Race Cars and Pace Cars at Iola


People say that the Internet is killing old car shows, so the Iola Old Car Show in central Wisconsin decided to do something about it. The 2015 event held July 8-11 adopted a racing theme to pump up the excitement level. The result was the biggest-grossing Iola Show ever and all proceeds go to the town.

To put things in perspective, the annual show draws over 100,000 people to Iola the second week of each July and that’s impressive in a village of 1,000 souls. But the show had started to trend down a little and event director Larry Fechter was having none of that. “You ain’t seen nothing yet,” said Fechter. “But the 2015 Race Cars and Pace Cars theme was a great way to start our revival.”

Drag racer Don Garlits was signed up to make appearances at the show and drew a large crowd all weekend, but local racing car owners such as Carl Pyper and Ed Kramer showed up two. Both had racing cars powered by Indian motorcycle engines, Carl’s car was a 1914 board track racer and Ed’s was a 1951 midget. Burton Brown brought his well-known Bonneville streamliner, while Seth and Gordon Rohla showed up with their super original ’63 Plymouth Super Stock drag car. Also on hand was the Menards Racing Team with two vehicles.

Adding the Race Car and Pace Car theme to what is already one of the country’s largest old car shows added a new dimension to the venue. The giant theme car tent was packed with all types of racers from Lou Natenshon’s Cunningham to Paul Zieldorf’s Willys and Fiat drag machines. Additional racing cars such as a pair of 1957 circle track cars from Ford and Chevy made a colorful display of speed demons outside the big top style tent.

Pace cars are part of racing and Iola showcased a good variety from the famous ’69 Camaro Indy Pace car to a rare creamy yellow ’57 Mercury Turnpike Cruiser convertible that also paced the Brickyard Classic.

About John Gunnell 143 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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