One-off

This John Fitch-Built Phoenix Prototype is Heading to Auction

Its never even been offered for sale before.

The plan was for 500 units of the Fitch Phoenix, but in the end just one was built, and that was the prototype. Before we get into some of its details, you should be aware of who John Fitch is (in case you don’t already know). A World War II fighter pilot, Fitch returned from the war and began a racing career that saw him compete at Sebring and Le Mans. He was also pals with Carroll Shelby. And like Shelby, Fitch had an idea for a great car, but in this case a luxury grand tourer.

Starting off with the Chevy Corvair’s flat-six back in 1966, he managed to kick up its output from 140 to 170 horsepower. Along with his good friend and neighbor, illustrator Coby Whitmore, the two constructed a full-scale mockup in order to perfect the design. Their efforts resulted in the rear-engined Phoenix. Its body was built in Turin, Italy, and was then bolted to a Corvair drivetrain. The completed car weighed 2,150 lbs. It can hit 60 mph in just 7.5 seconds and a top speed of 130 mph. The Phoenix had its official premiere in New York in the summer of 1966, and was priced at $8,700. It was extremely well received, but the US government had other plans.

At that time, the Highway Safety Act went into effect and the Phoenix simply didn’t meet its new safety standards. Combined with Ralph Nader’s scathing criticism of the Corvair in "Unsafe at Any Speed," Finch’s Phoenix died before it even had a chance. Today, only the sole prototype remains, and it’ll hit the auction block this Sunday at the Bonhams Greenwich auction. Photos courtesy of Bonhams.

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