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Cheesehead Industries


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.


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

Contralto - 1639.car (40.2 KB)
Drives like a rubber chicken, only funnier.
Contralto - v8.car (41.4 KB)
Decently quick if you can resist the urge to hoon it.


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.

MV Design

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