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
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.