In the good old days the OCW staff lined up the theme cars for the Iola Old Car Show. When the 100th year of the automobile was celebrated, the goal was to get a car for every year. We wound up filling 95 of the 100 slots with a car, which was better than any other show did on that theme. We were incredibly lucky. A lot of my friends in the hobby sent cars. The Imperial Palace collection sent four, Jimmy Leake sent two up from Tulsa. Other cars came from the Crawford Museum in Ohio, the ACD Museum in Indiana and the Bill Winslow collection in Chicago (Bill drove up in a 1910 Packard roadster!) Jack Martin brought up a Duesenberg racing car frim the Indy 500 Hall of Fame. Goodyear said they would send the Wingfoot Express, but then they blew up its engine in the Great Race and said they could not make Iola. Somehow they put another engine in the Packard truck and did bring it. The most incredible break came from Mercedes-Benz. Beverly Rae Kimes, who had just finished writing the STANDARD CATALOG of AMERICAN CARS for us was working on a Mercedes history. She got Leo Levine of Mercedes PR to commit to sending a replica of the first car, but we did not hear much from Mercedes. Finally, Chet Krause told me to call Leo about the car. When I did, I heard Leo say “Oh shucks,,” but it wasn’t shucks. I thought we were in “deep shucks,” but he said he had promised and would do something. A few days later he called to say the car was coming. A few days after that he called to ask if we could handle a second replica. Then a third call asked if we could handle the third one. There were three different types and they had been displayed in different car museums in Dearborn, Indianapolis and maybe Auburn. Mercedes was gathering them up to ship them to Pebble Beach, the first place all three were scheduled to be shown together. But it turned out that Iola was centrally located and that they could save money by sending them here and then taking all three to Pebble together. So the Iola Old Car Show ended up being the first place that all three replicas was shown together before going to Pebble. Mercedes actually did a press kit announcing the cars were going to be in Iola. I’m quite sure they only made three copies, one for the car show, one for Chet and one for the editor of OLD CARS WEEKLY (me). They also sent a PR man named Fred Chapman. At first, Fred did not like the idea of coming to a small Midwestern village, but at a Friday night party he met a car collector from his home town in Michigan who had brought a St. Louis touring car for display. After that, Fred was as “happy as a pig in shucks” to be in Iola that weekend.
Gunner’s Garage with John Gunnell
"Gunner" is one of of the most prolific authors and most visible characters in the old car hobby. He has written dozens of books about old cars for Krause Publications and is the former editor and publisher of Old Cars Weekly. His collecting pursuits range from old Pontiacs, to MGs, to retired police cruisers, to Indian motorcycles. He remains a frequent contributor to Old Cars Weekly and owns and operates Gunner’s Great Garage, a classic car restoration and gift shop in Manawa, Wis.
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