Monday, November 2, 2009

The 1969 Corvair Fitch Sprint Saga - Update...

This is why I love doing this blog... I learn so much.

Saturday I stumbled upon a Craigslist ad for an interesting Corvair. It intrigued the hell out of me, so I posted it. No previous post has ever attracted so much attention as that one did.

When I was in my teens and early 20s, I owned a few Corvairs. Forget all the Ralph Nader stuff. Corvairs, especially the later (1965 - 1969) cars, are safe and fun to drive. A lot of fun to drive. They are no more prone to rolling over than any other car on the road. Do an internet search of "exotic wrecks" and you'll find plenty of pictures of Ferraris, Bugattis, Lamborghinis, etc., etc., sitting on their roofs. With enough stupidity it's possible to roll any car. In that regard, the Corvair is no different.

I spent a lot of time defending my Corvairs. Most of the people who criticized the car were "automotively challenged". They read Nader's book and took it as gospel. To counter them, I read and memorized every bit of Corvair information I could find. I was a walking, talking, (boring) Corvair encyclopedia. I knew it all. Or at least I thought I did until yesterday...

The 1969 Corvair on Craigslist with the "Ventop" roof really confused me. It looked like a Fitch Sprint, but, to the best of my knowledge, John Fitch didn't build any Sprints in 1969. It didn't seem like the seller knew what he had and neither did I.

I needed to find some information. I went to the Corvair Center website and left a post on their forum. Within an hour or so, I was finding out all sorts of new information about the Fitch Sprint.

Calling a Corvair a Fitch Sprint is like calling a BMW a Dinan BMW. You don't necessarily need to have all the Fitch parts on your car in order for it to be a Sprint. According to the one (very knowledgeable) member of the Corvair Center forum, "A Fitch Sprint could have a few Sprint components that were bought mail order or it could have every option available installed by Fitch and it would still be a Sprint. For CORSA (Corvair Society of America) competion it needs to have a certain number of Fitch items, 4 or 5 I think." That's very similar to what determines a BMW to be a Dinan BMW.

The Sprint didn't have special chassis numbers and were titled as Corvairs (I knew that), so you could easily mail-order Fitch parts and, if you put enough of them on, call the car a Fitch Sprint. (I didn't know that.) In theory you could do that today.

Clark's Corvair Parts (one of the top suppliers of Corvair parts) still sells an aftermarket "Ventop" roof. It goes for around $1100.00. Most of the parts that made a Corvair a Sprint are still available or relatively easily reproduced. (I didn't know that.)

A real Fitch Sprint (meaning one with an invoice from John Fitch) is worth decent money. A Sprint without paperwork is worth less, just a small premium over what any similar Corvair would be worth. It's still a cool car to own.

About the car on Craigslist... One Corvair Center member called the owner and reported this... "He has had it for over 20 yrs, hasn't run for 10 -15. He has been just taking it with him every time he moves. The interior needs the usual upholstery fixes. It is a Sprint according to the guy. At one time, he drove the car daily. He claims it has no major rust issues."

Other than the roof, we still have no idea how many Fitch parts this car has in it. "No major rust issues" is a subjective term. There is certainly a lot of surface rust on the car. Corvair front cross-members and floors tended to rust out. A thorough check of those areas of this car would be a really good idea.

When I was running Corvairs, I used to hang out at a place called G&L Motor Service in Kings Park, NY. They worked on Corvairs in the evening and I would spend a few nights a week there watching, asking questions and probably annoying them to no end. (Not much has changed for me. 30 years later I still spend time a lot of time asking questions about cars. The only difference is that now I know just how annoying I'm being. When you're in your late teens / early twenties you don't realize that.) They worked on a few Sprints. I particularly remember a red one that I just thought was the coolest car I had ever seen. I really wanted to own a Sprint.

After writing that post, reading the Corvair Center forum (not just the Fitch Sprint posts) and replying to a few e-mails about the car, I have the urge to own a Corvair again. Who knows? Maybe you'll see me at a CORSA meeting soon...

This is a photo of a well restored or well preserved Fitch Sprint. It, like the car for sale, has sidemarker lights, meaning it's a 1968 or 1969 Sprint. (A 1969 would have seats with headrests, but I can't tell from the picture if this one does.) I took it off the Corvair Center website...

The top photo of the Sprint brochure comes from Corvairkid Enterprises, another cool Corvair website.


vairmike said...

That appears to be a 1968 since the front marker lights are white not yellow.

Unknown said...

my dad had a red 69 sprint in the early 1970's when i was a kid,it was located in the taunton ma area,it won many spectater drags at the local speedways in new england,champ at seekonk and a strong runner at n.e.dragway,he said it would beat a GT350 if he kept it reved high and tight thru the apex of the curve,i remember when he was coming home after work we could hear him coming 3-4 miles away,sadly the corvair had a harnest fire and sat in our front yard for years,many stoped to inquire ,but it lays buryed 4 ft under the driveway in a dighton ma yard next to a 66 volvo p1800s,our family burys our dead,rumer has it a early letter hemi car rest their to

Unknown said...