Claude Blain's 1966 Fitch Sprint
Claude Blain, in an e-mail message to this site, wrote, "I have owned all kinds of good cars in my life but the one that left the best memory was my yellow Corvair Fitch. I used it many times in hill climbing competitions at Camp Fortune. It was really hot, and a real head turner, too."
"Camp Fortune," I thought, "is a 35 minute drive from my front door." After a couple of volleys of e-mail, Claude and I realized we lived just a short distance from each other in different communities just outside of Canada's capital city, Ottawa, Ontario. "Oh, oh, I thought, could this be the making of an Ottawa chapter of the Corvair Society of America (CORSA)?"
Claude suggested we get together the following day to talk about the hill climbing '66. The Fitch Sprint played a significant role in the Corvair's history, and before Claude contacted me, I'd only collected a couple of Sprint images for the site. Here was a bonafide Sprint owner and competitor who was keen to talk about his car. Perfect!
When we met, he explained that he became aware of the Fitch Sprint from a magazine article. He subsequently ordered a new Corsa and wrote to John Fitch and ordered a package including steering, suspension, carburetor and exhaust modifications and the special Sprint roof panel. When his car arrived at Guest Motors in Hull, Québec, the dealership spent 4 or 5 days installing the components and applying the matt black paint accents to the front fenders, roof, rear quarter-panels and cove area.
Claude Blain (in the lighter overcoat) taking delivery of his '66 Corsa Sprint in November, 1965
While the car appears to be white in this picture, it was actually Lemonwood Yellow, like the color sample at left. The photo appeared in local newspapers as a promotional aid for the dealership's Corvair sales. It worked, but unfortunately, the dealership is now defunct.
In 1966 and '67, Claude participated in Motorsport Club of Ottawa (MCO) hill climbs at nearby Camp Fortune, in Gatineau Park, Québec, a protected area of wilderness, accessed by a network of well engineered and groomed, paved 2-lane roadways. The hill climb course was a half-mile, consisting of a short run to a 90 degree left, followed by a sharp right turn and a more-or-less straight run to the finish. Claude's Sprint would cross the finish line at 100 MPH, after which he'd have to stand on the binders to bring to car to a stop in the short, quarter-mile shutdown area at the summit.
Claude remembers that, in those days, a helmet was the only required safety equipment. "There were a few accidents up there," he told me, "and I remember spinning 360 degrees in that first turn, but managed to stay on the road. Another competitor in an open car rolled into a ravine, but wasn't hurt."
It's easy to tell Claude has fond memories of his Sprint and the fun he had with it. He's always enjoyed cars and racing, and in the early Seventies, was a marshal at Canada's Mosport Park, near Toronto. He also served as a guest marshal for Grand Prix races held at Watkins Glen, New York. In the Sixties, he founded a local car club, the Outaouais Valley Autosport Club (OVAC). During the icy Canadian winters, he organized ice races in the Ottawa area, which played a part in the formulation of the Ottawa Winter Festival, now an annual event called Winterlude, that draws visitors from all over the world.
Claude is a retired notary and currently doesn't own a Corvair. That may change, however, as he's still a Corvair spotter and might make the jump if he can find "the right car." I took that to mean a '66 Corsa with Fitch Sprint modifications. Maybe it is possible to "go home again."
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