American Porsche! 1966 Fitch Sprint Corvair

No one is likely to accuse Chevy’s rear-engined flat-six-powered Corvair of copying any other American car, and that makes them an even more interesting classic. This 1966 Fitch Sprint Corvair near Lawrenceville, Virginia is even more uncommon, being an example warmed over by legendary racer and engineer John Fitch. The listing here on craigslist.org asks simply for a best offer, and the ’66 Fitch comes with a ’69 Corvair Monza parts car. Thanks to reader Ian C. for spotting this curious listing. We featured this car some years ago, thus perhaps the best offer status.

The c-pillar buttresses give a sporty look to the coupe, while tail lights echo other Chevrolets of the time including the Corvette. Do you think it was an accident that these sporty siblings share similar-sounding names? As much as the Corvette is Chevy’s engineering-rich heavy hitter, the Corvair represented an innovative sports car for drivers wanting a deft and more European experience. The Fitch Sprint package upped the ante with race-proven alterations and some cosmetic upgrades.

Why implement an air-cooled rear-mounted flat-six-cylinder engine and rear wheel drive? Ask Porsche; their similarly-configured 9xx series has been the quintessential Porsche for over 50 years. Despite meeting its death after Ralph Nader’s hyperbole-filled “Unsafe At Any Speed,”  Corvairs offer plenty of fun as a spirited alternative to heavier V8 muscle cars.

This two-car deal comes with this 1969 Corvair Monza 110 coupe. Long after the world’s forgotten Nader’s fake science, the inventions of John Fitch will be saving lives thanks to his vision and sound Engineering. Who do you picture rescuing this interesting ’60s sports car?

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Comments

  1. CCFisher

    There is most definitely a connection between the Corvette and Corvair names.
    Chevrolet first used the Corvair name on a fastback 1954 Corvette show car.

    As for the Fitch modifications, in my opinion, those tacked-on buttresses ruin one of the most graceful rooflines of the 60’s.

    7
    • Andy

      Totally agree on the flying buttresses! I’ve always figured Corvair was just a mashup of Corvette and Bel Air, like half sports car, half family car.

      • Little_Cars Little_Cars

        @Andy… or maybe because the car was AIR COOLED ?!? LOL

  2. Air Boss

    Nice cool system in the passenger seat!

    3
    • Ralph

      Thats the heavy duty cooling option……

      3
    • Philip Lepel

      We had a 65 corvair and sadly bad driving on my part saw the end to it. But when I see them today at cruise ins im amazed at how contemporary it’s design is. It looks modern in almost any she group of cars. It’s a car you need to learn to drive. But once learned is a lot of fun. Wish I had another.

      2
      • Andy

        I think it’s the prettiest American car of the ’60s, maybe of the whole postwar period. (Just the 2nd generation, of course.)

        3
  3. Rustytech

    If I wasn’t in the middle of a project Corsair now, or if I had somewhere to store 2 more I’d be on my way to Virginia. I’m with CCFisher, I’d lose the bat wings, but I like the Fitch performance upgrades. A 4speed 140 hp.+ sounds like a winner to me.

    4
  4. doug

    And you would ruin the only reason to spend the time and money restore this Corvair. The Fitch updates are making it worth the effort.

    15
  5. local_sheriff

    The Fitch C-pillar treatment gives the Corvair an interesting profile and adds a tunneled backlight similar to ’66-’67 GM A-bodies. Not really sure which I prefer as I find the 2nd gen Corvair greenhouse to look great already, but one cannot dispute the Fitch upgrades makes it unique. The ‘unknown’ Yenko…?

    Either way someone in the market for a stick 140hp Corvair project may score a decent deal here

    7
  6. JOHN

    I have always had mixed feelings about the Fitch roof… the Corvair roofline is beautiful, with the high back window, almost a mini bubble top. But, if this is truly a Fitch car, and not just the roof, I believe the roof belongs on the car. It also looks like it still has the Lucas Flamethrower light in the lefthand high beam position, as well as the long handle flash-to-pass switch on the dash from what I can see. Cool car, hope someone does it right! After my new garage shop is completed, I am going to pick up a late model Corsa convert to keep my Crown V8 car company, Corvairs are really cool cars.

    6
  7. On and On On and On Member

    1969 Monza coupe only 2700 made, ad doesn’t say which engine it has, just a powerglide trans. Rough condition, I don’t like the description of rust in the usual spots. Too vague. Maybe worth $2000 tops. Fitch car is unique and iconic, I’ll bet the boys at “CORSA” the national Corvair club are thinking about this if they know about it. Value is hard to determine because of uniqueness. Condition is rough but try to find another for sale. You can get almost anything for a Corvair. Huge parts availability and strong owner support. I think they’re the coolest most unique American car of the 60s.

    8
  8. ccrvtt

    John Fitch is worthy of mention here. Not only was he a race car driver, he developed a number of racing and roadway safety devices. Among them is the rows of sand-filled yellow plastic barrels you see on the highways for impact absorption. It’s estimated these have saved over 17,000 lives (wikipedia).

    And what have you done lately?

    17
    • On and On On and On Member

      I think I heard or saw a video of him, himself test crashing into them. I think he used like a 1960 Chevy. Not sure but what a guy. ccrvtt have you heard of or seen that?

      6
      • ccrvtt

        The wiki article mentions it. Probably a youtube video floating around somewhere. His wiki page is well worth reading.

        Is Todd Fitch related?

        3
      • leiniedude leiniedude Member

        LOL ccrvtt! Todd Fitch!

      • Todd Fitch Todd Fitch Staff

        As for being related… not that I know of, though I have paperwork tracing our family back to the 1600s, mostly in New England, so who knows? John Fitch’s life would make an epic film the likes of Forest Gump. Aviator, Racer, Engineer, Inventor, Entrepreneur, dated a Kennedy, etc. and from the accounts I’ve read a true gentleman. Thanks everyone!

        9
  9. Andrew Franks

    If you are a collector or enthusiast, buy this. It doesn’t matter how expensive it will be, the car is unique and an example of one man’s genious. There aren’t very many. So do this.I would but I have no room, and I have a Project in motion now.
    John Fitch had an amazing career, I wish I would have met him when I lived on the East Coast.

    5
  10. Steve R

    Five plus years for sale, no price listed and lots of rust. Those are not encouraging signs that a deal can get done.

    Steve R

    5
  11. Speedo

    Everyone interested in John Fitch should watch: A Gullwing at Twilight: The Bonneville Ride of John Fitch. He tries to set the class record, 170mph+, in a 1955 Mercedes 300SL Gullwing. This car was identical to the one in which he won his class in the 1955 Mille Miglia. The car let him down, not his skill or courage!
    He was a P-51 pilot, great race driver and excellent engineer. I had the pleasure of talking to him one year at the Lime Rock Park races.

    11
    • Mr.BZ

      Thx for the tip, Speedo–will check it out! Hope this classic gets the transformation it deserves!

      1
  12. rpol35 Staff

    I’ve only recall seeing one of these in the steel though I did have an AMT model kit of it when I was about 12.

    4
  13. bobhess Member

    Had a ’65 Monza that was a ball to drive. If this car has all the Fitch suspension mods it also will be a bundle of fun.

    4
  14. gene

    Fitch sold these in 3 stages. Normally roof was the final addition (stage 3) after all the suspension modifications.

    5
  15. Fiete T.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kTkCo2fRiJ4

    Mr. Fitch was also on an episode or two of “Chasing Classic Cars” with Wayne Carrini

    1
  16. scottymac

    No article on John Fitch would be complete without a note on the Phoenix.

    https://www.hemmings.com/blog/article/1966-fitch-phoenix/

    What might have been, what we lost.

    3
  17. Little_Cars Little_Cars

    If this can be authenticated as an actual Fitch stage 1, 2 or 3 car it is worth whatever you want to spend. However, IIRC, the flying buttress sail panel addition was also sold by itself in some aftermarket catalogs (Eiki?). The toggles in the center of the dash may tell us more, or how about a tag of some kind giving info on it’s provenance. The 1969 needs to be registered on the 69 Corvair group Facebook page. Limited numbers of the 69 Monza made, most of them seem to have been trashed. I’ve seen at least two 69 convertibles broken in two from all the rust in the pans.

    2
  18. DAVID KENIRY

    😲I HAVE A 73 VW WINDOW VAN WITH
    A WARMED OVER REVERSE ROTATION 140hp, DUEL WEBER &
    TURBO CHARGED CORVAIR, BIFFA DIFF
    CLOSE RATIO 1st & 2nd .IT HAUL’S , FIRST TIME I DROVE IT, OLYIMPIA IMBIBED, WHEN I HIT 2nd, IT STOOD UP
    AT LEAST 4` WHEN CAME DOWN, STEARING WHEEL TURNED 2 RT. ENOUGH 2 SEND ME SIDEWAY’S, WHY
    I DIDN’T FLIP, WHO KNOW’S. BEFORE
    THAT I REBUILT THE ENGINE ALL NEW
    PARTS, VALVE’S, 60 OVER FORGED PISTON’S. COST 30 yrs AGO $800. IT
    IS SITTING NOW AFTER 100,000 mi.
    JUST 2 DO THE HEAD’S NOW $1800
    👎😎

    3
    • joe

      You want to sell it? I am a Corvair guy.

  19. John

    Well folks, I had one, not with the roof mods so mine was likely the Stage 2 version (I don’t recall it being called that though). It was a great car to own and drive. Almost bullet proof (it ate rear tires). I chased a good may quick cars with it.; I also got chased by some quick cars (most of them with red lights on top). I remember it having very stiff suspension and a large diameter roll bar. It also had a faster steering sector which reduced the number of turns lock to lock. Unfortunately, they were still recirculating ball type steering boxes. It also had the secondary carburetors “rotated” to protect the float levels on hard cornering. Lacking that the fuel tended to slosh away from the jets and bog things just a bit. The jets n the carburetors were a couple of drill sizes bigger than stock (old age is in control, but I believe the were.062 diameter). I think it also had accelerator pumps in all four carburetors (most 140s had them only on the primaries) The accelerator pump actuation arms were also straightened to give it a healthier shot of fuel. And of course, the really weird looking factory air cleaner set-up was replaced by four small individual pots. Mine had headers and a really neat trombone shaped exhaust system, one for each side. The sound was great. It had “anti-pump up hydraulic lifters that kept the valves behaving. I believe that only other major addition was a spring tensioning device on the fan belt tensioner which helped keep it in place at high RPM. There may have been other additions (like stelite valves and 6.5 inch wheels rather than the normal 5.5 inch ones) but I just do not remember them all. I bought the car new and drove it 148,000 miles. It got one new cylinder barrel and piston once, made necessary by a broken valve keeper.

    5
    • Little_Cars Little_Cars

      I thought all 140hp had accelerator pumps on all four carbs? It was the factory linkage being progressive that activated the secondary…sounds like you were running “full-on” when you stomped the throttle if the linkage was straightened. And that’s OKAY!

  20. PDXBryan

    Testing, testing. Wonder why I can’t seem to post??

    1
  21. PDXBryan

    Hmmmm….

    2
  22. PDXBryan

    C’mon Todd
    Fake science? I expect better from Barn Finds. By now we all know that first gen Corvairs did have handling issues and that’s what Nader was talking about. It’s sad to see you baiting our lizard-car brains with this tired but trusty old yarn. Why not talk about how Nader pushed the companies to make better, safer cars like this second gen Corvair? Why side with the bean counters and marketers that dumbed down the original Corvairs with soft springs, swing axles, and slow steering?
    BTW-Mr Nader, who championed car safety, is also completely against the modern push towards the wrong-headed “driverless” car. Seems that should make him every driver’s (and sane people’s) friend. Let’s drop this silly old feud against a man who’s done more to save the lives of our family and friends than almost anyone else.

    Oh, I almost forgot to say that this Fitch Sprint is an awesome find!!!

    3
    • John

      I think the myth was allowed to gain traction because it allowed General Motors to drop the car for “safety” reasons rather than to acknowledge that they were losing money on it. The Corvair was an expensive proposition whose mechanicals were of no use to any other platform in the General’s stable. While Mr Nader took the hits, it was really the George Washingtons (or lack thereof) that led to the Corvair’s demise. Better to put the money into the newly minted Camaros which shared most of its underpinnings with the lowly Chevy II.

      2
      • JOHN

        There were several reasons why Chevrolet discontinued the Corvair. Ralph Nader certainly didn’t help the public’s perception, but the introduction of the Mustang, with it’s familiar V8 (optional) engine and traditional layout really started the movement. GM was also digging deeper into the Camaro, and the consumer car market simply began to change. The air-cooled Corvair engine also wan’t built for emissions, it would have taken a lot of dollars to begin to think of complying with upcoming emission standards. But Corvairs have always been one of my favorites. I currently have a mid-engine 65, and will be on the lookout for a 65 or 66 Corsa convertible with a 140 engine to add to the collection.

        5
      • Bill McCoskey

        The 2 biggest reasons GM ended the Corvair line were simple:

        1. The decreasing 67 to 69 sales records indicated it was time to close the ‘vair project down.

        2. Think about it; The Corvair came out in 1960. The last production year was 1969. That’s a 10 model year run with only one major styling revision, almost unheard of in GM corporate circles. It was time to create something more current.

        4
      • scottymac

        Magazines always criticized the American auto makers for their yearly styling and body changes, but I figured the tooling was worn out, so why not make something exciting for the buying public with something new? Using a five year cycle, GiMiCk was amortizing the Corvair tooling, since sales weren’t as great as an Impala or Chevelle, there was more life left in the tooling. So, Bill, “It was time to create something more current.”, and you think that was the Vega? With their resources, if they’d used the money poured into the Vega, GiMiCk could have produced a Corvair that was a Porsche eater.

        3
      • Andy

        I’ve read, and I think it makes sense, that GM made the Corvair longer than they wanted to so they wouldn’t look like Nader beat them. When you look at the progression, from the huge, complicated lineup at launch, to the introduction of the Chevy II (normal car company turnaround times suggest they knew they were in trouble with Corvair sales figures very early on), then lack of development and even PR for most of the second generation, which was whittled down to 2 and 4 door hardtops and the convertible, it seems plain that GM would have let the car die a peaceful and timely death if it hadn’t looked like an admission that it was dangerous. Meanwhile, the swing axles that were its scariest feature were stolen directly from VW, and I’ve known at least a couple of people who’ve flipped VWs, and came close myself at least once, but Nader didn’t say a word about VW.

        2
    • bog

      Hate to break this to you PDXBryan, but Ralph recently admitted in a interview (that also became a newspaper article) that he KNEW there was nothing wrong with the Corvair NOR the Pinto, and made such a public fuss and wrote his book re: “Unsafe…” just to get attention. Attention for him (he ran for office, remember ?) AND to embarrass lawmakers into forcing automakers into making safer cars earlier than they’d planned. What will truly save lives is autonomous vehicles for those that can’t live without being on their “devices” 24/7 !

      2
      • PDXBryan

        bog
        Can you send me info on that interview or news report of Nader’s admitted lies?

  23. PDXBryan

    There we go!
    Guess I had a few too many exclamation marks.

    1
    • bog

      PDXBryan – it was in the print version of the Chicago Tribune Sunday edition…either the Business or Auto Section. I don’t recall who the original interviewer was as I don’t really care. You are using the word “lies”, which I never said. I suggest you google search for the interview. Ralph was very pleased with himself for influencing the auto industry, that’s for sure.

  24. rogerthat

    Don’t you hate it when people make it seem like that without Ralph Nader to point the way, no car maker would have ever dreamed of making cars safer? BS.

    As for the Sprint Vair? Meh…Never cared for those bolt on mods. I currently own 8 LM Corvairs and have owned well over 50. Just not my cup of tea with the Sprint mods or hype about them. Same for the mail order Yenko Vairs that weren’t part of the original 100.

    1
  25. Allan Lacki

    Stage I, Stage II, and Stage III – those were Yenko Stingers, not Fitch Sprints. Although John Fitch & Company added the Fitch package to many Corvairs at his shop in Falls Village, Connecticut, it was also true that he sold the parts individually to owners who wanted to install them.

    The fact that an old Corvair has the “904 Ventop” roof does not mean much, for a person could simply add the roof without installing any of the other Fitch components. In fact, you can still buy the roof piece from Clarks Corvair Parts – a big Corvair parts vendor based in Massachusetts.

    1
    • Little_Cars Little_Cars

      Perzactly! The top doesn’t make this a real anything. Seller would have to prove provenance, otherwise with the photos shown it looks like a dressed up Corsa. Even though the Corsa emblem appears to be missing at least on the driver’s side. I’d be more interested in the 69 if the interior was decent and maybe the tin worm hasn’t eaten through the bottom end. PS I don’t think real Sprints would have bumper guards.

      1
  26. TimM

    The body upgrades make this car!! That’s the reason to restore it!! Better then the run of the mill corvair!!

    1
  27. bobhess Member

    John… Drove a mid engine late ’60s with a 350 in it. Had all the upgrades to go with the engine. That was a bunch of fun! Wife wasn’t going for upgrading our ’65 though.

    2
  28. Bill McCoskey

    Scottymac,
    Sadly, yes, the Vega was to be the replacement small Chevy.

    It’s a vicious cycle that feeds upon itself, when a company stops development and the buying public loses interest. Eventually the product line is abandoned.

    And don’t forget, the automakers all knew that government mandates were ahead, and air cooled internal combustion engines have always been a challenge to conform to government regulations like air quality. That’s probably the main reason Porsche began looking at water cooled cars in the 1970s-80s.

    1
    • scottymac

      Bill,
      Agree with everything you say, but here we are 50 years later, and the 911 (still one of the ugliest cars ever made, IMHO) is still around, with its water cooled heads. Subaru is not much more than a watercooled Beetle, so a Corvair could have survived into the 21st century. Sadly, its champion, Ed Cole, had moved on (sadly, again) to the Vega.

      1
  29. Bill McCoskey

    scottymac,

    Based on GM internal documents from 1965, GM execs ordered that no more research & development be undertaken on the Corvair line, and starting in 1967, the Corsa cars and the higher performance Corvair engines were gone.

    The reason for all of the above corporate actions is the introduction of the new CAMARO!

    In using the Corvair, Chevrolet had been trying to compete against Ford’s Mustang, but the cars were simply too different. For 1967, GM didn’t want Corvair “Sports” cars taking sales away from the Camaro, so they decided to get rid of the top line Corsa, and concentrate only on 4-doors and the Monza 2-door. Once the tooling costs were amortized, GM killed the ‘vair.

    • On and On On and On Member

      Only the turbo engine was scratched. The 140hp 4 carb engine remained till the end, It actually outperformed the 180hp turbo but only up to like 60mph, from what I have read, it lacked the drivability of the normally aspirated engines.

      • JOHN

        On and On, you are correct, I’ve had both the turbo and 140 cars, the 140 is a much better all around car for “normal” driving, definitely quicker than a turbo car up to highway speeds. I did some turbo mods in the late 70’s, turbine and compressor sides changed, 2″ SU carb, 140 heads, home made water injection and a MSD. It was never dialed in completely, but was a completely different car “around town” and a lot more fun to drive than a stock 180 car. Currently I have a Crown V8 car, but am looking to buy a 65 or 66 140 convert soon.

        1
      • On and On On and On Member

        Hey JOHN, In H.S. my buddy had a 65 Monza convertible 4sp. can’t remember now if it was a 110 or 140 ( the ravages of age) his dad worked at Willow run where they were made. It was a great car, the only problem with it was heat/defrost in cold Chicago winters. You had to drive half an hour to get warm. I have a deal cooking right now for a 65 Monza convertible 110/pg from a widow whose husband loved it and cared for it. It runs and drives shows 54,000mi. I’m going for a second look next week and may pick it up. It’s really a cheap way to get a classic, cool and different car.

        2
    • scottymac

      Again, Bill, agree with pretty much all you’re saying. My dad bought one of the first ’60s (no belt guards) and a ’61 to replace it, and a plethora of other used Corvairs. I bought my first in ’72, and became a member of CORSA in ’73. I know the history of Corvairs well. My point is, with a little effort, Chevy could have sold a neat competitor to TR250s and TR6s, and the 240Zs and Celica GTs that came later. Equipping it with the required safety improvements and the engine from the Astro 1, it could have lasted well into the Seventies. Imagine if Yenko had had the resources of Penske and fielded an OHC Webered, destroked 2.5 liter Corvair with an acid dipped body, what a show that would have been in the Trans-Am series running with its big brother, the Z-28.

      2
    • JOHN

      On and On, I grew up in the burbs just north of the city. The heater, besides the smell was way better than the old VW’s I worked at an Enco gas station on a busy corner, the Shell station ‘s owner across the street used to ice race VW dune buggy’s. Then he started ice racing Corvairs. They were faster, cheap, available, and, as he emphatically stated, they have heat!

      2
      • On and On On and On Member

        True that JOHN, much better than a VW. I worked at Mitch’s Texaco, Northwest Hwy and Nagle by Taft HS. I went to Notre Dame in Niles. Thats where we drove the Corvair to each morning. I’m going to carefully look at the 65 Monza convertible again on tuesday. Just sold 2 motorcycles on Ebay so I’ve got room in the garage. It was originally glacier gray now painted yellow so I’ll bring my magnet and get under to look at the cowl. I think the heat smell was more from the oil leaks than anything else, my buddies Corvair always wept and stained wherever it went.

        1
  30. JOHN

    On and On, yeah, from Glenview, station was on the corner of Golf Road and Waukegan Roads (58 and 43) Went to Notre Dame for freshman year, then Maine East. Corvairs are like male dogs… they mark their spot! The good news is that gasket material, o-rings, etc have come a long way. I’m building another garage now, 30×50, so I will have plenty of room for more projects. I have 5 “muscle cars” cars right now, only the 06 GTO is all factory original. Good luck with your convertible project, I hope to have one hopefully next year!

    1
    • On and On On and On Member

      Small world……..or seemingly at times, I graduated N.D. in 1969, was a different world then, sometimes I wish I could go back. Just a simpler time. Know Glenview well………did you say 06 GTO? was that a finger slip? Let us all know the list of all 5. Good times.

      1
  31. JOHN

    Graduated in 1970, current cars, newest first: 06 GTO six speed, 70 El Camino SS396, automatic, 67 Cutlass Supreme convert, LS3/4LE80, Ford 9″, 65 GTO convert 4 speed, Tripower (not original) with 4 wheel discs, tubular suspension, more or less stock appearing, and a 65 Corvair Corsa with the Crown conversion, big car Saginaw input shaft and the larger roller bearings, 4 spider 3:27 posi, 350 small block right around 320-325 HP, front discs. Lots of modifications on most of them, the Elco is also very stock appearing, 71 motor, small Comp cam, hydroboost braking, and a Holley Sniper EFI. Open the hood and it appears to be original. When I do find a Corsa convert, I fully intend to keep it original except for a few mods, all easy to return to 100% stock.

    2
    • On and On On and On Member

      Quite the list buddy, good for you. I’m downsizing. Selling off a motorcycle collection, down to 2 left, one a 1965 Honda CL77 305 Scrambler I’m going to rehab this winter, it’s all original, but tired. The other, a Honda 500 Ascot is my rider, I have 2 houses in rural Wisconsin and use it only on twisty 2 lane fun roads. Had 2 antique cars, sold them off a couple years ago, looking for the Corvair as a fun car for me and sweetie pie.

  32. joe

    Currently: ’64 Monza convertible, 110 HP, Powerglide, factory A/C, ’69, 500 coupe, 4 spd., 4 carb, “built” 140, taken out to a 3 liter (prob, 180+ HP), front discs, lowered, KONIs, 4 spider Posi, 3.27 diff., 200#+ removed, quick steering, Crane ignition, headers/duals, gauges, tele, 8X15 rims, 225/45X15 Hankooks, and much more. Not your Dad’s Corvair. Quick, and a superior curvy road machine, and a pretty car.

    1
  33. George

    The Fitch is gone, leaving just the ’69. Also mentioned in the ad now is a 180 hp turbo motor which is also for sale.

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