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.