Sunday, March 6, 2011
I had the pleasure of spending the better part of a day with John Fitch at his home in Lime Rock, Connecticut as he had graciously agreed to go on camera for my documentary on the Carrera Panamericana. I prepared for meeting him by reading the available books and articles that have been written about or by John. I was also able to watch a number of videos that featured him. Nothing, however, prepared me for the man who greeted me.
To say that I have met some extraordinary people in my travels would be an understatement. I've spent time and conversed with individuals who have changed the world in which they lived--Enzo Ferrari, Steve McQueen, Marlon Brando, Sammy Cahn, Shelley Berman and Juan Manuel Fangio to name a few. Seldom have I been in the presence of someone who has accomplished so much and possessed such an unlimited enthusiasm. In trying to describe John to my associate Ron Kellogg, the best I could do was to say, "Where you would expect to find arrogance, there was only joy."
John spent an hour in front of my camera answering questions that he'd no doubt heard from others and a few that he claimed were new to him. I learned more than a few things about John's role in the Carrera Panamericana that I'd never read or suspected. I was surprised to learn some interesting facts about his involvement with Corvette at Sebring. He recounted some very interesting details about Le Mans where he raced with Mercedes and Corvette. We weren't too far into our interview that I realized John Fitch is an under-reported treasure. At the end of the hour, as we were about to shut down the camera, John asked, "Do you want to do some more?" Yes we did and, for another hour, the camera continued to capture the magic John had to offer.
At the end of the second hour, John escorted us out to his garage where he showed us the Fitch Phoenix. If you have seen photos of the car--or had the privilege of seeing it in person--you may have noticed a resemblance to the Mako Shark and the 1968 Corvette...
At one point, I asked John if he could ever have brought himself to ride as a navigator in a race like the Carrera Panamericana or the Mille Miglia. He laughed and said absolutely not, which came as no surprise. He added, "The driver is an optimist. The passenger is a pessimist!"
Suffice it to say that John is the consummate optimist.