The automotive world is filled with legends, including those that build cars, produce performance parts and those that lend their ideas of style and innovation to the numerous classics, customs, hot rods and modern machines that have graced the streets and tracks for decades. While all of these legends deserve recognition in their own right, it takes a very special kind of legend to make an impact in the automotive world that will last long beyond their lifetime. Legendary racer John Fitch was such an enthusiast. Check out some of his contributions to the automotive world and society in general above in a tribute video produced by Michael Brown after the legend’s passing on October 31st.
Best-known in the automotive world for being one of the premiere drivers of the 1950s and 60s, John Fitch piloted one of the three legendary Corvettes in the 1960 24 Hours of Le Mans race. Following the dream of the late Chip Miller, co-founder of Corvettes at Carlisle, to return the now famous #3 Corvette to Le Mans, Fitch was reunited with the car in 2010 and took a historic lap around the Le Mans course with Miller’s son riding shotgun on the 50th anniversary of Corvette’s racing win.
The journey between the first race and Fitch’s reunion can be found in Michael Brown’s documentary, The Quest. Fitch’s contributions to Chevrolet and Corvette got him inducted into the National Corvette Museum Hall of Fame in 2000.
But Fitch’s life and contributions go far beyond the 1960 Le Mans race. In fact, prior to that, Fitch served his country in the military, fighting overseas and becoming a war hero. Upon returning home from the war, Fitch became the legendary race car driver he’s renowned for, first competing behind the wheel of Mercedes models and then moving on to the Chevrolet lineup and the famous Le Mans Corvette. In 1955, it was Fitch’s racing experience and brush with tragedy that led him to develop the Fitch Inertial Barrier – safety technology that remains in use today on streets and tracks across the country.
Fitch also tried his hand at designing cars in his years as an automotive enthusiast, creating the Fitch Phoenix, a unique car based on the Chevy Corvair. Unfortunately, the car was never produced in quantity, mostly due to the bad reputation the Corvair acquired through Ralph Nader’s book “Unsafe At Any Speed.”
John Fitch was more than an automotive legend. He was a dreamer, a doer and a very accomplished man, fighting for his country and saving people’s lives through his invention along the way.
Fitch died in his Connecticut home on Wednesday October 31st at the age of 95. He will be dearly missed by all those who were inspired by this legendary man.