The Super Rare 1950 Fitzpatrick

Joe Bortz
The Super Rare 1950 Fitzpatrick
When I first saw the 1950 Fitzpatrick custom in the early 1980s, it was in a parking lot at a Pennsylvania shopping center, I was absolutely stunned. I searched for the owner, but could not find him. The best that I could do was take pictures of the car, which included the license plate number. When I returned to Chicago, I worked with the Pennsylvania Department of Motor Vehicles to locate the owner. Through alternate sources, I was eventually able to find the owner.

After finally finding the owner in 1988, we spoke over the phone many times for the next 15 years, in which I tried to purchase the car. During these discussions, I found that the owner had bought the car in the late 1960s and had driven it on several trips of more than 1,000 miles. After 15 years of trying to purchase the Fitzpatrick, I was finally successful in 2004.

I spent many days and nights trying to research the history on the car but only found a full-page article in the November 1950 issue of Road and Track. The car wore two tags from the Fitzpatrick Body Co. of Los Angeles, but the lead went nowhere. At one time, there were leads suggesting that the car may have belonged to Carmen Miranda of movie fame, but they turned into dead ends.

In January 2006, the phone rang and the voice on the other end said, “Hello, my name is Phil Lacy, Jr., can you help me find the car known as the Fitzpatrick?” I responded that I could do more than that – I could show it to him, as I owned the car.

Once we began talking, I learned the caller’s father was Phil Lacey, Sr., who designed and built the car from 1947-1950 while working in a Los Angeles garage. Phil Lacy worked on the car every evening with a sheet metal bender, a man named Lucky. It turns out that the financier of the project was a fellow named Fitzpatrick, who owned a body building shop called “Fitzpatrick.”

The elder Lacy was a decorated fighter pilot in World War II, and when he was released from duty, he began selling real estate in Los Angeles with his mother, a top real estate broker. She threatened to fire him on several occasions because he wasn’t doing his real estate work, he was always drawing cars. During this period, he showed his drawings to a man named Mr. Fitzpatrick, who said he would fund the project to build one of Lacy’s drawings and would supply his best sheet metal bender called “Lucky”.

The project was based on Phil Lacy’s 1940 Packard chassis after removing the original Packard body, and yes Lucky was the best sheet metal bender in Los Angeles. Around the time the car was nearly completed, Phil Lacy Sr. was called back by the military to help win the war in Korea by training new fighter pilots.

When Lacy returned from Korea, Fitzpatrick and his car were gone. Lacy never knew at that time that the car became known as the Fitzpatrick, and he never knew about the article from 1950 in Road and Track magazine. Lacy thought that the car had probably been destroyed and he would never see it again. Luckily, Lacy had some now completed photos left of the one and only car he ever designed and built, the 1950 Fitzpatrick and of course as his son got older he would show him the pictures of the car.

While talking to Phil Lacey, Jr. over the phone, he indicated that his father at the time was 84 years old and would like to see the car. I realized that this was truly a historic story and would be a significant moment in automotive history, so I contacted my friends at “Dream Car Garage,” a Thursday night TV show on Speed channel. The producers agreed to have the Lacys and I meet at their studio up in Canada with the Fitzpatrick in July 2006. As part of the show, the Fitzpatrick would be unveiled, for the first time, to its designer Phil Lacy, his son and wife.

Everything went as planned, and as the SUV rolled up to the showroom of “Dream Car Garage” with Phil Lacy, Sr. and Jr. and their families, the cover was immediately removed from the Fitzpatrick and tears began flowing. Thereafter, actual taping of the car and interviews were conducted with Phil Lacy, Sr., Phil Lacy, Jr. and me.

This car has become famous for being the best-known Post War Packard Sports Custom.
The car still resides in the Bortz Auto Collection and can be seen at many of the local car shows around Chicagoland. 
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