From The Grandstand

Freelance writer Carl Goodwin makes a convincing case when pegging this book as “a notch above . . . in price, content and quality.”

Everyone should buy this book – the one titled Phil Hill…A Driving Life. It covers virtually every important racing marque. Cooper. Porsche. Ferrari. Jaguar. Lotus. Alfa. Etc. It’s written by the late champion Phil Hill. Photography is, for the most part, by John Lamm. Terrific writing and terrific photography.Book Review: Phil Hill A Driving Life

It’s chronological, starting with the 1903 Benz and Hill’s cross-country 1915 Packard. These may be an acquired taste for some enthusiasts but they are where your Maserati came from. Where else will you learn that the largest displacement engine made by Packard was not a V12 but a giant inline 525 CID six.

Then we leap from MG #1 and Bugatti T51 into the era of the pre-war Grand Prix cars, Mercedes and Auto Union. Hill corrects misconceptions about these cars. It is the rear-engined “Audi” that is easy to drive and the conventional ‘Benz that is difficult. Why? It’s all explained.

With that big 11” x 13” format and glorious color photography, you might mistake it for a coffee table book, the kind in which strong graphics compensate for shallow content. But you’d be wrong, because it’s chock full of little-known interesting facts – Stirling Moss’s father raced in the Indianapolis 500… the reality of team orders at Ferrari…and advice not to adjust your Bugatti’s magneto in the rain (or a shocking development may ensue).

You’ll read profiles of figures in the sport – Moss, Fangio, Gurney, Andretti, Brabham, Ginther, Rodriguez, Paul Frere, Gendebien, Hawthorn, Collins, Behra, Ascari, Portago and more. Then there are glimpses of the great racing circuits: Donington, the Nurburgring, Indianapolis, Pebble Beach, Laguna Seca, Willow Springs, Reims and Spa, as well as the Alfa and Ferrari test tracks.

And how about the vaunted Mercedes 300SLR, the classic Maserati 250F, the all-American Scarab, side-by-side comparisons of Cooper and Lotus F1 cars, or Porsche RS60 versus the front-engined Ferrari Dino sports racer; Ford GT40, Chaparral 2E and 2F.

But wait, we’re missing the obligatory criticism of the book. With apologies, it must be said that the worst that can be found is a little repetition between two chapters about the Chaparral cars, on the subject of the mysterious automatic transmission.

Speaking of that, the technically-minded will not be disappointed, as we learn that the 250F went from a live axle at the beginning of its evolution to a state-of-the-art De Dion type…or about Colin Chapman’s defiance of the laws of physics with the Lotus 18 rear suspension…and how a Dino is made from half of a Ferrari V12.

Among scores of terrific photographs are these gems: the Le Mans winning Ford GT40 Mk IV in front of a huge American flag, and Dan Gurney with friend Phil Hill at his last Pebble Beach Concours.

In all of this, Hill revealed himself as more than a fine writer but a great thinker as his insights on the racing scene rolled out on the page. You will like his writing style – no clichés, just really good stuff about your favorite sport. If you’re looking for the inside story on racing in the golden age, look no further.

The book is published by David Bull, distributed in major book chains and priced at $75 a copy, a notch above the $49 books in price, content and quality.