On Thursday night, December 6, 2012, I attended the “Remembering John Fitch” night at the Larz Anderson Museum of Transportation in Brookline, Massachusetts. It was a bittersweet night, remembering the remarkable life of John Fitch, while at the same time dealing with the news that he had recently died at the age of 95.
The highlight of the night was the showing of the documentary film “Gullwing at Twilight”. This is wonderful film about a small part of John Fitch’s life produced by filmmaker Chris Szwedo.
A 1955 Gullwing Mercedes-Benz 300 SL and John Fitch at the Bonneville Salt Flats
John Fitch was the driver of Bob Sirna’s 1955 Mercedes-Benz Gullwing coupe for F/GT class record attempts in 2003, 2004, and 2005 at the Bonneville Salt Flats. At that time Fitch was in his late 80s. Filmmaker Chris Szwedo accompanied those record attempts to document the role of John Fitch, who once again was at the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz race car.
A Still Image From “Gullwing at Twilight”
The record attempt story was interspersed by personal stories about John Fitch from his wife (who passed away a few years ago) and from John’s friend, admirer, and fellow race car driver, Sam Posey. It was a very interesting, informative, and entertaining film.
After the showing of the film, Don Klein, a friend and co-author of John Fitch’s book, “Racing With Mercedes” talked about his relationship with John Fitch. Don regaled the audience with stories about the latter part of John Fitch’s life. It was at times very funny and sad at others.
Further, Chris Szwedo was able to share some stories about John Fitch from his time working with Fitch on the Bonneville documentary. If you are interested in getting a copy of a DVD of the film or a poster of the image shown at the top of this post, then go to the website for Chris Zwedo Productions at the following address:
After the presentation, I had a brief opportunity to speak with Lawrence (Larry) Berman, a motorsports historian from Newton, Massachusetts, who compiled a list of John Fitch’s racing records. Evidently this was not an easy task, as Fitch did not keep very good records of his racing activities, plus Fitch’s office and whole house was crammed full of papers and momentos from John’s long, active, and varied life. Larry is also very much involved in the history of one of America’s great sports car racers of the 1950s, Briggs Cunningham. John Fitch frequently drove one of Cunningham’s cars. For more information on the Cunningham cars go to www.briggscunningham.com
By the way, as my mother was a Cunningham, (no known relation to Briggs Cunningham) I have certain interest in Briggs Cunningham and the Cunningham cars.
Another effect of seeing the “Gullwing at Twilight” film was to re-kindle a long-held interest in going to Bonneville, if only for a day or two to witness the action during the Bonneville Speed Weeks. The sites, sounds, and colors are fantastic, as well as seeing the creative “backyard” engineering brought to this event. Experiencing these on a very big screen and with a good sound system was very enjoyable and makes wanting to see and hear the event in person a definite “bucket list” activity.
All in all, it was a very good night.
Rest in peace John Fitch.