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Colusa's own vintage car company
Sue Mitchell sat in a lawn chair under a shade tree at Main and 10th streets and watched as more than 60 vintage road racers made their way into the riverfront park.
"We waved at them, and they waved back at us," said Mitchell about her pleasant Wednesday afternoon.
Many of the drivers of the mostly European-styled cars — all part of the 22nd annual California Mille, which made a stop in Colusa for the first time — took a second glance at the line of two Model A Fords and a 1929 Chevrolet.
Local residents have seen the old cars driving around town from time to time, but few know the significance of what is under the hood of the Fords — or that it is a local company that produces the noteworthy part. "It is just known as 'the Mitchell,'" she said.
It is a six-speed overdrive and gear splitter adapted for Model A vehicles (1928-31) and Ford V8 engines (1932-48), and it was invented by her late husband, Glenn Mitchell.
"We sit over there (in the shop) very quietly, and ship all over the United States and to Australia and New Zealand and other places," Mitchell said.
Mitchell Manufacturing, located behind the idle Pirelli Cable plant, produces about 50 of the overdrives each month, along with a variety of related parts.
"And we also make parts for Packards, Pierce-Arrows and a lot of vintage cars that have what they call open drive shafts," Mitchell said.
Her son, Steve Mitchell, and his wife, Cyndi, help run the operation, which moved from Healdsburg in 2004.
"There was an influx of new people (in Healdsburg), and because we were a machine shop, and not related to the wine industry, they didn't like us. So we felt like was time to move," Mitchell said.
Colusa was chosen because her daughter, Cathy Yerxa, lives here. She also has a daughter, Susan Belli, who lives in El Dorado Hills.
The first problem they faced was stuffing 10,000 square feet of a manufacturing plant into a 5,000-square-foot building.
That done, the Mitchells went to work.
And Sue Mitchell, the 79-year-old matriarch of family and business, does exactly that, arriving at the office each day about 7 a.m..
"We have a lot of fun," she said.
Glenn Mitchell actually came out of the lumber industry, and had never really shown that much interest in cars.
"I don't even know how he got into it," she said.
The company was formed in 1994.
Mitchell said she was selling real estate, and was having a fair amount of success, when her husband told her it was time for a career change.
"He said, 'Mother, I think it is time you come work for us,'" said Mitchell, an Oregon native. That is where she met her husband, who was from Washington.
"And I said, 'Glenn, I'm good at selling real estate.' And he said, 'You will be good at selling transmissions, too.'"
Mitchell admits she didn't know anything about cars, but she learned.
Now she speaks with great knowledge about what the company makes, and the machines they use to make them.
"My daughter-in-law is the machinist. Mr. Mitchell taught her," she said.
The firm has five employees besides the family, and occasionally a few more.
Glenn Mitchell died in 2007. Sue Mitchell admits it has been a difficult transition. She does not know many people in town besides her family, and the company employees.
But she is well known around the world, and treasures the opportunity to meet her customers when the travel to various conventions around the country and beyond.
"Next month were are going to Marquette, Michigan. There will be 800 of us," Mitchell said.
Steve Mitchell is one of the convention presenters.
When the Great Race came through Colusa in 2006, 90 cars in all, Mitchell met about 30 of her customers. They all had "the Mitchell" under the hood.
The family also goes to a fair number of rodeos, evident by the amount of memorabilia in the shop office.
The star of the family is grandson, Spencer Mitchell, an up-and-coming team roper, who won back-to-back state high school championships with partner Broc Cresta in 2003 and 2004.
The first year, Mitchell hailed from Healdsburg; the second year he roped his way to the title as a Williams High School junior.
He and Cresta, out of Santa Rosa, have been to the National Finals Rodeo once, and won a national title in one of the development circuits.
Steve Mitchell ropes occasionally, most recently as a partner with Lee Rosser at Western Days in Colusa. The two go back to their college days at San Luis Obispo.
Sue Mitchell's eyes light up when she talks about family, and said the love of rodeo comes from her late-husband, who more than anything, would have loved to have been a cowboy.
Instead, he became a pioneer.