The reason I called my pal Tom Blackwood was my desire to share my excitement. Because at 9:00 a.m. yesterday your well-coifed Scribe began to receive pictures of his latest acquisition – a fully armored, vintage 500 SEL Mercedes Benz – as it was loaded onto a truck to start its journey here from Florida.
These are the kind of intimate moments only a car guy can understand.
In the conversation, Tom gave me an update on one of vintage racecar driver Jeff Moore’s discoveries; mild-mannered secretary turned race grrrl Donna Mae Mims and her previously lost “Think Pink” Bug Eye Sprite. And thus a fascinating story began to unfold.
Mims was known to her fans as the Pink Lady and was the first woman to win a Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) national championship in 1963. She wore a pink racing helmet, pink racing suit and had “Think Pink” emblazoned on the back of her racecars, that were always painted pink.
She was, as they say, a crowd pleaser.
In 1964, the UPI ran a feature story on Mims, stating, “It’s easy to see why men chase after Donna Mae Mims. She’s a delightful blonde with an intriguing smile, well-shaped figure and a laughing sense of humor. And much like most other members of her sex, she delights in leading men on a merry chase. Only trouble is Donna Mae doesn’t want to get caught. For it’s a double life Donna Mae leads, and when she isn’t sitting at a secretary’s desk she’s pursuing her career as ‘the pink lady of racing.”
In 1979, Mims also participated in the last running of the infamous, highly illegal coast-to-coast road race known as the “Cannonball Run.” She was part of an all-female team, sharing driving and navigation responsibilities with Judy Stropus and Peggy Niemcek in a tricked out ’68 Cadillac Limo. The women were sponsored by “The Right Bra Company.”
So infuriated was Mims that their sponsor didn’t provide them with free bra’s, that the girls ran the race bra-less in defiant protest.
Mims played so prominent a part in that last race that her character was played by busty Adrienne Barbeau in that not so well done movie of the same name directed by Hal Needham. It starred Burt Reynolds, Roger Moore, Farrah Fawcett and Dom DeLuise.
Anyway, I called Moore this morning at his office where he was preparing to fly to Gooding to watch his restoration of Mims’ racecar sell. And then he told me the rest of the story.
He had been chasing a lead, he had reason to believe, on Mims’ previously thought lost 1959 Bugeye Sprite that had originally belonged to Dr. Jonas Salk.
Yes, that Dr. Salk, of polio vaccine fame.
Salk bought the car in Paris while on a lecture tour and brought it back to the University of Pennsylvania where he taught. Salk later sold the car to a gentleman named Bill Wissel who race prepped it and put in on the SCCA circuit. Armed with enough facts to think he was on the right path, Moore called Mims to consult with her in 2006, three years before her death.
Mims thought Moore was on a dead end goose chase, informing him the man she’d sold the car to had rolled it in a race and she thought it had been completely destroyed. She also told him she believed her car was a 1958, Moore knew his suspect car was a 1959.
Still Moore had that feeling and was not to be pulled off the scent until he purchased the car, regardless.
Once he got the car back to his shop and began to dismantle it for restoration, under the first few pieces he removed he found….
Old, pink paint.
Moore restored the car to its former glory and today it sits at Gooding’s in Phoenix, waiting to cross the auction block Friday, sometime between 12:30-1:30.
Also at the auction, Gooding will feature a handfull of multi-million dollar Ferraris, a Talbot, a Lancia, as well as a 1970’s Hemi Cuda and 1923 window VW bus, both expected to top $100,000. This is big business. Last year total auction sales of classic cars topped $1.2 billion as the price for the best blue chip cars increased from $600K to over $1.8 million.
With an auction catalog estimate of $70,000 to $90,000 for Mims’ Think Pink gem from racing past, it’s not the most expensive car by any stretch, but to me, it’s by far the most interesting.
Moore was able to take Mims for a ride in her former car in 2008 at a Mid-Ohio event, a year before her death.
She’s got to be looking down and smiling this Friday.