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Phil Remington


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#1 Dennis Hockenbury

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Posted 23 March 2004 - 02:15

On the Scarab II thread , I noted the following post regarding the legendary Phil Remington.

Originally posted by Bob Brzezinski
I don't know if you've been in touch with another very involved player, Phil Remington, but he is a friend of mine and I'd be happy to assist in that regard if you like. Phil is still active in the world of fabrication, has a memory like the proverbial steel trap, and would probably be happy to advise you on the details of the original Scarabs if need be.

Phil Remington has been involved with many highly famous cars and teams over the years such as Scarab and Shelby. Although he will most likely call himself a fabricator, he has proven to be a better practical racing engineer than most who have had formal training.

His contributions to the Shelby Cobras and Shelby GT-40 program are the stuff of legend.

Does anyone know what Mr. Remington has been up to since the 1960's.

This is a gentleman I would dearly love to see on TNF.

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#2 Mike Argetsinger

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Posted 23 March 2004 - 03:36

Dan Gurney introduced me to him in the AAR shop last week. He looked great and was fabricating something - whatever it was I imagine it was for going fast!

#3 rdrcr

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Posted 24 March 2004 - 02:51

Originally posted by Dennis Hockenbury
"...Does anyone know what Mr. Remington has been up to since the 1960's..."

From AAR:


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"In 33 years at AAR, nobody remembers Phil missing a day of work. His ability as a fabricator, designer, draftsman, engineer and all around problem solving genius has inspired 3 generations of racers behind the wheel, at the track or at the shop at home base. A huge number of alumni of the AAR Remington university have gone on to establish their own formidable careers in the motor racing industry.

Born in 1921 in Santa Monica, the cradle of hot rod civilization, Phil served as a flight engineer in the South Pacific in World War II. After the war, he started racing hot rods on the Dry Lakes. A severe motorcycle accident, which almost cost him a leg, finished that career and launched another. Phil found out what he could do with his hands, a hammer and a piece of metal! And he could do it faster and better than anybody else alive.

And so the journey began which took him around the world with the greatest racing teams of the day. He was with Lance Reventlow in Monte Carlo when he ran the first American F1 car, he helped the Ford Shelby Cobra Team win the sports car war against Ferrari, he was in the pits when Dan Gurney and AJ Foyt won Ford’s greatest victory at Le Mans, he joined Holman and Moody on the Southern Circuit, led an endurance test for Ford Motor Company through hazardous Afghanistan and was at the Speedway when the Gurney Eagles dominated the Indy car scene. He finally saw Bobby Unser drink that precious bottle of milk when he won the Indy 500 in a car which Rem helped to build at AAR and naturally he was there at the Daytona 24 Hours, at Sebring and Watkins Glen when the GTO and GTP Eagles started their winning streaks.

Handsome to this day, modest, outspoken, politically incorrect, proud, enthusiastic and full of a wicked sense of humor, Rem is the highly respected and beloved elder statesman at All American Racers. He lost his wife Joy two years ago, but shuns talk of retirement, though he allows “some hours on the weekend” to spend with his daughter Katie, son-in-law Dave, and his two baby grandsons, Tynan and Brady.

Dan Gurney, his boss and friend for more than three decades, calls Phil Remington AAR’s Rock of Gibraltar.” He is a marvel, an old salt, and an inspiration to young and old. “I know, it is a cliché, but when they made old Rem, they threw away the mold”.

Phil turned 83 last January 22nd and was principally responsible for the engineering on AAR's new bike, the Alligator. I had spoken briefly with Phil at the unveiling ceremony - one of the greatest pleasures of this hobby is talking with those who were "there" and really know what the deal is. Seems like there is plenty of spark left!

A nice story by Preston Lerner

#4 Dennis Hockenbury

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Posted 24 March 2004 - 03:57

Mike, meeting Phil Remington must have been a great (and enviable) experience.

Richard, many thanks for sharing those wonderful articles about Phil Remington.

Heartfelt words of admiration on a life well lived with accomplishments galore. It seems that I am not his only fan.

I for one, would love to have the opportunity to talk with Mr. Remington for an evening or more. He certainly merits a book on his experiences.

#5 Bob Brzezinski

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Posted 24 March 2004 - 15:54

Phil is a tremendous guy. I was lucky to have been introduced to him about three years ago. We only see each other a couple of times a year at most but when we speak he never fails to ask about my wife and kids, whom he remembers by name even though he hasn't seen my daughters in almost two years. He still works six days a week at AAR, and has been deeply involved in the "Alligator" motorcycle project that has been Dan Gurney's pet for some years now. When I built a Lister replica a couple of years ago I asked Phil to fabricate some aluminum brackets for the sidepipes, not because I couldn't get the work done locally, but because I thought it would be really neat to have something on the car that was made by his hands. I sent him a pattern and they came back in the mail a week later, perfectly finished. Typical of Phil, the check I had sent him in payment for his time came back with the brackets, with "VOID" written across it.

His memory is astounding. Last year at Monterey I sat with him for an hour or so, looking through a GT40 book I had brought. It seemed that he could look at every other picture and provide some insight that I couldn't have gotten elsewhere. When we got to the portion of the book that covered the Shelby years and the Ford factory effort at Le Mans, he was literally looking at each picture and telling me what each person was doing in them, why they were doing it, and what he was doing at the time. He can do that with regard to any project he has been involved with, from the Scarabs all the way back to working for Sterling Edwards, to his time racing on the dry lakes shortly after returning home from WWII.

I have posted this elsewhere, but I think my favorite car-related memory has got to be of sitting outside of Siebkens' bar at Elkhart Lake a couple of years ago, having a couple of Rolling Rock beers with Phil Remington. It was something I never dreamed I would do, back when I was a kid reading Cobra books, and it gave me a little insight into how much different things must have been in sportscar racing forty years ago.

Bob

#6 T54

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Posted 24 March 2004 - 17:40

In the early 1970's while working at AAR as a consultant (I was the guy doing the paint scheme and graphics on the Eagle Indy cars since 1972), my everyday ride was a 4-banger 500cc Honda that I transformed into a "Bol d'Or" style racer for the street. The only silly looking things on it were the stock battery side covers that did not match the brutal aspect of the bike. I drew a pair that were more in the style of the bike, and showed the drawings to Phil for advice. He was busy beating some aluminum sheet into wonderful shapes. He immediately quit what he was doing, got some sheet alloy and within a couple of hours, formed, welded and fashioned the most beautiful side covers you will ever see. I could not even attempt to compensate him in some way, he would never have accepted, this was the kind of person he was.
In 1977, there was a 10-year anniversary celebration of his involvement in the Dan Gurney win at Le Mans as well as his birthday, and my wife who is a really great artist, had secretly painted in oils a beautiful Ford MKIV in the esses with Big Dan at the helm. We gave him the painting and it still hangs in his home today, which makes me feel rather happy.
That did not make it even, but at least I felt better!
Phil is the most technically hands-on competent person I have ever met in my life. Without him, the Scarab, Cobra, Ford MKII and Eagles who probably have stood a good chance of failure.

Regards,

T54

#7 Bob Brzezinski

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Posted 24 March 2004 - 18:01

We were walking the paddock at Road America two years ago, looking at Rob Walton's Scarab (chassis #1), and he told me a funny story about working with well-known automotive artisan Von Dutch during his days at Lance Reventlow's shop. He said that, when they finished building a Scarab and had applied the "basic" blue paint, they would call Von Dutch and leave a 12-pack in the shop. When they would come in the next morning, the garbage would be full of empty cans and the car would be beautifully finished in Von Dutch's incomparable style, with all of the numbers hand-painted, pinstriping everywhere, etc.

#8 rdrcr

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Posted 24 March 2004 - 18:50

Great stories guys, keep them coming if you can...

Originally posted by Bob Brzezinski
"... he told me a funny story about working with well-known automotive artisan Von Dutch during his days at Lance Reventlow's shop. He said that, when they finished building a Scarab and had applied the "basic" blue paint, they would call Von Dutch and leave a 12-pack in the shop. When they would come in the next morning, the garbage would be full of empty cans and the car would be beautifully finished in Von Dutch's incomparable style, with all of the numbers hand-painted, pinstriping everywhere, etc."


Here's to "old-school" craftsmen :up: :up:

#9 Lotus23

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Posted 24 March 2004 - 23:46

Terrific stories, guys! Keep 'em coming!

The first time I saw the Scarabs up close and personal was on the road course at Thompson, CT. I believe it was '57 or '58. Lance Reventlow and Chuck Daigh had "come east" to do battle with the local hotshoes. (Back then, the west coast seemed like it was on another planet.) Chuck finished first, with Lance not far behind.

I thought the Scarabs were absolutely gorgeous creations then, and still do to this day.

#10 Bob Brzezinski

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Posted 25 March 2004 - 03:18

Great story, T54. I hope you still have that bike!

I wish I could recall a tenth of the neat stories Phil's related in my presence. Last year while traversing the paddock at Monterey, a member of our group pointed to the wheels on a Shelby Mustang and commented on how much he had always liked them. Phil quietly mentioned that he had designed them. In typical Rem fashion, he didn't bellow it out so that all six or seven of us could hear, but instead said it rather matter-of-factly to the couple of us within earshot. I'll tell you, his accomplishments to the racing world are pretty staggering, but he desires little or no credit and simply looks at it as "doing his job."

Later that same morning, we happened upon the Superformance display, where Pete Brock was showing off his new project, the SPF "Brock Coupe," to a sizeable group of onlookers. The moment he saw Phil he literally dropped everything and rushed over to him, virtually genuflecting in Rem's presence. Coming from a man who designed the original Cobra Daytona Coupe, along with virtually every Shelby racing paint scheme, badge, logo, etc., this was a pretty amazing sight.

Carroll Shelby paid him a supreme compliment a year or two ago at a banquet at the Petersen Museum, during a Cobra display there. In the presence of Dan Gurney and countless other luminaries who contributed to the success of the Cobra, Shelby took the podium and said something along the lines of, "I'd like you all to stand and recognize a man, without whose contribution we'd probably not be here tonight," and then asked Phil to stand up. He reluctantly did so, to a standing ovation, then again in typical style sought the back door at the first opportunity.

Shelby did the same thing last year in the autograph tent at Monterey. They had it set up so that Ford racing personalities were seated, about three per table, in a tent where racing fans could come through and get stuff signed. In that tent were some real legends, including Gurney, Bondurant, Lloyd Ruby, David Pearson, Parnelli Jones, Dick Hutcherson, Sir John Whitmore, etc. Shelby showed up just before the public was unleashed on the tent, in his private golf cart. When he disembarked from the cart he was immediately beset by the media and peons like yours truly, but made a beeline to the table where Rem was seated, and shook his hand.

The memories are not all rosy. Phil was at Riverside the day Ken Miles was killed. He has some awful memories of being in the pits, with Miles' son in attendance, waiting for the J-car to come around again, then seeing the pall of smoke. They rushed to the wreckage of the car, where they sadly found KM's remains. It was not the first time a driver he'd worked closely with had died, but you can tell from listening to him that it hit pretty close to home.

Phil also has some very un-PC stories about the, er, skirt-chasing habits of former employers, which I wish I could share... :lol:

#11 T54

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Posted 25 March 2004 - 03:25

Great story, T54. I hope you still have that bike!



Would you like to hear the story about my first concussion?

:lol: T54

#12 xkssFrankOpalka

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Posted 25 March 2004 - 04:19

This may be slightly off the subject but since we are talking about Scarabs I was in a modified race at Road America when Jerry Hansen raced his Scarab. He asked others whether he could take corner 11 flat out and they said it couldnt be done, thinking he could do it he tried and when I got to 11 he was upside down on the guardrail with the wheels spinning, body ripped off. I thought he was dead but only got a cut on the chin. The car was rebuilt and lived to race again.

#13 dretceterini

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Posted 25 March 2004 - 04:24

It's wonderful that people like this are still around. In today's world they are sadly few and far between.

#14 Bob Brzezinski

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Posted 25 March 2004 - 14:06

Yes, Phil is literally a living link to nearly every corner of American racing history. He is a treasure.

Frank, what year was the Hansen accident?

T54, your use of the word "first" implies that you kept riding motorcycles after that incident. :lol: Thank God for helmets or I doubt I'd have the "squash" to be able to post here.;)

#15 Dennis Hockenbury

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Posted 25 March 2004 - 16:28

I began this thread after searching on TNF and discovering that Phil Remington had not been previously discussed here, very much to my surprise.

I have enjoyed reading your various posts on this remarkable man, and I hope that there will be many more.

While I enjoy the history and stories of the cars, races, drivers, designers, and others as much as anyone, I have always held a particular fondness for the stories of those who generally remain behind the scenes of the bigger story. The "back room boys" who should perhaps be more properly described as artisans and craftsmen who devote endless hours in comparative anonymity to create the machines we enjoy discussing so much.

Phil Remington is but one of those artisans, but I can think of no finer example of the many.

#16 T54

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Posted 25 March 2004 - 16:45

T54, your use of the word "first" implies that you kept riding motorcycles after that incident.



Sure did but my second (and thanksfully last..??) concussion happened on four wheels!

Phil Remington and another AAR employee, Jerry Whitfill, a genius mechanic, helped me to build this home-built GP racer with which I won a lot of AFM and WERA races in 1976-77:

Posted Image

Phil shaped several small alloy parts that were incorporated into the fairing, helped me fashioned the seat made from a Harley Davidson unit, welded the fuel tank skins, cut and welded the rear swing arm, while Jerry machined the water pump, shock absorber towers, fork braces, foot pegs and a myriad of bushings and spacers. They also both helped with machining several bits for the engine and Phil welded the cylinder water jackets. Neither never asked me for anything, they just liked to help and were just happy to do it for me. The frame was welded by C&J after being formed and tacked by another AAR employee of which I can't recall the name.
Jerry also machined the aluminum front disk brake rotors and the special hub, the titanium axles and hardware, while Phil made the stainless-steel brake calipers anchors. I could not even think of drilling 1/8" stainless with my Black & Decker $12.00 drill!
This bike was substantially faster than the competition mostly composed of production racers sold by Yamaha and Honda. When I won a race, they were all happy and were always being helpful. Phil Remington always found a better technical solution to the ones I suggested, and it always worked!
I can't think of anyone today who would do the same things with such modesty and matter-of-fact than "Rem". He is my hero. I learned so much from him about engineering and metallurgy that truly helped me so many years later when I tackled serious car restorations...
Regards,

T54

#17 Bob Brzezinski

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Posted 25 March 2004 - 17:46

Neat, neat bike, and great stories about your unofficial "crew." It's funny, when you read stories about Rem from "the old days," you can derive the impression that he could be difficult and demanding to work for. Maybe he's mellowed with age but I've never really seen that side of him. It's pretty clear that he doesn't suffer fools, but I get the impression that, rather than being someone who yelled and criticized, he probably either a)just took over and did the work himself, or b)offered constructive, and instructive, comments on how best to get the job done. Maybe I've just known a different side of him, but one thing is clear, I've never known anyone who was so universally respected--and liked--by so many people, many of whom might be expected to look down their noses at a "mere fabricator." Of course, that's a bit like saying Picasso was just a guy who liked to mess with paint.

I think Phil is a little bemused at the interest in vintage racing these days. I do know he really seems to enjoy seeing other folks from "the old days," but he seems at least as interested in current racing technology as by the vintage stuff. I guess he remains a forward-thinker who is not daunted by electronics or working with carbon fiber or other more exotic materials. I think the extent of his involvement with the Toyota GTP program in the early 90's, when those cars were pretty high-tech both in terms of electronics and construction, attests to that.

I'm with you, I think it's great to read about the "behind the scenes" people, and Phil seems to get far too little credit, although of late that seems to have changed a bit. I'm always surprised to learn how many racing fans think he passed on a long time ago. I hope I'm half as sharp and mobile as he when I'm his age (if I make it that far--see above posts re: motorcycles, concussions, etc. :lol: )

#18 Lotus23

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Posted 25 March 2004 - 23:45

And kids wonder why they call it "The Greatest Generation": it was Phil Remington and folks like him that made it so.

#19 Bob Brzezinski

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Posted 26 March 2004 - 00:23

Yup, you're right on there. My father is a contemporary of Phil's--they're both in their 80's--and like Phil fought in WWII and then came home to a long, long career. My father finally retired last year, at my mom's insistence, but without her I'm confident he would have worked until the day he died. It's amazing when you think that Rem saw combat in WWII, which alone would constitute a life's achievement for many, then came home and began the career for which we all know and admire him, and at which he continues six decades later...the Greatest Generation indeed.

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#20 T54

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Posted 26 March 2004 - 01:06

It's unlikely that Rem will ever retire because he would not know what to do with himself, and unfortunately his wife died a few years back.

T54

#21 rdrcr

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Posted 26 March 2004 - 06:41

These "old-school" car guys are the unsung heroes of the motorsports / automobile restoration world. The mentality is consistent thoughout many of the characters, preferring to remain out of the limelight, just enjoying the tasks of creation and development.

Another such fellow who worked for me, was a similar genius when it came to metal fabrication and engineering. Not to sidetrack this thread, but that man's name was Ed Cope and I personally benefited both in education and monetarily, from witnessing literally hundreds of metal working and fabrication techniques. I.e. I saw Ed hand make a crankshaft for a 1909 Buick racing car- it was for the 326 cid 4 cylinder IIRC (and it was done in only 3 weeks), another was the hand making of a two-speed rear-end for a 821 Auburn and countless other saves during his tenure at my shop. Existing primarily on Camel straight cigs and black coffee, he would work day and night sometimes to finish a car for an event or customer deadline. Though we compensated him well eventually, he worked for the love of the job, much in the same way I image Rem has worked with AAR for over 3 decades.

#22 T54

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Posted 26 March 2004 - 16:28

Unlike many of other talented fellows, Rem does not drink, does not smoke and has no known vices... Except his true love for work. This makes him even more unique.

T54

#23 Dennis Hockenbury

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Posted 26 March 2004 - 21:43

Phil figures prominently in several books that I have read such as "The Cobra Ferrari Wars" by Mike Shoen, "Shelby GT-40" by Dave Friedman, and "The Cobra Daytona Coupes" by Brock/Friedman/Stauffer to name a few.

Finally with a bit of time to kill today, I spent a bit of time googling on Phil Remington. While I came across much that has been posted in this thread, I found the following that I did not know.

"Ian Garrad, the west coast manager for the a hot little British sports car called the Sunbeam Alpine Tigers. The Tiger was a sports car in need of a bigger engine. As a race car, it needed more horse power to compete with the MG's and Triumphs. Garrad saw what Shelby was doing with the AC Cobras and wondered if the same magic would work with the Tigers. He convinced his company, Rootes, to talk to Shelby. Rootes offered Shelby $10,000 to work on shoehorning the 260 Ford small block into a Tiger. Shelby gave the project to Phil Remington . The V8 Tiger was born. Now the competition was Jaguars, Corvettes and even Cobras."

Rem was the father of the Sunbeam Tiger.

He was also instrumental in constructing the little known early 1950's Edwards-America sports car.

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I would love to see someone write a book with Phil Remington on his remarkable career.

#24 Bob Brzezinski

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Posted 26 March 2004 - 22:50

Phil's got some great stories about working for Sterling Edwards. The Edwards-America was one of the very first fiberglass cars and they had some interesting experiences in coming to grips with the properties of 'glass. I'll see if I can dig up my notes on that topic.

The Sunbeam Tiger story is another illustration of the depth of his contributions to the automotive world. Just when you think you've heard it all, something else pops up...

#25 Dennis Hockenbury

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Posted 29 March 2004 - 14:16

Bob, I would love to know more about Rem's involvement with the Edwards-America if you would share.

#26 Bob Brzezinski

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Posted 30 March 2004 - 16:11

Will do. I've been under the weather the last few days but I'll see what information I've got on his time working for Edwards and post it--

#27 antonvrs

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Posted 30 March 2004 - 19:02

Yes, please- a book on/with Phil Remington, maybe written by DCN, is one I'd pay a lot of money for.
The whole history of southern California racers and their influence on motorsport worldwide, from Harry Miller on to the present time. It's too much for one book.
Fabricators are the unsung heroes of motor racing in my opinion. I've been lucky to meet and spend time with a few good ones and one thing they all seem to have in common is a talent for storytelling- and lots of great stories to tell!
Anton

#28 Dennis Hockenbury

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Posted 30 March 2004 - 20:47

Bob, I hope that you feel better soon.

Anton, I would have to agree on your choice of authors for a Remington book. I would think that a Rem book would have fairly broad appeal given the number of Shelby fans alone that would make this a must buy. Doug has shown a high degree of interest and inclusion of the behind the scenes folks, as in "Cooper Cars" and "BRM". He would be a natural choice.