Fitch Special: 1966 Corvair Corsa Sprint

Corvair Corsa Sprint

During the 1960’s, customization and performance accessories had become a major market. Names like Yenko and Shelby had surpassed the normal customization shops by offering their own highly tuned versions of already high performance cars. These weren’t the only shops offering custom performance cars at the time, just the two that were successful enough to still be remembered today. While looking at the recent reader submissions, we came across this 1966 Corvair Corsa Sprint that Jim S sent in. We have heard of a Corvair Corsa, but never a Corsa Sprint. Our curiosity really got the best of us when we looked at the listing, here on eBay and saw the name Fitch. As it turns out John Fitch was another tuner trying to make a name for himself, although he had already made a decent name for himself in the racing world.

Corvair Fitch Sprint

Fitch felt that the Corvair had lots of untapped potential, but it just needed some tweaks to bring out its full performance. He took his experience and knowledge from his time as a race car driver and used it to build a car that could compete with much more expensive European cars. Unlike Yenko, Fitch focused primarily on improving the Corvair’s handling, but he did throw some power upgrades into the mix. To distinguish the Sprint from a normal Corvair and Yenko’s Stinger, Fitch made some visual modifications as well. He added what he called the Ventop, which added flying buttresses to the c-pillars.

Corvair Sprint Interior

Comparing the Stinger and the Sprint isn’t exactly the best comparison. Yenko built the Stinger purely for racing purposes, while Fitch sought to build a car that would reward the everyday car nut on the street and the track. To keep the Sprint street friendly, engine modifications were limited, but added as much as 15 horsepower. To make the Corvair a better GT car, Fitch offered a wood rimmed steering wheel, although a leather rimmed wheel was also available, as well as more sporting seats. The handling department is where the Sprint really shined. The modifications ranged from a complete package that included new springs all around, shorter steering arms, and steering damper unit. One could order each piece individually or as an entire package and could either pay Fitch to install everything or install it themselves.

1966 Corvair Corsa Sprint

The Sprint might not offer the overall performance improvements that the Stinger did, but it did turn the Corvair into a respectable GT. While doing our research we came across a great article about the Sprint on CorvairCorsa.com that was written when it first came out. It’s definitely worth a read and offers some idea of how this one could be like after a restoration. After reading it, it made us really want a Corvair! What do you think, should a Corvair be the next BF project?

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Comments

  1. pbryantr

    When I saw the rear-quarter (the last pic) in this post, I was thinking, “What flying buttresses?” but when I clicked on the link to the ebay listing, I see it. The pic in the post is the ’69 parts car.

    • Josh Staff

      Sorry, I uploaded the wrong photo. I’ve updated the post so the last photo is of the Sprint, so you can see those flying buttresses! I moved the photo of the parts car, plus added an additional one to a photo gallery at the end of the post! Thanks for bringing that to my attention!

      • pbryantr

        Thanks for the correction! I love these flying buttresses… That pic kind of reminds me of a 68 Charger.

        Like 1
  2. paul

    Excuse me while a wipe away the tears. I have met the late J Fitch at Lime Rock Park not far from his home, we also have a Sprint in our club, I also have some of his original litirature.A car like this would be great to own, just not this one.By all means go for a Vair for a BF project , very rewarding without the huge $ tag.

    • paul

      The Fitch cars did not have a VIN tag specific spec, they were just parts added to any Corvair, many of these parts are available the roof panel can be bought new & added to any 65 & newer coupe. The Corsa , made in 65 & 66 are the ones to own, they were available in the 140 HP 4 single carbs configuration these were faster off the line up to about 60 MPH then the 180 HP turbo which when spooled up was faster after 60 & had a higher top end at about 130, pretty good for a 1965 car. The big thing to watch for is rust in the cowl / hinge post & front sub frame, I think without a trip to see this car it looks like it has been sitting for along time, this car maybe only good as a parts car.

  3. Dolphin Member

    I remember John Fitch as one of the first American racers who was active internationally. He was not as famous as Phil Hill or Dan Gurney, but he was close. His racing was written about in the US car mags of the time, and he was very successful in a lot of ways, including with his Sprints like the one in this entry. I remember seeing his little ads for his special Corvair Sprints at the back of many issues of US car magazines from the 1960s.

    Fitch raced for Briggs Cunningham and also teamed with Bob Grossman and did well at places like Sebring and Le Mans, He also raced around the US at places like Road America. There’s an amazing entry for him in Wikipedia that saved me looking through dozens of old Road & Tracks to remind myself about him. It even talks about his amazing drive in 2003 at age 87 in a 300SL at Bonneville to set a speed record for the car’s class. It wasn’t successful because of a technical problem, but that attempt alone makes him a hero for me, and he is on my list of old guys like Paul Newman who can still do it, and who actually do it. His remark about driving the 300SL at 150 MPH at Bonneville that’s quoted in his Wikipedia entry shows what those guys did during their racing careers in the 1950s and ’60s.

    He was also an innovator and inventor and came up with some of the most significant safety modifications for both tracks and public roads. The best known are the Fitch Barrier System, which he said came from when he put sand filled cans around his tent during WW2 to protect soldiers inside from strafing, and the displaceable guardrail around oval tracks. He tested these things himself, first.

    He died at age 95 in 2012. I never met him but I can understand why Paul (above) feels the way he does about the man—a true American hero in every way. The Sprint in this entry deserves to be saved from the crusher for a lot of reasons, even though it looks to need a lot of work. eBay says there are 44 people looking at the auction every hour. Looks like a lot of people like Corvair Sprints. Maybe one of them will step up for it.

    Like 1
    • rapple

      Thank you for educating this site regarding the great John Fitch. I gasped when I read the reference to him as, “another tuner trying to make a name for himself”. By the time he started with the Corvair Sprint project, John Fitch had a resume that would be the envy of anyone. As you so aptly characterized him, “a true American hero”.

  4. jim s

    it is BIN $4000 or make offer and includes a parts car. why is it not already sold?.

  5. rancho bella

    $4K ? is it me or is the price reasonable? If it can be proven to be what is claimed I see little problem with the price.

    Thanks guys for info on John Fitch, proving once again how little I know. Now I will proceed to do some homework on him and this car.

  6. C Bryant

    This is the real deal.If you want to get into something real collectible at a decent price.The 180 horse engine built right really runs.I used to “whop” Spyders with my built 140 horse until 2/3 of the way thru a quarter.I put bigger cylinder heads on and a set of Runyan spaghetti headers…remember them Corvair fans from the early 60s?
    Fitch and Bob Grossman had the best finish ever for Corvettes at LeMans for a long,long time.Bob and I lived about 2 miles apart in the Hamptons and I always enjoyed his company.Both him and John raced from the early 50s on.What always blew my mind was Bob’s collection of “real trophy”.The real silver ones,not ones as you knew them today.The house was loaded. He was a great car artist.Was at Auburn every year and could draw a “portrait”of your car in 5 minutes with exacting detail.To watch was unreal.

    • Dolphin Member

      I remember seeing Bob Grossman race a Ferrari 250 SWB at the Thompson track in CT back in the day. I believe he was a Ferrari dealer. He had a unique style where he would steer with his right hand at about 4:00 on the wheel while he had his left hand at around 9:00 but not gripping the wheel—just fingers curled around the wheel in case he had to clamp down and use two hands. If you sat up on the crest of the ‘bowl’ just past the esses you could look down into the cockpit of the cars as they blasted by. I loved that track but I guess it’s a mall or housing development now.

      Bob always seemed to have the most exotic and interesting car on the track and he seemed to me to be the ‘class’ of the field. I guess the point is, both John Fitch and Bob Grossman were often the class of the field wherever they went.

      • C Bryant

        Bob had 3 of the 250 Daytonas at different times. he told me he had 3 imported dealerships in NYC in the 60s and said between the 3 one year he sold 7400 imports.He was a real “hoot” and always fun to chat with.

      • steam'n

        Dolphin, I just found this website, better late than never. I’m sure you know by now, Thompson is alive and well. just opened a few months ago. The place looks great. type in Thompson Motorsports Park, plus on youtube as well. I remember seeing Bob Grossman at Thompson with his Ferrari also. the old track is overgrown and you can just barely tell where it was.

  7. C Bryant

    One last thing.On a car just remember what it costs per hour to get major body work done on a rebuild.This one is pretty straight,has the wheels,has the right engine.Great start.

  8. koolpenguin

    What’s in the cooler?

    Like 1
  9. Larry Brantingham

    I’d love it, but you have to take both and they’re 1300 miles from me. Paying a transport company to ship two derelict cars (if they even would) would definitely change the economics. I might, in a moment of insanity (about 23 of every 24 hours) make the round trip with my own trailer for the Sprint, but twice?

  10. Mark E

    If I was interested, I’d make the seller a lowball offer without the parts car. Corvair Corsas are abundant as parts cars for cheap & it would be half the trouble shipping. This would be a nice project for a Corvair collector but I don’t think you could make any money restoring & flipping it unless you did most all the work yourself…

  11. Don Andreina

    Do it. And use Paul as a special consultant.

    • paul

      Thanks for the plug D…. I didn’t explain it well the Corsa was available in the 140 4 carb setup & the 180 turbo set up for 65/66 model year, they came with a special guage cluster, quick steering arms, 4 spd stick only, coupe or convert. My car is the spyder was available from 62 / 64 with only the 150 HP turbo engine, all engines can be fit in all corvairs from 60/69, but while the turbo unit can fit on all the 2 carb engines the block’s will explode, so the heads & blocks of the turbo unit must be turbo specific in codes.& Mark E is correct this car would have needed way too much. As a side note, just got my 4 speed box rebuilt for a whopping just under $500.00.

      • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

        Hey Paul, we haven’t received any Corvair updates from you in a while. Im sure everyone would like to know how things are progressing!

      • paul

        Not much to say other then an odd intermittent gear box problem, sometimes I could up shift to 2nd & 4th & sometimes it wouldn’t go into 2nd at all, so we thought it was clutch & or shifter adjustments turns out 50 years of too many mitts some knowing, some not, & we narrowed it to the box itself, so it is back from the rebuilder, hoping to have it back in by early next week. My goal is to have it sorted before getting into the body & ultimatly like to get into the ” The Great Race ” put on by Hemmings &Hagarty, this year’s rally goes from Maine to Fla.

        Like 1
  12. Alan

    Auction ended. “No longer available.”

  13. Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

    Looks like someone worked a deal offline. Wonder what it went for.

  14. Chris A.

    This is a great find and if it can be restored represents one of the important Corvairs and a tribute to John Fitch. I liked my 140 Corvair coupe, but the steering was slow and the suspension was “soft”. Disc brakes would have helped too. Fitch was highly thought of by both Mercedes Benz engineer Rudolf Uhlenhaut and Alfred Neubauer who had him as a team and development driver for the Pan American Road Race and other long distance events in the 300SL and later the 300SLR. He even placed highly in the mid 50’s Mille Miglia in the 300SL. In his day only Fangio and Moss were faster in Mercedes race cars.

  15. ConservativesDefeated

    The Spriint aside,it really burns my backside when people try to sell a piece of junk or an ignored and stored deteriorated, engine out, waylaid project for big coin. Or hell for any coin. Grrrrr…..

    Take care of the damn car or move it along before the ground swallows it up.

    I feel better now.

  16. Dave

    About a year or so ago, the father of my next door neighbor passed away. His father lived in Arizona; we live here in Maryland. My friend traveled to Arizona to take care of his father’s estate. When he returned, he was towing a trailer. On the trailer was what I could make out to be (or so I thought), a Corvair Monza. Didn’t pay much mind to it until a few months later when he had it rolled out in the driveway. That’s when my friend told me the story of the car. The car is a Fitch and has all the Fitch upgrades. Inside the car, there was a drivers and passenger seat; no back seat. It has a roll bar and 5-point racing harness. Come to find out, his father used to road race the car in Arizona and surrounding states. It still has the original Nassau blue paint. The car is in very good condition but could use some cosmetic work. It sounds awesome and has absolutely no smoke comin out the exhaust. I’ve been asking him to sell it to me, but so far has refused. It’s a shame, because he doesn’t intend to do anything with it except keep it in his garage. His kids don’t want it, and he has no intention of having any work done on it. Oh well, I’ll just keep bugging him!!!!!

    Like 1

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