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HomeCar CultureDenise’s XK140 heads to hall of fame for induction ceremony

Denise’s XK140 heads to hall of fame for induction ceremony

Racer and writer Denise McCluggage won her first race in the car, which was a gift from Briggs Cunningham

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Denise McCluggage will be inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in early March as a member of a Class of 2022 that also includes Pete Brock, Helio Castroneves, Jack Roush and Banjo Matthews. While she won’t be there, she died in 2015 at the age of 88, the car in which she won her first race will be.

The car, a Jaguar XK140, was a gift from Briggs Cunningham, the wealthy American sportsman she met in the mid-1950 while covering a yacht race as a reporter. 

After writing for the San Francisco Chronicle, she worked at the New York Herald Tribune, covering motorsports and skiing and wrote a book on the zen of skiing. In 1961 she drove her Ferrari 250 GT to Sebring, won her class in the race, and then drove the car back to New York. She raced in the US, Canada, South America and in Europe, and won her class in the Monte Carlo Rally in 1964. 

At one point, she owned a racing newspaper, Competition Press, basically to keep it from going out of business, and she was a long-time columnist for CompPress’s successor, AutoWeek magazine.

The XK140 she raced has been owned for nearly three years by Barnaby Brokaw, a Southern California car collector, automotive historian and founder of The Motorcar Society. Brokaw had heard talk that the Cunningham/McCluggage Jaguar was one of two XK140s owned by a European living in the Pacific Northwest.

Denise McCluggage wins
Denise McCluggage takes the checkered flag in Briggs Cunningham’s XK140M in an SCCA race on an airport course at Montgomery, New York, in 1956 | Photos by Ozzie Lyons provided by his son, Pete Lyons
hall of fame, Denise’s XK140 heads to hall of fame for induction ceremony, ClassicCars.com Journal
That’s Denise in the No. 23 Jag
hall of fame, Denise’s XK140 heads to hall of fame for induction ceremony, ClassicCars.com Journal
Denise McCluggage | Hall of Fame photo

“I kept track of this car for almost 25 years,” said Brokaw, who got to know Cunningham after the sportsman moved to the San Diego area late in life. 

After acquiring the car, Brokaw was able to confirm its history with Cunningham historian Larry Berman.

“He had every record of the cars that Cunningham had his mechanic, Alfredo Momo, bend the brake pedal to make it easier to do heel-and-toe shifts,” Borkow said. 

“‘OK, that’s it’,” Brokaw said, quoting Berman. “This was an example of his work for sure.”

In McCluggage’s honor, Brokaw has nicknamed the car “Lady Leadfoot.”

hall of fame, Denise’s XK140 heads to hall of fame for induction ceremony, ClassicCars.com Journal
Barnaby Brokaw with the car after getting it back in shape for the induction ceremonies

“Here’s a person in a man’s world back in the day and not just racing but in journalism as well,” he said. “They wouldn’t let her in Gasoline Alley (when she was covering the Indy 500), she had to do driver interviews through the fence. She was such a unique individual.”

Brokaw said the car was complete and in original condition when he got it. “The leather is tattered but their DNA is intact,” he noted. “I got it running; I was going to do a sympathetic mechanical restoration but didn’t even go that far.”

Larry Edsall
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

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