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Mike Mitchell, 'world's fastest hippie,' dies

By Phil Burgess, NHRA.com
7/27/2000

Mike Mitchell
1943-2000

Drag racing's most famous hippie, former Funny Car racer Mike Mitchell, was found dead Wednesday, July 26, in his San Francisco home of an apparent heart attack. He was 56.

Remembered as much for his long hair as his successful series of rides, Mitchell was a colorful character on and off the dragstrip.

Mitchell began his "official" racing career in 1962 after narrowly escaping death in a street race., Beginning with his mother's '49 Ford he soon switched to a '34 five-window B/Gas Ford coupe and then a AA/GS '33 Willys with which he won the AHRA World Championships Competition Eliminator title at Lions in 1965. The Willys was also his first car to bear a hippie theme as it had a hookah water pipe painted on the front and other wild graphics.

Mitchell made his reputation with his next car, a red, white, and blue topless BB/A and AA/GS Corvette, dubbed Revolution, that held numerous national records in its run from 1969 to 1973.

Mitchell's first nitro Funny Car, raced in 1973-74, was a Woody Gilmore-built 'Cuda called The Hippie which was widely known and sometimes criticized for the "Impeach Nixon" lettering on its rear spoiler. The car burned to the ground at Irwindale Raceway in the summer of '74.

Mitchell sat out for five years, but returned in 1979 with a Corvette sponsored by San Francisco-based A&E Motors but retired at the end of the 1980 season.

"I had spent a lot of time fooling around and doing what I wanted to do," he told National DRAGSTER in 1994. "I had a family to think about. The '80 season also was when Kenny Bernstein first showed with the Budweiser, a car that revolutionized the sport. I could see the handwriting on the wall; big bucks and sponsors or else. I got out."

Mitchell returned to his vocation as a plumber, then became the head of stage security for the rock group Jefferson Starship, whose lead singer, Marty Balin, was a high-school classmate of Mitchell's. Mitchell then worked for the San Francisco Water Department, where he remained employed until his death. He became interested in nostalgia racing and stumbled across his Revolution Corvette in Hemmings Motor News and restored the car with help from Chip Woodall.


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