Iola heats up with orphans

Steamy Iola ’12 features Mercury, Plymouth, Pontiac and Olds

You’d be hard-pressed to search out a larger display of finned Mopars — especially convertibles — than you’ll find at the northwest corner of Iola’s Blue Ribbon Concours. This lineup is led by a 1958 De Soto Adventurer hardtop, which flanks a 1957 Adventurer convertible and a 1959 Chrysler 300-E convertible.

By Angelo Van Bogart

Despite the intense heat and threats of much-needed rain, they came from far and wide to the 40th annual Iola Old Car Show, held July 12-15 in Iola, Wis.

According to Joan Schultz, executive director of the Iola Old Car Show, this year’s numbers for the show, one of the country’s biggest automotive events, were comparable to last year: 110,000 attendees, 1,204 campers, 628 cars in the car corral and 1,791 registered show cars. However, what helps make Iola so famous is its swap meet, with 4,430 spaces.
“We did sell out,” Schultz said. “We had even resold 42 of them.”

As at some other events, the Iola Old Car Show partially refunds swap meet registration fees if a vendor notifies the staff if they cannot attend, then the show resells the spaces in order to keep the swap meet as full as possible. The original vendors are also able to reserve their spaces for the following year.

For $6995, this 1930 Chevrolet Coach offered a lot of patina and features buyers like to hear: it was a 64,500-mile original with one owner and a “barn find,” having been stored since 1959.

The threat of hail and the 100-degree temperatures may have scared away some participants, but Schultz said many of those past attendees that didn’t brave the heat were replaced by new faces.

“There seemed to be a fair number of new visitors this year,” she said. “Some of the first-timers stopped at the Tower and said, ‘You have a great show; I will be back next year.’”

What helped draw spectators and show-car owners alike was this year’s theme, “21st Century Orphans,” which honored the Plymouth, Oldsmobile, Mercury and Pontiac marques, which have each ceased production since 2000. Among the stand-outs in the theme tent were a freshly restored 1948 Plymouth station wagon, an authentic 1964 Plymouth Savoy Hemi-powered Super Stock car, a 1955 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight Holiday coupe, a Tri-Power-equipped 1966 Pontiac with a 421-cid V-8 and largely unrestored 1951 Mercury Monterey and 1950 Mercury coupes. The International Mercury Owner’s Association also held its convention in conjunction with the Iola Old Car Show and set up its own display of about 35 Mercurys near the car corral.

John West’s 1930 Packard 740 Club Sedan added Gatsby glamour to the prewar show car section during its debut to the Iola Old Car Show.

In addition to the cars on display and the car parts in the swap meet, one of Iola’s biggest draws is the Teamed to Learn Tent, a display managed by Mitch Swenson, public relations director for the show. This year, the exhibit included the McPherson College Automotive Restoration program, the Collectors Foundation’s mission to bring back shop class and hands-on demonstrations of sheet metal repair by TLC Restorations, among other features and speakers.

“TLC Restorations’ demonstration went over particularly good, because they actually did a demonstration on a car, welding and cutting out panels,” Swenson said.

Of particular note in the Teamed to Learn tent was a presentation by Rachel Veitch, the original owner of a 558,000-mile 1964 Mercury Comet Caliente sedan. Iola 2012 marked the last time the hot-as-a-pistol Veitch is expected to speak about the car, as she has stopped driving the car due to macular degeneration. Her appearance with the car was provided courtesy of Uptown Motor Cars of Wisconsin, which has been entrusted to care for the Mercury.

Sporting Ardun overhead-valve heads on its 1946 flathead, Bob and Diana Anderson’s 1932 Ford highboy roadster looked ready to run on the salt or the street. The couple brought their Deuce all the way up to Iola from Tampa, Fla.

Next year, the Mercurys, Plymouths, Oldsmobiles and Pontiacs will be replaced in the Theme Tent by hundreds of Chevrolets and Fords when the Iola Old Car Show features “Showdown in I-Town: Chevy vs. Ford.” The show staff is hard at work preparing additional special exhibits to show how competition between these two brands benefit the world of automobiles, and the hobby.

To learn more about the Iola Old Car Show, go to or call 715-445-4000.

Iola corrals a hefty number of pony cars, from Shelbys to Mach 1’s to Bosses, but one of the most unusual of them all is this chopped restomod 1969 SportsRoof that’s been chopped and dubbed “Chop 1.”


All the way from Davenport, Iowa, Alvin and Marie Elmore brought their 1939 Studebaker Champion coupe.

For just $7,500, this solid old Studebaker could be yours. The swap meet find was a 1936 Dictator model and looked just to need a dusting and a driver.

Pontiac wasn’t just celebrated in the Iola Old Car Show’s Theme Tent, it was highlighted in the swap meet where this diamond in the rough awaited a restorer’s touch. Seller Ron Stone said the rare 1957 Pontiac Safari came with good front fenders and lift gate, but it had bad floors and the incorrect from seat. He was asking $6,500 for the restorable long roof.

Ford Model T and Model A parts are plentiful at Iola. This vendor had fenders and other sheet metal galore.

Its aluminum coachwork by Vincents of Reading exposed by stripped paint, this 1948 Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith had a six-cylinder R-R engine and a C-6 transmission with a $29,500 price tag.

It look more like a scene out of a car show than a swap meet, but Jewel’s Body Shop brought four first-gen T-birds to Iola’s swap meet to show off its restoration skill on 1955-’57 Thunderbirds.

If you’re sniffing out a 1935 Ford Cabriolet, you’re too late. This example wore a $15,500 price tag and was sold before the weekend was over. The $14,500 1935 Ford convertible sedan in front of it, however, was still available.

A largely original 1970 AMC Rebel Machine with the original stripes, engine, transmission, interior and most of its paint was priced at $26,800.

Fred Minor’s 1970 Challenger brightened up the postwar show field with its Panther Pink paint, one of eight High Impact Paint colors available that model year. Panther Pink is particularly rare, as it was only offered in spring 1970. Minor brought the Dodge from Gladstone, Mich.


Ray Otto was answering the “WUTZIT” question posed by the license plates of his 1960 NSU Sport Prinz all afternoon. The German coupe was designed by Berton of Italy and is powered by a two-cylinder, air-cooled engine of 30 hp.

Mercury’s first model year of production was represented by Ellen and Bob Flood’s 1939 Mercury two-door sedan.

At $12,500, this driver-quality 1957 Oldsmobile Super 88 Holiday coupe was a lot of car for the money.

Just four of these eight-cylinder 1932 Lincoln KA victorias are known to remain in the United States, and this one at Iola was available to a new owner for $59,500.

Buyers looking to go “Back to the Future” again could pick up this 1981 DeLorean with just 8,000 miles for $28,500.

“Flair ’Birds” are still bargains, a fact proven by this 390-cid-equipped 1964 Thunderbird coupe priced at $9,900.

At $15,000, this 1969 Dodge Super Bee coupe was a well-priced driver. Its original 383-cid V-8 had been replaced by a 413-cid V-8, but the car still packed a TorqueFlite automatic.

Original paint, interior and S-code 390-cid V-8 made this unrestored 1969 Ford Torino a fantastic survivor priced fairly at $17,500. The car was additionally equipped with a four-venturi carburetor, automatic transmission and an absolute necessity with Iola’s 90- to 100-degree temperatures: working air conditioning.


See more Iola Old Car Show photos in Angelo’s blog: 110,000 gearheads descend on Iola for 40th annual Iola Old Car Show.


7 thoughts on “Iola heats up with orphans

  1. Robert J. Wolfe

    Nice pictures I was really looking forward to going, just due to the economy & Pontiac of almost 300000mi was going to bring some Oldsmobile parts with me maybe go to the swap meet & see what I could find, something preferably in the 10s-40s range, selling 57 & some other parts/things.

  2. Bob Bacchi

    What a great show that is…wish I could have been there! Maybe I would have found a wheel cover for my 1966 LeMans, as at no other shows have I found one. The car prices looked very much better than I’ve seen lately.

  3. Peter Lohff

    Been going to the car show for 31 years. Always a great time with friends. Even the “ladies” in the tower put up with us for four days. You can find things for just about every kind of automobile. Looking forward to next year.

  4. Steven Grotte

    I saw a description and a picture of the front end of a 55 or 56 Desota on Ebay it is listed as in Texas, description says it is a convertible starting bid was set at $200, there were no bids when auction closed, this was on 7/24/12, maybe it is listed again. picture of it was of it in a barn or old garage, picture showed front end of car up to the wind shield wipers, yellow or gold colored.
    Wish I could have afforded to bid and to hall it from Texas to north west Nevada but not possible for me.

  5. Mark Bartow

    Been attending Iola since 1978 and this was one of the hottest ever. Spent part of Friday in the “cooling station” due to heat exhaustion. What a great job these people do!! Got me back on track and back to the campground to recover so I was good to go on Saturday. The place was very busy and the staff was top notch!! Thanks again.


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