History comes alive at the Wisconsin Automotive Museum at 147 B. Rural St., Hartford, Wis. Showcasing transportation history, this museum is Wisconsin’s largest auto museum. It features an ever-changing display of classic and vintage automobiles and artifacts, plus the largest assembled group of Hartford-built Kissel luxury automobiles.
The museum’s striking art deco interior sets off 110-plus vehicles on exhibit, including Pontiacs, Studebakers, Chevrolets, Kaisers, Fords and other cars from around the world. The collection is rounded out by displays of automotive artifacts such as gas pumps, signs, license plates, oil cans and other petroliana. An assortment of outboard motorboat engines built in Hartford from 1930s–1990s is also on display.
Kissel automobiles were manufactured in Hartford 1906–1931, making Kissel the second longest car manufacturer in Wisconsin. Of the 35,000 Kissels produced, fewer than 200 are known to exist today, with 25 currently exhibited at the museum. The most famous Kissel model was the two passenger speedster, nicknamed the “Gold Bug.” Gold Bug owners included celebrities of the day such as Amelia Earhart, Mary Pickford, and Fatty Arbuckle. A wide selection of models including four-passenger, coupes, touring cars, fire engines and trucks are part of the collection.
The Nash Car Club of America has space within the museum dedicated to the Wisconsin based vehicles and related memorabilia. Nash began in Kenosha, Wis., when the Thomas B. Jeffery Co. was purchased by Charles Nash in 1916.
The Hudson Essex Terraplane Historical Society and Southeastern Wisconsin Short Track Hall of Fame also maintain special display areas for their vehicles inside the Wisconsin Automotive Museum. In addition, the museum is showcases a 1913 No. 1003 Soo Line steam locomotive and other railroad artifacts.