More than 120,000 car enthusiasts from around the country make the Iola Old Car Show in Iola, Wis., one of the world’s largest car shows and swap meets.
And even with its theme of “Independents and Imports,” this year’s event had a strong Wisconsin flavor to it.
The Iola Old Car Show had an interesting display of cars used in
the movie “Public Enemies” starring Johnny Depp, and this 1935
Chevrolet Master Deluxe two-door sedan would have fit in fine.
The car was offered in the Car Corral for $9,250. Seller Jerry
Bach of Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., said the Chevy is an 82,000-mile-
original car that he bought from the grandson of the original
owner who was the barber in Amery, Wis. According to Bach, the
car spent 40 years in storage, and sports “suicide doors” which
were offered on Master Deluxe models only in ’35.
(Ron Kowalke photo)
The event’s Wisconsin bias was not by design, but more by coincidence. This year presented two fresh restorations of exceptional automobiles: the Mohs Ostentatienne Opera Sedan, a late-1960s vehicle based on an International chassis in Madison, Wis., with innovative safety features still being incorporated in new cars; and the freshly restored Bestul custom car, built by a longtime Iola Old Car Show volunteer Lee Bestul in Iola during the 1950s. Both of these cars, as well as the work of top-notch area restorers, were displayed under the event’s Teamed to Learn tent, which featured displays and seminars on the reconstruction of collector vehicles by professionals and by well-trained high school students.
“I think the Lee Bestul vehicle was a real hit, as was the Mohs,” said Joan Schultz, executive director of the Iola Old Car Show.
“Teamed to Learn gave many show goers an opportunity to experience how many individuals fulfilled their dreams,” said Mitchell Swenson, Iola Old Car Show public relations director. “Each presenting participant shared their ideologies of turning a dream or concept and passionately making either a project or career come to fruition.
“We look forward to providing more educational/visionary projects relative to the car collecting and restoration enthusiasts at future shows.”
Adjacent to the Teamed to Learn tent, a gathering of approximately 40 prewar cars used in the filming of the newly released Michael Mann film “Public Enemies” nosed-up to a red carpet for the 2009 Iola show. The film stars Johnny Depp as notorious gangster John Dillinger, who made parts of the Midwest his stomping grounds, including areas of Wisconsin.
Among the cars used in the filming and displayed at the show was a 1933 Reo Royale sedan. Though used in the film, it also rightly qualified for the independents theme of the event. Owner Mark Peters’ father found the Reo while he was completing plumbing work on a farm in 1965. The farmers who bought the car new agreed to trade the Reo for the cost of the plumbing work. Had Peters not bought the low-mileage car, it would have become a hay wagon. Fifteen years later, Peters got the car ready for the road.
“All I had to do was rewind the starter and generator and have the radiator redone,” Peters said. “Then all it needed was a good pull with a tractor to get it started.”
Among its many travels, the Royale has been driven 600 miles to a Reo club meet in Ohio where it performed flawlessly.
“I went on Highway 80 and kept up with traffic,” Peters said. The day after the Iola Old Car Show ended, the Reo was headed for Maine to another club meet there.
Pat Olk, of Menasha, Wis., has a little-known truck, but worked for a well-known, Wisconsin-based NASCAR team owner in the 1950s. During the mid-1950s, Olk was employed by Carl Kiekhaefer, whose Chrysler 300s were famous for their NASCAR victories in 1955 and 1956. Olk didn’t bring a Chrysler to the meet, but a rare 1930 Chevrolet roadster truck.
“It’s a 1930-1/2, really,” Olk said. “Ford made roadster trucks much earlier, and there are a lot of Chevy steel-top trucks, but most people didn’t know (Chevrolet) made a roadster truck.”
The roadster truck Olk brought to the event represented the first year for such a model from Chevrolet and still looked excellent, despite having been restored in 1986. In the seven years he’s owned the truck, Olk has only seen a handful of others, but that doesn’t stop him from enjoying the truck.
“I drive it to the store sometimes, and it’s driving to car club meetings,” Olk said. The roadster truck joins a 1930 Chevrolet roadster and a Model A Ford in Olk’s collection.
In addition to the 2,000 show cars on display, Iola featured 4,415 swap spaces packed with vendors from across the United States and 750 vehicles for sale in the car corral.
To be among one of the 120,000 people who make the annual trek to Iola, call the Iola Old Car Show staff at 715-445-4000, or go to www.iolaoldcarshow.com. Next year’s theme of Sensational Sixties promises to provide plenty of variety, and the show staff is already looking for cars to feature on the annual event poster.
A pair of hand-lettered 1959 Chevy El Camino fender skirts
were offered for sale in the swap space of Rick Maas of Rick’s
Antiques of Appleton, Wis. Maas was asking $175 for each
skirt, which he acquired from Glendale Heights, Ill., where he
found them attached to the wood bed side rails of a pickup.
(Ron Kowalke photo)
In keeping with the import portion of the theme of this year’s
Iola Old Car Show, this 1960 Sunbeam Rapier hardtop was
offered for sale in the swap area. Seller Dave Koceja of Big
Bend, Wis., was asking $700 for the car, and eventually found
an eager buyer in a Wisconsin couple who already own a
Sunbeam Alpine and want to restore this Rapier as a companion
car. Koceja said he purchased the Sunbeam hardtop and a
similar convertible from a Muskego, Wis., collector who was
forced to clear his property of his long-term collection of
vehicles due to a local ordinance infraction. He said the four-
cylinder, four-speed Rapier was originally a California car.
(Ron Kowalke photo)
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