The van (an American Motors Corp. prototype that never went into production) and Jeeps from five decades will be in place in time for Kenosha Homecoming: Great Cars on a Great Lake, July 22-26. The homecoming, an official American Motors Owners Association car show with up to 700 vehicles, occurs every three years.
Lots of communities host car shows, but this one is unique because it happens in a city with a proud and long history of auto manufacturing. That is what this event showcases, in addition to mint-condition Hornets, Javelins, Matadors and Eagles.
Kenosha can thank Thomas B. Jeffery for this part of its heritage: The bicycle maker bought a factory here to mass-assemble Rambler cars in 1902, one year before Henry Ford began Model A production in Detroit.
Auto and engine manufacturing in Kenosha would switch to Nash Motors, AMC, Renault and Chrysler until the last of the city’s two plants closed in 2010, ending the century-long automotive production history. This was part of the fallout of Chrysler bankruptcy in 2009.
This all makes for memories far deeper than the average car buff’s interest in power, speed, vintage hubcaps and fuzzy dice. What other city names elementary schools Thomas B. Jeffery and Charles W. Nash, with the Gremlins and Charlie the Nash Knight as their respective mascots?
“For these car collectors, this is their epitome,” says Donald Shepard, Kenosha History Center executive director. He chose “My Pride and Joy” as the name for the museum’s classic car display because “that’s exactly what they are” to car collectors.
Donald has worked at the museum almost 30 years and is in contact with car clubs throughout the U.S. to organize the Kenosha shows. He also expects international visitors from Sweden, Finland and Denmark.
“This is a space where everyone can gather and reminisce,” he notes, with there is the added practical value of a swap meet with hard-to-find automotive parts that enable ongoing AMC car restoration.
Admission is free to Kenosha Homecoming: Great Cars on a Great Lake. Daily cruise-ins are 4-9 p.m. July 22-24; then comes a 3 p.m. July 25 parade along 60th Street for a downtown car show that lasts until 10 p.m. The closing event, a car show at Kennedy Park, 4051 Fifth Ave., is 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 26. visitkenosha.com, 800-654-7309
At the Kenosha History Center, 220 51st Place, year-round is a 1902 Model C Rambler convertible. The “My Pride and Joy” classic cars are in place until Sept. 28. kenoshahistorycenter.org, 262-654-5770
In the Wisconsin Automotive Museum, 147 N. Rural St., Hartford, are about 100 vehicles and other automotive artifacts that include a collection of Kissel luxury autos, which were manufactured there until The Depression killed business.
Also in the inventory are a Soo Line steam locomotive and Lionel model train diorama. The museum is open daily until early October. wisconsinautomuseum.com, 262-673-7999
July is a busy month for car buffs, who have these options in addition to the Kenosha homecoming show:
Concours d’ Elegance, a parade and show of old-time racing cars, has become a tradition that accompanies vintage car racing at Road America. Participants begin their procession from racetrack to downtown Elkhart Lake around 6 p.m. July 18 and return about two hours later. On July 19, vintage sports car drivers take their turn, lining Lake Street during roughly the same time frame. elkhartlake.com, 920-876-2600
The Appleton Old Car Show and Swap Meet, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 20 at Pierce Park, 1035 W. Prospect Ave., draws collectors of classic cars, muscle cars, hot rods and modified vehicles. This is the 37th annual event, and 1,100 vehicles showed up in 2013. appletonoldcarshow.com, 920-954-9112
Tired Iron Car Show and Swap Meet, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 26-27, happens at Thresherman’s Park, 51 E. Cox Rd., Edgerton. tiredironpromotions.com, 608-884-8659
Beldenville Old Car Club Show, July 27 at Pierce County Fairgrounds, 364 N. Maple St., Ellsworth, is billed as northwest Wisconsin’s largest one-day car show. Expect antique and collector cars and tractors, plus a farm toy show. Gates open at 8 a.m. bocc.webs.com, 715-273-6211
Car-A-Funda Car Show, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 27 at Lakeside Park, 555 N. Park Ave., Fond du Lac, is accompanied by a classic rock and roll party. fdl.com, 920-923-1478