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A diverse parking lot
Southwest Wisconsin Auto Club collects cars, gives to local charities
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One SWAC member has Chevrolet Cameo pickup trucks from all five years the truck was sold, 1955 to 1959.

Signs of summer in Wisconsin include schools closing and swimming pools opening.

Another sign of summer is the unveiling, from inside garages and sheds and underneath car covers, of collector cars.

Some of these cars are owned by members of the Southwest Wisconsin Auto Club, based in Platteville. The SWAC puts on a car show the Sunday of the weekend of Platteville Dairy Days, but its members’ cars appear at other area car shows.

“Any of the cars, they’re unique — you don’t find them anymore,” said club member Mark Stead. “Most of the cars these days are rubber, plastic and fiberglass — those cars were made of metal. You get noticed when you go down the road.”

The club has about 100 members, including “a good core group” of 40, said Stead.

The club’s members own an eclectic collection of cars. Stead owns a 1942 Buick Special sedan, built in November 1941 just before World War II began and U.S. car production ended.

Stead bought the Buick in Dixon, Ill., 20 years ago, when it had almost 34,000 miles on it. Stead has added only 3,000 miles to the odometer reading.

“It’s an oddball,” he said. “It’s got plenty of power. The signal lights, when you turn the signal on, it’s on the right side instead of the left side. You can raise or lower the hood on either side, and if you’ve got somebody on the other side, you can take the hood off.”

Another member owns a 1954 Nash Statesman, built three years before Nash and Hudson merged to form American Motors Corp., which built another member’s 1965 Marlin.

One member owns five Chevrolet Cameo pickup trucks, one per year built (1955–59), and also owns a few 1964 Chevrolets. The group’s members also own Ford Model Ts and Thunderbirds, Buick Rivieras and LeSabres, Pontiacs, and other old Chevy pickups. Club members also own Studebakers and Packards.

“It’s just interest about cars,” said Stead. “My neighbor’s got the ’54 Nash — the seats could fold down into a bed. They were so wide that you could lay down on them and not touch any of the front or back of the interior.”

The Dairy Days car show and others attract not just car owners, but those who go to “see these unique vehicles you don’t see anymore — a lot of them were driven to death or just rusted out,” said Stead. “When people are younger, cars that were popular, you couldn’t afford to buy them. People like to go back and revisit their earlier days.”

Some of the cars were originally purchased from now-defunct dealerships in southwest Wisconsin — Nodolf’s Garage in Belmont, from where Stead bought his first car, a 1964 Chevy Chevelle sedan; Klosterman’s International/Studebaker, at what later became Pioneer Ford Sales in Platteville; Kieler Garage, a former Chevy dealership; and Stitzer Garage, which sold Studebakers.

SWAC puts on the Dairy Days car show at Legion Park in Platteville the Sunday after Labor Day from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Club meetings are held on the second Wednesday of the month at one of the club’s sponsoring restaurants in the winter, or Legion Park for a potluck in the summer. The club also holds occasional cruises for its members.

The club sponsors a Southwest Wisconsin Technical College scholarship for a student in one of SWTC’s automotive programs. It also makes donations to the Platteville Food Pantry and Wisconsin Badger Camp. The club also has an Adopt-a-Highway segment of Wisconsin 80 between Golf View Road and Splinter Lane north of Platteville.

More information about the club can be viewed on the club’s Facebook page.