much as possible, the complete assembly is as compact as is practical.”
MacMinn worked hard to create a body that was aerodynamically effective, apparently being inspired by a pre-war Talbot-Lago. In order to achieve this, he did away with handles, ducts, and louvers from the design, incorporated the headlamps into the body, and in some of his prototypes, added a stabilizer fin that ran down the middle of the tail portion. Although fiberglass would have been a more feasible option, MacMinn admitted that he would have like to see the car’s body made of Lucite. Noting a recent trend toward racing number-obscuring body creases, he even made sure to include a portion of the body for a legible roundel.
However, the car’s outside styling was what actually made it stand out. The Strother MacMinn LeMans Coupe had a large hood, a short rear deck, and a low, streamlined body. The vehicle’s distinctive features included a wide, single-piece grille at the front and two horizontal taillights that wrapped around the corners of the vehicle in the back. Overall, the result was an automobile that caught everyone’s attention everywhere it went and appeared to have been built for performance and speed.
The Strother MacMinn LeMans Coupe was never produced despite having an amazing design and capability. Only one prototype was ever constructed, and it is still a rare and in-demand collector’s item today. The car continues to turn heads and elicit admiring glances from auto fans despite having been featured in various automotive magazines and appearing at numerous classic car shows.
The Strother MacMinn LeMans Coupe is unquestionably a vehicle that classic car enthusiasts shouldn’t pass up. This one-of-a-kind coupe is certain to make an impression on everybody who sees it, whether they are fortunate enough to witness it in person at a car show or they just admire it from a distance.
How many of Mac’s LeMans Coupes are still in existence?
What a wonderful question! There is without a doubt still one in California. On Ebay, I located another. In California, a third “body only” was discovered, while a fourth was discovered in Minnesota. And perhaps soon more will start to emerge.
Two more people—possibly three more—have left intriguing hints about their whereabouts, and I’m hot on their trail. Only time will tell. And… Recently, there have been whispers that Mac’s LeMans Coupe body would be “re-popped” and put up for sale once more—for the first time in more than 50 years.
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