Photographed and Reviewed by Peter Brown
James Cowen of Automodello continues to surprise and delight us with his unusual, and beautifully crafted 1:43 scale subjects. Here, we have his latest creation, the Fitch Phoenix. Designed by John Fitch, styled by Coby Whitemore, and crafted out of steel by Carrozzeria Intermeccanica in Italy, only one Fitch Phoenix was built back in 1966. It used many parts from Chevrolet's Corvair parts bin. Sadly, they killed the Corvair just as Fitch was getting ready for production. John Fitch still owns and drives the prototype depicted here.
As you view these images, keep reminding yourself that this model is only three inches long. Quite a remarkable achievement, no? For starters, look at those photo-etch wipers. They would be impressive in 1:24 scale, but in 1:43 they're astonishing. Notice how the engraved lines denoting the various body panels give the impression that these are opening panels, when in reality the model is static. Check out the seats, with their perforated "leather" inserts and contrasting bolsters—just incredible.
The plaque means that this is a Founder's Edition, so it also comes with a certificate bearing John Fitch's signature. A note about color: Though it initially appears to be a medium to dark gray, certain angles and lighting types reveal a brown hue. The combination of brown and dark gray are what I would actually call "sable," but John named it Tobacco Brown (no relation), and it looks great. The paint is flawless.
Door locks and emblems are separate photo-etched parts, and properly sealed. The wheels have remarkable detail for their size. Styling is a mixed bag, taking some obvious cues from the stingray, but turning them into a completely original design. The humps were a clever solution to the need for two spares (due to the front and rear being different sizes), and give the car a unique look, something like the offspring of a Corvette, a Stutz, and a Fiat. 45 years ago it must have looked quite radical and exotic.
Distortion-free "glass," delicately-wrought chrome window moldings, chrome-rimmed foglights, amber directional signals, and realistic tires and tread patterns, all add to the illusion created by this wonderful little model.
While it looks fine in these shots, you really have to see one in person to appreciate what they've accomplished here. Just look at the detail in the interior. Between the seats and the dash and gauges, it's a real marvel of miniaturization.
There's nice lensing out back, with the multi-colored taillight/brake/reverse/directional signal combo, and a realistic license plate to complete the illusion. Twin exhaust pipes look properly proportioned, but there is little else in the way of undercarriage detail, as these are intended as static display pieces.
All of Automodello's 1:43 scale models come in their own display case, with a crystal clear acrylic top, and a gray plastic base. The model is held securely to the base with two screws and tensioning springs, which are removable if desired.
The Fitch Phoenix is currently offered only in this Founder's Edition in Tobacco Brown with Certificate of Authenticity signed by John Fitch and gold plaque. Limited to 192 pieces, and retailing for $195 from Automodello.com.