Reg Phillips, probably the hill climber held in the
highest affection by the sport, died on 15 May 2008, aged 93. Best known in
the last 25 years for his indecently quick driving of a road-going MGF,
racing Peugeots 106 and 205 and a Talbot Sunbeam Lotus, his motor sport
career began before the Second World War in trials. He was a leading light
in this discipline in the post war years, which indirectly led to a trials
driver team including Reg entering the Monte Carlo Rally in a works Ford
In this age of specialization in motor sport, it's good to report that Reg
seemed to excel in all fields. When the 500 movement started, he used some
of his stock of Austin 7 chassis and a Norton engine to form the simple but
effective Fairley 500. The car, named
after Fairley Steels where he was Chairman, came 7th at the
1948 RAC British Grand Prix meeting at Silverstone; the first race to
take place at the venue. This was no mean feat, as the race was over 48
miles, and many famous names fell by the wayside.
As Reg moved in the 1950's to hill climbing he first built the brutal but
effective Fairley Ford side valve V8 (1954) and in 1955 acquired the ex-Guy
Arengo Cooper V-Twin. At the wet June Shelsley he achieved a 47.28, compared
with Tony Marsh's 42.6 in another V-Twin. The August meeting brought a 46 in
a Cooper 500 and a sub 40 in the twin. Always one to modify and improve, the
Cooper became more famous – and quicker – when fitted with a Coventry Climax
4 cylinder engine. In order to make the installation as simple as possible,
it was set transversely across the frame, driving through the V-Twin's
motorcycle gearbox. Cooper enthusiasts may wince at the idea of cutting
about a classic, but remember that in 1957 it was just an old racing car,
and was little different to the practice of recent years in modifying
ex-circuit Ralts and Dallaras into winning hillclimb cars.
The Fairley Climax metamorphosed into a specially built hill climber, with
which Reg achieved a Shelsley BTD in 1961 and 1962. It was later replaced by
a Chevron B19 sports racing car, a Chevron B25, a Ferrari 308, TVR, AC3000ME
(turbocharged) and the saloons mentioned earlier. Without exception they
were driven with verve and enthusiasm.
What made Reg stand out was his constant delight in the sport and his almost
boyish enthusiasm. He was rarely seen without a smile on his face. He was
known to many for his kind and generous gestures, which included providing
the cold pop at the top of Shelsley – always welcome! - and providing a
£1,000 prize for the first sub-25 at Shelsley. And of course, he was the
inventor of the word “Locaterfield”.
In 1996 we invited him as a guest at the 50 years of 500's AGM lunch, where
the company of Reg and his inseparable wife Peggy was utterly charming. As
one of the last driver/constructors of the early years of 500's he will be
greatly missed, but as one of the best liked characters hill climbing has
seen he will be remembered with a smile for many, many years.
Our thanks to Tony Cotton.