Amelia Island

12 March 2011

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Lot 151

1950 Fitch-Whitmore Le Mans Special

  • Chassis no. 79456

Sold for $198,000


220+ bhp, 3,442 cc Jaguar DOHC inline six-cylinder engine, dual SU carburetors, four-speed manual gearbox, tuned Jaguar XK120 chassis, and four-wheel “Alfin” hydraulic drum brakes. Wheelbase: 102"

- From the Estate of John M. O’Quinn
- An innovative early special conceived and driven by racing legend John Fitch
- Jaguar XK120 chassis, lightweight hand-formed aluminum body

With an ancestor who developed one of the first commercially viable steamships and being the stepson of a former Stutz executive, Indianapolis-raised John Fitch was fascinated by racing early on. A WWII fighter pilot, Fitch joined the burgeoning American sports-car scene and raced an MG TC in 1949.

In 1950, Fitch teamed with famed commercial illustrator Coby Whitmore to race Whitmore’s new Jaguar XK120. While the XK120 was a capable performer and the team won their class at Sebring in 1950, Fitch knew that aggressive weight reduction would unleash greater performance. A lightweight aluminum racing body, hand-formed by Andy Salada at Fitch’s own Sports & Utility Motors shop, reduced weight by some 800 pounds. New wire wheels widened the car’s track, larger “Alfin” drum brakes were fitted, the front torsion bars were reset, the rear was lowered, and hotter cams were added to the 3.4-liter DOHC six-cylinder engine.

The highly modified car was originally intended for Le Mans, but Fitch and Whitmore soon realized its exposed wheels and cycle fenders presented a clear disadvantage on long straights. Accordingly, the car was repurposed for use on the shorter American road-racing circuits of the era. In this element, the Fitch-Whitmore Special provided excellent acceleration, braking and handling, with remarkably flat cornering.

Still in its natural aluminum finish, the Fitch-Whitmore Special made its racing debut at Bridgehampton on May 26, 1951, where Fitch drove it to a class victory and fourth overall. Fitch’s international career quickly skyrocketed, with several drives for Briggs Cunningham at Le Mans, victory at the 1951 Argentine Grand Prix, the GT win for Mercedes at the 1955 Mille Miglia and a stint developing Chevrolet’s racing Corvettes. Nonetheless, Fitch raced this car three more times. Whitmore drove it as well until late 1952 when the car was sold to Gerry Georgi of Nyack, New York.

Mr. Georgi fitted a Buick V-8 engine and raced it at Lime Rock for a few years. The car remained in his family until 1973/1974 when it was sold to Jim Haynes, a family friend and former manager of Lime Rock who raced it occasionally and swapped in a Jaguar 4.2-liter engine and four-speed gearbox before selling it to Bob Grossman, who had raced with Fitch at Le Mans in a Corvette. Next, the Special was acquired by Joel Finn in the late 1980s. Finn made no modifications, entered a few races and used the car mostly for spirited driving. Randolph Lenz acquired it in 1990 and engaged Vintage Racing Services, Inc. to restore the car for VSCCA and HMSA-sanctioned events. The work was completed in 1991, and a period-correct 3.4-liter Jaguar DOHC “six,” rebuilt by Sasco Motorsports, was fitted.

Under Mr. Lenz, the Fitch-Whitmore Special often raced successfully against higher-powered cars. In 1992, it was entered at the Monterey Historics and displayed at Pebble Beach during the same weekend. It was also profiled in the March/April 2002 edition of Vintage Motorsport and aptly described as “one of the very finest early American pure road racers – and it would have been even more famous had John Fitch been a less impressive driver and raced it a few more years.” In 2009, it joined the private collection of the late John M. O’Quinn. As described in the aforementioned Vintage Motorsport article, it truly remains “one of the breakthrough examples of early American road-racing innovation.”

Please note this car is offered on Bill of Sale only.

Addendum

Please note that this vehicle is sold on a bill of sale only.

Please contact our exclusive automotive transportation partner, Reliable Carriers, for a shipping quote or any other information on the transport of this vehicle.

Alexander Weaver

aweaver@rmsothebys.com

+1 864 313 6844
California, United States

Alexander Weaver joined RM Sotheby’s in 2011 as a Car Specialist after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat

asabatie-garat@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 74 1511 4179
United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a Car Specialist after more than a decade in the collector car hobby. Gradua... read more

Barney Ruprecht

bruprecht@rmsothebys.com

+1 203 912 7168
Ontario, Canada

Barney’s interest in classic cars began at an early age after being introduced to his father’s all-original 1965 Porsche 9... read more

David Swig

dswig@rmsothebys.com

+1 415 302 2247
California, United States

David Swig joined RM Sotheby’s West Coast division as a Car Specialist in May 2015. He is a life-long automobile enthusiast and ... read more

Don Rose

drose@rmsothebys.com

+1 617 513 0388
United States

Don joined RM in 2006 after several years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputation as a noted... read more

Donnie Gould

dgould@rmsothebys.com

+1 954 566 2209
Florida, United States

Donnie Gould joined the RM team in 2002 as a partner and Car Specialist after more than two decades in the vintage automobile auction ... read more

Gord Duff

gduff@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Gord Duff began his journey with RM Sotheby’s in 1998. Since then, he has gained an intimate knowledge of a variety of marques a... read more

Ian Kelleher

ikelleher@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Ian Kelleher began his automotive career immediately following his graduation from Oberlin College with a Bachelor of Arts in Politica... read more

Jake Auerbach

jauerbach@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Jake Auerbach got his start in the automotive industry at an early age, spending his summers during high school working at a classic c... read more

Jonathan Sierakowski

jonathan@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Jonathan Sierakowski developed a passion for classic cars while working at a Connecticut restoration shop as a teenager. He graduated with a... read more

Kurt Forry

kforry@rmsothebys.com

+1 717 623 1638
California, United States

Having worked for Bonhams’ Automobilia department for over 10 years, Kurt Forry joined RM Sotheby’s with more than a decad... read more

Matt Malamut

mmalamut@rmsothebys.com

+1 805 231 6410
California, United States

A long-time car enthusiast and Southern California native, Matt studied Automotive Technology at San Diego Miramar College and complet... read more

Michael Squire

msquire@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

... read more

Mike Fairbairn

mfairbairn@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

As one of the three founding partners of RM Sotheby’s, Mike has a long-standing interest in the classic car industry. Graduating... read more

Oliver Camelin

ocamelin@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 75 0110 7447
United Kingdom

With an extensive background in exotic sports car history and sales, a particular passion for American curves, and fluency in three la... read more

Paul Darvill

pdarvill@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Paul Darvill joined the RM Sotheby’s European team at the beginning of 2015. Paul holds a degree in French and Politics from the... read more

Pete Fisher

pfisher@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 784 9300
Ontario, Canada

Pete Fisher was first introduced to antique cars in high school, working for Classic Coachworks in his hometown of Blenheim, Ontario. He att... read more

Peter Wallman

pwallman@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Peter Wallman joined RM Europe in 2007 following nearly two decades in the international advertising industry, where he was based out ... read more

Shelby Myers

smyers@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Shelby Myers grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to watch the R... read more

Tonnie Van der Velden

tvandervelden@rmsothebys.com

+31 653 84 19 60
United Kingdom

Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a Car Specialist. A lifelong enthusiast, Tonnie... read more