Like a great many small American car manufacturers that sprang up at the turn of the 20th century, The Mitchell Motor Car Company of Racine, Wisconsin started life as a wagon builder. The company’s ancestry traces back to the 1820s, when it was known as the Mitchell Wagon Co. of Fort Dearborn – a place better known by its later name – Chicago. The company moved to Wisconsin in 1837, first to Kenosha and then to Racine where it remained through 1923. By the 1890s, they were building bicycles under the “Wisconsin Wheel Works” name and at the turn of the century, made an unsuccessful attempt at a motorcycle. Three years later, they moved on to four wheels with a small single-cylinder horseless carriage that proved to be much more successful than the motorcycle. By 1904, two car models were offered of either 7hp or 16hp, and the company was reincorporated as The Mitchell Motor Car Company. That year, 82 cars were built and the company homed in on a formula for success. For 1905, Mitchell replaced the epicyclic (planetary) transmissions with conventional 3-speed units and, somewhat curiously, offered customers the choice of either water or air cooling on the engines. By 1907, all engines were water cooled, and the chassis were shaft driven (as opposed to chain) and fitted with either Touring or Runabout bodies. Three models were available, 20hp, 24/30hp and 35hp and sales finally broke into four figures with 1377 examples sold. Soon, The Mitchell Car Company began shipping worldwide. A Mitchell distributor opened in Paris, creating a central hub for shipment to other countries in Europe. Mitchell also shipped to Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Guatemala, Brazil, Ecuador, Chile, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Romania, South Africa, Philippines, New Zealand, Australia, and Hawaii. The Mitchell was soon known around the world for its quality. Mitchell even offered a rental program through their New York dealership, where a car – with a driver – could be hired for $5.00 a day or $500 a month. Sales gradually increased over the years, peaking in 1916, as six-cylinder and even a V8 model filled out the company’s portfolio. But by the early 1920s, as with many small volume manufacturers, competition with the big Detroit auto makers was taking its toll, and the sudden death of the company’s leader send Mitchell into a rapid decline. The company folded in 1923, and the plant and assets were sold off to Nash.
This delightful 1907 Mitchell Model E runabout is a very fine example from this rare and seldom-seen American marque, and is one of only five known by the Mitchell club. This water-cooled model wears an older restoration that presents quite well, remaining attractive and with a surplus of charm. The blue main body is contrasted with black fenders and upholstery. Contrasting the body are a light-cream colored frame and wheels while alternating cream and blue coach stripes tie it together nicely. The bodywork and paint are in very tidy and attractive condition, showing only some care wear. Of course, this is a “brass era” automobile so it doesn’t disappoint with plenty of accessories that have been recently polished to a beautiful luster. Brass adorns many body fittings, the windscreen frame and of course the radiator which is flanked by two large brass headlamps. Beautiful Corcoran coach lamps are affixed to the cowl and a Prestolite acetylene tank rides outboard on the driver’s side. In the rear is found an E&J tricolor tail lamp and a “turtle back” trunk. Proper pyramid linoleum lines the floors and the folding top is trimmed in black canvas, all of which present in very tidy and well-preserved condition.
The Mitchell four cylinder engine is a rather interesting affair with its exposed valvetrain. This example is extremely tidy and well kept under the hood and again demonstrates the care this example has received since its restoration. Fans of early, brass-era automobiles will certainly delight in this wonderful little motorcar. It is rare, charming and yet thoroughly usable thanks to its small and approachable size. It would certainly be a welcome participant in VMCCA and Horseless Carriage Club tours, local shows or any other similar event.