Automobile Magazine Remembers Phil Llewellin

Our beloved, lusty Phil Llewellin is gone forever, his loving heart giving out as he swam in the sea off the coast of Croatia with his wife, Beth, and friends. We have wept, as those of you who knew him only through these pages may feel compelled to weep, for we will miss him as a fount of knowledge, a lovely writer, and a boon companion. He had just ticked off countries fifty-eight and -nine on his life list, and it seems right that the eternal Shropshire Lad was far from home when he passed. We will honor him in full in the October issue.

From Gavin Green, former editor, Car (U.K.)
I have a lots of great memories of Phil, not least this final thought. Hisdaughter Philippa said to me at his funeral, “You know, I should be so sad.But every time I look at a photo of him, he always looks so happy.” That sumsup Phil. A guy who lived his life to every cubic inch of its capacity.

My other memory was of his writing. When I started editing Car magazine in1987, he was probably the star writer, certainly the most versatile. Thisis the very last paragraph of a story he wrote for Car in 1990, tocommemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the Battle of Britain. We had commissionedhim to take a red Bentley Mulsanne around various Battle of Britainlandmarks:

“The last name on my list was Tern Hill, 15 miles southwest of Crewe, whichhad been a training and operational base in 1940. On 18 July, a pupil pilotwho had just celebrated his 23rd birthday took off in a Harvard, whichcrashed near Nantwich at 3:15 p.m. He left a pregnant widow. Her son was bornon 23 October, 11 days after Hitler, thwarted by Fighter Command’sresolution, rolled up his invasion plans. Fifty years later, the pilotofficer’s son was commissioned to roam far and wide across England,gathering Battle of Britain material. He drove a red Bentley Mulsanne.”

Motoring journalism doesn’t get much better than that.

From Dr. Ulrich Eichhorn, Bentley member of the board, engineering
We were invited to dinner at Phil and Beth’s house. The other guests were Murrayand Sarah, who used to run a private school, automotive legend Ronald”Steady” Barker, and George Daniels–generally considered “the world’sgreatest living watchmaker” and inventor of the first major new escapement(the “heart” of any mechanical watch) in 200 years. Alexandra and I drovethere in our 1960 Bentley S2, which with the Llewellins and the Eichhornshad gone to the south of France last year for the concours d’elegance inBergerac (Phil wrote a brief article about this “Bentleys to Bergerac” drivewhich–alas–has never been published). After some drinks and talk on allmanner of subjects, we started talking watches. Of course, we admired GeorgeDaniels’s “Daniels – London” wristwatch of which he makes about one a year,when he asked if we’d like to have a look at a proper pocket watch and–in amatter-of-fact way–pulled from his pocket a Thomas Tompion watch withrepeater chime from around 1700, a one-off worth much more than all the carsoutside the house and maybe the house as well. He went on not onlyto trigger the chime but also open it to let us all appreciate the finemechanism!

Today’s greatest watchmaker demonstrating a work of the greatest watchmakerof 300 years ago . . . only at the Llewellins’ and with their great friends!

We miss Phill A LOT!

From Mel Nichols, Haymarket editorial director
P.J. O’Rourke, David E. Davis, Jr., and I were grateful beneficiaries of PhilLlewellin’s passion for and knowledge of Wales and the border country wherehe lived.

In a bar one night in 1983, Phil was telling stories about the legendaryWelsh drovers who for centuries walked their cattle, sheep, pigs, and geeseeast over the mountains to market in England. To save the animals’ feet onthe wicked tracks, cattle were shod with half-moon-shaped steel platescalled cues. Pigs were fitted with little leather boots, and the droversran the geese through troughs of hot tar and then gravel.

Phil made it sound so magical we cooked up a scheme to get some 4X4s andfollow the drovers’ “roads”–unpaved tracks over the hills and through themarshes. I knew this was a jaunt David E. Davis, Jr., would love. I invitedhim to fly over. That was how Phil met the crew who’d go on to launchAutomobile Magazine. With diligent research, he traced the route of one ofthe main drovers’ roads and took us through some of the U.K.’s mostspectacular country.

We had such a riotous time that David E. suggested we repeat it again thenext year, and he volunteered to bring a bunch of American SUVs to pit againstthe European stuff. Phil, eager as always for new adventures, rushed off todelve into his books and maps again. He reckoned he could come up with aneven tougher challenge.

This time he assembled us at the bottom of Sarn Helen, an epic route builtby the Romans that runs south to north through wildest Wales. What’s left ofit is the toughest long-distance off-road route in Britain. The promise ofthe fun in store got even spicier when David and Mrs. Davis arrived with oneP.J. O’Rourke in tow.

At the end of each day’s slog (the Range Rover and the Mercedes G-wagen emergedas the best vehicles), we tumbled into remote and ancient hostelries nearthe trail. Phil and P.J., instant soulmates, held court in the bar, swappingjokes and quaffing vast amounts of Sheep Dip whiskey until the wee hours.They were three uproarious nights none of us who were there will everforget. Phil worked hard and was the consummate professional by day (as isP.J.) but by God he knew how to play at night!

From Steve Cropley, Autocar editor-in-chief
Phil had traveled before in the hearse that bore him on his last journey.In fact, he’d driven it. Five years ago, he conned the funeral director intolending it to him for an afternoon to do a road test. He sold the resultantstory to the Daily Telegraph newspaper. When it came tojournalistic enterprise, Phil Llewellin was always the man.

From Martyn Goddard, Automobile Magazine contributing photographer
I have so many great memories of working with Phil for thirty years. Wetraveled thousands of miles together in the U.K., Europe, and the U.S.A.for clients such as Automobile Magazine, Audi, Car and Driver, CarMagazine, Classic Car, SuperCar Classics, Scuderia, and Truck Magazine.We had both started as freelance contributors for FF Publishing in theearly 1970s. I was assigned to work on a travel and group test called”The Drovers Trail” in Wales, which would be a watershed in both Phil’sand my careers, as we met and worked with David E. Davis, Jr., for thefirst time.

Once Phil and I were covering the fortieth anniversary of Ferrari at anevent in Imola, Italy. We arrived at the press desk and asked for ourpasses. Phil stated his name and then went into his customary act ofspelling out “LLewellin” to the bemused listeners, who, with atypicalefficiency, handed over an accurate set of credentials. I followed Philand stated my name. The pages of names were searched, but there was no”Goddard” to be found. After much scratching of heads, it was located as”Norton Gamfred.” Phil spent the day carping on the fact that theItalians had correctly managed “Llewellin” but failed with “Goddard.”

On exiting the track and entering the autostrada, Phil was still talkingabout the mixup at the press office when, instead of taking the tollticket, he drove through the barrier on the mistaken belief that ahitchhiker standing next to the toll booth had waved him through. Thiswould have been no problem if Phil had stopped and returned for aticket. We drove the 35 kilometers to Modena and our hotel. A few weekslater, Phil received a ticket for several million lire, the cost ofdriving from Sicily to Modena on the autostrada. Despite letters to theItalian ambassador in London, the considerable fine was not reduced.

On the first epic “Drovers Trail,” Phil acted as route guide andorganizer for our 4×4 test across the Cambrian mountains of centralWales. We had an eventful Friday drive to Cardiff. Phil thought weshould have an early-morning look at the entry to the stony track wewould take that day. He didn’t want to disappoint Mr. Davis. RogerCrowthorn and I accompanied Phil. What Phil didn’t tell us was that theroad was 35 miles from the hotel, and we didn’t have breakfast. Phil’sconcerns were justified, as we discovered that a local farmer hadblocked the track with a fallen tree. Phil went into panic mode but wassoon calmed by Crowthorn, who delved into the back of his Range Roverfor steel cables and straps, which were hooked up to the winch on thefront of the 4×4. In a short time, the tree was cast to the side over astone wall. We always wondered what the farmer must have thought.

The rest of the day went without a hitch, driving over fantastic rockytrails to Tregaron. A fine dinner was served to a weary crew, and mostof us went to bed, as I wanted to shoot photographs early Sundaymorning. Phil and P. J. O’Rourke had decided to take a nightcap of aWelsh whiskey known as “Sheep Dip.” As I understand it, our two writersdrank the night away and became mixed up in a wedding reception. Ibelieve the police were called in at one point to calm a disturbance.Phil reckoned he was in bed by 5:00 a.m. only to be on photographic callat 7:00 a.m.