Jordan Taylor had a special treat on Tuesday, as the reigning IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Prototype champion climbed behind the wheel of Cadillac’s 1950 Le Mans entry, nicknamed ‘Le Monstre’ for laps around Daytona International Speedway.
The car, built and raced by Briggs Cunningham for the French endurance classic, was on hand for a photo and video shoot, alongside Taylor’s championship-winning Cadillac DPi-V.R and a special edition ATS-V to commemorate the manufacturer’s IMSA title.
“I was very nervous to begin with because it’s all original from the 1950s,” Taylor said. “It’s one of a kind, everything is the same from back then except the seat belt was updated, but the same style.
“They were walking me through it and I tried to ask as many questions as possible so that if anything went wrong I’d know what to do. Temperatures, oil pressures, what I need to watch, you shift on the column which I’ve never done before.
“It was three-speed on the column and I’ve never done that before, and I didn’t want to blow up the gearbox. It’s drum brakes and carburetor so it’s all different. 3,700 pounds, so it’s a monster.
“When I left the pits, I cruised out of pit lane slowly and we were doing the photo shoot with the ATS-V and the race car, and I went out of the pits to turn and I turned like 90 degrees and it didn’t do a thing. It didn’t turn!
“I almost drove straight into the ATS-V and I almost had a heart attack.
“I went to the brakes, and the brakes don’t do anything. So I slowed down and I got behind everyone to get a feel for it, weaving around, touching the brakes, and I found out that you need 100 degrees of steering for it to do anything.
“You had to be super smooth on the throttle, and obviously it doesn’t stop very well with drum brakes and 3,700 pounds, but once we got going it was cool to feel it and get an idea of what those guys had to go through back then.
“I haven’t driven an open-cockpit car in years, so getting the feeling of the air going across my head and helmet, obviously you are extremely exposed.
“Back then you only have one lap belt and the side of the car is by my elbow.
“When you get up on the banking you look to the left and it looks like you’re going to fall out of the thing. It was definitely cool and an amazing experience.”
Cunningham entered both the Le Monstre and a relatively stock Series 61 Cadillac in the 1950 race.
The Le Monstre, featuring an ACO-permitted streamlined body fitted on top of a production chassis and engine, finished 11th in the race, after losing time due to getting stuck in a gravel trap.
The team’s sister Series 61 Cadillac, featuring a stock body, finished 10th.
“They had a top speed of 138, 139 miles per hour back then,” Taylor said. “I can’t imagine doing that in such a monster, hitting the brakes at the end of the Mulsanne straight with 3,700 pounds behind you.”
The Le Monstre is a part of The Collier Collection at the Revs Institute.