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Iola ready to rumble with 'Pace and Race' car show theme

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Don “Big Daddy” Garlits, the world-famous drag racer, innovated from behind the wheel and one of those cars to sport his innovations is Swamp Rat 12-A.

Don “Big Daddy” Garlits, the world-famous drag racer, innovated from behind the wheel and one of those cars to sport his innovations is Swamp Rat 12-A, which will make an appearance at the 2015 Iola Old Car Show.

Iola will shake, rumble and roar July 9-11 as it celebrates the storied performance history of Wisconsin and America with its 2015 theme “Pace and Race.”

The 43rd annual Iola Old Car Show will feature a gathering of pace cars and race cars from across the country its theme exhibits. Already, pace cars from the 1950s through the 2000s have commit to the event with pace car representatives from the Mercury, Oldsmobile, Chevrolet and Ford camps. More are still sought to make this a record-size gathering of pace cars.

Race cars from all manner of motorsports are also this year’s focus at the annual event, known as one of the world’s largest gatherings of cars and the people who love them. Vintage stock cars, quarter-mile machines and road rally winners are already on the docket for IOLA ’15. Perhaps the most famous of them all to already pre-register is Don “Big Daddy” Garlits, who will be bringing his Swamp Rat 12-A dragster for cackle starts during the show. Garlits will also be on hand for photo-ops, autograph sessions and to speak to fans on July 10-11.

In a unique spin on the race car theme, Iola ’15 will also have a special display of “as found” race cars that still wear their battle scars from their glory days. Many of these retired race cars were found in fields and barns and remain as they were found, without a restoration to have erased their history.

Other race cars slated to participate have been brought back to their original glory. Two stunning examples include a pair of original lightweight MoPar drag cars packing new-for-1964 426 Hemi heat under the hood. These cars were very limited in production and were built for the express purpose of dominating the sport of quarter-mile drag racing, and that they did. Gordon and Seth Rohde’s lightweight 1964 Plymouth was campaigned under the name “Hairbender” and his Dodge went by “The High and Mighty.” Both look better than new and are sure to dazzle the most hard-core drag enthusiasts. The fame for these race cars hasn’t dwindled; the “Hairbender” graced the pages of Hot Rod Magazine in 2014.

There’s more to Iola than its theme display. More than 2,000 additional vehicles are shown in the several displays that represent prewar and postwar cars and trucks, as well as street rods and hot rods. Notable among these is the Blue Ribbon Concours, a display of top-quality cars of all eras, from Duesenbergs and Packards to 1957 Chevrolets and Hemi muscle cars and everything between.

The Iola Old Car Show is known world-wide for its gigantic swap meet, which hosts more than 4,400 vendor spaces. Here, buyers and sellers alike meet to trade currency and “car-rency” for new and rare vintage car and truck parts, as well as petroliana and automobilia.

Iola is also a trading place for old cars and old trucks. Hundreds of cars each year fill Iola’s ample 1,000 spaces, and “sold” signs abound as in-state and international bidders shop for old iron on the grassy fields of Iola.

A big part of the Iola tradition is its campground, which becomes an event within an event. A fraternity of campers annually descend on Iola by the thousands in the tradition of camaraderie. For 2015, the Iola staff has added a special area for vintage campers, and the first participants to register in this area will receive a special vintage camper sign to welcome them to the new section of the campground.

More so than ever, the Iola Old Car Show is “The Midwest’s Greatest Old Car Show and Swap Meet,” and it’s aiming to be the world’s greatest with new features and improved grounds.

There’s still time to be part of the car show, swap meet and car corral. To pre-register, contact the Iola Old Car Show by phone at 715-445-4000; email; or go to

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