Some of the most notable people in Chevrolet history stand out because they were willing to break the rules and push traditional boundaries. Donna Mae Mims, known as the “Pink Lady”, is one of those individuals, making her way into the racing scene through a somewhat unique avenue, and then never looking back. No matter how many hurdles she had to overcome or “traditions” she had to break in order to be the successful racer she was, she never gave up. Check out Mims’ story about the time before she became a notable Chevy great below!
Born on July 1st, 1927, aside from the obvious, Mims was not your typical gearhead growing up. Though she undoubtedly noticed the ever-changing car scene back in the day, witnessing the first mass-produced vehicles hitting the road all the way through the classic car era, it wasn’t until the ’50s that Mims hit the automotive scene running.
A few years after graduating from Dormont High School in Dormont, Pennsylvania, in 1945, Mims went on to get a job at a local Chevrolet dealership in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, just 30 miles from her high school. As it turns out, that Chevy dealership ended up being pretty important not only to Mims’ racing career, but also to the history of Chevrolet performance. That dealership was Yenko Chevrolet.
Working as a secretary for the dealership, Mims became more and more acquainted with the offerings that Chevrolet had at the time. Eventually, she found her place in the performance end of the business, helping develop the company’s performance sports car.
In the late ’50s, Mims and her husband bought a Fuelie Corvette. With that, the racing bug really hit the Pink Lady. By 1960, Mims took her first win in the B-Production Class at the 1960 Cumberland Nationals behind the wheel of her Corvette.
She spent the next couple of years working at Yenko and continuing to race. In 1963, Mims made another huge step in the racing scene, taking the 1963 SCCA Championship title. This time she was behind the wheel of her pink 1959 Austin-Healey Bugeye Sprite. Not only was this a major step in Mims’ racing career, but also a major accomplishment in the sport of automotive racing. With this win, Mims was the first recorded female SCCA national champion.
From that point on, Mims’ fondness for the color pink became a notable part of her racing career. Not only did Mims pilot a number of pink cars over her 14-year racing career, she also dressed to match her pink machines, wearing a pink helmet and racing suit every time she hit the track. While the color was seemingly girlish and innocent, Mims certainly didn’t take that to heart for her racing style, holding her own against fields of mostly male competitors every time she got behind the wheel.
By the 1970s, Mims was a well-known SCCA driver, but in 1972, she solidified herself as even more than that to the racing community. That year, Mims and her all-female team took part in the famed Cannonball Run, all wearing tight clothing and racing a 1968 Cadillac limousine. Though Mims and her team didn’t finish the race, she is famously remembered for taking part in the inaugural event and was even memorialized in the 1981 film “The Cannonball Run”. Mims passed away in 2009 at the age of 82.