According to an item in AutoWeek, American racing legend John Fitch passed away yesterday at the age of 95. He succumbed to Merkel carcinoma, a rare form of skin cancer.
Fitch wasn’t just a racing legend — the first SCCA National Champion, and a racing star throughout Europe in the 1950s and 1960s. He was the kind of do-it-all, renaissance man that seemed to be spawned one after another following World War II. According to the piece in AutoWeek:
“His first passion was airplanes, not cars, so it is not surprising that when World War II broke out, he volunteered to become a pilot. He was in England at the time (1939) on an extended trip to “see the world” and tried to join the RAF, since the United States hadn’t yet joined the war. When this proved impossible, he returned to the U.S. and, in 1941, volunteered for the Army Air Corps. Fitch took easily to flying, and attained the rank of captain quickly, serving in northern Africa before entering the battle in Europe.”
Fitch was also a car builder with the Corvair-based Fitch Phoenix and Fitch Sprint to his name, the former which ironically suffered under the weight of the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act. You can read more about the Phoenix and other Fitch history at Dan Strohl’s great post on the Hemmings Blog.
Image Source: VIR History
Less known than John Fitch, but just as important to many New England racing fans was the passing of Gaston “Gus” Andrey at the age of 85. Andrey won road racing National Championships seven times. His last race was an IMSA Camel GT event at Miami, 1985, which ended in a horrible crash that caused Andrey significant injury.
Automotive fans from the Metrowest region of Boston will remember Andrey most for his dealership — Gaston Andrey of Framingham — which was a leading importer of Ferrari, Alfa Romeo and Maserati throughout the 1980s. The dealership later became Saab City under Andrey’s ownership. Many New England racing fans will remember watching F1 races from all over the world — live, at all hours of the morning — at Andrey’s dealership. The building is still functioning as a garage, as the new home of J. White”s Automotive, a Land Rover specialist.