If ever there was a great reason for a road trip to the West Coast, this is it! Petersen Automotive Museum on Los Angeles’ famous Wilshire Boulevard recently opened what promises to be a destination exhibit – Phil Hill: The Life of a Legend.
Created with the help of the late Hill’s son Derek, the exhibit gives auto buffs a revealing look into the life and work of one of motorsports’ most respected icons. Artifacts include the vehicles he raced, helmets he wore and dozens of photographs chronicling Hill’s staggering career success.
Hill’s racing career spanned from 1953-1967 and involved racing for multiple legendary teams including Ferrari, Ford, Aston Martin, Shelby and Chaparral. In what is considered the deadliest-ever era of motorsports, Hill never broke a bone or shed a drop of blood. He was the first American to win a postwar Grand prix in 1960 at Monza; the first to American to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1958; and remains the only American-born Formula One racing champion and in a member of the Motor Sports Hall of Fame of America and the International Motor Sports Hall of Fame. After retiring in 1967, Hill remained active in the automotive world. He worked for ABC as an auto racing commentator and edited Road & Track Magazine.
Hill also became an avid collector and restorer of vintage automobiles and served as a Rolls-Royce and Ferrari judge at the prestigious Pebble Beach Concourse d’Elegance for decades. But twice, Hill and wife Alma were on the receiving end of a Pebble Beach Award – its most coveted award, in fact. In 1955, Hill’s 1931 Pierce-Arrow 41 LeBaron Convertible Town Cabriolet won the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance Best in Show award. In 1977, his 1927 Packard 343 Murphy Convertible Sedan snagged the same award.
“Many car fanciers around the world with much more money, more employees and access to more great cars than Hill could possibly have purchased have paid many millions of dollars to win just one Best in Show,” Huffington Post journalist Steve Parker said in a tribute article, giving a nod to Hill’s collecting and restoring finesse. “Winning two is an outrageous, even outlandish, accomplishment.”
Petersen’s Phil Hill: The Life of a Legend exhibit runs through November 27. If you can make it to the LA area November 10, E3 Spark Plugs recommends catching the exhibit’s Tribute Night event. In celebration of the 50th anniversary of America’s first Formula One World Championship, the event includes dinner, a film highlighting Hill’s Formula One racing career and participation in the Le Mans 24 Hours, and a forum with several drivers who raced with and competed against Hill.
Respiratory problems complicated by Parkinson’s disease took Hill from us in 2008. He was 81 years old and is sorely missed by the racing and auto enthusiast community.