Ted Tappett at Le Mans

Phil Walters, Ted Tappet, Cunningham, Le Mans

Phil Walters sits in Briggs Cunningham’s “Le Monstre” on the grid before the start of the 24 Hours of Le Mans on the afternoon of June 24, 1950. Le Monstre, as it was called by the French press, was in reality a Cadillac 61 with a special spyder body along with some mechanical modifications. It was driven by Brigs Cunningham and Phil Walters. The Cunningham team also ran a standard Cadillac 61 driven by Sam and Miles Collier. This was the Cunningham team’s first sojourn to the famed 24 hour race where they returned to compete for many years thereafter. They learned right away what could happen when Le Monstre crashed into a fence during practice which necessitated a long night of bodywork by a local carrosserie.

In the race, Walter’s patron and team leader Cunningham stuffed Le Monstre into a sandbank and lost considerable time digging it out. However, they would finish 11th overall, some 8 km behind the Colliers’ Cadillac. Today, Le Monstre, just as it finished Le Mans, resides in the Collier Collection at the REVS Institute in Naples, FL.

Phil Walters was no slouch as a driver. Even before World War II he was dominating midget racing near his home on Long Island, driving under the nom de course of Ted Tappett so that his family would not know what he was doing. After the war years where he received decorations for valor in the Army Air Corps, he continued to have great success in oval racing with midgets. He then forming Frick-Tappett Motors with Bill Frick which created the Fordillac, a Ford with a Cadillac V8 under the hood. Walters teamed up with Cunningham after the latter had bought a Fordillac.

During his Cunningham career Walters won the 1953 and 1955 Sebring 12 Hours and also recorded a third place finish at Le Mans in 1953, as well as winning numerous SCCA races, including several at Watkins Glen. Walters had an offer to join Scuderia Ferrari, but having witnessed the tragic Levegh crash at Le Mans in 1955, he chose to retire from automobile racing and took up racing with sailboats. He died in 2000 at the age of 83.

Photo by Louis Klemantaski ©The Klemantaski Collection – http://www.klemcoll.com

 

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One comment

  1. Jim Sitz · · Reply

    Phil Walters, a driver highly respected by many then(including Phil Hill who was pleased to come out on top during their 1952 race at Elkhart Lake–Tappett in Ferrari 212 and Hill in new C type Jaguar.). Years later Hill admitted he had the faster car but did not matter since he admired the
    New York driver so much,

    1955 Walters was invited to drive fore Ferrari Grand Prix team, he was was set to run the
    Dutch Grand Prix but chose to return to US after Le Mans disaster. my 1994 interview with him
    the closest he came to boast was telling me that he did not have to test for Enzo Ferrari since
    the team manager vouched for his ability in advance.

    You have to wonder the outcome had he and Ferrari come to partnership and would
    have driven in 1956– a Year when Peter Collins was hired instead and won
    French GP in his season debut.

    jim sitz

    Like

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