An ‘A’ homecoming

An ‘A’ homecoming

Even though Old Cars’ headquarters are no longer in Iola, Wis., the publication maintains its ties to the village of approximately 1,200 people and its giant annual Iola Car Show. I often find myself in the rural central-Wisconsin hamlet to meet up with former Old Cars staffers, car show staff and even some previous managers of the publication and its original parent company. One of them is Cliff Mishler, Old Cars founder Chet Krause’s right-hand man who was instrumental in starting the Iola Old Car Show in 1972 and getting Old Cars off the ground when it was founded the previous year. It was on a recent visit to Iola that Cliff shared some exciting news related to the history of Ford Motor Co., Old Cars, the Iola Car Show and the village of Iola.

The first new car to be sold in Waupaca County, the county in which Iola lies, was also one of the first products of the Ford Motor Co. — the 605th Ford product, to be exact. This 1903 Ford Model A runabout was one of about 1,700 built, and years after its original sale, it was eventually traded to the local Ford garage in the city of Waupaca. When Oscar Weisman purchased that Ford garage in 1927, the 1903 Model A was part of the purchase. Weisman kept the Ford until 1972, when the late Krause was finally able to purchase it from him. Within a few years of adding the 1903 Ford Model A to his growing collection, Krause had Milt Colden of Clintonville (also in Waupaca County) restore it.

The restored first-year Ford Motor Co. vehicle was subsequently displayed at a 1978 luncheon in Milwaukee celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Ford Motor Co. — probably the first time it ever left Waupaca County — and was an Iola Old Car Show attraction for the next 30 years. It also made occasional appearances on the pages of Old Cars Weekly (as it was known then) and its parent company’s books, including those in the Krause Publications “Standard Catalog” series. When Krause dispersed his collection at auction in 2006, the Ford Model A was sold to the Antique Car Museum of Iowa in Coralville where it’s been displayed ever since. The Model A’s sale to the Iowa museum marked the first time in more than 100 years that the early Ford was owned outside Waupaca County.

This 1903 Ford Model A runabout was one of about 1,700 built.

Now, about 17 years after its sale to the Antique Car Museum of Iowa, the Ford Model A is coming home. Under Mishler’s supervision, the Iola Historical Society has purchased the Ford Model A and plans to put it on regular display. The 1903 Ford Model A will again be parked in the county where it was originally purchased 120 years earlier.

Fans of first-year Fords can catch a glimpse of this historic Model A on its home turf at the Iola Historical Society’s 2023 Taste of Norway and Lost Arts Fair on Saturday, Oct. 7. The event is scheduled for 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the Iola Historic Village located at 210 Depot Street, two blocks west of North Main Street in downtown Iola.

The Iola Historical Society is still working on funding for the last portion of its purchase of the 1903 Ford Model A. If you’d like to help, write to: 205 Depot St #1, Iola, WI 54945 or call 715-445-4652.

Angelo Van Bogart, Editor

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