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Cheesehead Industries


Cheesehead Industries

This thread is a WIP where I’ll showcase designs from Cheesehead Industries(CI) subsidiary companies: Wisconsin Truck, Wisconsin Motors, and Lagerfelter Performance Engineering(LPE). Other companies within CI have also contributed engineering, manufacturing, and other resources to CI automotive products, most notably Hermes Hydrosports, Harvey-Donaldson Motorcycles, and Kohlberg Co.

Product line in no particular order. All companies and personalities are purely fictitious and any resemblance to reality is all in your head, man.

Road Rally - 1952 Corso di Fruinia [FINAL RESULTS]
MV Design - Marcus_gt500's design studio

Wisconsin Motors Virgil
The 1962 Virgil Turbine Concept Car

Sadly, this concept never reached production… Mediocre efficiency, poor reliability, overheating problems and high development costs forced us to pull the plug on this one. However, 1965 saw production of the Virgil with more conventional powertrain options and a convertible variant, called the “Skyview”.

Designed to compete with the likes of the Lincoln Continental and Imperial of the era, the Virgil offered three available engines: a 7.5L V12 rated at 300hp (337.5 actual) 400 lb-ft (444 actual), a 5.0L V8 rated at 175hp (200 actual) 275 lb-ft (280 actual), and a 3.9L inline 6 rated at 150hp (170 actual) 200 lb-ft (216 actual). All three engines push power to the front wheels via a 3 speed automatic transmission. This technical gamble paid off, with improved driveability and handling on poor surfaces, and would lay the engineering groundwork for future large FWD cars from Wisconsin Motors.
An interesting historical aside, Otto Lagerfelter, CEO of Wisconsin Motors at the time of the Virgil, hated this car and tried several times to have the project cancelled. He called it “an abomination no humble Lutheran would dare to be seen in”, and described the driving experience as “like humping a manatee on a waterbed.” However, the popularity of the concept car gathered momentum until he could no longer stop it; the styling and marketing departments would win the day. Motoring reviews of the day were more generous, praising the car’s effortless performance and smooth ride. 0-62 10.9s, 142 top speed (Virgil V12).


1955-1958 Wisconsin Motors Issigonis A-Series and SuperSedan

One could write a book on just the “Issi”, so consider this a chapter in its history. The Issigonis is the longest continuously produced car model in Wisconsin Motors history, though it is currently(2018) marketed under the LPE banner.

1955 Issigonis 930 SS, shown here in bright yellow/pure white

The Issigonis was developed during a shift of management from Karl to Otto Lagerfelter as acting CEO, and if you think a father and son management team sounds heartwarming, you haven’t worked for the Lagerfelters. When differences seemed irreconcilable, it was suggested that Otto develop the smaller market Super Sedan, while Karl lead development on the more mainsteam models. These “Karl Cars” are now known as the Series A, and feature coil sprung solid axles in a steel monocoque chassis. They’re powered by an 850cc ohv Triple hooked to manual transmissions, but there the similarities end.

1955 Issigonis Estate, shown in gold / butterscotch cream

1955 Issigonis Hacienda, shown in root beer / peacekeeper tan

1955 Issigonis Duckling, shown in peacekeeper green / peacekeeper tan

The “Otto Autos” were oriented at a more premium market, and featured aluminum panels and 4 wheel wishbone suspension, and a larger 4 cylinder engine at their premier. Three displacements were originally offered, the 1275SS, 930SS, and 875SS. Released into the markets, the Super Sedan’s popularity vindicated Karl’s design with surprising popularity. In 1957, the Estate trim was switched to the independently suspended chassis and offered with both the 930 and 850, and the 875SS four cylinder was replaced by the 850SS Triple.

1955 Issigonis 875SS, shown in metallic silver / metallic silver

1955 Issigonis 1275SS, shown in pure white / Tahiti blue

Both vehicles featured a rather novel trim approach, using a crackle finish baked powdercoating instead of chrome to achieve a sturdy, inexpensive finish without the mess of chrome baths. The simplicity of the procedure enabled WMC to offer low production runs of “in-fashion” colors for nearly limitless color combos. Badges were eschewed for mystery, but the Issi was instantly recognizable as a WMC from its simple, functional design language.

Lido Iccikaka (marketing): How will people know what they are looking at?
Karl: If they’re interested, they’ll ask. They’re good cars. We don’t need to shout about it.
Lido: But… How would I know what’s under the hood?
Otto (scowling): Open it. Or step on the pedal on the right.
Lido: But… How will my neighbors know to be impressed?
Otto (slightly indignant): What a stupid question. It’s a WMC.
Lido: I don’t think you catch my drift. Badges, chrome, lettering, wire wheels, toothy grilles, propellers, jet engines- that stuff all market tests really well with younger buyers at this price range and…
Karl (interrupting): We will take your objections into consideration, thank you for your concern.
Karl shakes his head, a little sadly, and walks off.
Lido (to Otto, who remains): Ok, ok, you’re the boss. But does it have to be so… Nice? It’s economy sized. This is really stretching the budget segment, pushing outside it, maybe. How do I advertise this car?
Otto (his face reddening): WMC doesn’t build shitboxes, you halfwit hog humper! Screw your marketing segments and their whore mother, too! (spits). Do I have to do everyone’s job? You’re marketing, use your small mind and think small.
Otto scowls, glares at the marketing rep, spits on the floor again and bounds off after Karl.

-an etymological aside: this is the first recorded and verified use of the word “shitbox” to describe a car of poor quality and design, predating Csaba Csere’s description of the Chevette in C&D magazine by many years. Otto has never claimed to have coined the term “shitbox”, and is himself typically more violently creative in his cursing.

-an historical aside: WMC’s launch campaign, using the phrase “Think Small” was a huge success, and earned Lido a raise.

1957 Issigonis 850SS-H, shown in obsidian / metallic silver

A note on the “850H”: As part of their development process, most engines at WMC get an “H” variant, usually signified by an “H” stamped into the head and block. H motors are high performance variants and are typically not intended for mass consumption, but their development helps us identify weak spots and gives our customers a leg up in motorsports competition. Officially, they’re only available through our parts department (and sometimes only when permission is granted by the performance division). However, the unexpected success of the Super Sedan resulted in production shortages of the inline 4. Replacing the 875SS with the 850 relieved this somewhat, but soon resulted in production shortages of the triple. While it was against the “rules”, and later elicited a formal apology and rebate offer, a number (500, specifically) of Issi 850SS were fitted with the “H”. Not everyone was happy about this, as the “H” is a rowdy, cammy, noisy, fussy, thirsty beast. Further, as the powertrains for the Issi were assembled in units, the “H” is attached to a shorter axle ratio with an automatic locker. On the other hand, some were thrilled- not only about their rebate, but also their “free horsepower!” An 850SS with an “H” is nipping right at the heels of its 930cc four cylinder brother in performance. Rumors that LPE intentionally mislabelled these powertains in order to homologate the 850H (and especially the diff, elsewhere unavailable) for racing certainly seem possible, but representatives at LPE and WMC refused to comment until completion of the optional rebate program. Time has since obscured the issue, and the rumors remain just that.

1959-1962 Issi SS & Issi Series A

For 1959, the Issi SS received a trim package courtesy of WM’s Styling Department, and a shortening of its official name courtesy of Sales & Marketing. The chassis got 9.8 inch disc brakes, and a retuned 1275 with a tiny 4 barrel achieved 72hp @5400 rpm, 78 lb-ft @ 3500 rpm on regular gas. Weighing in at just 647 kg (1426 lbs), the 1275 Issi SS rips to 100 kmh in just 9.9s, and motors on up to 88.8 mph. Sports compound tires deliver 1.01/.897g on the Automation skidpad.

1959 Series A cars also received a minor visual update, and received an optional 1.5 liter “big block” ohv inline three, an option offered on all WM cars originally fitted with the 850cc Typhoon triple. Producing 54hp@3900rpm, a Series A Estate could now reach 79mph at the top end and offered more relaxed and capable highway cruising.


Wisconsin Truck V190 AeroVan

Wisconsin Truck’s first postwar civilian product was the V100 AeroVan. The design mated a military light transport chassis to a marine sourced ohv power plant. Three variants were produced, the Standard, Standard 4x4, and Deluxe. All three were available with 1300cc and 1900cc Hurricane 4 cylinders, and the Standard could also be had with the 600cc Typhoon triple. The Deluxe featured seating for 8 with padded and upholstered seats. The Standard and Standard 4x4 used wicker or canvas seats on wooden frames, with seating for two. Replacing these with the front seats from a deluxe became a popular dealer retrofit option.

Special attention was given to airflow in the V190. A boxed section behind the grilles contains airflow and directs it through the radiator. Vents at the cowl allow hot engine air to escape at low speeds, while providing positive airflow at higher speeds. Scoops at the cowl feed fresh air to the interior behind the dash, and a scoop at the roof provides air to a box-shaped channel between the front passengers, which then carries fresh air to the rear. More vents at the rear allow interior air to escape. Vents, vents, vents!

The headlights were not so much a conscious styling choice as a simple adaptation. The upper two lights in the military version are blackout lights, it was deemed more economical to install extra headlights than to stamp a new hood. Storage lockers in the hood also remain, contact us for a field cookbook on soups & stews. Roof reinforcement ribs turn the roof into useful real estate. Top hinged panels at the rear quarter allow extra cargo access, and make an excellent hunting blind in the 4x4. The rear window panel hinges upward, while the door opens normally for ease of loading.

Advanced safety in this era meant running lights, turn signals, reverse lights, 12V electrical system, thick steel bumpers, and 2 spare tires (mounted vertically behind the rear wheel wells in the cargo area). The Standard was a huge success for WT, but the Deluxe was quickly outclassed by more modern designs and station wagons. The 4x4 was built in small numbers, but filled a market niche that was core to WT’s brand identity.


Big Oly, Parnelli Jones’ Baja Race Truck, 1970-1974
here’s a link to a YouTube Video of Jones talking about it:

2012 Wisconsin Truck Ironman, Big Oly Edition

5.0 ohv V8, 322hp, 317lb-ft
aluminum panels, AHS Light Truck Monocoque, coil sprung axles with manual lockers
awd, 6 spd auto, sport interior & standard CD 3159lb
0-62 5.6s, 14.0 1/4mi, 120 top $18414@0% (rough tune atm, these may change)


2020 LPE Gasser Show Car

Built to highlight LPE’s drag racing heritage.


The 1946-1949 Wisconsin Motors Model K was a continuation of prewar production, sort of. Stamps for the unibody monocoque were damaged by not being properly prepared before storage, and rather than retool for a model whose replacement was already in the works, a stopgap was employed. The existing body, fully independent suspension, and transmission were swapped to a modified V100 truck ladder frame, and the engines were sourced from Hermes Hydrosports. The Model K lost quite a bit of headroom, some manners, and gained some weight. The new engine series, however, was much improved over the old flathead engines, and the body gained a bit flash with chrome accents. The production run was plagued by steel shortages, however, and customers grew frustrated with long wait times. Production runs were sometimes fit with whichever engine happened to be available, and the V12 was very rare. Wisconsin Motors refused to raise prices, feeling it was unethical to sell the same car to different customers for different prices, regardless of market forces at work. As a result, profits fell. Wisconsin Motors concentrated production during these shortages on the V100 and the Mouse, which were cheaper to build and more essential to the company’s bottom line.
Three variants of this model were produced. The Sedan featured a value-added standard interior with seating for 5, and was equipped with the 1300cc Hurricane ohv 4 cylinder. The entry level Model K hit 69 mph and returned 15.8 mpg

Some details: hood release in vent, tow hooks, and a combination door handle/mirror

The Sport was available with a 2400cc Tsunami ohv 6 cylinder and used the same interior trim. A Sport hit 86 mph, 0-62 20.4s, ¼ mi 22.35s and returned 18.2 mpg

The Deluxe was WM’s top of the line in 1946, featuring a Luxury Leather Interior with seating for 4, Premium AM Radio, and the Windigo 4800cc ohv V12 (essentially 2 inline 6 Tsunamis stitched together in a common crankcase). Visually, the Deluxe was differentiated by an extra piece of trim. The V12 tops at 118mph and hits 62 in 12.2s, returning 11.4mpg


nice designs so far. interesting recreation too.


Thanks so much!


any time, you have a interesting style.


1946-1949 Wisconsin Motors/Wisconsin Truck Mouse

The short lived 4x4 roadster, shown here in Riviera blue with premium chrome.

Wisconsin Motors’ Mouse was its entry level vehicle. It acquired its name during its military service. Suggested perhaps by its diminutive size and friendly appearance, “Mouse” is just easier to say than MSTV (multipurpose small transport vehicle). After the war, Wisconsin Motors continued this convention for its civilian line. Based on Wisconsin Truck’s MSTV1, the Mouse’s military origins show in its “tried but true” technology: leaf springs, solid axles, ladder frame, manual locking axles in both RWD and 4WD models, and a wide ratio 4 speed. However, the flathead military spec engine, designed to run on poor quality fuel, didn’t make the cut. The engines were sourced from our marine division, Hermes Hydrosports, and include three choices: 15 HP, 30 HP, and 40 HP (available on Delivery and Hacienda only). Several body styles were available on this chassis: the Hacienda (pickup) and Delivery were sold through Wisconsin Truck and the Coupe, Sedan, and Roadster were sold through Wisconsin Motors. Styling for all vehicles was generally handled by Otto personally in this era, as there was no “styling department” yet. However, in this case 2 chrome packages were styled by Raymond Lagerfelter and offered as options.

Clockwise from top left: Hacienda with premium chrome, Delivery with standard powdercoated trim, Hacienda with basic chrome.

Raymond: So this is the new Mouse, eh? Nice, really nice. I bet I could get to some great fly fishing spots in one of these babies. Lemme see one with a chrome package!
Otto: There’s no such thing. It’s a WMC, remember. We powdercoat, not show off.
Raymond: Humbug, Otto. Not every customer is an ultra-conservative Lutheran, ya know.
Otto: I know, I know. We put windows and seats in a delivery truck for those Goddamn papists…
Raymond: Heck, I wouldn’t buy one without a chrome package. Give me a few hours to mock something up. You’ll see. Come back at Four.
Otto returned, with daughters Wilma and Norma in tow.
Raymond: Hi, girls! I’m just wrapping up here.
Girls: Hi, Uncle Ray!
Norma: Ooh, look at all the shiny! I want a shiny car when I grow up!
Wilma: Daddy, how come your car’s not shiny?
Otto: Because grown-ups don’t concern themselves with baubles, dear. Raymond, I’m meeting Belva at the supper club with the girls, care to join us?
Raymond: Sure, just let me get cleaned up. How do you like the trim package?
Norma: I love it!
Otto: It’s not my cup of tea, but just to humor you I could offer it as a dealer installed option. How much do you reckon it’ll cost?
Raymond: I’ll have to figure. Rough guess, maybe fifty dollars?
Otto let out a slow whistle, and shook his head a bit sadly. What was this country coming to, when a man wants baubles on his car? Fifty dollars! His own brother, even! He secretly hoped they wouldn’t sell. (To the contrary, these trim packages sold so well that they led to increasing pressure from Sales & Marketing to create a dedicated Styling Department.)
Raymond: To supper, then. What are you gonna have to eat, Norma?
Norma: Ice Cream!

Mouse Sedan, premium chrome

Mouse Coupe, premium chrome

Women in Motoring, 1946
In the spring of 1946, four women (Belva and Matilda Lagerfelter, wives of Otto and Ray, plus two other ladies from Belva’s “Ladies Motoring Club”) and a French poodle named Charlie drove a Mouse 4x4 Sedan and 4x4 Hacienda from Kenosha, Wisconsin to Fairbanks, Alaska. This was considered no easy feat in 1946, much of the distance being challenging off-road terrain. They also carried two hunting rifles and an old revolver, just in case. The pickup was fitted with an electric winch and carried spare tires and belts; both vehicles were equipped with 80RON capable engines (punched out to 1900cc to make up for the lost power). Newspaper coverage of their journey created a huge buzz for the new Mouse, demonstrating its reliability, off-road ability, and driving ease.


The 15 HP is a 639cc ohv Inline 3, eco 1cv, 7:5:1cr, 4800 rpm redline (23.3hp, 32.9 lb-ft actual). Simple and sturdy, a 4x4 Delivery does 49.6 mph on a windless day and returns 27.4 mpg.

A 15H (same engine, 40.5hp, 38.3 lb-ft 9.5:1cr, 6100rpm redline) in a 4x4 pickup went 67.1mph on a frozen lake Michigan, and had some early success ice racing. (See Issi history for an explanation of H motors).

The 30 HP model is a 1300cc ohv Inline 4 that shares parts with the larger engine. 1cv, 7.5:1cr, 4000 rpm redline (41hp, 67 lb-ft actual). Considered by many to be the best engine of the lineup, a 4x4 Delivery hits 68mph and returns 17.8mpg.

The 40 HP is a 1887cc ohv inline 4, 1cv, 7.4:1cr, 4,000rpm redline (60hp, 97 lb-ft actual). A 4x4 Delivery hits 78mph, 0-60 22.5s, ¼ 21.6s, 15.4mpg

Mouse, 1950-1954

In 1950, the Mouse received an overhaul. The Roadster was cancelled, Hacienda and Delivery production continued with few changes, and the Sedan and Coupe received a newly designed suspension featuring independent front wishbones and trailing arm rear. New for 1950 was a 2 seat Business Coupe model, marketed to travelling salesmen. The wide ratio 4 speed was replaced by an overdrive 3 speed. Rack and pinion steering replaced the worm gear design for improved steering feel and easier operation due to a lower ratio. Wisconsin Motors’ showrooms carried only coupe and sedan models, the rest of the lineup was marketed through Wisconsin Truck.


1947 Wisconsin Motors WMX, "The Toad"

Raymond Lagerfelter had racing in the blood. From childhood, he was enthralled by all things motorsports: ice racing, drag racing, road racing, circle track racing; cars, planes, motorcycles, boats… As a Wisconsin native and auto industry heir, he had the good fortune to be exposed to all these disciplines. Accomplished himself, he was a fast racer on ice and off-road, but had too much mechanical sympathy to be “1st order” competitive. Still, he had some small local success before enlisting as a mechanic in the Air Force. In his spare time on Air Force bases, he had organized Mouse races “to keep morale high.” The courses were a cross between mudplugging, rally and gymkhana; and sometimes got him into trouble. It turns out sleeping officers do not enjoy being awakened by 10 MSTVs at full throttle blasting past their barracks in a 3am night race.

At the end of the War, he returned home with visions of race cars dancing in his head. In Europe, he had seen many of the great racing tracks of his boyhood dreams, and visited with many car constructors that he admired. The advancements in aviation and their possible applications to auto racing had not escaped him, either. When he returned home, he was in a unique position to live a long held dream: He would build performance cars, and go racing with them. His brother seemed to have a handle on the day-to-day of the family business.

The first of these cars was known about the shop as the “Toad”, and was sold primarily to race teams -mostly as rolling chassis, though Ray would happily fit any of WM’s engines. Chassis VINs were stamped WMX (for experimental), which is how the cars were presented to clients. The intention was to provide the amateur racer with a chassis that could go head to head with the factory teams. Six runs of ten chassis were built, plus the prototype, for a total of 61 cars. The car was developed around the Tsunami ohv inline 6. In an attempt to push the aerodynamic envelope, one car was fitted with an overbored 6.0L Windigo V12 and taken to Rogers Dry Lake (Muroc) where it ran 136 mph (a bit disappointing, but still not shabby for 1947). Briggs Cunningberg fielded several of these cars, winning a couple of road races with an exotic Italian 1.5L DOHC V12. Amateur racers often fit the car with modified Flathead V8s. Ray’s favorite installation was that of a Miller-Duck monoblock DOHC 2.5L inline 4, a torquey little monster that would go on to become a circle track legend. So impressed was Ray by this design, that he developed a new head for the Tsunami 6. Using hemispherical combustion chambers and two valves per cylinder, actuated by two cams using a gear driven, desmodromic valvetrain. In an oversquare 3.0L arrangement, this engine made 180hp, 189 lb-ft running on 98 octane. However, with a separate head and block, it couldn’t hold cylinder pressure like the Miller-Duck engine. It was also a bit heavier than it needed to be due to the original cam in block design. It was an expensive conversion, prohibitively so for many racers, and never quite matched the speed of Briggs’ 12 cylinder cars (151 hp @ 8600 rpm, 101 lb-ft @ 6800 rpm on 98 octane and less weight made it a better choice given tire and brake tech of the day. 9200 rpm redline!)

Pictured here, the original prototype and a later unit (this one happens to be fitted with the “Desmo” Tsunami 6). Worth noting are the vents at the top of the rear wheel arches. Intended to provide cooling to the differential and rear brakes, Ray found that air was, instead, exiting the vents into a low pressure area. So he simply flipped the vents around.

Otto Lagerfelter pulled onto Ray’s farm in a Model K and parked near the barn. Outside sat a stripped MSTV.

Otto: Hey Ray, how’s your little racer coming along?
Ray: It’s getting there. I’ve got the chassis pretty well nailed down, working on the aerodynamics presently.
Otto: That thing sure looks… well, weird. What’s going on here?
With that, Ray launched into an explanation that Otto couldn’t quite follow, something about boundary layers, separation vortices, center of pressure…
Otto: Okay, slow down, slow down. Why have you taped all these little strings to the car?
Ray: Because we don’t have a wind tunnel. These bits of yarn tell me what the air is doing at the surface of the car. Flow direction, whether the air is “clean”, whether pressure is positive or negative. I’m using chalk on the shocks to measure suspension travel. If I make a change and the car rides lower, I’ve got negative lift. And so on. Near as I can tell I’ve got it just about balanced front to rear, center of pressure near the rear of the car so it stays stable under braking.
Otto: It certainly looks the business, even if I can’t wrap my head around it. Interesting color choice.
Ray: Leftover military paint. Practically Free. It’s supposed to be fast. Not pretty.
Otto: Not much interior. Seats and dash, that’s from the MSTV I saw outside?
Ray: Pretty much. Again, practically free. And lightweight. Speaking of which, bumpers are easily unbolted at the track. You want to take it for a ride? Here, you drive.
Ray threw Otto the keys, and the roar of a racing engine ended conversation.


I was looking at the bonnet on the Toad there, and I just needed to vent…


Hot air has to go somewhere…


Jeepers, those overhead pics look like it’s been in a rollover.


The 1950-1954 Earl is the first product styled by Wisconsin Motors’ Styling Department, which was added in 1948 in response to pressure from Sales & Marketing. Rather than use engineering resources to re-engineer the monocoques, a decision was made instead to expand the product line with more focused products and fewer available trims per model. The Earl was intended to replace the Model K in the premium family market. With a bit less wheelbase and interior volume, CEO Karl Lagerfelter complained that he was paying the stylists to make his cars worse. Running gear is similar to the K, the most notable changes being increased displacement in all engines and improved carburation.

A total of 5 trims were offered for the Earl: Super Coupe, Sedan, Sport Sedan, Premium Sedan, and Angler Edition.


Sport & Premium Sedan

The Sedan was the entry-level Earl, with a 1900cc Hurricane inline 4. The next step up was a 3500cc Tsunami 6 in the Sport Sedan. At the top of the line, the Premium Sedan featured the Windigo 7000cc V12. All three featured seating for five, with a value added premium interior and radio.

Super Coupe

The Super Coupe was offered with the Windigo V12, now stretched to 7.0L, Four Speed Trans, and a stiffer suspension than the rest of the line. Value added premium interior appointments and radio provide comfort and entertainment for up to four passengers.

Angler Edition

The Angler Edition is a bit of an odd duck in this lineup. A personal “pet project” for Raymond Lagerfelter, it reflected his own desires for a car: raised suspension, 4WD with locking axles, skid tray and off-road tires because he liked to go exploring, a standard interior with no radio so you could get it wet and dirty, enough room to take the whole family camping (seats for 5), Independent suspension and a 1900cc Hurricane hooked to a wide-ratio 4 speed gave good off-road control yet remained highway capable, and of course, goofy trim, because Fishing.

1951-1956 Virgil

Release of the 1950-1956 Virgil followed close on the heels of the Earl, and shared similar design cues on a larger scale. The Virgil was offered in four trims: Sedan, Premium Sedan, Super Coupe and Super Estate. The Sedan was powered by the 3.5L Tsunami Six or 4.8L Windigo, remaining models used the Windigo 7.0L v12. All featured fully independent suspension, ladder frame, four speed manual trans, and value added premium radio and interior trim. This body style also features small rear fins, which would grow over the years.

Virgil Sedan and Premium Sedan (Premium lower 2 pics:wink:)

Virgil Super Coupe

Virgil Super Wagon

All Models feature seating for 4, value added premium interior and radio, ladder frame, 4 wheel independent suspension and 4 speed manual.


1949 Wisconsin Motors Bluefin

((or, How to overpopulate a model lineup because I can’t resist building weird stuff. This particular weirdo scores 90+ in a couple of categories that exist (in Gasmea, at least) in 1949 with a 50% markup, and does so until 1957. And it made me laugh out loud more than once. What kind of wierdo thinks watching a 450hp, 4000lb car squall around Airstrip track with 180mph gearing on 155 section hard bias-ply tires is funny? That poor driver likely soiled himself. 90%+ wheelspin in every gear. Oh gawd, braking distances. But I digress…))

Ray Lagerfelter had a wild idea on his way back from his trip to Muroc salt lake in the Toad: He would build a production car and use it to set a class record, just as the car rolled off the line. The Toad’s high speed performance had been a bit disappointing, but taught Ray some important lessons. His next attempt would focus less on aero balance, more on aero efficiency. Further, traction on the salt was a challenge. His next car would be heavy, all steel with a long wheelbase for stability. If he wanted to do it right, none of Wisconsin Motor’s current engines were up to the task, either. This meant developing a new engine. A very expensive new engine that would likely never see production again, outside of this special-interest salt shaker. Maybe he could tell Karl it was just a racing development for the Windigo series …And who would buy such a thing? He’d have to make it marketable to a broader audience than just the race car crowd to pay for the new motor’s development.
No matter. Ray felt the challenge within his scope, and set to work. Bodies were designed by Ray and built by Phisher, across the lake. Chassis were tube frame affairs adapting “Earl” suspension, steering, and brake parts. Bucks for the frames were set up in Ray’s barn, and final chassis assembly took place in an airplane hanger erected nearby in a field for that purpose.
The new Warlock engine was a V-12 inboard marine unit designed for offshore racing, a beautiful gear driven 4 valve dohc racing engine that cost nearly as much as the rest of the car. Chassis were also available through Motorsports, both as “dressed” (body included) and naked rollers. Complete road cars were offered in “Road Shaker” and “Salt Shaker” variants, with four and two seat (respectively) value added premium interiors and AM radio executed by Tops&Trim in Madison, WI.
Exact production numbers on the Bluefin are unclear, partly because the car was a somewhat “clandestine” operation within the motorsports department, and partly because final manufacturer for the car sometimes varied. Production estimates range between 120 and 300 cars, depending on who is estimating and what they consider a “car”. For example, 25 bare chassis were delivered to a Southern California hot rod shop, who installed their hemi-headed V8-60 and fiberglass body. At any rate, the Bluefin was an unexpected sales success whose exorbitant performance commanded an exorbitant markup.

Polished power bulge let you know you had something special. Salt Shakers included vent inserts for top speed runs. Real cars have big engines up front, under a long bonnet. Freudians need not read too much into that.

The Road Shaker featured a relatively sane (it only lights up the tires in the 1st 3 gears!) 6.1L with twin two barrels, mild sport cams, and 9.4:1 compression ratio, and made 345hp@4700rpm, 412 lb-ft@3700rpm, 5200 rpm redline, 7.8 US mpg, $819.30 annual service costs .576/.566 lateral g, 3820lb, 10.1s 0-62 (in 1st gear), 17.3s ¼ mile, 29.1s 1km, 163mph top speed $26505@50% ($17670 base)
The Salt Shaker leaned on the engine a little harder. 7569cc, 10.4:1CR, 467hp@5300, 480 lb-ft@5000 rpm, 5500rpm redline, 5.5 USmpg, $892 annual service costs, $28720 includes 50% dealer markup ($19147 base), .484/.474 lateral g, 11.5s 0-62, 18.42 ¼ mile, 30.16 1km, 180mph top speed. As the numbers attest, this one made some compromises to chase that top speed number, including narrower section, hard compound tires.
A wealthy privateer campaigned Bluefin ((read: heavy slider abuse in the engine, gearbox, and aero. Never produced and not commercially viable)) achieved 217mph with an engine producing 650hp @6400rpm on a heavy dose of nitro and toluene.


1951 Wisconsin Motors Minnie

The 1951 “Minnie” was Wisconsin Motors new entry level design, filling a hole in their lineup as the Mouse moved upmarket. Trading on the popularity of a cartoon mouse, (and treading dangerously close to copyright infringement) the Minnie was not only marketed at women, it was designed by a woman. Two women, sort of. Belva Lagerfelter was in her own right a “gearhead”, had participated in several long distance road rallies, and was an active member of the Ladies Motoring Club. Norma Lagerfelter was her daughter, age 10 at the start of development (12 at release in 1951). At age 10, Norma already had a wealth of driving experience, Uncle Ray’s minisprint (used as an engine development mule) was her favorite toy at the farms, when she could get her hands on it. Belva acted as development lead, Norma as chief test driver. The design brief was simple: an affordable car that could be easily driven by a 10 year old girl.

To reduce front axle weight, the familiar typhoon ohv triple was mounted in the rear of the car, enhancing traction at the rear and reducing steering effort. Front tires were narrow 100 section cross ply on 10 inch rims, directed by rack and pinion adapted from the updated mouse. Tiny 6.7 inch drum brakes used hydraulic pressure and a “Master Cylinder” for ease of operation, and the rearward weight bias helped the car make the best of what was available, stopping the Minnie from 100kph in 222.3ft. A lightweight version of the modular transmission was developed using a hydraulic clutch throwout to reduce pedal effort and featured 3 widely spaced gears, top gear essentially functioning as an overdrive. The differential could be manually locked via a lever on the floor. “Sliding Pillar” four wheel independent suspension ((Macpherson Struts)) saved weight over double wishbones, as did an aluminum intake manifold and tubular exhaust manifolds on the engine.

Three variants of the Typhoon ohv triple were available, rated at 10HP, 15HP, and 15+HP. The 10HP model was new for ‘51, and catered to the then booming Mexican market, though it was offered in the States as an “eco” alternative. Modern dyno tests of a vintage example spun the rollers at 15 hp@4600 and 21 lb-ft @2200rpm, winding out to 5100 rpm. This carried the 440cc Minnie to 51.5mph, zipping through the ¼ mi in just 30.3s. 10HP cost just $623@30% dealer markup (($4678@0%Automation)) and got 31.6mpg.

The 15HP is the same 639cc Typhoon 15HP that featured in the ‘46 Mouse, now with an eco carb and aforementioned manifolds. This variation dynos at 25.1hp@4900, 32.6lb-ft@2900, 5200 redline and carries the 1378 lb Minnie to 72.5mph. 0-100kph 42.5s, 28s ¼ mile. 26.8 mpg

The 15H was the performance variant of the Typhoon, available special order through WM’s performance division. With high compression pistons, ¾ race cam, 2 barrel carb, and long primary tubular exhaust manifolds, this engine required premium gas and made 42hp. 15+, indeed. It propelled the 2 seat Minnie H to 87.6mph

Interior trimmings were minimal, using four barely padded “bucket” seats ((think tractor bucket seat, not modern car)). The car nevertheless included many thoughtful touches in the interior. Storage nooks abounded: in the dash, doors (these doubled as the door beams), under seats, even built into the monocoque itself in the rear passenger area. Windows in the doors roll down about halfway due to a curve in the glass. Front and rear windscreens hinged at the top and could be adjusted via hand cranks. Rear quarter windows hinged at the front and could each be cranked outward about 5” . Unseen but beautiful, brass drip rails carry water away from window moldings in an effort to prevent rust. Also unusual in a car of this class was the color palette. For a modest charge, customers could order premium “big car colors” which included some metallic and candy paints in this era. Trim bits were powdercoated with a crackle finish in a variety of colors.

What are these fake grilles doing on the front? I’m glad you asked. Equipped with the same advanced safety features as the early mouse, this new car also featured a “crush zone” at the front of the car. Those fake grilles help control deformation in the event of a collision.

The Minnie debuted on a frozen lake at an ice racing event in Lake Geneva. Otto had invited some newspaper men to come see his new car and phenom driver. Quite intentionally, the new WM car showed up late and missed qualifying. Starting at the back of the pack, the combination of car and driver quickly proved its dominance while Ray and Otto looked on. The driver, concealed by her helmet, was Norma, age 12. Ray and Otto shared a moment of pride, Norma was indeed a natural racer. Cool, calm, patient, and precise; she picked her way through the 16 car field in just 22 laps, stretching her lead with every lap of the remaining 3. Norma years later described the drive, “It was like the car and I were in our own universe, where time almost stood still… I saw everything, knew everything, conscious thought became a mere passenger. I can’t describe it, it was like driving in a cloud of light…” After the race, Norma kept her helmet on until she was called to the podium, as instructed earlier by Otto. Chatter among the racers escalated until it became open jeering. Belva put her hand on her daughter’s shoulder and smiled. She had coached Norma on this, “Folks don’t like to lose, sure, but some folks don’t even like a woman competing -feel like it’s a threat to their honor or some such. It ain’t, but don’t you argue with em. Kill ‘em with kindness. You’ve always had a pretty high opinion of yourself, and you don’t care much what people think -you’ll be just fine.” Indeed, she could feel her daughter beaming inside the helmet as the comments flew at her.
“Hey Otto, izzat a driver or a horse jockey? Talk about weight savings!”
“Hey feller, those Lagerfelters feeding you alright? C’mon over to our place if ya need a good, home-cooked meal!”
“Fella must be some kind of ugly, keeping his helmet on indoors!”
Talk settled down as ceremonies began, and Norma’s car number was finally called. At this point, she removed her helmet and approached the stage. The room fell into a stunned silence. No one feels too badly when they get beat by a factory backed car, but to get whipped by a little girl… They’d felt sure they’d been beaten by a pro when they saw her drive. As she accepted her trophy, her eyes and face beamed with joy, and the Lagerfelters started to clap. Ray whistled, Belva let out a war whoop,and the room quickly joined suit, falling victim to an infectious happiness. Otto brought out a bottle of brandy from under his coat and started to pass it around as he approached the stage. Norma stood there dumb and gleaming. She felt 50 feet above the crowd, charged with a happiness whose intensity almost seemed dangerous -as if she might explode and take out the surrounding three counties.
Otto reached the stage and addressed the crowd, inviting everyone to a nice fish fry at the supper club, courtesy of the race winner. Outside the club, Lagerfelter stationed 3 early production Minnies with salesmen offering demo drives. By the end of the night he had his first 15 orders, one sold to one of the newspapermen he’d invited to cover the event. The event was considered a success, as was the car, and the Lagerfelters would remember it fondly.

Don’t race Norma! After the car’s debut, Norma’s personal car was fitted with one of Ray’s California hot rod shop’s V8-60s, with a ¾ race cam. In this form, the car was good for 15.0s in the quarter and 143 mph! The conversion was offered as a kit, the extra cooling vents shown here were executed by Ray Lagerfelter.

Minnie - 15H.car (24.9 KB)
The most fun you can have with 42 hp? I’ll let you decide. Oversteers. Back it into a hairpin on dirt and you’ll see why I like it.


1952 Wisconsin Motors AeroMouse

The AeroMouse (AM) was WM’s first high volume sports car, developed to gain production experience in new technologies and to revitalize interest in flagging Mouse Passenger car sales. It would also provide a “spiritual link” between the Mouse and the new Minnie. The design team was led by Otto Lagerfelter, heir apparent to CEO Karl. The AeroMouse would foreshadow future Wisconsin Motors small car construction, using a longitudinal FWD drive layout, 4 wheel independent double wishbone suspension, and a monocoque chassis. With a sub $1000 entry price, sports car handling, and 100+ mph performance, the car was a showroom success. As intended, it’s mystique also rubbed off on the Mouse and Minnie. Customers test driving the AeroMouse as a sporty daily driver often bought the (ahem) larger Mouse business coupe. “Would you like to see our Performance catalog, sir?” was a spiff inducing tagline for Wisconsin Motors salesmen.

The entry level AM was fitted with a three speed manual trans, hooked to the familiar Hurricane ohv inline 4, destroked to 1828cc and running a ⅔ race cam and single two barrel carb. It still ran on regular pump gas and carried the same 40hp rating as the Mouse -one of Lido’s schemes, it helped bolster the Hurricane’s reputation as a powerful engine. Modern dyno tests of period engines typically show 86hp@4900, 96 lb-ft@4400. Interior trim was familiar value-added standard Mouse equipment in a 4 seat configuration. Tires are 145/90-13 cross ply sports compound, alignment is set with an eye to tire longevity. Curb weight is 1696 lbs, resulting in a performance envelope that almost sounds modern today. 62-0 in 156.2ft, 0-62 11.5s, .866/.851 lateral grip, top speed 103 mph. 11.6mpg is not exactly modern, however it is somehow impressive for such a small engine. Karl Lagerfelter once commented “that it turns regular pump gas into speed, both in alarming quantities.” Laps Airfield Test Track in under 1m.48s. With a price of $925 (includes 20% dealer markup (($7208@0%Automation)) it was about ⅔ the price of a new Chevy.

Or you could have one with a V8 and a four speed! …with half the displacement. Wait. What? Well, our friends over at Harvey-Donaldson were playing with a small-angle flat plane V8 for their bikes. Spiritually akin to the Moto Guzzi 500 V8, the HD 650 mill used single overhead cams, 4 valves per cylinder, and slightly more displacement for a similar packaging size. The engine was abandoned mid-development, and Wisconsin Motors bought it for a song in 1950, at Ray Lagerfelter’s instigation. Karl had never expected it to reach production in one of his cars, but it was so cheap that it was worth it just to keep his brother (and his performance division) happy. The engine spent the next two years powering various prototypes, and Ray had twice used it to take a run at the 1000cc speed record in a belly tanker. This engine was the “intended” motor for the car, the Hurricane was added at Karl’s insistence. Two variants were produced for the AeroMouse, a “mild” 750, and the hotter 1000. V8 cars featured 2 seat, value added standard interiors and AM radio.

Some Stats:

750cc 18.8mpg, rated 50hp, 50 lb-ft, actual 63.5hp@7300, 53 lf-ft@5100, 7800 redline 10:1CR,⅔ race cam, twin 2 barrels, tubular headers super leaded required 1” single exhaust
$1304@50% dealer markup (($8133@0%Automation))
94.5mph Top Speed, 0-62 14.8s, ¼ mi 20.5s, 1591lbs .882/.872 lateral g

1000cc 13.6mpg, rated 80hp, 55 lb-ft, actual 92hp@8300 rpm, 64 lb-ft@6700, 9200 redline(!), twin 2 barrels, super leaded required 10.8:1 CR, race cam, long tubular headers, 1.25” single exhaust $1337@50% dealer markup (($8337@0%Automation))

Performance division quickly offered a swap kit for a “real” V8 to meet customer demand, sourced from a Southern California speed shop. Rejected as a passenger car engine by its original manufacturer (too small), this small, cheap V8 found its way into midget sprints in the early 50s. With ohv conversions and hemi heads, a brave and talented driver with a whiff of nitro and toluene had a chance against the mighty Offys. In AeroMouse configuration, 3”bore x 3.75”stroke yields 188 cubic inches and 161hp @4800rpm, 193 lb-ft @4000rpm, 5200rpm redline. Twin two barrels drink premium fuel at 11.6 mpg. 127 mph top speed, 7.99s 0-62, 16.02 ¼ mi. .846/.836 lateral g from 165/85-13 bias ply tires. Race bred drum brakes stop the car from 62mph in 172.2ft.
$1709@50% (($10654@0%Automation)) $887.8 service costs

As preparation for the Mexican Carrera Panamerica, WM sent several of these cars to compete in the 1952 Rally di Fruinia, where they managed to clinch a manufacturer’s title. Car #53140, powered by the California V8, managed second fastest time overall (despite the open class car having been faster in pre-race testing) and was Ray’s favorite of the bunch. This car seems to get better the harder it’s driven, it’s best experienced in 4WD with the rear diff locked. Yes, even on pavement. In retrospect, Ray regretted investing resources into expensive brake development when alloy body panels would have reduced the need for this with less expenditure, and would also have improved overall performance.

AeroMouse - Panamerica 53140.car (46.8 KB)


1960 Wisconsin Truck "Hiawatha"

Just 55 1960 Hiawatha SkyTops were produced, all in exclusive commemorative colors, making it a collector’s item today.

The 1960 Wisconsin Truck “Hiawatha” was a joint venture between Wisconsin Motors and the Milwaukee Road (Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific Railroad) to commemorate 25 continuous years of the Hiawatha passenger line. The Milwaukee Road’s design brief was to build an all-terrain passenger coach that celebrated this legacy. WM’s answer was a 5.6L V12 powered, wishbone suspended 4x4, equipped with 6 leather captain’s chairs, wool carpets, a leather “tuck and roll” headliner, and an AM radio with military-grade vacuum tubes. Monocoque chassis construction, power steering and disc brakes were all advanced features in 1960. The dashboard and interior furniture were executed in walnut, and included such luxury features as a stowable table, wet bar, and a small Swiss clock on the dash. The first year of production yielded just 55 trucks, which was almost double WM’s expectations. Efforts were made to streamline the production process, bodies were still produced by Phisher in Michigan but dropped the SkyTop roof and used a simpler grille. Chassis assembly was done on a small line in Manitowoc, WI. Trucks received paint at Rose Collision & Custom, in Madison; “Commemorative Colors” were 1960 only, the two tone was dropped for ‘61. Interior work was executed by Convertible Tops & Trim, in Madison, assisted by a local Amish furniture maker. It was a complicated process, and expensive. For 1961, production had increased to 150 units per year. Production reached its peak in ‘65, with 350 units produced, then declined as interest in the truck faded.

1961 & Later Hiawatha. This Luxury Train is a real workhorse! 1 ton (2000 lbs) chassis payload and 1 ton towing capacity.