Wisconsin; the land of cheese, ridiculous winters, the Green Bay Packers and custard galore. It’s also a hot location and booming hub for all things motoring enthusiast culture. It’s home to legendary race tracks like the Slinger Speedway, Road America and the oldest operating motor speedway in the world: the Milwaukee Mile. Harley-Davidson was born here, so were historic brands like Nash, Rambler, Excalibur, Oshkosh Truck, Kissel and farming equipment manufacturer, Case. The annual World of Wheels classic and custom car show brings out some of the most radical vehicles throughout the badger state.
Autorama’s World of Wheels classic and custom car show arrives at the Wisconsin State Fair Grounds each February, offering the public a chance to feast their eyes on an incredible array of rides and bikes. Looking for some inspiration for a project? Aching to get out of the cold and feel the explosive warmth given off by this showcase of pure automotive art ? You can do that here and you’re bound to find something that just makes you smile. I could write page after page filled with accounts of each sweet car, truck and motorcycle at this show- but I’ll focus on some of the unique highlights.
Let’s start off with something absolutely bonkers: Thee American Flame. We love our tractors and we love our tractor pulls here in Wisconsin. I spoke with owner Joe McCloskey from Racine, WI about this vehicle. Explosive power comes from a 1,300 horsepower, T53 Lycoming turbine engine from a Huey helicopter used in Operation Desert Storm. The rear end is borrowed from a 850 Case Dozer. This completely custom machine spits fire as it carries the American pride high with massive rear tires and beer kegs serving as the fuel tanks. Oh and it’ll easily pull tens, upon tens of thousands of pounds of weight without a sweat.
Walking past a few goofy, donked-out Cadillac Escalades and a Hummer H2 that look like they belong in the original Need For Speed Underground video game, a 1972 Datsun 240Z was next up on my hotlist. Underneath the hood lies a 4.2L, six-cylinder VK45 motor that’s hoping to help push this car past the 200mph record mark at the Bonneville Salt Flats this particular car.
Torino GTs, Darts, Mustangs, Impalas, Barracudas and more. Over every shoulder turn was something to be wowed by. Trucks of all sorts and sizes from a menacing black Ford F-Series that towered over my 6’2 tall self, to impressive old Chevys and Mopars from the late 40s and early 1950s. I was always reminded just how intimidating a Dodge Charger looks too. Wow, no wonder Vin Diesel piloted one in the “Fast and Furious.” A blue 1964 Buick Special sported a turbocharged 3.8-liter V-6 from a much-newer Grand National and someone, somehow, managed to put C6 Corvette headlights on a C4 and make it look somewhat decent. Wagon lovers like myself can’t help but gawk in amazement over a pristine, tw0-door 1955 Pontiac Safari with a two-tone copper and pearl white exterior paint along with wrap-around windows.
Motorcycles were plenty here at the 2014 World of Wheels show too. Harely-Davidson dominated the floor but there were also quite a bit of modern sport bikes mixed with classic Hondas transformed into cafe racer tributes and bobbers. What stopped me dead in my tracks was an unrestored 1941 Indian, found in a barn. Beautiful. It’s four-cylinder supposedly still runs too. Who wants to help me bank some money and buy this? Please?
Two more winners at this show were from different ends of the spectrum. Mmmhmm “Green Tea” looks good on the outside of that 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air but what’s even better is the wild power train underneath. A newer Camaro made a noble sacrifice to this homebuilt project, giving up its LS3 engine (which a Whipple supercharged was later added to) and matching automatic transmission. Yes this fifty-plus year-old Chevy has paddle shifters. The rear end is a 9″ Ford 3:50 posi and a set of disc brakes finish it off.
Godzilla also got a little crazy with steroid pills and ended up making 800 horsepower thanks to the experienced pros at West Bend Dyno Tuning LLC. This black 2010 Nissan GTR got its turbocharged engine beefed up with HKS and AMS Alpha go-fast goodies, while its suspension and chassis remained stock. The insane result? a 176mph Turn 1 entry speed at nearby Road America. Think about that for a second. West Bend Dyno Tuning also had a badass 1972 Chevelle SS powered by a blown, 651 horsepower 408 cu-in LSX motor. You can’t just walk by it and not start making muscle car noises. Stay tuned for a full, in-depth story on all the greatness West Bend Dyno Tuning does, they’re right in my backyard.
Carrying on, I passed a rusty Jeep CJ tow ruck, sleek-red 1938 Chevy Pickup and muscle car after muscle car with big air scoops and blowers peaking out through the hood. A lifted, mid 2000s Silverado HD flashed its serious off-road suspension and meaty headers which combined, proved a cool view in the front wheel well. Look around at a 1958 Chevrolet Corvette and appreciate how far America’s sports car has come, some almost sixty years later. I drove a red new 2014 Vette a few months ago and had my mind blown. Jeff recently reviewed a white drop-top version of the new C7 we had in the Hooniverse fleet and walked away declaring it a sports car ready to take on the world.
Ending off the night, I checked out a collection of three of Gotham City’s finest Batmobiles, the Tumbler from 2005’s “Batman Begins” –which weighs a hefty 2.5 tons yet can sprint to sixty mph in under six seconds–; the stealthy, Anton Furst-designed Batmobile from the 1989 “Batman” movie; and then finally a Batmobile used in the hit 1965 television series “Batman” built by George Barris and Dean Jeffries. My top favorite car at this year’s show was a chopped, 1940 Mercury. Drop-dead gorgeous from every angle and a prime candidate for a long road-trip down historic Route 66.
The World of Wheels car show travels around the continental US and parts of Canada each year ,showcasing incredible cars, trucks and motorcycles from your area, with upcoming stops in Chicago, Omaha, Detroit, Salt Lake City, Winnipeg and Boston. Check out the full schedule and more information here. If you’re a true Hoon, you don’t want to miss this show.
[Images copyright 2014 Hooniverse/Robby DeGraff]