Cunningham's announcement in 1951 of his intention to build an American contender for outright victory at the Le Mans race caused a stir on both continents. His team was already a favorite with the Le Mans fans, and the announcement demonstrated his commitment to fielding a winning team of American drivers and automobiles.
One of the cars, the Chrysler-powered Cunningham C4-R built by The B. S. Cunningham Company of West Palm Beach, Florida and driven by Phil Walters and John Fitch, finished 18th out of 60 starters. The other, driven by George Rand and Fred Wacker Jr., failed to finish.
In 1952 the C4-R of Briggs Cunningham and Bill Spear finished fourth overall at Le Mans.
A C4-R won the 1953 Sebring 12 Hours. At Le Mans Walters and Fitch finished first in class and third overall with a C5-R, and the two other Team Cunningham cars finished seventh and tenth. They returned to take third and fifth place in 1954.
These years were to be the high point of achievement for Cunningham-built cars at Le Mans. With victory unattained, the effort was described as a "gallant failure" by American journalist Ozzie Lyons. Later in 1954, a C4-R driven by Briggs Cunningham and Sherwood Johnston finished sixth in the Reims 12 Hour sports car race, behind three Jaguars and two Ferraris.
Malcolm Sayer, designer of the Jaguar D-Type, which had exceptional torsional rigidity, noted after the 1954 Le Mans that the chassis frame of the C-4R had "no effective diagonal bracing. It therefore twists so much that the door cannot work if one rear wheel is jacked up", and that the bodies were designed "with no theoretical basis".