John Fitch racing an MG-TD at Linden, New Jersey, in 1950. Photo courtesy IMRRC.
Folks in the world of cars knew, admired and respected the late John Fitch. He was a racer, a patriot, a fighter pilot, a track designer, a historian of all things automotive and an inventor with traffic safety at the forefront of his research. He amassed a myriad collection of trophies, books, photos and a lot more in his travels, and thanks to his sons John, Christopher, and Stephen Fitch, that trove has been donated to the International Motor Racing Research Center in Watkins Glen, New York, greatly expanding its existing John Cooper Fitch collection.
“The collection reflects John Fitch’s remarkable and varied life as a talented international race car driver, an innovative inventor of road and driver safety equipment, a designer of racing and production cars, and an author who shared his exceptional story through his books,” IMRRC archivist Jenny Ambrose said. “We are honored to serve as the largest historical repository of materials related to John Fitch.”
The family’s donation was facilitated by longtime Fitch friend and historian Larry Berman, a native of the Boston area, who said, “To carry this forward, the IMRRC has developed a world-class reputation, which motivated me to obtain the Fitch archives donated by his family.
Fitch died on October 31, 2012, at the age of 95. A large part of the donation consists of trophies and cups that he earned by winning more than 20 major races during his 18 years as an active driver. In addition to being the first national champion of the Sports Car Club of America in 1951, Fitch also won Sebring outright in 1953, won his class at the 1955 Mille Miglia, and captured a golden jubilee Tourist Trophy win at the dangerous Dundrod circuit in Northern Ireland that same year. Also in 1955, he was a member of the Mercedes-Benz works team at Le Mans, which ended in tragedy when his co-driver, Pierre Levegh, plunged his exploding car into the crowd, killing more than 80.
Beyond the trophies, the Fitch collection also includes numerous photographs, clippings, race programs and other documentation of his career. Those papers also include his correspondence on the cars he built (the Corvair Sprint and Fitch Phoenix, among others) and his efforts to develop an early impact-absorption system for race tracks, among other creations. For more information on the IMRRC and its mission, visit RacingArchives.com.