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Frank X. Zirbes: Famous Early "Mitchell" Motorcycle/Auto Racer from Racine, Wis.

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Frank X. Zirbes: Famous Early "Mitchell" Motorcycle/Auto Racer from Racine, Wis.

Herb from Wis. (View posts)
Posted: 5 Feb 2003 9:36AM GMT
Classification: Query
Frank X. Zirbes was a well-known motorcycle racer in the Midwest circa1901-1904. He rode the Mitchell motorcycle made in Racine, Wis. during those years and was quite prominent. It was later claimed he held a world record for 4 years. He participated in the first race that a Harley-Davidson motorcycle ever took part it -- and beat it -- altho he had to share the victory with an Indian motorcycle in a second race.

After Mitchell switched over to buiding autos, Zirbes was a test driver and inspector for the company. He took part in transcontinental endurance contests around 1908 and continued to race. From a relative I heard he was in Barny Oldfield's pit crew at the Indianapolis raceway, but I haven't verified that.

Zirbes stayed with Mitchell until the firm failed in the early 1920s. Around 1921 there was another big cross-country test drive with Zirbes in the lead car and with lots of publicity, but it didn't save the Mitchell company from going belly up. The Mitchell factory still stands in Racine, Wis., but there is talk of razing it. I attended Mitchell Jr. High School in Racine, named after the Mitchell wagon-motorcycle-auto building family.

Zirbes was my dad's great-uncle (making Zirbes my first cousin twice removed I think). In other words, my dad's grandmother was a Zirbes, and Frank X. was her nephew. I think I got that right. My dad remembers visiting Zirbes with his dad (my grandfather) when Zirbes was an old man. Zirbes died around 1953 -- when I was an infant.

Anybody ever hear of this Zirbes? Better yet, have you ever seen any photos or clippings of him as a motorcycle or auto racer?
SubjectAuthorDate Posted
Herb from Wis. 5 Feb 2003 4:36PM GMT 
Mark Littlefield 27 Jan 2005 1:03AM GMT 
Herb from Wis. 28 May 2005 5:38PM GMT 
Mark Littlefield 30 May 2005 6:00PM GMT 
Herbert Wagner 30 Jun 2005 4:31PM GMT 
starman43 15 Aug 2009 9:25AM GMT 
michaeljzirbe... 7 Feb 2013 2:27AM GMT 
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