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1950 Fitch-Whitmore Le Mans : Classic Cars

John Fitch was a World War II fighter pilot and had a fascination with racing which began at an early age. After the War, Fitch actively raced an MG TC. He joined forces with famed commercial illustrator Coby Whitemore in 1950 and raced Whitmore's new Jaguar XK120. Though the XK120 was a capable car, Fitch believed that it could enjoy even more success if the overall weight of the car was reduced. Andy Salada was tasked with creating a hand-formed, lightweight aluminum racing body for the car, at Fitch's own Sports & Utility Motor Shop. This new body saved 800 pounds. The car's track was widened with new wire wheels, larger 'Alfin' drum brakes, and the front torsion bars were reset. Other modifications included lowering the rear end and fitting hotter cams to the 3.4-liter DOHC six-cylinder engine.

The modifications to the car were intended for Le Mans, but Fitch and Whitmore soon realized potential Achilles' heals. The car's exposed wheels and cycle fenders may not have been well suited to the high-speed LeMans course. Rather, the car performed well on the shorter American road-racing circuits, where it proved to have excellent acceleration, cornering, braking and handling.

The Fitch-Whitmore Special made its racing debut at Bridgehampton on May 26th of 1951, where Fitch drove it to a class victory and fourth overall. Fitch would race the car three more times and into late 1952, when it was sold to Gerry Georgi of Nyack, New York.

While in Mr. Georgi's care, the car was given a Buick V-8 engine and raced at Lime Rock for a few years. The car remained in his care until 1973 or 1974, when it was sold to Jim Haynes. Mr. Haynes raced it occasionally, removing the Buick engine in favor of a Jaguar 4.2-liter unit and a four-speed gearbox before selling it to Bob Grossman. The next owner was Joel Finn in the late 1980s.

Finn made no modifications to the car, and used it in several races. Randolph Lenz acquired the car in 1990 and gave it a professional restoration to comply with VSCCA and HMSA-sanctioned events. The work was completed in 1991. A period-correct 3.4-liter Jaguar DOHC 'six' was rebuilt and fitted into the engine bay.

In 1992, the car raced at the Monterey Historics and displayed at Pebble Beach during the same weekend. In 2009, it joined the collection of Mr. John M. O'Quinn.

In 2011, the car was offered for sale at the Amelia Island sale presented by RM Auctions. The car was estimated to sell for $175,000 - $250,000. As bidding came to a close, the car had been sold for the sum of $198,000, including buyer's premium.

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Sources : 1950 Fitch-Whitmore Le Mans Photo | 1950 Fitch-Whitmore Le Mans Article


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