Phoenix Lands in Very Safe Hands

Web John Fitch 1

Thanks to the concerted efforts of Wayne Carini (Velocity’s “Chasing Classic Cars”), journalist Don Klein, and the Fitch Family, the late John Fitch’s pride and joy – the one and only Fitch Phoenix -- went to the Bonham’s auction at the Greenwich Concours Sunday, June 1.

Given appropriate display space just feet from the auction stage, the Phoenix was the center of attention. After bidders went back and forth, at 2:42 p.m. the gavel came down on its sale to Mr. Charles Mallory of Greenwich, Conn.

A collector with eclectic tastes, Mr. Mallory was not there to simply add to his stable: “This was by far my most emotional purchase,” Mallory said shortly afterward. “I loved John, I love Lime Rock, I really feel the Phoenix belongs in Connecticut. I’m very happy for not just me, but everyone who understands what this is about.”

The Phoenix went for $230,000 (137,278 British pounds, 168,665 Euros).

The Phoenix, a two-seater sports cars based on the Chevrolet Corvair, was to be the first of a limited run of 500 and was designed and built by Fitch. With a total weight of 1,950 pounds even with a steel body, and with the Corvair engine modified with Weber carburetors to deliver 175 hp, the car was to deliver spirited performance for $8,760.

But the American automotive landscape changed drastically in 1966 with the passage of the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act, which made the production of any car outside the realm of the major manufacturers simply financially untenable. Not another Phoenix was ever made.

(For links to more details on Fitch’s Phoenix, click here and here. Three photos from the Greenwich Concours Bonham's auction below.)

From the late 60s onward, the Phoenix was Fitch’s favorite car to drive. Right up to the point not long before his passing in October of 2012, one could count on Fitch driving the car from his nearby home to Lime Rock Park, where his and the car’s presence were always eagerly anticipated.

Needless to say, Mr. Mallory has a standing invitation to bring the Phoenix to Lime Rock Park any time he wishes...

Web Phoenix auction car
Moments before the bidding was to begin...

Web Phoenix gavel
The gavel comes down...

Web Phoenix Greenwich Klein
Journalist Don Klein (l.), who's driven the Phoenix many times, provides some anecdotal background to Charles Mallory (r.), who most assuredly has the car in his safe, respectful hands...

P.S.: Look for a "Chasing Classic Cars" episode covering the Phoenix and the auction this fall on the Velocity Channel

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