The Happiest Race Car Will Probably Sell For Less Than It’s Worth
Photography Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s
See? Race cars don’t have to be lumbering, hulking, and edgy. They don’t need carbon fibre orifices and splashy graphics, though a bright shot of pink does help your fans pick you out of a crowd. In the high-end auction world, this car has everything: an unbelievable early history, championship-winning provenance, a compelling resurrection, and a well-documented life.
With it, Donna Mae Mims became the first female SCCA champion, winning the H/Production One-Liter class. RM Sotheby’s is offering the car later tonight, with no reserve and an estimate of between $40,000–$60,000. Sure, its low estimate may seem like a lot of money for a 43 horsepower race car, but is not out of line with what we’ve seen high-dollar examples of the model listed for. (That said, if you just want a Sprite to just drive around in, budget half that.)
This 1959 example, however, was reportedly purchased new in Paris, France and used in its early life—after export to the U.S.—by Dr. Jonas Salk. It was perhaps not the most practical way to get to his job at the University of Pittsburgh, but by this point in his career his Polio vaccine had been a miracle for millions around the world. Salk sold the car after a few years of ownership to an enthusiast in Pittsburgh, from whom Mims acquired the car.
After Mims had prepared the Sprite, it was unmistakable: it was finished in bright pink, with “THINK PINK” painted on its tail. The wheels were pink, there were air horns on its hood, and a black racing stripe to complete the look. Still: Mims was fast, talented, and would have won H/Production in 1963 no matter what color her car was painted.
The car was sold at the end of 1963 and raced in different hands until 1987—which RM Sotheby’s says is documented in its original SCCA logbook, which (of course) is part of the package. In 2005 Jeff Moore purchased the car and restored it back to what it would have looked like in 1963. Ms Mims and Moore corresponded regularly, with her memories of the car and period immortalized on pink stationery…which also comes with the car.
Mims may have used the Sprite for a short period in its life, but with much of the value in the high-dollar collector car market driven by documentation, provenance, and “preserving” history through restoration, it’s probably a good thing that the first female SCCA champion’s car is with us, again.
It’s also amazing the car survived 25 years of competition (roughly) intact—perhaps Salk’s early ownership of the car as a daily in Pittsburgh vaccinated it against future incident.
~43 horsepower, 948-cc SOHC inline four-cylinder engine, four-speed close-ratio manual transmission, independent front suspension with shock absorbers, live rear axle with Watts linkage and shock absorbers, and front-disc and rear-drum brakes. Wheelbase: 80 in.
–1963 SCCA H/Production Champion, driven by the famed Donna Mae Mims
–Complete racing restoration, featured in Classic Motorsports magazine
–Documented by its BMIHT certificate and letters from “Her Serene Pinkness”
–The car that crowned the first female SCCA champion
Chassis no. AN5L/16468
Engine no. 12V/671Z/L16242
Other: RM Sotheby’s says a portion of the proceeds of its sale will benefit Stanford, the Revs Program at the University, and other charities including The Nature Conservancy.