One of the genuine privileges of MCG’s life has been to hang out with his heroes. Phil Remington was one of them. One of the greatest fabricators racing ever saw, and probably its greatest natural engineer ever, Rem was the hands and the mind of the American racing scene in the ’60s. Scarab, Cobra, Ford GT, Eagle: he was instrumental in all of them.
MCG has a difficult time with obituaries. Instead, here’s a piece MCG wrote about Rem in 2002.
PHIL REMINGTON: Hidden hero of the Ford GT program
Every June, when the motorsports world turns its eyes toward Le Mans, Americans have one 24 Hours they especially like to recall: 1967, when three of our greatest heroes—Carroll Shelby, Dan Gurney and A.J. Foyt—brought home an all-American win with the Ford GT Mk IV. But there were more heroes behind the effort. They may not be as famous, but they are every bit as revered among their peers; none more so than Phil Remington.
Remington, whom Shelby engineer Carroll Smith described as “the greatest fabricator in the world, and that’s not his strong point,” was a keystone to the Ford GT’s success. Ironically, the man who aided Ford’s best and brightest was basically self-taught, on the dry lakes and in the race shops of Southern California in the ’40s and ’50s.
“I wasn’t formally trained at anything,” Remington says. “I had a couple of good instructors in Emil Diedt and Lujie Lesovsky starting out. Through the years I gained an awful lot of practical experience.” Remington continued his education with Eddie Meyer and Howard Keck, working alongside Frank Coons and Jim Travers, later to become Traco Engineering. And when Shelby moved his Cobra project into Lance Reventlow’s former Scarab shop, he picked up Remington. When the troubled Ford GT program was handed to Shelby, Remington’s unsurpassed skills as a fabricator and practical development engineer proved invaluable as a host of design problems were sorted out. “The biggest problem was the brakes. The car was about 2700 pounds—it was like a truck,” Remington recalls.
Dan Gurney, Phil Remington, AJ Foyt
To this day, while Southern California remains chock-full of gifted automotive artisans, Remington still ranks at the very top. And he’s still at it, for the last 30 years at Dan Gurney’s All American Racers, working on the Alligator motorcycle and other projects. A conversation with Rem is a virtual visit with all the great builders, drivers and cars of the last half-century—and their technical secrets, as he calls out the materials and specifications of all the components he designed and fabricated for them. He’s a walking Smithsonian of the American racing scene.
With skills so sharp as to turn other fabricators green with envy, it’s been said his presence can be hard on the rest of the help. Says Remington, “That’s what people tell me. I don’t think so. Maybe I’m a little demanding, let’s put it that way.” Not only is his work regarded as art, he has a reputation for turning it out efficiently. “I can still outwork a lot of the guys in our place,” he says. If you ask his secret, he’ll only say, “If you like the job you’re undertaking, it makes a big difference, rather than doing something because someone wants you to do it. I still work 50 hours a week, and I’m 81.”
And if you ask Remington about possible retirement, the question seems to have never crossed his mind: “Oh, I don’t know about that. I guess until I can’t do it anymore. I don’t have any hobbies. I’ve never had enough time to start one. I enjoy what I’m doing, so as long as I can get paid for it and produce, I might as well just keep doing it.”
–AutoWeek, June 24, 2002
Rem is survived by his daughter Kati, two grandsons, and his working family at All American Racers.