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Drag Racing Story of the Day!

Farewell to The Hippie

By Phil Elliott

Mike Mitchell - The World's Fastest Hippie. Photo courtesy of the Flyin' Phil archives

Note: Mike "World's Fastest Hippie" Mitchell was found dead yesterday morning at his home in the San Francisco area. Heart failure was the cause given. bp

I met Mike at Puyallup in 1968. He was up with his Willys, but as a backup car AND unlike his usual, he couldn't get the thing to run very well.

The next time I talked to him was in the very long tech line at Pomona 71. At the time, he was having BB/A lettered on the Corvette roadster, which he ran for a few years. It was new, polished and pretty, and its paint -- including that hookah -- caught the eyes of fans and antagonists alike. The name "Revolution" taken from the John Lennon/Beatles song was certainly his inner message. His racing, however, was strong and straight.

Mike Mitchell prepares the 'Vette for the next round. Photo courtesy of the Flyin' Phil archives

Over that and the next year, I would see him more and more. With methanol in the Corvette's tank, he was able to compete well with the still burgeoning funny cars in the northwest. No, he didn't win a lot -- I think one 1/8 mile race at Eugene -- but was always there to perform smoky burnouts and decent 8.20/165 runs pretty much wherever.

I saw him at Seattle, Mission, Eugene, Puyallup, Boise and other venues. I even arranged for one of my friends to work with him at a few events.

It was at one of those races, when my pal Dave was unable to come, that I had my most embarrassing moment in drag racing.

It was during '71 at a big FC race at Boise. Mike grabbed me to help and since my photo duties were semi complete (I'd shot all the cars already and was gonna wait to shoot the final round and winners circle. Also, I didn't need to write the race until a couple days later.), I agreed.

The Corvette was fairly low maintenance, featuring a 440-inch Chrysler -- fewer cubes than Mike had run on gasoline and a Crowerglide/Torqueflite. Just water, fuel and run the valves were all the between rounds stuff to do.

Anyway, I started the day in my wildest of hippyesque red, white and blue bell-bottoms, which had no back pockets. My wallet went on the dashboard of the truck -- soon the wallet was gone with every cent I had. Not a good feeling 12 hours from home.

We made a warm-up run in the late morning and all went well. I think Mike qualified 11th out of 16 cars. In round one, we faced Bob Papirnick's Canadian car (I think) and he broke so we walked on to round two. I can't remember whom we raced, but it was a hitter car and I knew there was no chance to win. The Corvette was a self-start car that had pins in the wheel wells to hold the body down. It was later when NHRA mandated the front latches for FCs. The body was down and latched before the Chrysler was brought to life. It was very low, and couldn't be towed without the body being up, however.

So, after normal startup and burnouts, the car launched and headed for the other end. Mike's opponent pulled ahead, then crossed up and went off the left side, churning desert dirt high in the air. Mike won.

For those who haven't raced Boise, the staging lanes parallel and are higher than the track and you have to make a 180-degree left turn -- downhill -- to follow the racecars. In my excited stated, I wheeled the Chevy ramp truck around like it was a Porsche and dumped every tool Mike owned all over the start line.

Now I've seen this done by a variety of teams over the years, but I succeeded to perform in a far superior manner than I've ever witnessed. And tho' I wanted to hit the nitrous button or dig a very large hole into which to disappear, I backed up and cleaned up the mess and dried to drive off into the sunset as if this was my normal deal. The bad part was that somebody helping in the cleanup had borrowed the body poles on the no-return plan.

When I got down to where Mike was waiting, he was not a scene of serenity, but he didn't shoot me. I don't remember what we ended up using for body poles, and I know he lost in the semis. But the entire race is still a total blur, an experience I haven't forgotten.

The next times we saw each other, we laff'd about it, but I was never asked to help him again.

Many will remember Mike for his "Impeach Nixon" campaign, splashed across the spoiler of his 'Cuda FC. I'll remember Mike as a crazy friend who knew how to race out of a very few tools and spares. I too was looking forward to a reuniting with him and the Corvette at CHRR.

Goodbye Mike. I hope your chemically damaged heart is in a better place today.

Flyin' Phil
flyinphil32@earthlink.net

 

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