Paul Wilson: Sixties Bombshell Donna Mae Mims Belle of the Ball @ Classic Car Auction

Girl in MG #3

Donna Mae Mims

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.

65+DMMims1255478988Moore owns Automotive Archeologists, in Springfield MO, that specializes in collecting, restoring and racing automobiles of historical significance.

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.”

MimsIn 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.


Adrienne Barbeau

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.

Moore and Mims in 2008

Moore and Mims in 2008

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.



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23 Responses to Paul Wilson: Sixties Bombshell Donna Mae Mims Belle of the Ball @ Classic Car Auction

  1. mike t. says:

    pretty cool, paul. i vaguely remember her.

    gooding is one of the best, along with RM and of course barrett-jackson. the collector car market is definitely back. wish i could play in it. hell, i’d be happy to play in any market!

    so, now pics of your new merc? you said “vintage” but didn’t note the year. also, assume you followed with interest the reveals at the north american auto show this past week?

  2. Libertarian says:

    Classic guns and cars seem to be a better investment than any bank has to offer.

    Thank to Barrett-Jackson and the likes, muscle car values have sky-rocketed in the past 12 years or so. Also, a Colt Python .357 I paid $400 for in 1989 will easily bring over a $1,000 in todays market. Weird, huh?

    That was cool story Paul. I had never heard of Mims, or the pink Sprite. Thanks for the very interesting read to go with my morning Joe.

    • paulwilsonkc says:

      Thanks, Lib, always happy when you like something!

    • mike t. says:

      Lib… the sad part about some of it is that these investors are buying them just for that reason – ROI (and because they CAN) – and have no intention of driving them. of course, if you’re paying 100’s of thousands of dollars, or millions in some cases, i guess you don’t want to risk any damage or addt’l miles.

      it’s a fickle market tho’. muscle cars were very big about 10 or so years ago, then not so much. they’ve made a comeback lately, but if you paid top dollar then for a ’64 GTO or Hemi Cuda, you might still be waiting for the appreciation. exotics and rare one-off racers are getting the top dollar right now.

  3. the dude says:

    I wondered why they looked so perky in that picture.

  4. expat says:

    Good stuff. You should write for The Selvedge Yard. Cars aren’t my thing but racing kicks ass no matter what the conveyance.

    I read a while back that the Cannonball Run has been resurrected but can’t find the article now. I did find something about a guy making it across the country in 29 hours in a hopped up Mercedes though.

    • paulwilsonkc says:

      Expat, thanks and you are correct. It was run again mid summer, if I’m correct, but under a different name, much more covert, much more quiet.
      I’ll have to look up The Selvedge Yard; not familiar with them.

  5. Kerouac says:

    Visions of Kowalski in ‘Vanishing Point’ (the original/one and only of course), less than 15 hours Denver to San Francisco, a cinematic Cannonball Run, and a compilation two distinct stories VP that were in fact true, one ending in the death a young man near an roadblock aft he fled/failed stop for police (silver screen version tending be less painful all the way around.)

    As for muscle car value today, haven’t kept track of it as afore, but, recall a 1970 Hemi Cuda selling for over $1 million at auction a few years ago, only to be resold some time thereafter for ‘only’ $640,000+, or thereabouts.

    Drive/enjoy ’em while you can muscle cars, because in this day and age, sure enough if something is fun & enjoyable you can be pretty certain some bureaucrat ne’er-do-well will try and put a stop to it.

    • paulwilsonkc says:

      Its a fickle market when youre in high end stuff. The incredibly ugly Superbirds (Im not a Mopar fan) routinely bring over a mill. Ferrari went through its fair share; prices when through the roof, took a huge decline, then slowly found their way back.
      I’ve always tended to stay in no-miss catagories, VW busses among them. Its too late now, but my last one shipped to Greece about two years ago at 10 times my money, six months ownership.
      I love the vintage Benz’s for some reason. By the right ones and youre either going to make money or not lose money.
      Right now, another car I’m not a fan of, but if you buy the best C4 Corvettes you can find, its a no miss deal. Get a good color, low mileage, optioned up car where its all correct; money in the bank.
      Each vette hits its rock bottom then starts the climb back. Hold a C4 for 5-8 years and you’ll double your money. Likely my next purchase, even though I’m not a real fan.

      • mike t. says:

        good call on the c-4. i’d agree. and, in ‘predicting the future’ category, methinks a 2014 c-7 will appreciate…sometime around 2034.

      • Kerouac says:

        I purchased a 1970 Corvette Stingray 454 ci with 6,001 original miles back in 1999 for $29,000. I sold it in early 2012 (while it still had but 24,114 original miles) and more than doubled my $, despite the thence down market for said. True enough, there’s always someone out there who is willing to be parted from their money, if you are willing say adieu to a nuts & bolts metal love yours.

        An aside, I’d like to ‘crush’ those nitwits who have for years now talked about crushing & banning from the road older vehicles… over my dead pistol-grip shifter they will (yup, am Mopar man.)

        • mike t. says:

          personally fond of select chevys and pontiacs, and shelby mustangs. am with paul on superbirds… ugly. no offense, kerouac.

          • Kerouac says:

            None taken… I too find them a bit of an albatross. For that matter, I have never liked ‘Cudas & will take my Challenger over any, any day the week.

  6. Kerouac says:

    Road Runners rule too.. BEEP BEEP!

  7. paulwilsonkc says:

    Thanks for commenting guys; this is another one of those stories that take you by surprise. I thought there would be more car dudes out there. Like I always say, the more you think you know, the less you really know.

    • mike t. says:

      assume you know about hover motor company’s blog? keeps pretty good track of all the car events, shows, etc.. he posts tons of pics. some very cool rides out there.

  8. Kerouac says:

    One last bit of Mopar: as a young man, loved the 1968 Dodge Charger when I first saw it on a tv & then magazine advertisement. Alas, when I finally saw one up close & in person, became apparent that it shared the same disease Cadillac’s did – too long/battleship like.

    That said, still like the 1968 Charger better than any other year before or since… in fact, would have no use any other if it weren’t for watching ‘Crazy Mary’/Susan George lookin great riding ’69 that movie… nuff said.

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