The John Fitch Corvairs: Sprint and Phoenix
When Chevy launched the Corvair in 1960, little did they know about John Fitch, ex P-51 pilot and member of Mercedes racing teams in the 50s. Little did they expect how he would create alternate Corvairs for consumers to buy. They soon did.
Fitch, an avid Corvair lover to this day, would create the Corvair Sprint and the Corvair concept car, Phoenix, in the mid-60s. It is not say that Chevy did not have its own Corvair concept car, they did, the Corvair Monza GT, with its engine ahead of the rear axle. This car was only a two seater and was 13 ft. 9 in. long and only 3.5 ft high.As to body style, it was nothing like a Corvair, more like Ferrari look, pop-up headlights and disc brakes. But that was as far as Chevrolet took it. Fitch took the other step.
Fitch's Corvair Sprint is based on the Corsa, 140 hp motor and package. The Sprint package consisted of 40 improvements to the Corsa, which in 1965 prices, came to $350 extra. keep this amount in perspective-$3000 for a new car was a A LOT of money then. Wages for most were $1-2 hr. The Sprint made the Corsa move faster, handle better, stop faster and created a "fastback" for the Corvair. The engine modifications created 15 more horsepower, the ignition was advanced a further three degrees. The front suspension equaled those in a Ferrari. It was set at four degrees positive caster, while the rear camber was reset (from stock) at 1.5 degrees negative. Steering was shortened form 23:1 ratio to 15:1. The fastback look add-on is fiberglass the sweeps and blends perfectly into the Corvair body. The extra horsepower created a Corvair that accelerated rapidly from 2000 rpm in 4th gear. Its top speed hovered around 115 mph. From 0-60 mph, the Sprint made it in 9.5 seconds and 90 mph in 23 seconds.
Fitch's Sprint gave the consumer for a modest sum of extra money, a real race-like touring car that nothing could compare to within the price range. Why Chevy did not adopt some of these easy add-ons is bewildering as the Corsa was their version of the Sprint!
Fitch's Sprint sold for $2983.00, of which, about $2600.00 was your basic Corvair Corsa. Thus, one would buy the Corsa and take it to Fitch's own garage for the upgrades. Fitch was successful for the Sprint went on for more than four years, hundreds of Corsa's were upgraded but only a few still exist.
This was another of Fitch's creation based on the Corvair chassis. Unlike the Sprint, this was enitirely different and a true race car being a two seater only. The body would be made in Italy and the corvair engine placed in front of the rear axle and altered to reached 130 mph. The car has a definite Corvette look-circa 1969-70 or so, but was done years before Chevy assumed the style for the Corvette. Fitch had planned for a 500 car production run until US Emissions in 1966 put a brake on the idea. The Phoenix weighed in a 2100 lbs and the selling price was a hefty $8700.
The engine used the Corvair engine but with Weber two barrel carburetors, wheelbase was 95 in. Overall length was 174 in. The car had 160 hp at 5000 rpm and went from 0-60 mph in 7.5 seconds, two seconds faster than his own Corvair Sprint. The car was only 5.4 inches above the road. Car & Driver compared it performance to the legendary Pontiac GTO muscle car.
As far as one knows, only 1 or 2 were ever made after Fitch decided not to go into production due to the benign US Emission requirements. One wonders if that is the real reason it did not go forward.