Phil had an amazing memory. At the beginning of the new millennium when I started to write about fifties-era racing, I often called him for remembrances. I recall an occasion when, in 2001, I was working on my third book, The Fabulous Fifties, Sports Car Racing in Southern California. (Enthusiast Books 2002), I had heard a rumor that there had been a hill climb on August 14, 1949 at the northeastern edge of the San Fernando Valley on Big Tujunga Canyon Road. I called Phil to ask him about the event. More than 50 years later, he was able to tell me all about it and in great detail.
Carroll Shelby had been scheduled to be one of the Tribute’s participants, but illness prevented his appearance. Nevertheless, he was represented at the Petersen gala by his first Cobra driver, Bill Krause as well as Shelby American driver John Morton, Ken Miles’ son, Peter plus my son and Shelby’s right-hand-man, David. It was remembered that Phil drove in 1964 and 1965 for Carroll Shelby’s Shelby American in Cobras and GT40s. Even though Hill and Shelby were great rivals during the fifties, they were also fast friends. The record shows that Hill participated in ten major events in both the U.S. and Europe during those years. His best finish for Shelby was a class win at Sebring in 1964 teamed with Dan Gurney. At Le Mans that year, Phil set a new lap record and was running in fourth when the GT40’s transaxle broke.
Jim Hall came all the way to the Tribute from Texas and brought the Chaparral 2E as well. In 1966 and 1967, Hill raced 17 times in Jim Hall’s Chaparrals, winning the 1966 Nurburgring 1,000 kms with co-driver, Jo Bonnier in the 2E. In the Can-Am, he was second at Mosport and won at Laguna Seca. At the 1967 Daytona, Phil and Mike Spence dominated the first four hours and set a new lap record in a 2F. At Spa, he set an all-time lap record of 146 mph. Phil and Mike won the 1967 6-hour BOAC 500, defeating Jackie Stewart and Chris Amon in the P4 Ferrari by 58.6 seconds after a nose-to-nose battle for the entire six hours. It was Phil’s last professional motor race.
Museum Director Buddy Pepp and his staff are to be commended for the effort and talent they put into this event. Also to be congratulated is frequent Sport Car Digest contributor Will Edgar, who was responsible for pre-event publicity. Due to him, the event was sold out long in advance.
Phil Hill Tribute at Peterson Museum – Additional Photos