Indy Cars from Freedom

RJ137 Freedom Photo 06

It was called “The Evolution of the Race Car” and the diverse group of speed machines that showed up in Freedom, Wis., on Oct. 1 certainly reflected many ways that racing cars have changed over the years. They ranged from Carl Pyper’s 1914 board track racer powered by an Indian motorcycle engine to the Butterball Special, a yellow car with a Styr aircraft engine that the FWD Museum in Clintonville, Wis., brought to the event.

Given the popularity of NASCAR racing today, the stock cars at Freedom probably highlighted the evolution of a specific breed of racers better than the cars in any other category at the show. The stockers included a crude-looking full-sized ’65 Ford that Fred Lorenzen raced and an accurate clone of Dan Gurney’s white ’62 Lafayette Ford racer. Both of these stock car “dinosaurs,” as well as a few others at the show, were a far cry from modern NASCAR rides that barely resemble the showroom stock cars they’re based on.

RJ137 Freedom Photo 04

Freedom is a small village, but its Rickert Park was large enough to hold 100 or so racing cars. One of the real headliners was an actual Dan Garlits “Swamp Rat” dragster. At least two later model Indy Cars were there, too. Another enthusiast brought an early ‘60s Thunderbird ragtop racer that was a tribute car built to memorialize local racing hero Allen “Red” Be Dell. Ironically, Red passed away nearby on the same weekend as the show.
Coupes once driven by George Giesen of Menasha, Bucky Wagner of Two Rivers and the late Bryce Spoehr of Black Creek were a hit with the large crowd at the free show. Racing enthusiasts brought cars from as far away as Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Alabama and Florida.
Mike Randerson of Appleton—a local race car builder and engineer who founded RanderCar Racing—put the Freedom Race Car Show together. He contacted more than 150 racing car owners about the first-time, one-day show. Most of them came, despite threats of rain. Showers did materialize around 3 p.m., an hour before the event’s official closing time.

About John Gunnell 141 Articles
John “Gunner” Gunnell has been writing about cars since ‘72. As a kid in Staten Island, N.Y., he played with a tin Marx “Service Garage” loaded with toy vehicles, his favorite being a Hubley hot rod. In 2010, he opened Gunner’s Great Garage, in Manawa, Wis., a shop that helps enthusiasts restore cars. To no one’s surprise, he decorated 3G’s with tin gas stations and car toys. Gunner started writing for two car club magazines. In 1978, publisher Chet Krause hired him at Old Cars Weekly, where he worked from 1978-2008. Hot rodding legend LeRoi “Tex” Smith was his boss for a while. Gunner had no formal journalism training, but working at a weekly quickly taught him the trade. Over three decades, he’s met famous collectors, penned thousands of articles and written over 85 books. He lives in Iola, Wis., with his nine old cars, three trucks and seven motorcycles.

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