SANTA MONICA, CALIFORNIA ARTICLES OF INTEREST & INFORMATION FOR CLASSIC CAR ENTHUSIASTS
ARTICLES OF INTEREST & INFORMATION ON HISTORIC CAR ICONS RELATED TO SANTA MONICA, CALIFORNIA - FALL IN LOVE WITH THIS ECLECTIC SEASIDE TOWN WITH ITS WORLD FAMOUS CAROUSEL & PIER & WIDE SANDY BEACHES TO ITS REVIVED DOWNTOWN AREA INCLUDING THE RENOWN THIRD STREET PROMENADE & ITS LONG HISTORY OF DIVERSE RESIDENTS WHO SHARE AND EMBODY THE LEGENDARY LAID BACK LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA LIFESTYLE!!
LEGENDARY SANTA MONICA RESIDENTS SADLY NO LONGER WITH US IN PERSON BUT WHO REMAIN WITH US ON SPIRIT -
PHIL HILL - Classic Car Expert, Championship winning race car driver and one-time partner of Santa Monica based legendary classic car restoration company 'Hill & Vaughn'
I never met Phillip Hill but in the classic car world his name is synonymous with knowledge, skill and expertise. Having lived in Santa Monica all his life and being so well known in the classic car industry. Upon completion of my research for this article, I came away impressed with Phils dedication and passion and his ability to remain humble in the face of his considerable talents and accomplishments.
Phillip Hill (or Phil Hill as he is better known) was born in Florida in 1927. He moved to Santa Monica at the age of two with his parents and lived here until his death in 2008. He was eighty one years old. Hill is best known for being the first and to date only American born man to win the Formula One Racing Championship but this was only one of his many accomplishments. During his lifetime, he held the title of master mechanic, accomplished race car driver and contributing editor to the popular Road and Track magazine, one of the longest running and most respected auto magazines. He was also a commentator on ABCs Wide World Of Sports and served as a sometime judge of classic cars at the illustrious and world famous Pebble Beach Concours dElegance held at Pebble Beach in Northern California every year. In his later years, during the 1970's, Hill established a very successful classic car restoration business with his partner Vaughn called Vaughn and Hill in Santa Monica.
The classic car industry, like any other, is filled with people of remarkable talent in all areas of the business from mechanics to judging to restoration. Phil Hill was extraordinary because of his skill and expertise in all areas of his chosen field- a feat that very few people ever manage to accomplish. Phil Hill had a lifelong passion for cars, which had its beginnings at the age of nine when he went for his first drive in an Oldsmobile that belonged to a family friend. At the age of twelve, Phils aunt bought him a Ford Model T car, which he took apart and put together many times in order to understand its mechanics. Phil also credited the Santa Monica road races as being a huge influence in his decision to pursue auto racing. In his own words - I am certain beyond a doubt that my attraction to road racing was due to living next door to the old Santa Monica circuit. The circuit that he referred to were the Santa Monica Road Races that took place from 1909-1919 as a means of attracting attention and a population to the fledging city of Santa Monica. The race had its start/finish on Ocean and Montana Avenue, then the race went uphill along Wilshire and back down San Vicente to the finish line. By the time Phil was born, the races, although once very popular and well attended, were no longer held due to safety concerns in the growing city but it was clear that they had fueled his desire to be a racecar driver.
This desire intensified over the years so much so, that by the age of 20, Phil Hill had dropped out of college to work as a mechanic on other peoples cars. In exchange for his services, Hill was allowed to race the Jaguars and Ferraris of these patrons. In 1949, at twenty-two years of age, Phil made his first foray into the world of auto racing by competing in and winning the Carell Speedway race held in Gardena, CA. His skill as a mechanic and now racecar driver did not go unnoticed. Englands Jaguar Team, one of the participants in the event, offered him a traineeship to further his studies as a mechanic. Upon completing his studies, he returned to America with a Jaguar XK120 that won him his first race at Pebble Beach in 1950. He would go on to win the Pebble Beach auto races in 1953 and 1955. The following year in 1956 he signed with Enzo Ferrari and raced for the Ferrari team for 6 years. Among Phils most prestigious race wins was the 24hr Le Mans, which he first won in 1958 with his Ferrari teammate, the Belgian Olivier Gendebien. The 24 hr Le Mans is a grueling endurance race where drivers race at high speeds for a little more than 24 hrs. This requires remarkable levels of concentration and skill and there are times when the drivers would have to race under difficult conditions such as torrential rain. It was illegal for one driver to attempt to race the entire course and due to safety concerns todays races involve 3 drivers per car. In 1958, when Phil and his partner Olivier won, teams commonly had 2 men per car. Hill and Olivier went on to win this prestigious title a total of three times- winning again in 1961 and in 1962.
In 1962 Hill joined Ferraris Formula One team, yet another considerable achievement. The Formula One is the highest class of auto racing and also the most advanced. This super competitive series of races require drivers to comply with a strict set of rules on pre-determined race circuits. All drivers of the team hold a super license, the highest class of license in the world. The Formula One championship is decided at the end of the season where the driver with the most points wins the championship. In 1961 that driver was Phil Hill, to date the only American born man to win this title.
After he retired from racing Phil Hill still made valuable contributions to the world of classic cars and car racing. He continued writing articles for Road and Track magazine, became a commentator for ABCs Wide World of Sports (the series ran from 1961-1998) and also established a well respected and classic car restoration business with his partner Vaughn- simply named Hill and Vaughn in Santa Monica. A fixture at Pebble beach, Phil Hill judged the Concours dElegance a record 40 times- more than any other judge. His death in 2008 was a great loss not only to the world of sports but to Santa Monica and the many people that he knew, touched and inspired both here and abroad. He continues to inspire people even after death- I know because I am one of those people.
Article written by Irene Cools, Santa Monica, April 2010
COMING SOON OTHER LEGENDARY PAST SANTA MONICA & VENICE, CALIFORNIA CAR ENTHUSIAST RESIDENTS ............
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