Pontiac-Commissioned Prototype: The Fitchbird

f1

The “Fitchbird.” I actually thought these cars were long, long gone, but apparently not. John Fitch, one of the greatest American sports car drivers ever (among other things–Mr. Fitch was an extremely accomplished man) modified two Firebirds at the request of General Motors. One of them seems to have popped up and is for sale here on eBay. The price is, well, pretty darned high. Really high. But maybe you don’t think so? Anyway, the car is for sale in Long Beach, California. Thanks to Jim S. for this incredibly unusual find!

collage

images courtesy musclecarfilms.com

According to what I can gather on the internet, John Fitch was chosen to produce these two sample cars based on his work with modified Corvairs in the mid-1960’s. While the cars looked interesting from the side in profile, the obviously added on flying buttresses were not attractive from other angles as can be seen here. It’s unclear to me what performance modifications were completed on the two cars, but I would be surprised if someone had the expertise of John Fitch at their disposal and didn’t go ahead and have him modify the suspension as well.

f2

The car in question appears to be the V8 car, or at least that’s what in it now. The seller talks about a magazine article about the car in 1980, but I wasn’t able to find it online. They also talk about taking it to Pomona swap meets until it got too much attention for their liking.

f4

Here’s a good view of those buttresses. Obviously, this is one car that will need to be restored to achieve its full value, and the unique features won’t be easy to get right. For example, I’m guessing that buttress on the left should have a similar set of fins at the rear as the one on the right does. If they don’t come with the car, depending on the material it may be an expensive proposition to get one made up. Of course, I’m guessing the buyer of this find won’t be too worried about budget!

f5

While the interior seems quite original and would probably be refurbishable if you were looking for a driver, obviously that won’t work in this case. If you are an expert on Firebird interiors, can you see if there’s anything different from standard?

f3

This is what’s under the hood now; who knows whether part or all of it is original? Obviously, this is a car that should be saved, but I’m not sure at what price. Any thoughts, Barn Finds readers?

Fast Finds

Comments

  1. piper62j

    Nice find and great car..Too rich for my blood..

    Cool!

  2. Hoby

    Period correct photos of the original build would help the car sell for a whole lot more. That car belongs în a museum

  3. Jose

    Seems to me that those rear spoilers, which appear to be the only modification to the original, would create dangerous blind spots to the right and left rear views. Seller wants $250,000 for what? Two added dangerous spoilers? Tell him to keep them for his own garage museum.

    • Tom Member

      If the spoilers make it that much faster, who is in your blind spot? Just kidding…!

      super rare find. If there were only a couple ever created, who knows the value?

  4. Tirefriar

    At a quick glance the front turn signal lamps are not original. Most of the parts are readily available through Year One or other repro parts catalogs (except for the mods, of course). Going that route than sourcing NOS parts will not help the value at the end. The F body of that vintage has high propensity to rot especially in the quarters under the “gills” area.

    Price is out there. I could possibly fathom asking this much for a rotisserie resto job but you’ll have to dump another $70-$100k to make it “as new” factory correct. Still, I could see a Poncho fan out there that would go for the one off wow factor and get lots of love at the car shows.

    • Chebby

      To me, the turn signals appear to be the backup lights from a ’66 Mustang.

  5. Frankie

    There are some books that show this car and talk about Fitch and the cars. It’s hard to tell if it’s worth the asking price, the seller answered some questions at the bottom of the ad, one in particular saying someone said it was worth $120k, who knows who that person was, wether they smoke crack for breakfast or have some personal knowledge of the cars. I also get the feeling the seller is just putting it up to see where he stands, not like the other guy who claims he has a 69 Firebird prototype, obviously needing some meds

  6. Dolphin Member

    I don’t see a quarter million in the car or the marketing. Not even close.

  7. redwagon

    well that’s cool.

    looks to be a standard 1967 interior in gold. the console would be an option. the front turn signals are neither ’67 nor ’68 and differ from the picture of the Fitchbird in the barnfinds article which has the standard ’67 signals.

    the pictures of the original also show a two toned ‘bird with the trunk and roof and possibly hood being a darker color than the flanks. iirc there were 2 fitchbirds so if this is one it is not the one in the photo unless repainted.

    i see the seller has letters but none that i can read attest to the authenticity of his/her claim that this is an original fitchbird. if someone spends this kind of coin on a car i hope they can convince themselves (and others) that this is the real deal.

    regardless it was cool to see. i have not thought about a fitchbird in over 3 decades. seller is correct – these show up in just about every book on early firebird development.

    • Tom Member

      Deluxe Interior, not standard.

  8. Hoos Member

    The Fitch Phoenix sold in 2014 for $230K, and it was in great shape. This seems way overpriced.

    Someone light up the Carini signal!

    • Bobsmyuncle

      I was just going to mention the Phoenix.

      I’d say that puts this cars value in a clear ballpark. And the seller is clearly outside it.

      Great man, super cool car, and desirable as heck, but this asking price is silly IMO.

      The buttresses, or ‘sail panels’ as they were called on the Corvair and the front mesh grills were used on Fitch Sprint Corvairs. The air cleaner used on this car is also reminiscent of those used on the Sprint.

      It is my guess that along those lines the mechanical differences would be in sway bars, steering ratio, etc. Just simple tweeks.

  9. GaryI

    No way, no how at that price. Finished as a one of two I could see $200,000+ maybe, but if you put over $100,000 in the full on rotisserie museum quality restoration how could you get ahead of the investment? Good luck finding that guy to buy it.

  10. JW

    As a Pontiac guy I love the early Firebirds as well as the GTOs BUT not $250K much.

  11. Cliff Murray

    Hi guys, I’m the nut that’s selling this car, this is not one of the cars that John Fitch bought and modified, this car was retained by Pontiac (per PHS), the Fitch cars had Fitchbird emblems on the sail panels, this one does not, I bought it from the supervisor on the project, when Pontiac turned down John Fitches version of the Firebird, they took ideas from this car and Herb Adams car and came up with the Trans Am, this maybe the daddy of the Trans Am, I talked to John Fitch in about 1988 about this, Also the sale was arranged by John Deloren to the man I bought it from ($1.00 was told to me), I have a lot of history on this vehicle however who knows, I know it’s stupid money but I already have big offers from people that know more about this car than me, if you want something that no one else has or can buy this is it, I do have the grill missing on the tail fin (broken)

    • Mark K Mckenney

      I was about to say, after years working in an assembly plant and in research plants, usually if you can get ahold of the right person you can get the correct history on prototype cars and most importantly PARTS, cause they will have reworked versions or slightly modified parts as changes were frequent. Looks like you may be closer to mysterious parts to this car than you think.

    • Dennis Hill

      Many many years ago (at least 30) there was one in a driveway in garden grove near mile square park.i used to see this car when I visited my uncle. Don’t be very seriously it is still there, but this might be that car. Wish I would have had money and insite at that time to try and buy it lol

      • Cliff

        That’s where the guy lived that I bought this car from, his wife used to drive it to work at Knotts Berry Farm for a long time,

      • Cliff Murray

        That’s where the man I bought it from lived, his wife used to drive it to work at Knotts Berry Farm.

        PS Fountian Valley not Garden Grove

  12. Cliff Murray

    Check out Car Exchange magazine Sept 1980

  13. Cliff Murray

    Check out Car Exchange magazine Sept 1980 page

  14. Cliff Murray

    Check out Car Exchange magazine Sept 1980 page1

  15. Cliff Murray

    Check out Car Exchange magazine Sept 1980 page2

  16. Cliff Murray

    Check out Car Exchange magazine Sept 1980 page 4

  17. Cliff Murray

    Check out Car Exchange magazine Sept 1980 page 5

  18. Little_Cars Alexander Member

    The turnsignals on the car for sale appear to be tail lights from a ’65-66 Chevy Impala and a little cockeyed to do any good other than to confuse oncoming drivers. The black and white photos not only show standard 67 turnsignals but also the elimination of the upper “gills” behind each door. For a quarter-million dollars I’d much rather stock my garage with a bunch of 67-69 stock Firebirds like a 1967 OHC-6 Sprint with this gold interior…and a good ol’ 350 c.i. four on the floor 69 convertible in deep maroon.

  19. Tom Member

    Interesting to say the least. agree with most of the commentary. kind of an expert on 67-69’s as I have owned a bunch of them. this is a weird car in that it is a 400 with a hood tach, no power steering or power brakes. yet it has the sport options group which is primarily a cosmetic grouping of things like the stainless wheel opening trim and the stainless rocker panel trim. The designate of this option group is the Pontiac arrowhead emblem in the center of the front bumper. Only cars with this package had that emblem which included the emblem, the bright trim on the center of the grille right and left, the grab handle over the glove box, typically visor vanity mirrors which are very rare, a remote control mirror on the driver side. also maybe a part of the group is the Energy Absorbing Steering Column with the green center piece. The car does have the deluxe interior (carpet on the bottom of the door panels and console). original air cleaner cover which is usually long gone. someone else mentioned not only the odd lights on the lower valance but that the lights that should be tucked in the left and right corners of that valance were deleted. In 68 the front marker lights wrapped around in the corner from the front to the side, I wonder if this was an early attempt to get the front lights seen from the side of the car? 1968, it became law, for all cars to have front and rear SIDE marker lights. this is all I see at first glance.

    • tirefriar

      Tom, the front vent windows were ’67 m.y. only. The wrap around lamps did appear on the ’68 as did the back lit rear side markers, perhaps the best looking in the industry. ’67 signals should be tucked into the outer corners of the valance.

  20. Glen

    What makes this car so special?, their’s loads of custom cars on the road. How is this more valuable? I definitely don’t like those buttresses, they look like a project from an autobody class. I don’t mean to offend Mr. Fitch, ( never heard of him) just not my cup of tea. Like I said I don’t mean to offend, I just don’t get asking $250,000 .

    • Bobsmyuncle

      Glen, knowing who Fitch is and what he has contributed to the automotive world would help in understanding the importance of this car.

      Also this is only a custom in the most literal terms. More importantly this is one of two commissioned prototypes. That is a HUGE leap from “custom”.

      Every auto enthusiast should take the time to learn about John Fitch.

  21. stp

    Also don’t like to be a hater, but really, these are beautiful cars on their own and Mr. Fitch’s “improvements” quite honestly detract from that. Moreover, if none of his suspension modifications could alleviate the body roll in image #2 above, I have to wonder why these prototypes aren’t best forgotten.

  22. Mark S Member

    Side view looks like a fast back, if GM wanted a fast back look way would they not just proto type a fast back. What do they need this Fitch guy for? He makes a set of bolt on sails that can be put on any body and suddenly it’s worth $ 250 G’s give me a break. You’ve got some press stamped sheet metal that could have been sold in kit form at your local NAPA store for those that want to ugly up there car. Not so great of a find.

  23. Little_Cars Alexander Member

    “this Fitch guy…?” Really, Mark S, show some respect and know your history. Bobsmyuncle has got it right–every auto enthusiast should read up on John Fitch.

    Like 2
  24. tirefriar

    As been said by Bobsmyuncle, this car has been commissioned by GM – a global corporation, not some one off custom order job. This decision had to have been sanctioned by the upper management! The Phoenix was Fitch’s own dream and was not commissioned by GM ASAIK. In the auto collector world these two cars are on quite a different level, the Fitchbird being more “official” of the two because of direct association to General Motors.

    As such, this car could be construed as an official two off Pontiac F-body. And that’s the “wow factor” for a Pontiac die hard.

  25. Charles

    Should be in a museum.

    Interesting piece of history.

    Never-the-less, this car is UGLY!

  26. Cliff Murray

    Thanks Guys, I am looking to sell for the most money I can get, that said I have kept this car for a long time, the man I bought it from knew that one day it would be a big money car, the only reason he sold it to me was that he needed money to keep his medical supply co. running.

    Thanks Cliff Murray

    PS his wife used to drive it every day to Knotts Berry Farm where she worked

  27. Little_Cars Alexander Member

    “The most money I can get” is called capitalism, with a little optimism thrown in. Take a sponge to it, maybe a vacuum, and scan that article onto a dedicated Facebook page for your car. Show off the research you’ve done, Cliff, and perhaps the PMD guys will get into a bidding war for your car. Funny that the article is titled Fitchbird but it has been established that this one was not one of his branded cars.

  28. Dolphin Member

    There is no doubt about the achievements and importance of John Fitch. But I fail to see how this particular car is so important or desirable that it is worth a quarter million. Anyone can pay big money for this or any car if they what to, but I don’t think the documentation, or the design, or the condition say this car is worth big money.

  29. piper62j

    Hey Cliff… Go for it.. The price of ANY car is only what the market will bear.

  30. Cliff Murray

    Hi, the problem is how to know what the market will bear? a Yenko Camaro can be determined by what other cars have sold for. I have posted a Letter from PHS on the E Bay ad along with the build cards (it has 2) the car may have build sheets but I have never looked for them, this car has never been taken apart that I know of.

  31. Cliff Murray

    PHS Doc

  32. Cliff Murray

    PHS Doc 2

  33. Cliff Murray

    Build Card

  34. Cliff Murray

    Build Card 2

  35. Shawnga Shawn Gerhardt Member

    I say, quit your bickering ! He has it and you dont. He can ask what he wants and hope to get it.Ive seen alot of haters on this site and i guess i would consider them to be no more than armchair officianados at best. Cars that pass thru this site that are clearly under 100,000 miles being questioned rather than praised for their uncommoness and or rarity. Some of you readers/commenters could obviously gain from a book of ettiquette !

  36. RoughDiamond RoughDiamond Member

    Nice to see the seller’s story on the history is consistent between Barn Finds and eBay.

    Barn Finds “this is not one of the cars that John Fitch bought and modified, this car was retained by Pontiac (per PHS)…”

    Reply from eBay question “this was the car that Pontiac supplied to John Fitch for development, along with a over head 6 cylinder car, cars were also worked on by Herb Adams, all finished cars were then shipped to Limerock N. Conn”.

  37. Tirefriar

    And now on Bringatrailer.com. I guess Kyle K is a BF reader….

  38. wagon master

    Cliff
    where on the data card does it show the block code? WZ?

  39. Cliff Murray

    Hi, if you look at the billing card it refers to engine unit number, that is the number stamped on the block.

    UPDATE gas, battery, thermostat, 1 vacuum hose and it runs fine I’m going to get a current sticker so it can be driven, this is a very good forum, lots of interest, good comments.

  40. wagon master

    Thx

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