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The Wisconsin Special spotted!


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#1 Arthur Anderson

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Posted 02 October 2004 - 06:43

I had the unique opportunity to visit the warehouse where Sig Haugdahl's 1922 Wisconsin Special resides, the other day!

Woohoo! What a car that is! I was with a couple of friends who were measuring and photographing this historic race car for the purpose of doing a scratchbuilt 1:12 scale model of it for the current owner (who can easily afford the extreme cost of a totally scratchbuilt scale model).

The car resides in Mishawaka, Indiana (just east of South Bend--actually just across the street), and is remarkable in that it appears to be not only completely original with just two exceptions: A magneto change is evident, probably because apparently Wisconsin engines built just three of the engine installed in this car, and apparently the race car's engine is the only one left. The engine is an 836cid straight six, SOHC, with dual ignition off one magneto/distributor. The cylinders are cast in pairs, in aluminum (in fact, the entire engine appears to be aluminum, although probably with cast-iron cylinder liners. The other change made to the car somewhere in its history was the addition of an electric starter, necessitating the fabricating of an exposed ring gear around the exposed flywheel.

Heaven only knows what chassis was used, but it appears to have been built from a pre-1920 touring car chassis, probably one of the larger makes, but little exists, as I understand it, as to the origin of the chassis. A lot of hand fabrication is evident, not to mention the relatively low budget under which it seems to have been built. There is a lot of improvisation on the car, mostly doing with attempts at streamlining it: The front axle is faired in over the channel section with carved wooden blocks held in place with yards of tape, the space between the body sides and the top of the frame rails is filled with shaped and smoothly sanded wood planking. The leading ends of the steering drag link and other control rods have tapered cones welded to them.

I assume that the Wisconsin Special was in attendance at Goodwood this summer, given the Goodwood Festival of Speed 2004 decals on the sides of the cowling. If you saw it there, you might have wondered at the rough bodywork evident. Apparently, Haugdahl was very much a backyard (or in the barn) mechanic, in rural Minnesota, operating without much money, so the body, while very nicely shaped, is full of all sorts of hammer "dings", but from the inside out, indicating that there was no money to have the tail, cowling and nose professionally made. Likewise, the body panels are all sheet steel, not aluminum, and no attempt was made to weld anything beyond the seams down the middle of the tail. All body panels are mounted with flat-head slotted screws as well. Similar hammer marks (again from the inside out) are all over the top and sides of the nose, and of course the nose itself shows a good bit of debris damage. Wheels are 20" Rudge-Whitworth wires.

Pictures of the car at Daytona Beach show the cockpit sides to be high, so that only the driver's head and tops of his shoulders would have been exposed to the slipstream, although as the car stands today, the cockpit sides are cut down to allow for the extreme steering action needed on dirt tracks.

I didn't get to hear it run, but I understand that it's a very raucous sounding car, what with 6 four-inch-diameter exhaust stacks that come out perhaps 3 or 4 inches beyond the hood side.

Art

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#2 Ray Bell

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Posted 02 October 2004 - 11:00

I see from a page I googled that Sig lived until 1970...

I wonder if anyone thought to ask what the various components of the car were from?

The innovation in such creations is often magical stuff... do you have photos?

#3 Lotus23

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Posted 02 October 2004 - 14:46

Art, thanks so much for the update! I was just re-acquainting myself with Sig and the Wisconsin Special last night on another site.

I just can't imagine going 180mph in such a creation -- Sig must've had a double dose of brave pills that day at Daytona.

I feel a little kinship with Sig, as my paternal grandparents were both from Scandinavia; their firstborn son -- my late dad -- was given Sigurd as his middle name. My grandmother explained to me that Sigurd the Great was a famous Norse hero.

#4 Lotus23

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Posted 02 October 2004 - 22:08

Art, two items of interest I just discovered about Sig:

-- in the mid-thirties he designed the old Daytona Beach road/sand course, which in the course of time was a factor in DB being the birthplace of NASCAR. (I doubt many current Cup drivers could tell you who Sig was!)

-- his final resting place is nowhere near Minnesota; he's buried in the warm soil of Jacksonville (known locally as "Jax"), Florida.

#5 Don Radbruch

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Posted 03 October 2004 - 17:58

For many years the validity of Sig Haugdahl's "record" speed of 180.3 mph at Daytona Beach in 1922 has been questioned. Most likely this is because of the involvement of IMCA promoter J. Alex Sloan. J. Alex was famous for far fetched hype and hippodromed races. J. Alex may have been financially involved with the construction of the Wisconsin Special. The car, with Haugdahl or Fred Horey at the wheel set many "world records" in exhibiition runs on dirt tracks on Sloan's IMCA circuit.

While the dirt track records were pure hype there is every reason to believe that the 180.3 mph on the beach was accurate. I did a lot of research on this run for a sidebar in my book, DIRT TRACK AUTO RACING, 1919-1941. (Please excuse the commercial) Every effort was made to insure the accurate measurement of the course and the accuracy of the timing equipment. However, the AAA refused to recognize the record run. A story is told that Haugdahl was behind on his AAA dues, claimed a check was in the mail and refuse to pay up on the spot. I won't guarentee this tale but there is no doubt that Haugdahl ran a bit over 180 mph---a world record at the time.

#6 Muzza

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Posted 03 October 2004 - 18:32

Originally posted by Don Radbruch
[...] I did a lot of research on this run for a sidebar in my book, DIRT TRACK AUTO RACING, 1919-1941. (Please excuse the commercial)[...]


A mix of research about the birth and development of motorsports in the different geographic regions of United States and Canada, collection of biographies, anthology of anedoctes, pictorial book and race reports, Dirty Track Auto Racing, 1919-1941 is indeed a highly recommended reading for all those looking to know more about those heroic and little-known times.

I loved it, Don! :up:


Muzza

#7 Robert C. Coolidge

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Posted 04 October 2004 - 20:25

Sig Haugdahl Daytona Beach Course.

The course that Sig Haugdahl layed out was used for car races prior to WWII. It is located in present day Daytona Beach Shores, Florida. The Living Legends of Auto Racing use Sig's course for our beach parade renactment of beach racing activities during Speed Weeks each February.

The beach course used by NASCAR post WW II was located about 5 miles further south in present day Ponce Inlet, Florida.

Bob Coolidge
DeLand, Florida

#8 Lotus23

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Posted 04 October 2004 - 23:52

Thanks, Bob. I never realized there were two different courses.

Is there anything left of either?

#9 Robert C. Coolidge

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Posted 05 October 2004 - 12:07

The Dunlawton Avenue ramp onto the beach in Daytona Beach Shores is the location of the southern turn of the Sig Haugdahl beach course. The paved A1A follows approximately the same route. Tall residential condominiums line the beach and A1A in this area.
Our racing history organization, Living Legends of Auto Racing, stages a beach parade of antique racing cars, race car replicas, and Flying Mile cars on the beach in this area the Tuesday of Speed Weeks. As part of the course, the Flying Mile start is allowed to be reinacted by each participant.
Bill France raced in the 1930s on this course.

The NASCAR beach course is about 5 miles south inside the present day town limits of Ponce Inlet.
A restaurant named the "North Turn" is located immediately north of the former location of the north turn of the beach course. The paved A1A in this area has been moved a little inland from its location in the 1940s and 50s. There are no visible remains of the beach course and Ponce Inlet does not allow driving on the beach. Most of the oceanfront in this area is lined with residential condominiums.

Come and join us Tuesday, February 15, 2005 for our racing car beach parade. To accomodate the tide schedule the parade will go off around 11am from the Dunlawton Avenue beach approach going north on the beach then a turn around back to the starting point. No charge for participation.

Bob Coolidge
DeLand, Florida

#10 Arthur Anderson

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Posted 05 October 2004 - 12:08

Originally posted by Ray Bell
I see from a page I googled that Sig lived until 1970...

I wonder if anyone thought to ask what the various components of the car were from?

The innovation in such creations is often magical stuff... do you have photos?


Unfortunately, although I knew that my friend was coming to Mishawaka to photograph and measure the car for the purpose of creating a hand-built scale model for the car's owner, I had let my camera batteries run down, and lacked the time to charge them up before going to see the car.

I really could not recognize the chassis, after all the car was built in 1921 or thereabouts, largly from parts and pieces gathered here and there--very much in the manner of so many "specials" of the 1930's (or even Ray Keech's Triplex Spl LSR car of several years later).

The chassis is clearly that of a fairly large touring car (Phaeton) from the mid-late teens though, with the massive front and rear axles so common to large cars of the era. It would be hard to even guess as to the manufacturer, as there were still nearly a hundred (if not more) automakers in the US at the eve of WW-I, but it does seem plausible, given the nature of the build, and Haudgdahl's being a small-town person in rural Minnesota, that it's from a car built in the Midwest, as so many marques tended to be very regional in their distribution back then, but such chassis often bear very little in the way of unique characteristics allowing easy identification. However, it truly is the chassis of a very large passenger car, and likely one that was available at a fairly low "used car" price, given that used cars tended to not have high resale values then, unless they were one of the truly luxury cars of the day--and automobile chassis design, particularly the frame rail shapes, was pretty static at the time. Other components almost defy identification, for example, the radiator is the very common "honeycomb" type (no fin & tube construction, but built from a series of stamped copper sheet, soldered together trapping the vertical tubes between layers of waffle-shaped plates of copper, an easy radiator to trim (narrow) to fit the space being alotted to it--the radiator is about 15" wide, but quite tall.

The bodywork is all sheet steel, again testament to the car having been built "out of the mainstream" of race car construction, probably because sheet steel was something most any small-town builder could have understood working with, aluminum being rather an exotic material at the time, particularly in sheet form--how to weld the seams? However, the body does appear to have had some serious planning before its construction, so drawings must have been made, it's definitely not a "cut and fit" bit of work in its shapes, and the upper part of the hood, and the cowling were definitely rolled to curve on a rolling brake--so somewhere a professional sheet metal shop (and by 1920, any city of any size had several of those, given the wholesale conversion of older houses to the then popular coal-fired central heat, rolling brakes being used to form the round heat pipes, along with the many odd tapered panels of sheet steel used to create the flanges, elbows and fittings needed in such applications) had to have been available.

However, the formed portions of the body, the tail, headrest fairing and the nose are definitely hand-formed, and rather crudely so, by any standard. These panels apparently were made without the benefit of any sophisticated forms, but rather by simply being hammered out by hand, but curiously, they seem to have been shaped from the inside out, as there are hundreds of small dents in the metal, protruding outward, the maker not being particularly concerned with the final finish of the parts--definitely not the work of a professional body builder. The metal is of at least 18-guage, perhaps even 16-gauge in places (common autobody sheet metal used in the 1950's and 60's was 20-gauge, so this is much thicker material, also it's probably a carbon steel, as mild steel as used in automotive body construction didn't arrive until about 1930 or so. The tail itself is a one-piece unit, likely brazed at the seams, given the relative difficulty in welding sheet steel outside of any manufacturing environment at the time. Simple strap-steel was used to create "flanges" inside the sides of the cockpit area to join the tail to the cockpit/cowling panel, using the then-quite common 1/4-28 flathead countersunk "stove bolts" (so called because this size machine screw was the primary fastener used in wood/coal heating and cooking stoves!). I saw no evidence of any riveting of the tail at its centerline, so that tells me it was likely brazed. The headrest fairing seems to have been formed in the same manner as the tail itself, and is likely brazed to the top of the tail. The nose has a number of dents in its front "face", likely from either handling, or from the surface of the numerous dirt tracks on which this car "barnstormed" after its Daytona Beach run. The "cat's eye" inlet openings show that some serious planning was done, but each is hand-cut, hand filed to shape, and my friend discovered that no two of them are exactly alike.

The engine was built by Wisconsin Engine Company, under a development contract for the US Army Air Service, but like so many similar projects, apparently did not come to full fruition until 1918, so the project was cancelled with the Armistice, much like the Duesenberg V-16 and King-Bugatti H-16 aero engines of the day--just three are reported to have been built, with the Wisconsin Special having the only one extant. It is built in typical practice for a large 6-cylinder engine, being assembled from a crankcase, and three bi-cylinder blocks, water cooled. The engine appears to be virtually stock, too many sophisticated castings evident, in fact until sometime during Haugdahl's campaigning the car, the original aircraft distributor was replaced by a more conventional automotive unit, perhaps a Packard Twin-Six unit (there are two plugs per cylinder, one each on the exhaust and intake sides of the T-head combustion chamber--no separate cylinder heads, the aluminum cylinder blocks being blind-bored) The engine, while using a T-head combustion chamber (intake manifolding on the right side, exhaust ports on the left), is SOHC, with the valves arranged to give either a hemispherical or pent-roof combustion chamber. Carburetors are updraft (gravity fuel feed, no fuel pump of any sort on the car), barrel-type (very common in the day), probably the same carburetors installed by Wisconsin Engine. Displacement is 14.25 liters (836cid), which puts this car in the class of the famed Zborowksi "Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang" specials of the early 20's, and was rated by Wisconsin at 250bhp.

Brakes are rear wheel only, external contracting band, again fairly common automotive practice of the day, pedal actuated. Wheels are 22" Rudge-Whitworth wire wheels.

Hope this helps a bit!

Art

#11 Ray Bell

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Posted 06 October 2004 - 09:47

Thanks Art...

I guess even the axles could have been from a manufacturer who supplied a number of carmakers.

But did anyone talk to the man in his latter days?

#12 Lotus23

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Posted 06 October 2004 - 23:26

Art, didn't I read that -- at least in its 180mph form -- the Special had neither clutch nor gearbox? Just the engine hooked straight to the rear end.

Tho' if it now possesses a starter, one assumes a clutch is in there someplace...

#13 ensign14

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Posted 29 February 2008 - 21:34

Bumping this, as I was sorting some photos out and found I'd taken some of the Wisconsin Special at Goodwood in 2004...

Posted Image

Posted Image

Posted Image

:)

#14 fines

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Posted 01 March 2008 - 07:46

Originally posted by Don Radbruch
For many years the validity of Sig Haugdahl's "record" speed of 180.3 mph at Daytona Beach in 1922 has been questioned. Most likely this is because of the involvement of IMCA promoter J. Alex Sloan. J. Alex was famous for far fetched hype and hippodromed races. J. Alex may have been financially involved with the construction of the Wisconsin Special. The car, with Haugdahl or Fred Horey at the wheel set many "world records" in exhibiition runs on dirt tracks on Sloan's IMCA circuit.

While the dirt track records were pure hype there is every reason to believe that the 180.3 mph on the beach was accurate. I did a lot of research on this run for a sidebar in my book, DIRT TRACK AUTO RACING, 1919-1941. (Please excuse the commercial) Every effort was made to insure the accurate measurement of the course and the accuracy of the timing equipment. However, the AAA refused to recognize the record run. A story is told that Haugdahl was behind on his AAA dues, claimed a check was in the mail and refuse to pay up on the spot. I won't guarentee this tale but there is no doubt that Haugdahl ran a bit over 180 mph---a world record at the time.

Although I hate it to rubbish a post by a deceased (and respected!) fellow historian, in this very case Don was very wrong and contributed to a legend that REALLY needs to be put to rest! This is really becoming a pet rant of mine :D, even though my interest in record running is very limited :drunk:, but Haugdahl very certainly never ran even close to 180 mph, neither in 1922 nor at any other time with the "Wisonsin Special".

#15 Ivan Saxton

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Posted 01 March 2008 - 10:42

You might try to get Fred Hoch to have a look at chassis and axles, because Sig was a Mercer driver early on. The front axle is the reverse type than that used on the L head Mercers, but rather that of the T head. Front of the chassis is similar to L head Mercer. His Mercer connection could be a clue to why this car apparently went so well for a T head. Finley Robertson Porter effectively achieved whith the T head Raceabouts a double sided version of Rickardo's later L head combustion chamber. Raceabout compression ratio was about 6 to 1, Ralph Buckley told me, and the crowns of the pistons almost touched the chamber roof. Runabouts and tourings, et cetera, ran only about 4 to 1.
Porter and Mercer were not the first to do this, of course. The 1907 long stroke 8 litre Coppa Florio Isotta Fraschini that Minoia won that race with had pistons that ran close to the chamber roof also. In that race of just over 300 miles, the car averaged better than 15 mpg at nearly 65 mph average speed. The same cars were supplied to the American Isotta importers for the Briarcliff Trophy race and other competition in 1908. If Sig's T head had a compression ratio like that the performance of the car would not have been brute strength and ignorance, as they say.
Ivan Saxton

#16 HistoricMustang

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Posted 27 May 2008 - 00:10

WOW, it is amazing what some of the States are beginning to provide through the WWW.

Start at bottom of this page and then more on next page.

Henry

http://ibistro.dos.s...-FLA/87290058/9

Note: I will put up the link to Fulford Speedway at that thread.

#17 David M. Woodhouse

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Posted 27 May 2008 - 02:44

The Wisconsin Special is currently owned by Tom Mittler and was on display at the Amelia Island Concours this past March, in a class of cars that ran on the beaches. Sig Haugdahl's son, Sig Haugdahl, Junior, lives in nearby Jacksonville and was in attendance at the Concours with the car.

Around 20 years ago I saw the car when it was in Dave Uihlein's collection in Wisconsin. I also wondered about the 180 mph claim and wrote a letter to Uihlein asking if he had or knew of any documantation of the claimed record run, but never received a reply.

Woody

#18 sstiel

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Posted 03 May 2021 - 19:15


Edited by sstiel, 03 May 2021 - 19:21.