July/Aug 2019 edition
Issue #6 AutoMobilia Resource Magazine
The Time Has Come
The Walrus said to talk of many things,
Of ships and shoes and sealing wax,
And cabbages and kings…
Actually that is not exactly what both the Publisher and Editor of this fine magazine had in mind when they recently asked if I would write about what is my favorite thing after vintage cars, bright women, and loud music.
You know there are people in our life that we see irregularly. Yet no matter the elapsed time, the warmth and conversation always picks up precisely where it left off.
A select group of books fall into that category. And that got me to thinking about what it is about each of these special friends that mean so very much to me. For some, it is the specific content for which I had a passion, for others it is simply the manner in which it is written, sometimes it is the images.
In my youth I was taught to respect and try to read all manner of books, simply because each requires skill and effort to produce, and unless you try all within the scope of your passions, will you never learn what others have spent time and money to put into your hands.
Decades later I have become more selective. In no particular order, I look for quality of content, quality of writing and the book’s purpose. On that last, I can and do constantly read drivel if it satisfies the other criteria. And I guess that is the baseline, isn’t it.
Oddly enough, Motorsports writing comes in all categories and over the years I have set aside a number of books that, while not constantly called upon, comfort me simply by their presence on a nearby shelf. Some are more financially valuable than others but all have an equal and non-monetary value to me. And strangely, most have a story attached to them that prompts me to cherish them.
It was Monterey Week 1987. My first visits to the peninsula and its varied automotive adventures. I was at Laguna Seca Raceway wandering through the tent vendor alley. I was looking for Denise McCluggage, my favorite automotive writer, who had just released a new book with photographer Tom Burnside entitled American Racer. We had been up and down the aisle when I spotted Phil Hill in the Road & Track booth. He was signing and selling 4’x5’ John Lamm photographic images of him driving Pete Lovely’s Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa. I knew that he and Denise were close friends, so I queued up to ask where Denise might be.
The line moved quickly and after I introduced myself, I asked him my question. He said that since he was going to the pit area to race a vintage racer, he would take me to her. BTW he said, why don’t you buy a picture? Certainly! I said, somewhat startled by the question and swallowing hard. The cost was $400. As we walked the four minutes to Denise, he asked me how I was involved etc. I told him I had worked for Champion Spark Plug Co. and covered races with Champion Race Director, Dick Gail.
It turned out he was good friends with Dick and he said I looked familiar. I assured him we hadn’t met, but he insisted. As we neared Denise, he put his arm around my shoulder and introduced me to her as an old friend who had worked with their mutual friend Dick Gail, and helped him at the track. Denise beamed, and we hit it off right away. We were swapping stories about Dick, and I now had new friends in Phil and Denise.
Phil Hill – A Driving Life
Photography by John Lamm.
My “friend” Phil Hill was the first American to become a Formula One champion, and was a three time Le Mans winner. He also drove for ATS, Maserati and later Chaparral. But, Phil Hill was far more than a very good racing driver. He was also an excellent writer who drove important racing cars, and wrote columns about them and other drivers in Road & Track for years.
This book is a reminiscence of the time he and R&T photographer John Lamm spent driving important automobiles, not all racing cars, and profiling important contemporaries like Moss, Andretti, Dan Gurney and others. In this book you will find a story about the 1886 Benz Replica, and the cover car, a billiant Maserati 250F, his first F1 drive and the car in which Fangio famously overcomes a 48-second deficit in the final 22 laps to pass Hawthorne’s Ferrari and win the 1957 German GP on the last lap, and in the process, breaking the lap record 10 times.
Hill’s generous writing style and sensitive observations compliment Lamm’s incredible images. It is a journey that took several years on numerous race tracks in Europe and America to complete.
Phil Hill – My Driving Life is a treasure and a fascinating journey, and it also ticks off all three criteria required to exist on my top shelf. The writing on its own is worth the price, and the addition of John Lamm’s photographs and some vintage images taken at the time and featuring Fangio, Collins and others, puts “content” over the top. As for its purpose, few books go as far in explaining why we love racing cars, and the people who build and drive them. If you are only going to have 10 books on your shelf, be certain this is one of them.
Collectible Value: The book was a product of Bull Publishing, who also offered it as a Limited Publisher’s Edition of 300 signed by Mario Andretti and others. One slightly used copy of which is currently available on the internet for $500.
PS: Two years ago I met Phil Hill’s son Derek at Monterey and we had a moment or two to chat. I told him the story of his dad’s insistence on our having met. He said to me “I’m surprised and doubtful. My father had a photographic memory, and my belief is that if he said he met you, he probably did.” Derek has much in common with his father. And that is not a bad thing.
PPS. That framed image of Phil Hill in the Testa Rossa has never left my office, since it came home from the framer.
To read more great columns like this one from Peter Bourassa...
The Incidental Collector