The Society of Automotive Historians

Wisconsin Society of Automotive Historians (WSAH)

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 Gene Grengs 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.

Ken Nimocks, WSAH President

For inquiries, please contact:

2020 WSAH Fall Meeting

The Fall Meeting is scheduled for Saturday, September 19th, at the Wisconsin Automotive Museum in Hartford. Details to follow.

2020 WSAH Summer Meeting

Even with the cancellation of the Iola Car Show, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Chapter was still able to hold a one hour WSAH Summer Meeting on the Iola show grounds on Saturday, July 11, at 2:00 PM, after the 1,000+ car Rally for Iola concluded. Six members were in attendance at Iola, and another three members were able to join via a conference call service. Also in attendance was Denise Clumpner, of the Iola Car Show, to discuss show planning for 2021.

2020 WSAH Spring Meeting

The April 18th WSAH Spring meeting at the Wisconsin Automotive Museum in Hartford, WI was cancelled, due to restrictions placed on meetings and gatherings in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

2019 WSAH Fall Meeting

The WSAH Fall Meeting took place on Saturday, September 21, 2019 in conjunction with the 37th Annual Hill & Valley Antique Car & Americana Show at Baer Park in Cross Plains, WI.

The meeting was called to order by President Ken Nimocks at 1:30 PM.  Minutes from the summer meeting at Iola were accepted, along with Gary Koehnke’s current Treasurer’s Report.  

Various fund raising activities for the Chapter were discussed and will be explored further.                                                                                                                 

George Tesar and Ken Nimocks met in Green Bay to discuss WSAH involvement with the Wisconsin Historical Society. The Society wishes to have 3D displays of automotive artifacts and hopes the Chapter will assist with that undertaking. George is working on having the Chapter’s April meeting at the Wisconsin Historical Society’s campus.

Don Chandler introduced a historian who gave a brief history of the Badger Army Ammunition plant in Wisconsin.

The Iola Car Show staff is asking the Chapter to take on a significantly larger role in helping to put on the July, 2020 show.  Additional responsibilities may include administering, organizing and controlling the Blue Ribbon show area and selecting the cars to be displayed there.  Separately, show staff has not yet made a decision on the Theme Exhibit for the 2020 show.  More information will be forthcoming from the show staff.

The meeting was adjourned at 3:30 PM.

2019 Iola Car Show and WSAH Summer Meeting

The 2019 Iola Car Show in Wisconsin took place Thursday, July 11th, through Saturday, July 13th. The theme of the Special Exhibit this year was Calling All Car Clubs. The WSAH continued its annual tradition of staffing the Special Exhibit.

There were some 55 cars inside the Special Exhibit building as part of the Car Club displays. Approximately 35 Car Clubs had displays inside and outside the Special Exhibit building. The WSAH answered questions and sold Iola Car Show posters, books, pins and other souvenirs at their tables by the main entrance of the building.

The WSAH Summer Meeting was held on Friday, July 12th, at 2:00 PM in a conference room in the Special Exhibit building, with fourteen members in attendance.  Dave Tesch is handing over the editorship of the Carhart Chronicle chapter newsletter to Ralph Kalal. Dave did an outstanding job over the years, and Ralph is well qualified to carry on the tradition in his own way. Sincere thanks to both Dave and Ralph. Ken Nimocks and George Tesar will meet in the near future to discuss collaborative efforts between the WSAH and the Wisconsin Historical Society, including WSAH members possibly volunteering to give presentations at the WHS, assisted by the automotive archivist of the WHS.

(l-r) Ken Nimocks, Dan Manola, Don Gullikson, Dave Tesch and Jim Morris in the Special Exhibit building.
Front entrance of the Special Exhibit Building. (Don Gullikson photo)
Back display area of the Special Exhibit Building. (Don Gullikson photo)
1930 Nash 452R Coupe and 1936 Nash Ambassador 8 4dr Sedan. (Jim Morris Photo)
A 1930 Franklin and a 1937 Packard 1501 Coupe flank the CCCA table in the Special Exhibit Building, with a neighboring Studebaker. (Jim Morris photo)

2019 WSAH Spring Meeting

Eighteen members and one guest attended the WSAH Annual Spring Meeting held at the Wisconsin Automotive Museum in Hartford on April 13, 2019.  The Wisconsin Region of the Studebaker Drivers Club also held a meeting at the museum on the same day.

The annual donation by the WSAH to the Wisconsin Automotive Museum was approved.   The $1,000 donation will be used by the museum as it sees fit.

President Ken Nimocks announced that a large Automobile Quarterly collection may be donated to the WSAH by the family of the late Richard Roubal (this donation to the chapter has since occurred).

New member Ralph Kalal talked about his website

There was extensive discussion about filling the position of Newsletter/Editor, which will soon be vacated by member Dave Tesch.

Members Ken Nimocks, Jim Morris, Dave Tesch and Don Gullikson are scheduled to attend the April 17 planning meeting for the Iola Car Show.  The theme tent will likely be eliminated and more cars will be displayed in the adjacent building used last year.

The Wisconsin Automotive Museum recently acquired the only known surviving Badger automobile. 
The Badger was manufactured in Columbus, WI from 1910 to 1912.  

Photos courtesy of Museum Director Dawn Bondhus Mueller.


October, 2018 WSAH Special Election Results

In September, long serving WSAH Vice President Michael Keller made known his desire to step down and provide another member with the opportunity to serve as the chapter Vice President.  President Nimocks suggested WSAH Director Don Gullikson as Vice President to succeed Michael, and Jessica Zdanowicz to succeed Don as a Director.  A 9/23/18 email broadcast by President Nimocks suggested these candidates to the chapter membership and invited comments and other suggestions for candidates.  Over the next few days a motion was made and seconded by email to present the slate of these two candidates for a vote, after only positive comments had been received. 

On 10/2/18 President Nimocks called for an email vote by the chapter membership to approve or disapprove Don Gullikson as Vice President and Jessica Zdanowicz as Director.  On 10/9/18 President Nimocks emailed membership that Don and Jessica had been elected without dissension, and by a quorum, and that they would take office immediately. 

Congratulations to Don Gullikson and Jessica Zdanowicz, and thank you Michael Keller for serving as Vice President for so many years!

2018 WSAH Fall Meeting

The WSAH Annual Autumn Meeting was held on Saturday, September 15, 2018 at Baer Park in Cross Plains, Wisconsin in conjunction with the 36th Annual Hill & Valley Antique Car & Americana Show.  Eight officers, directors and members were in attendance, plus two guests.

Jim Morris and Jessica Zdanowicz have completed scanning all 41 issues of the previous WSAH newsletter, The Spark, and all issues of the current newsletter, the Carhart Chronicle.  Jim and Jessica have posted these scans to the WSAH website for ready access by members and website visitors alike.

Joe Kapler, Curator of Cultural History at the Wisconsin Historical Society (WHS), was a special guest at the meeting and gave a detailed presentation outlining how the WSAH can be more involved with the WHS.  Joe’s presentation included a description of their large new building and the types of artifacts that the WHS is seeking as donations.  George Tesar circulated a list he had prepared of the items, which includes automobiles, motorcycles, scooters, bicycles, small and stationary engines, tractors and light-to-heavy equipment, parts, tools and related memorabilia such as magazines, sales literature, repair manuals, and company records from both large and small concerns. The Society is not short of space, according to Joe, and the WHS wants to digitize printed and photographic artifacts while retaining the originals.  The WSAH has long been affiliated with the WHS.

Michael Keller affirmed by email that he wants to step down as the WSAH Vice President.  Michael feels there are others who do much more and are more deserving of the position.  A successor is in mind, and an email will be sent to all members for input.  The election will likely be handled by email without waiting until the next Chapter meeting.

Jim Morris will check with the Milwaukee Public Museum about the possibility of the WSAH having a meeting there in early December and being able to view the Schloemer Motor Wagon exhibit, for which the Chapter made a sizable donation in 2015. The Schloemer Motor Wagon was one of the first gas-powered automobiles in America.

At the head of the table is Joe Kapler from the Wisconsin Historical Society.   (Jim Morris photo)

 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 annual Special Exhibit.  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 Special Exhibit of the 2018 Iola Car Show, July 12th through July 14th.  

The Special Exhibit displays upwards of 200 vehicles selected to represent annually designated themes. In past years the Special 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 Special 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 Special Exhibit Building, just north of the Special Exhibit Tent.  

During the three day show, chapter members manage the parking and display of the vehicles for the Special 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 Special 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.

Three WSAH icons at Iola:  Long-serving President Ken Nimocks, the dark gray storage chest (aka “the coffin”) and the Chapter banner designed by Director Jessica Zdanowicz.   (David Tesch photo)
At the 2018 Iola Car Show:  1931 Ford Model AA Service Car assembled by Hornburg Motors of Hartland, WI.  This vehicle was in service at Hornburg from 1931 to approximately 1976.  Owned by SAH member Jordon Beller.
In the left background is a corner of the Special Exhibit Tent.  In the right background is the Special Exhibit Building.  Both are staffed by WSAH members.

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.

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.

Front (l-r):  Don Chandler, Gary Koehnke, Ken Nimocks and Dan Manola.
Back (l-r):  Don Gullikson, Jim Morris, Randy Nimocks, Greg Vanark, Dan Sharpee, George Tesar and Museum Director Dawn Bondhus Mueller. 
David Tesch was present, but missed the photo-op.

 Gene Grengs Video