Wisconsin Chapter


The Wisconsin Society of Automotive Historians (WSAH), in addition to being a chapter of the Society of Automotive Historians (SAH), is a non-profit organization affiliated with the Wisconsin Historical Society. The Wisconsin Historical Society (WHS) was established in 1846, two years before Wisconsin became a state.

While the majority of our members are Wisconsin residents, that is certainly not a requirement; we have members from other states and welcome inquiries and membership from anyone, anywhere. The purpose of WSAH is to preserve, advance, and disseminate knowledge of the history of the automobile in Wisconsin, in the United States, and worldwide.

WSAH meetings are held three times a year, with established sites for the official Annual Meeting at the lola Car Show in July, at the Hill & Valley Antique Car & Americana Show in Cross Plains in September, and The Wisconsin Automotive Museum in Hartford, home of the Kissel, in April.  Other activities are varied and scheduled as they come about.

One of our major activities, and our primary fund-raiser, is our involvement with the Iola Car Show  where we are paid for our efforts along with more than 135 other non-profit organizations whose members volunteer to put on the show. Since 1991 we have planned and staffed the Theme Exhibit section of the show, which involves displaying 200-300 vehicles, including up to 50 for a special exhibit inside the Theme Exhibit Building and Tent.  We also select vehicles for the official poster and sell a variety of promotional and collectible items on behalf of the show.  Our combination sales table and WSAH table is located in the Theme Exhibit Tent where we display our SAH/WSAH banner, promote WSAH membership, and field questions about the show and automotive history.

For several years we have given monetary support to the Wisconsin Automotive Museum, have donated to various Wisconsin historical projects, and have sponsored benches for the lola Car Show. We published the book Wisconsin Cars and Trucks: A Centenary and produced the video A Walk through Automotive History with Chet Krause.  The late Chet Krause was the founder of Krause Publications and the Iola Old Car Show.

We have completed the first of our planned video recordings and interviews of significant people, places, and vehicles related to Wisconsin automotive history. Our first subject is Gene Grengs of Eau Claire, WI, who owned movie theatres and began collecting and restoring cars with his grandfather while he was quite young. Gene is very knowledgeable and hands-on. He has several Packard’s, including the speed record-setting Packard Panther Daytona.  He has two Stanley steamers, including what might be the very last one made in 1924, a Model T made on the last day of production, Cord, Auburn and Pierce-Arrow automobiles, and a ’57 Corvette fuelie, among others, in his 40-plus car collection, down from about 100 at one time.  Please click on the video link below.

We have started a member interest/information project and are considering electronic publishing on demand for our book, Wisconsin Cars and Trucks: A Centenary.

The WSAH logo was created in 1979.   The “Spark” steam vehicle, developed by Dr. J.W. Carhart of Racine in 1871, is thought to be the first automobile in Wisconsin and, some say, in the United States. The silhouette of the Spark in our logo was drawn from an early photograph and is set within an outline of Wisconsin.

For inquiries, please contact:

Ken Nimocks, WSAH president

Upcoming Event:  2018 WSAH Fall Meeting

The Fall Meeting will take place at the Hill & Valley Antique Car & Americana Show at Baer Park in Cross Plains, WI on September, 17th.

2018 Iola Car Show and WSAH Summer Meeting

The Iola Car Show has been growing and evolving for 46 years.  The 300+ acre show grounds hosts 4,200 swap meet spots, a Car Corral of some 1,000 vehicles and 1,600 campsites. Upwards of 2,200 show cars are displayed each year, with 200 selected for the Theme Exhibit area.  Some 120,000 enthusiasts descend on this village of 1,100 residents for three days, with the dedication of thousands of volunteers making one of the largest car shows in the Midwest a continuing success.

For 2018 the WSAH continued an annual tradition, dating from 1991, of staffing the Theme Exhibit of the 2018 Iola Car Show, July 12th through July 14th.  

The Theme Exhibit displays upwards of 200 vehicles selected to represent annually designated themes. In past years the Theme Exhibit Tent has featured approximately 50 of those 200 vehicles which exemplify the themes of the year, as selected by the Iola Car Show staff and WSAH members.   The other 150 vehicles in the Theme Exhibit have been displayed just outside the Tent.

This year the themes were Movie Cars and Service Vehicles.  The vehicle selections were made  during the months preceding the show by the Iola Car Show staff working with WSAH members Ken Nimocks, Jim Morris and Don Gullikson.  This year most of the specially selected vehicles were displayed, for the first time,  inside the Theme Exhibit Building, just north of the Tent.  

During the three day show, chapter members manage the parking and display of the vehicles for the Theme Exhibit and staff the WSAH table in the Tent.  Chapter members sell Iola Car Show memorabilia in support of the show, answer questions, and engage show attendees about the WSAH.  The WSAH banner is on prominent display at the chapter table in the Tent.  The Iola Car Show pays the chapter for providing these services, which is a primary fund raiser for the WSAH.

The annual WSAH Summer Meeting, held in conjunction with the Iola Car Show, took place on Friday, July 13th, at 2:00 in the Theme Exhibit Building.  Ten members were in attendance.  Discussion included honorary member designations, newsletter expenses,  and WSAH relations with the Wisconsin Historical Society (WHS).  George Tesar reported on his second visit to the WHS.  George was appointed as the WSAH Liaison to the WHS, and plans to make a return visit to the Society, with David Tesch, to explore with the WHS staff specifically how the WSAH can be of assistance to the WHS.

2018 WSAH Spring Meeting

Thirteen WSAH members and two guests gathered at the Wisconsin Automotive Museum in Hartford, WI on April 28 for the chapter Spring Meeting, hosted by museum Executive Director Dawn Bondhus Mueller.   www.wisconsinautomuseum.com

The annual donation by the chapter to the Wisconsin Automotive Museum for 2018 was approved.  Dawn distributed copies of the new full color double-fold marketing flier recently issued by the museum with the sponsorship of WSAH annual donations.

Chapter webmaster Jessica Zdanowicz continues to scan back issues of the chapter newsletters, The Spark and the Carhart Chronicle, on to the WSAH website for easy access by members and website visitors alike.

George Tesar recently visited the Wisconsin Historical Society in Madison and told of their need for assistance in organizing the automotive related sections of their collection.