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Phil Hill preparing before a race.

About Phil Hill

Born in Miami, Florida, Hill was raised in Santa Monica, California, where he lived until his death. He studied business administration at the University of Southern California from 1945-47 where he was a member of the Kappa Sigma fraternity. Hill left early to pursue auto racing, working as a mechanic on other drivers’ cars. Hill began racing cars at an early age, going to England as a Jaguar trainee in 1949 and signing with Enzo Ferrari’s team in 1956. He made his debut in the French Grand Prix at Reims France in 1958 driving a Maserati. That same year, paired with Belgian teammate Olivier Gendebien, Hill became the first American-born winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans [4] with Hill driving most of the night in horrific rainy conditions. He and Gendebien would go on to win the famous endurance race again in 1961 and 1962.

Hill began driving full-time for the Ferrari Formula One team in 1959, earning three podium finishes and fourth place in the Driver’s Championship. In 1960 he won the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, the first Grand Prix win for an American driver in nearly forty years, since Jimmy Murphy won the 1921 French Grand Prix. The following season, Hill won the Belgian Grand Prix and with two races left trailed only his Ferrari teammate Wolfgang von Trips in the season standings. A crash during the Italian Grand Prix killed von Trips and fourteen spectators. Hill won the race and clinched the championship but the triumph was bittersweet. Ferrari’s decision not to travel to America for the season’s final round deprived Hill of the opportunity to participate in his home race at Watkins Glen as the newly-crowned World Champion. When he returned for the following season, his last with Ferrari, Hill said, “I no longer have as much need to race, to win. I don’t have as much hunger anymore. I am no longer willing to risk killing myself.”

After leaving Ferrari at the end of 1962 in the great walkout of engineers, he and fellow driver Giancarlo Baghetti started for their new team ATS. Hill continued in Formula One for a few more years until he switched to sports car racing with Ford Motor Company and the Chaparral Cars of Jim Hall.

Phil Hill has the distinction of having won the first (a 3 lap event at Carrell Speedway in a MG TC on July 24, 1949) and last races of his driving career, the final victory driving for Chaparral in the BOAC 500 at Brands Hatch in England in 1967.

Following his retirement, Hill built up an award winning classic car restoration business in the 1970s called Hill & Vaughn with business partner Ken Vaughn, until they sold the partnership to Jordanian Raja Gargour and Vaughn went on run a separate business on his own in 1984. Phil remained with Gargour at Hill & Vaughn until the sale of the business again in 1995. Hill also worked as a television commentator for ABC’s Wide World of Sports.

Hill had a long and distinguished association with Road & Track magazine. He wrote several articles for them, including road tests and retrospective articles on historic cars and races. He shared his “grand old man” status at R&T with ’60s racing rival Paul Frère, who also died in 2008.

Hill was married to Alma, and had two children: Vanessa and Derek, and a step-daughter, Jennifer.

After traveling to the Monterey Peninsula in August 2008 for the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, where he had been a judge for nearly 40 years and the Monterey Historics, of which he was always seen getting behind the wheel of a race car. where he died after a short illness from complications of Parkinson’s Disease in Monterey, California on August 28th.