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  Southeastern Wisconsin Short Track Hall of Fame
by Paul Gohde -

It used to be the Kissel auto manufacturing plant, but today the building, located at 147 Rural St. (just west of Hwy. 83, and north of Hwy. 60 in Hartford, WI), is the home of the Wisconsin Automotive Museum. On Saturday, September 22nd, a ceremony will be held at noon to dedicate the new Southeastern Wisconsin Short Track Hall of Fame at the site. Also on Saturday the Vintage Modified Stock Car group, headed by John Surges, will host a car show, from 10:00am- 3:00pm, in the museum parking lot.

“We expect 30- 35 vintage race cars for the show Saturday,” said Surges, who started the VMSC in 1998, and now sends out over 400 bi-monthly newsletters dedicated to preserving the memories of those who remember the six night-a-week racing at Hales Corners, Cedarburg, Oakfield, Slinger and the State Fair short track. “The Short Track Hall of Fame will induct twenty members in its first class during a November 3rd induction dinner at the museum. Our goal was to get a place to establish the Hall, and with the help of Bob Ralston, Miles Melius, Bob Ensweiler and Reed Sederburg, we were able to get former driver Brian Jaeger to donate two cars from his collection to the museum in a permanent display. The cars, a former Melius car and an Etchie Biertzer machine, are on display at the Hartford site. We’re beginning the Hall with a large class of inductees, some of whom have already passed away, in hopes of recognizing many of the others while they are still with us.

“The Hall of Fame board spent the last nine months trying to make a wonderful display of memorabilia and other artifacts that will bring back memories for racing fans, especially those who got to see these greats race. The board also had the daunting assignment of narrowing down the list of candidates to twenty this year and twenty more in 2008 before inducting a smaller group in proceeding years.”

As of this writing there are forty or more vintage racers that have been restored in southeastern Wisconsin, ranging from modifieds and sportsman cars, to midgets, sprinters and former Indy cars.

And with vintage racing booming across the country, Surges felt compelled to make this area part of it. “I’m glad people are interested in what I’m excited about,” said Surges. “Most of cars come from southeastern Wisconsin, especially from the Mayville, Lomira and Slinger areas. Sportsman cars are the toughest to find since they were often junked after the season. But I’m working on bringing Dan “the Rebel” Kopshe’s car back to life, and someone is doing Jim Boehles’ late model.”

So take a ride out to Hartford on Saturday and be apart of the festivities. Consider bringing younger fans with you so they can learn about how it all began. Many drivers are expected, and they are more than happy to chat, pose for pictures and sign autographs.

For more information, please call Surges at 414-315-5320.

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