1914 Case Gets New Lease on Life

At some point in the past 40 years, Chet Krause got it in his head to own one of every car manufactured in Wisconsin. He hasn’t quite met that goal, but he is one step closer. He recently put a 1914 Case Complete Forty back on the road.
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At some point in the past 40 years, Chet Krause got it in his head to own one of every car manufactured in Wisconsin.

He hasn’t quite met that goal, but he recently put a 1914 Case Complete Forty back on the road.

Case, manufactured in Racine, Wis., between 1911 and 1923, is a favorite of Krause. While this is not his first Case, it did take him a while to actually buy the car. He first heard about it in the early 1990s from friend Dan Dorece, a former Kenosha, Wis., coin dealer who now collects gas engines.


Restoration of this 1914 Case owned by Chet Krause of Iola, Wis., was completed this March. The inset photo shows the wheel, which was rebuilt with hand-made spokes complete with the Case insignia in the center. The dark green with black trim finish on the exterior of the vehicle makes for a snappy drive around town. This is the second Case, manufactured in Racine, Wis., between 1911 and 1923, that Krause has owned.

Krause finally bought the car in 2001, with sketchy knowledge of its ownership history.

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What he did know was that Vern Larabee of Sturtevantt, Wis., purchased the car from Chuck Rezzotti, who had the original wheels taken off the car and installed on a Cadillac of like vintage.

The Cadillac was sold to a California museum in 1955 and is still there, to Krause’s knowledge. The Case was fitted with truck wheels to the original hubs and that is the way that John Davidson of Kenosha bought it in 1958. Upon its purchase, Davidson began restoring the car by completing an engine rebuild. What happened to the Case after that is unknown.

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Krause speaks with complete honesty when he admits the car was a basket case when he bought it. That’s collector talk for a mess. The car was in pieces, but he knew, in his heart of collector hearts, that it was worth heaping with love and restorative attention.

He also knew the first thing to be tackled would be replicating the wheels to original specs.

“The wheels were wrong,” Krause said. “I knew I needed proper wheels which were tire size 4 ½-37. That’s a 28-inch rim with a 4 ½ double 9, which equals a tire that is 37 inches high.”

The restored wheels have wooden spokes — 10 in front and 12 in back. “It’s for the strength of the drive that you make two different kinds of wheels,” said Krause, explaining the basic concept of rear-wheel drive.

While he waited — 4 1/2 years — for the wooden fellows and spokes to be made and completed by Bruce Brown of Milton, Wis. and Wanta Wheel of Shipshewana, Ind., other details were given attention.

Wayne McCune of Rosholt, Wis., sorted out the parts, cleaning and preparing them for painting, as he went along. With the help of Jerry Shulist, McCune made new wood for the body for the Case. Once the wheels, complete with steel rims made by Coker Tire of Chattanooga, Tenn., arrived, the car was transported to L’Cars of Cameron, Wis., where the rest of the gear box and rebuilt chassis were dismantled. The ground up restoration began in earnest in April 2007.

The restoration was finished in March, just in time for spring and summer driving.

However, getting it on to the streets to drive is no small task because, as Krause puts it, “you have to wrastle the car into life.”

That includes putting down the top every time the car goes in and out of the garage. With the top up, the car is 7 feet 4 inches in height — four inches too tall for seven foot garage doors.

Then there are nine steps to be taken in order to start the car.

That process begins with turning on the battery with remote. Then the parking brake must be set, the shifter put in neutral, the fuel enrichment lever on the toe board moved to the right and so the process continues until the final step which reads “depress start button part way down until you hear starter engine run. Then push all the way down. Car should start.”

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Once the car is running, there are six steps to follow in order to drive it, and six more steps to follow once the car is running. Finally, there are six steps to turn off the car.

But it’s all worth it.

The dark green and black-trimmed, Wisconsin-made automobile has been fun to look at for the residents of Krause’s hometown in Iola, Wis.

One place the car won’t be seen is on parade routes.

“It’s not a parade vehicle,” Krause said. “It heats up when it goes slow.”

Krause has no plans for the car other than to drive it occasionally and share it with others who have an interest in it. Then they can talk Case—a favorite topic of Krause, who is on his second Case car. The first was a 1912, which he sold a couple of years ago.

Krause, founder of this magazine, Krause Publications and the Iola Old Car Show, has owned two collections of cars. The first collection was begun in the 1960s and contained about 35 prewar cars. The cars were technically owned by Krause Publications he said, and the banks didn’t like the non-productive assets on his balance sheet, so he sold most of those cars. From then on, he said the few he managed to save from the banker’s wrath were about all he had until the 1980s when the banks didn’t care what he owned.

A second collection was born in 1990 when Krause retired from the company. The collection grew to about 60 cars. He then sold down the car collection, as well as a collection of 50 military vehicles.

Today he owns one of every kind of military Jeep made, a total of 24 vehicles and eight cars. Of his collection, he jokes that he owns the vehicles for what he calls “no good reason.”

Except, of course, his own enjoyment, and to keep the tradition of collector cars alive.

Editor’s note: Chet Krause’s 1914 Case Complete Forty will be on display at the July 10-13 Iola Old Car Show and Swap Meet, which he started 36 years ago.

The background

The Case automobile, manufactured in Racine, Wis., from 1911-1927, has its roots in the J.I. Case Threshing Machine Co.

In 1910, that company, took over the Pierce Motor Co., with the first Case automobile ready for the 1911 model year.

According to the “Standard Catalog of American Cars, 1805-1942,” by Beverly Kimes and Henry Austin, Clark, Jr., the first Case was reminiscent of a four-cylinder Pierce.

Until 1915, much of the Case Co.’s attention was on racing models. It continued to manufacture moderately priced fours until 1918 when it introduced a six cylinder.

Picking up speed as an automobile manufacturer, in the late teens, the company placed more emphasis on automobiles and less on its agricultural beginnings

The models of the early 1920s all featured six-cylinder engines, all manufactured by Continental.

In 1926, the company announced that it would begin to manufacture cars for export.

The Case Co. continued strong in the manufacture of agricultural vehicles, using the eagle-on-a-globe emblem, which was based on “Old Abe,” the Civil War mascot of the 8th Wisconsin regiment.

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