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