The Wisconsin Automotive Museum (www.wisconsinautomuseum.com) is a great place to stop when traveling to or from the Iola Old Car Show (www.iolaoldcarshow.com). The museum located near downtown Hartford, Wis., provides a rare opportunity to see the largest assembled group of Kissel luxury automobiles on display anywhere in the United States and possibly the world.
The Kissel, a high-caliber custom built automobile, was manufactured in Hartford from 1906 until 1931. Of the 35,000 Kissels produced only 200 are known to exist today. The most famous Kissel model was the Speedster, affectionately called the “Gold Bug.” Such cars were owned by the stars of the day like Fatty Arbuckle and Amelia Earhardt. A fine selection of Kissels including 4-passenger, coupes, touring cars, fire engines and trucks are in the museum.
The Nash, made in Kenosha, is another featured car. It started when the Thomas B. Jeffery Co. was purchased in 1916. The Nash area of the Wisconsin Automobile Museum is sponsored by the Nash Automobile Club of America. The Hudson Essex Terraplane Historical Society and the Southeastern Wisconsin Short Track Hall of Fame both maintain special display areas for their vehicles.
The Museum’s striking art deco interior sets off the 105 “rare treats” on display including Reos, Pierce-Arrows, Pontiacs, Studebakers, Chevrolets, Fords and more. Many models displayed are on loan so exhibits constantly change.
The collection is rounded out by a growing display of automotive artifacts such as license plates, spark plugs, oil cans and signs and an assortment of industrial engines and outboard boat motors built in Hartford from 1936-1992. The museum also has a real steam locomotive and a large model train layout.