Steamy Iola ’12 features Mercury, Plymouth, Pontiac and Olds
By Angelo Van Bogart
Despite the intense heat and threats of much-needed rain, they came from far and wide to the 40th annual Iola Old Car Show, held July 12-15 in Iola, Wis.
According to Joan Schultz, executive director of the Iola Old Car Show, this year’s numbers for the show, one of the country’s biggest automotive events, were comparable to last year: 110,000 attendees, 1,204 campers, 628 cars in the car corral and 1,791 registered show cars. However, what helps make Iola so famous is its swap meet, with 4,430 spaces. “We did sell out,” Schultz said. “We had even resold 42 of them.”
As at some other events, the Iola Old Car Show partially refunds swap meet registration fees if a vendor notifies the staff if they cannot attend, then the show resells the spaces in order to keep the swap meet as full as possible. The original vendors are also able to reserve their spaces for the following year.
The threat of hail and the 100-degree temperatures may have scared away some participants, but Schultz said many of those past attendees that didn’t brave the heat were replaced by new faces.
“There seemed to be a fair number of new visitors this year,” she said. “Some of the first-timers stopped at the Tower and said, ‘You have a great show; I will be back next year.’”
What helped draw spectators and show-car owners alike was this year’s theme, “21st Century Orphans,” which honored the Plymouth, Oldsmobile, Mercury and Pontiac marques, which have each ceased production since 2000. Among the stand-outs in the theme tent were a freshly restored 1948 Plymouth station wagon, an authentic 1964 Plymouth Savoy Hemi-powered Super Stock car, a 1955 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight Holiday coupe, a Tri-Power-equipped 1966 Pontiac with a 421-cid V-8 and largely unrestored 1951 Mercury Monterey and 1950 Mercury coupes. The International Mercury Owner’s Association also held its convention in conjunction with the Iola Old Car Show and set up its own display of about 35 Mercurys near the car corral.
In addition to the cars on display and the car parts in the swap meet, one of Iola’s biggest draws is the Teamed to Learn Tent, a display managed by Mitch Swenson, public relations director for the show. This year, the exhibit included the McPherson College Automotive Restoration program, the Collectors Foundation’s mission to bring back shop class and hands-on demonstrations of sheet metal repair by TLC Restorations, among other features and speakers.
“TLC Restorations’ demonstration went over particularly good, because they actually did a demonstration on a car, welding and cutting out panels,” Swenson said.
Of particular note in the Teamed to Learn tent was a presentation by Rachel Veitch, the original owner of a 558,000-mile 1964 Mercury Comet Caliente sedan. Iola 2012 marked the last time the hot-as-a-pistol Veitch is expected to speak about the car, as she has stopped driving the car due to macular degeneration. Her appearance with the car was provided courtesy of Uptown Motor Cars of Wisconsin, which has been entrusted to care for the Mercury.
Next year, the Mercurys, Plymouths, Oldsmobiles and Pontiacs will be replaced in the Theme Tent by hundreds of Chevrolets and Fords when the Iola Old Car Show features “Showdown in I-Town: Chevy vs. Ford.” The show staff is hard at work preparing additional special exhibits to show how competition between these two brands benefit the world of automobiles, and the hobby.