The biggest ‘little’ show

Preparations are under way in Illinois for what promises to be the biggest “little” show in the world. Three-and-a-half years in the making, the first Micro/Mini Car World Meet will be held Aug. 21-22 in Crystal Lake at the University Center.

“It going to be like going to a Home Depot,” said one of the “Gang of 8” organizers, Ken Weger. “We’re tying to bring in as much variety as possible.”

Ken and Sylvia Weer, Crystal Lake, Ill., as one of the "Gang of 8" are helping to organize this August’s Miro-Mini Car World Meet 2010.

Owners from as far away as Europe, where mini and micro cars have long enjoyed popularity, are expected to attend.

“This is the first time a world meet has ever been attempted,” Weger said. “We went over and talked to club members in France, Germany, Scotland. We originally expected several containers of mini and macro cars to come over from Europe. Several owners had to back out because of the economy, but we still think one to three containers will be coming over.”

Nash Metropolitan owners are also taking the occasion to hold their national meet in conjunction with the event.

In addition to a display of an estimated 500 to 700 micros and minis, there will be demonstrations and services for owners and restorers: removal, replacement and sealing of windshields; painting; upholstery; and research.

Cars under 500cc are considered “microcars,” Those between 500cc and 1500cc are considered “minicars.”

To hopefully attract new enthusiasts, there will be 20 to 25 cars lined up for rides, including a mini limousine that carries five people. “We call it ‘synchronized breathing,’” Weger says of the mini limo-riding experience.

A driving tour through McHenry County, an awards dinner and an opportunity to speak with original owners and factory workers will round out the program.

The Wegers are no strangers to organizing such a show. They and their partners, including three other couples, organized the 2006 National Micro/Mini Car meet, drawing about 300 cars and thousands ?of spectators.

The Wegers’ first brush with micros and minis was an English Ford owned by Sylvia’s mom, although Ken jokingly says it was really his first car: a 1964 Renault Dauphine that worked on only two of its four cylinders. His fascination for the these machines, however, dates to 1964 when a neighborhood gas station used an Isetta for its emergency road service car. “I was hooked when I watched this little Isetta pull up to a large finned Cadillac to jump start it with jumper cables,” he said.

The couple started collecting in the 1980s when their kids were still at home, storing the tiny cars at various friends’ homes. After the kids were grown, the couple built a private museum, Small Wonders Micro-Minicar Museum, that is now home to about 100 cars. It’s located about two miles from this summer’s show site. The museum was opened to the public (by appointment) for the first time last year. “This is not your typical barn. It’s been engineered for low-cost heating,” Ken said.

The Wegers started their collection in the 1980s.

In the Weger collection, cars range in size from a 4-feet-5-inch-long Eshelman, to a Pulse that measures 16 feet, 4 inches. In between is a little of everything: a Scootacar, a Raleigh three-wheeler, Freeway, Crosleys, Citroëns and “a six-pack of Isettas.”

What fascinates Ken most about micros and minis is the engineering behind them. “I’ve been into Corvettes and Mustangs, but micro people had little or nothing and they built in some incredible innovations,” he said, noting that companies which built these tiny cars often did so as side businesses. One example: The Inter Berline built in the mid-1950s by the French aircraft builders, the Societe Nationale de Construction AeroNautique.

“The Inter Berline of France was built by a company that made commercial airline [parts], but business was slow, and they were tired of being laid off so the engineers designed a car to keep them busy,” Weger said. The cars are now among some of the most coveted by collectors.

Another airplane maker, Messerschmitt of Germany, built the popular Messerschmitt car following World War II after the company was banned from building fighter aircraft.

It was an Italian refrigerator company, Iso SpA, that built the Isetta.

Still, others were built one at a time by individuals. “Some were put together with bailing wire and duct tape,” Weger said, noting that plans for one of the King Midget models in his personal collection could be purchased in the back of Popular Mechanics. “It was easy to work on, so anyone could do the work.” The result was the creation of some one-off’s and “a lot of great stories”.

Many of these stories can be found at the Small Wonders Museum, where the Wegers have collected a library of information on minis and micros. “When we first started collecting, it was thought that there were about 400 mini/macro car makers,” Ken says. “But so far we have records for 2,000 and they keep coming in.”

With a resurgence in popularity of smaller, fuel-efficient ways to commute, there promises to be even more in the future.

For more information on the Small Wonders Museum contact the Wegers at KnSWeger@MC.Net
For more information about the upcoming Micro/Mini World Meet go to: www.worldmeet2010.com

The Wegers created their own museum last year, Small Wonders
Museum, open by appointment.

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