The year 1917 was the beginning of a failing era for the Mitchell vehicle. With the family having removed themselves from any part of the Racine headquarters, a few family members were still involved with the Portland office and smaller concerns in Seattle, Spokane and Salt Lake City. The Mitchell name was no longer synonymous with “family enterprise.” After the Mitchell and Lewis families sold their holdings in the company, the Mitchell began to decline in popularity. That same year, 1917, the Mitchell engine was plagued by a faulty lubrication system. Word of mouth severely damaged the Mitchell’s reputation.
This was the same year that the United States entered World War I on the side of the Allies, and the US shifted to a war-time economy. This would prove to have a disastrous impact on the Mitchell’s selling power.
The next year, 1918, touted the Mitchell as having 19 different body styles. This was still an impressive quality for the time because the majority of the factory floor was being utilized to produce four-wheel drive trucks for the military. In 1920, a redesign in the body style included a rear-slanting radiator and hood louvers. It was an attempt to make the vehicle more streamlined, but the public was offended by the “clever” design and nicknamed the car the “Drunken Mitchell.” This was the final straw for the Mitchell’s popularity. Nothing could regain the Mitchell’s former reputation.
Even a huge publicity push in 1922 couldn’t bring the Mitchell back in the public’s eyes. In an attempt to prove the sturdiness of the Mitchell, they painted stock cars with white paint, sealed the hoods, and drove them all over the United States for a combined total of 1,000,000 miles.
But by 1923, only 100 Mitchells had been produced for consumer purchase, forcing the company to file for bankruptcy. Bankruptcy wasn’t just brought on by the Mitchell’s diminished reputation or the earlier withdrawal of the Mitchell and Lewis family members. The war effort had an adverse effect on the public’s view of personal transportation. Luxury was no longer an option for the majority of the population. This effect, combined with growing competition from other emerging car companies toppled the Mitchell-Lewis Company from its lofty position above the other early automakers. In 1924, the Nash Motor Company bought the Racine factory, officially ending the Mitchell’s production.