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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
1952 Wisconsin Truck "Babe"
Wisconsin Truck’s “Babe” (named after a mythical northwoods ox) was introduced in 1952 to fill consumer demand for a vehicle that could tow greater payloads. Available in three trims, these trucks used a ladder frame, suspended by locking solid axles with progressive coils at the front and multi-leaves at the rear. Fifteen inch wheels carried 195 section M+S tires, over big heavy duty 11.8 inch drum brakes. A wide ratio four speed equipped with a PTO hooked to a transfer case and powered all four wheels. An engine oil cooler and heavy duty radiator dissipate heat. Power was supplied by a 7.9L ohv inline 6 adapted from WT’s fire truck, equipped with a two barrel carb and twin mufflers for quiet cruising. These trucks feature just two seats, thanks to the large transmission tunnel, and were conservatively rated at 2 tons.
The HD was equipped with towing gears, making it capable of pulling 2.5 tons (5000 lbs) at speeds of up to 46 mph. Slow by today’s standards, it must have seemed a rocket ship to farmers used to towing with a tractor. It was equipped with basic vinyl interior trim and no radio.
The Deluxe carried longer gears, good to 75mph with a tow rating of 1.5 tons. Oriented more to long distance hauling, it had a more comfortable cloth interior and a radio.
Top of the line “Big Blue” series trucks were fitted with value added premium leather seats and a standard AM radio, as well as a 7.0L variant of the Windigo ohv V12. Big Blue could tow 4526lbs, and topped out at 80mph.
An expensive truck, Babe nevertheless provided the payload and towing capacity that its customers couldn’t do without; sales grew over the years along with its reputation as a reliable workhorse.
1955 Wisconsin Motors Sparrow Hawk
Wisconsin Motors’ new small car offering for 1955 continued the previous Mouse’s trend upmarket, more of an American Lancia Aurelia (or late model Cord 810) than direct big 3 competition. Karl Lagerfelter kept on hand a small collection of cars, both modern and vintage, for “research purposes” and encouraged employees to try them out. Much like his philosophy with the performance division, he was contributing to their automotive education, which in turn would improve his own product. The fleet was managed by a team of four mechanics; collection size and age varied according to Wisconsin Motors’ ability to spend on “R&D”. In this era, a Lancia Aurelia was a favorite, and “required reading” for design engineers.
As John Lagerfelter tells it, “The worst fight I ever saw between my folks was over a Lancia Aurelia. She had driven it to a Wednesday church potluck, and Dad (Otto) had a thing against us Lagerfelters driving anything but a WM to church. God had treated us well with WM, Dad figgered, and it wouldn’t do not to acknowledge that, at the Lord’s house. Well, here she was at church in an Italian car, and most Italians ain’t Lutheran, if ya catch my drift… (laughs) She was banned from the motor pool immediately. Tried to argue her case that it wasn’t even Sunday, but Otto wasn’t having it. Told her, “Buy whatever ya Goddamn want! You’ve got your own money, I ain’t keeping you stuck. But I’ll be Goddamned if I send you to church in an Italian car!” Well, Mom had cut Dad to the bone, but she was too proud to admit wrongdoing. If I remember right, it was around that time that she commissioned the Carrera-Panamerica car from Ray. She had a certain knack for knowing when distance would make the heart grow fonder, and had used her own money on a WM motorsports project. Cleverly acknowledging her mistake without compromising her dignity, coupled with a month of her absence, Otto couldn’t stay mad. Without admitting it, he had felt the blue skies had returned with Belva from Mexico. He actually said that, though he was near the end and heavily dosed with opium at the time… I’m sorry, where were we? Ah yes, the Lancia. I remember laughing with Mom about it over drinks. That day, she’d just been in a hurry, and didn’t have time to stop back at the farm. But she was bound to get caught sooner or later. She’d been cafe racing the Aurelia under fake names. It’s prob’ly a good thing she got caught at church.”
Many of the advancements pioneered by the AeroMouse sports car found their way into the Sparrow Hawk, such as the longitudinal fwd layout, independent wishbone suspension, and monocoque chassis construction. Two trims each were offered in both Sedan and Estate bodies.
Standard included value added standard cloth interior trim and the new thin-wall 850cc triple, hooked to a 4 speed transmission.
Deluxe models featured value added premium leather seats and AM radio. Power for the Deluxe was provided by the “Ofty 97”, a production oriented version of the famous Miller & Duck racing engine. 4 valves per cylinder used desmodromic actuation, driven now by roller chains instead of gears. Ports were reduced in size to increase flow velocity, and the complicated monobloc casting was re-engineered for mass production, now using a separate head and block casting. This resulted in a potent street engine which made 101hp in Sparrow Hawk spec.
That high-tech valvetrain wouldn’t become commonplace for another 30 years after the Sparrow Hawk’s debut. And yes, the fixture placement, combined with the car’s overall shape, really does remind me of an Aurelia.
Thanks for the feedback. I’ve been looking for a car to stick an Offy four cylinder into, and this was the first one that seemed reasonable. (Miller was Wisconsin born and also built some early FWD sports cars, another anachronism in the car, as well as the moncoque chassis… the whole car is an anachronism). The “Offy” (originally Miller-Drake, who was bought by Offenhauser, and based on the 1918 Peugot GP engine) is a historic American racing engine, built with a desmodromic dohc 4v valvetrain. It set its first speed record in 1930 in a boat, and went on to become a fixture in American open wheel racing. It won the Indy 500 27 times, most recently in 1978. I chose a fifties car because this was the height of midget racing, where the Offy engine were so dominant they eventually got their own class). I’m fully aware that this isn’t a common valvetrain, but I don’t feel like it’s too far out of line for a premium variant, as Ferrari, Maserati, Mercedes, etc were using multivalve OHC engines in the period… Heck, Chevy even introduced mechanical fuel injection on its Corvette, a technology that never really took hold, either… I tried so hard to make this thing look American (euro-influenced American, sure, but…) and not a Lancia rip-off. shrug Win some, Lose some.
In 1955, Ray Lagerfelter formed Lagerfelter Performance Engineering (LPE). Internal Revenue Service rules at the time allowed a low volume prototype manufacturer five years to become profitable before classifying the business as a non-deductible hobby. For these first five years, the Lagerfelters used LPE as a consulting firm, and as a place to hide development expenditures. Wisconsin Motors had been publicly traded since 1931, and it was often difficult for Otto to explain some of Ray’s decisions to his stockholders. A budget line item for engineering consulting was simpler to explain than were development costs for the Warlock racing engine, or the Ofty, or for that matter, the V8 motorcycle engine. The new company also allowed Ray the freedom to focus on his low volume sports and racing designs. When the AMA banned factory-backed racing in 1957 (a reaction to the LeMans accident of 1955, the AMA hoped to avoid government regulations on racing), WM’s motorsports program “officially” ended, but in reality had just been hidden by moving it to LPE.
While the original plan had been to close the doors on LPE in 1960, Ray had actually started turning a small profit by providing engineering consulting to other brands under the Cheesehead Holdings umbrella. The company operated at a loss until 1959, when WM’s motorsports budget was removed from the books and returned to WM.
LPE’s first release came in 1957, with the Tazio, a 1000cc V8 sports racer named to honor the late Tazio Nuvolari. While produced by LPE, the Tazio wore WM badging and was available through WM’s dealer network. Bodies were stamped out of steel by Phisher, dash and interior trim were adapted from the recent AeroMouse, featuring two cloth bucket seats and no radio. The ‘57 Tazio tipped the scales at just 1766 lb. Who needs a radio when you’ve got that gorgeous V8 soundtrack? A little gem of a motor, the twin two barrel V8 produced 73 hp @6700 rpm, 65 lb-ft @ 5200 rpm, and pulled hard all the way to its 7800 rpm redline. 0-60 was dispatched in 12.2s, top speed was 101 mph. 145 section sport radials wrapped around 15 inch wheels, which covered oversized 11.8 inch truck drums, stopping the car from 62 mph in 134 ft with zero fade. Multi-leaf transverse leaf springs and independent wishbones at all four corners provided skid pad performance of .938/.887g. A close ratio four speed transaxle helped the car achieve 53/47 F/R weight distribution, but the short wheelbase and undeveloped aero made the car a bit of a handful at high speeds.
1957 LPE JMF1500 & JMF 2500
The 1957 JMF was a convertible sports car released alongside the ‘57 Tazio. While both cars were named after famous racing drivers (this one after Juan Manuel Fangio, the Argentinian “Maestro”), the JMF is a very different car. Interior quality is improved, with sport trim and a premium radio. Body panels make an extra pass through the stamps to create a different look at minimum cost. The open body is mounted on a sturdy ladder frame that shares 4 wheel wishbone suspension geometry with the Tazio, but uses different shocks and springs tuned to the different engines offered in the JMF. Both available engines are Italian built V12s, in 1.5 (Bellissima V12) and 2.5 liter (Columbus V12) displacements to commemorate Fangio’s GP career. 175/65 -15 sport compound radial tires generate .917/.872g in the 1500, .897/.851g in the 2500. A four speed transmission zips the JMF1500 to 100 kmh in 8.5s, through the quarter in 16.5s, and on to 127 mph. The 2500 nearly matches these acceleration numbers (.1s faster at the quarter mile), but keeps climbing to 139 mph at the top end. The 1500 tips the scales at 2560 lbs, and produces 151 hp; the 2500 weighs 2740 lbs, and makes 200 hp.
1985 Wisconsin Motors Alecto
Wisconsin Motors introduced the Alecto in 1985 as a sporty, light commuter. It quickly gained a reputation as a “beginner 911”, complete with drop throttle oversteer courtesy of its rear engine chassis layout and 41/59 f/r weight distribution. Initially introduced with a 105hp 1200cc alloy sohc 4v multipoint V6, this was quickly replaced with a larger 115hp 1400cc turbocharged unit to improve fuel economy and torque. With just 2015 lbs to push around, it accelerated 0-62 in 7.62s and topped out at 117 mph. The quarter mile was dispatched in 15.7s, and fuel economy improved from 15.6 to 24.3 mpg. 185 front section and 245 rear section 17 inch tires pulled 1.1g on the skidpad.
The Sport version was introduced midyear, cranked up to 150hp. 0-62 6.6s, 14.9s ¼ mile and 127 mph top speed. The Sport also featured wheel arches and big 260 front and 305 section rear tires, which were mostly for show as they only improved skidpad performance by .02g. Fuel economy dropped to 17.6 mpg, below the CAFE standard and thus subject to an additional markup.
If you knew which boxes to tick, there was also the Q14, basically a Sport with the boost and cam profile cranked up to 11. Just 1000 were built, as WM struggled with their fleet economy numbers enough without producing a 2225 lb car that returned just 10.6 mpg (which also got hit by a gas guzzler tax). Further, these cars were neither advertised nor provided to journalists (who got ahold of them anyway through private owners, who’d often added additional modifications. This led to some wild performance claims, and didn’t hurt the Alecto’s reputation as a “baby 911”, either). Stock Q14s made 256hp (heady stuff from a 1.4L in the day, even if it did drink gas like a big truck.) 0-60 5.8s, ¼ mile 14.1, 153 mph top speed.
1968 Wisconsin Motors Contralto
107 mph, 12.4s 0-62 mph, 19.02s ¼ mile
94hp, 2286 lbs, 1639 sohc 2 valve 4cv
16.7mpg, $647.60 running costs, $8398 Dealer Cost
Fast, Frugal and Fun
Euro Looks, American Engineering!
Steel Monocoque, 4 wheel wishbones, LF 3 speed manual
Eligible for Super 1600 class rally racing
1968 Wisconsin Motors LPE Contralto
FR conversion by Lagerfelter Performance Engineering
235 hp 4.3L OHV-16 Aluminum V8, 4 speed, fat tires, 2955 lbs
Don’t Ask MPG, 140 mph, 7.7s 0-62mph, 15.8s ¼ mile, .89g
1960-1963 Wisconsin Motors Wuchowsin
Encouraged by the success of the Corvette and Thunderbird, Wisconsin Motors introduced the Wuchowsin in 1960. More a car with sporting pretensions than actual sports car prowess, the Wuchowsin was more of a “Boulevardier” than WM’s previous sports car offerings, a fact betrayed by its MacPherson strut front and semi-trailing arm rear suspension design. Thanks to a deal with a French tire manufacturer, the Wuchowsin rode on 195/75R14 long life radial tires. It also featured 4 wheel power disc brakes, power steering and an automatic 3 speed transmisson with very tall gearing for relaxed cruising. Power was provided by the familiar Typhoon 6, here displacing 3.5L and making 189 hp@5100 rpm, 213 lb-ft at 3500 rpm, and fitted with twin DCOE carbs and the hemi race head with desmodromic valvetrain designed by Ray Lagerfelter back in ‘47 ((here represented by DOHC 2V, see WMX Toad lore for more detail)). The engine was “tipped over” 15 degrees to allow a lower hoodline. Value added premium interior trim and AM radio included pleated, double stitched leather seats and a “twin cockpit” interior theme.
Unfortunately, the car was not well received and was a disappointment on the sales floor. WM fans were disappointed by the cars soft performance, and the lack of an optional V8 made it unappealing to the market more generally. Late to the party in a market segment (“personal car”) that was already shrinking, Ford’s Thunderbird was becoming bigger and more “custom”-like, Chevy’s Corvette moved towards the sports car segment, and WM simply got left behind. Production would cease in 1963.
0-62mph 11.1s, 109 mph top speed, 9.9 mpg, 3189 lbs, .724/.698g lateral acceleration
A big thank you to @Marcus_gt500 for letting me modify and post a version of one of his designs in my thread. All credit for the original car and its wonderful styling go to him. I don’t claim my version to be better than his, just different, and more suited to my own tastes. And it was a nice opportunity to do a collaboration and expand the the lore of one of my companies.
1982 Gavril Barstow H/R
In 1980, Lagerfelter Performance Engineering (LPE) was contracted by MV Design to provide development work on the 1982 Gavril Barstow H/R (Highway/Race), a limited production (1500 units), high performance variant of the Barstow. LPE has a long history of sports and racing cars, but much of their income actually comes from doing development work and engineering for other manufacturers. Visually, the H/R can be distinguished by subtle badging, a larger wheel and tire package, and a small cold air intake scoop on the hood. Under the skin, the standard drive and suspension layout have been retained but a number of subtle changes have been made. The engine has been destroked to 2.2L, fitted with a twin cam 16v head developed and manufactured by LPE, and now requires 95 octane fuel. The new Turbo III engine features forged engine internals, and produces 225 hp. A 5 speed with ratios exclusive to this variant gets the car up on boost more quickly, and also features a geared LSD. Brakes feature aggressive race-capable pads, and improved cooling via larger ductwork. New suspension tuning is actually softer than the standard models, reflecting lessons learned in rally racing, and offers improved performance on rough roads and mixed surfaces. The new setup, rather than chasing the last tenth of a second off lap times, is engineered for driving enjoyment. The result is a chassis that can be steered with the throttle through a corner, yet remains supple and sane enough for daily use. Criticised by some as having too much oversteer, it is a car for the discerning driver. In capable hands, this 2007 lb rocket is a giant killer; entertaining and involving to drive near the limit, it requires a bit of finesse to achieve its full potential.
'82 Gavril Barstow - H-R by LPE.car (43.5 KB)
demo drive on Automation test track, outer loop
1962 Wisconsin Motors Itinerant
The Itinerant was Wisconsin Motors’ attempt to break into the mainstream American auto market. In an effort to improve durability, a coil sprung solid rear axle replaced the typical WM independent rear suspension, and a fully boxed, cross braced ladder frame replaced expensive-to-repair monocoque construction. This had the added advantage of isolating the passenger compartment from NVH; it was advertised as, “A small car with a big car feel.” Power steering and four wheel power disc brakes add credence to that claim, dual wishbone front suspension keeps steering sharp and stable. Lending to that big car feel were its engine choices. It was released in ‘62 with the 3.5 ohv Tsunami inline 6 from WM’s full size cars and trucks, followed in ‘65 by the sohc 12v 3.9L inline six and sohc 16v 5.0L V8 from the full size Earl, along with two piston front calipers to keep up with the extra power. Interior accoutrements featured seating for four, and trim options ranged from basic to deluxe, depending on your intent and your wallet.
In ‘67, a Chicago WM dealership (Mickey) began fitting 390 inch ohv V8s from the full size Dawsonville into power brake delete, power steering delete, insulation delete chassis, which were delivered to the dealership sans drivetrain. These were built into mostly drag racing cars, though more than a few roam the streets. Parts offered in the WM Performance catalog turned these beasts into low 11 second cars, fully ported and blueprinted examples went even faster. Lightweight body panels by Lagerfelter Performance Engineering helped strip weight, and the chassis was reportedly good for over 600hp on slicks without reinforcement, making this particular variant very popular with the Pro Stock crowd.
Lagerfelter Performance Engineering Itinerant
Oftenhauser’s run of Indy 500 wins was broken by Furd in 1965, resulting in a shift away from the engines by some racing teams, and leaving Oftenhauser with extra production capacity. LPE took advantage of the situation by commissioning 25 “street” engines based on the Indy design (a 4.1L dohc 16v inline 4). The most expensive Itinerant by far, it wasn’t really fast enough to justify the cost unless you valued the pedigree of the engine, and most buyers in this price range wanted more than four cylinders.
2002 Track & Trail Fabrication Scorpion
Big thanks to @Marcus_gt500, who did the syling for this one. I think it looks fantastic.
2002 saw the introduction of the Scorpion by Track & Trail Fabrication. It’s a tube frame, fiberglass component car with a bespoke AWD system and off road wishbone independent suspension. Just add your own 2JZ engine for a supercar you can drive from Paris to Peking. The example posted makes 375hp, runs the quarter in 13.15s in Automation, and pulls .958/1.01g on dirt tires. No driver’s assists.
MV Design - Marcus_gt500's design studio
1985 Track & Trail Fabrication Nightwolf GNX
Thanks @Marcus_gt500, who styled this one as well.
Nightwolf - GNX .car (52.8 KB)
Another tube frame, fiberglass creation by Track & Trail Fabrication, and styled by MV Design, the Nightwolf GNX can be fitted with a range of engines. This example uses a turbocharged 3.8 ohv V6 to produce 360hp, routed through a 5 speed to the rear wheels. Weighing under 2900 lbs, performance is brisk. Two piston disc brakes with 10” rotors provide plenty of stopping power. No power steering or driver assists, it’s involving but not particularly difficult to drive. It’s a track toy, but the suspension is supple enough for bumpy roads.
MV Design - Marcus_gt500's design studio
1990 Track & Trail Fabrication Kitana
Styled by @Marcus_gt500. Thanks!
Kitana - Turbo ll.car (38.1 KB)
Another component car with a tube frame and fiberglass panels by Track & Trail Frabrication, and styled by MV Design. Mid engine, rwd, as rowdy as you want it to be. Insert your own four banger for mixed surface fun. No driver’s assists. This example features an LPE modified 240hp 2.2L K series Turbo II from an '82 Gavril Barstow.
MV Design - Marcus_gt500's design studio