CHRYSLER 300 CLUB INTERNATIONAL
FALL 2016 MEET – ELKHART LAKE, WISCONSON
HOSTED BY ANDY MIKONIS, BRIAN FRANK, AND CARLTON SCHROEDER
The idea for this Meet came to me while I was in Elkhart Lake in 2014 when several factors connected in my mind. First, I knew Carl Kiekhaefer and the Mercury Outboards team were based nearby and had competed at Road America in the 1956 NASCAR Grand National race with a 300B and a couple other vehicles. I thought car meets usually work well with an anniversary to observe, so here was the 60th of not only the 300B but its running in the race. Meanwhile, I wrangled in Brian Frank and Carlton Schroeder as meet cohosts, announced the idea and tentative dates at the Spring 2015 Meet in Arkansas and we were off to the races!
Around that time I met William Hall, the journalist who was the primary cross-country driver of the America's Car Museum's 300G last winter (and this winter again.) Bill has a place in Elkhart Lake and took an interest in our event and offered many ideas. My old friend and Mopar fanatic Ben Simons, who has helped me with creative consulting for the Club publications before, transformed the '56 NASCAR program cover into a cover for the route books (I made sure we had permission from Road America.) Mick Kreszock adapted it for the Meet T-shirt design.
Elkhart Lake being a tourist area, I planned our dates at the end of the season for competitive rates and room availability. However, this came back to bite me in other ways. A detail I had forgotten was to arrange for a hose for car washing at the hotel, and when I tried I found out there was no place available. Bill Hall agreed to let us use his hose across the street, but then days out from the Meet, the village announces they are scraping down and resurfacing the street in front of the hotel and other adjoining streets starting the Monday of Meet week! Then I find out some businesses that would be closing a week or so later for the season were closing early because of the construction. I found out Siebken's Resort had just ended regular restaurant hours for the season, but were very agreeable to hosting our fish fry there. Bill finagled the use of their hose out back for a car wash, which he got sponsored by classiccars.com.
Wednesday came and we made a more-or-less timely departure in the 300G to miss Chicago and Milwaukee traffic. After weeks of nice dry weather, the forecast across the region was menacing. Reports of cars dropping out started coming in. As it turned out, the drive was gloomy but we didn't see much rain. We could see it had rained in Elkhart Lake as we rolled into the Victorian Village Resort and headed for the hospitality room. Another contingency plan I was supposed to have in place was somewhere sheltered to have the concours judging if rained. I didn't. I had a couple ideas but hadn't tried to pull favors yet. We have judged in the rain before, but two owners approached me and said they would not take their cars out if it was raining.
The rain held off Thursday as we all headed the eight miles to Plymouth, the cheese capital of Wisconsin, and Chester's Drive-In, a genuine old fashioned drive-in restaurant with root beer and car hops and the whole bit, for a tasty and affordable lunch. Members toured Plymouth's scenic main street with many shops and galleries, interesting architecture all around and Thursday was Farmer's Market day as well. The rain continued to hold off as the judges and concours participants broke off and went back to the hotel. We had a full complement of experienced judges and our venerable chief judge Gil Cunningham presiding, so we managed to get the judging finished before heading to Road America.
Touring the historic race circuits is a must do if you are in the area, and after Plymouth members drove the two public-road race circuits that were used for legendary sports car races from 1950-52, before the Road America racetrack opened. The circuits are protected historic landmarks thanks to the efforts of the Historic Race Circuits of Elkhart Lake Preservation Society, who also put up historical markers along the routes.
For those of you who have never been to Road America, it's a lovely setting on rolling hills. The area was chosen for racing originally because this landscape offers lots of elevation changes and results in twisty roads. If you drive the historic public-road circuits, you will see the type of driving they were trying to emulate when designing the track. Club members really enjoyed getting out on Road America and doing some laps before sunset. A special treat was seeing Bill Allen's 1956 Dodge Lee Petty tribute race car out there, looking and sounding just like it would have there in 1956. Bill's a veteran of Road America and he was one of the first ones to know about the Meet plans. We opened up the track laps to, well, basically anything, but the 300s got preference at the front of the line. We had 35 cars out there, well, at least until Allan Moon got black flagged for some reason. Bill Hall found us an experienced racing photographer to capture the action (thanks for that suggestion, Rich Barber.) You can see (and purchase quite cheaply) his work here: http://ronaldnelson.zenfolio.com/p574627970
Afterwards Siebken's opened up the Stop Inn tavern especially for us. It's internationally known as the best bar on the racing circuit, and just across the street (and original public-road race course) from our hotel. Then, those who chose enjoyed a fabulous pan-fried Walleye, a real Wisconsin delicacy expertly prepared by Siebken's. We also got to see and enjoy the more intimate secret racer's bar.
Friday looked a tad gray but stayed dry for the 45-mile drive out the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) AirVenture Museum. It was good driving weather for a fun run, the first half over scenic rolling country roads across to Lake Winnebago. After driving through Fond du Lac, it was up along the other side of the Lake to Oshkosh. There many of us enjoyed Ardy & Ed's for lunch, another classic drive-in established in 1948. When I had been through the week before, there were roller skating carhops, who unfortunately weren't working on this day.
The EAA museum was quite spectacular with all manner of airplanes parked inside or hanging from the ceiling, with lots of displays tracing the history of aviation. The group eventually filtered back to Elkhart Lake, some taking a cheese factory/goat viewing detour and/or stopping to see the historical marker at Kiekhaefer Park in Taycheedah to get an idea of the impact this man had on the area. The Kiekhaefer legacy is a big deal to a lot of 300 enthusiasts, but I now realize the opposite is not true.
As team leader organizing this Meet, one of my main goals was not have anything start before 10:00 am. This was probably more important years ago when a larger contingent of members stayed up talking much later than they seem to do these days. Three Hundred Meets are not a vacation, but they are like a vacation, so I wanted to maintain a casual, relaxing atmosphere. On a related note, I also insisted the business meeting be held Friday evening like it always used to be. Some of us did something more fun, like Noel Hastalis and John Begian who went to a big Mopar show about an hour away that Carlton had found out about. John even got special parking.
Saturday rolled around and the weather couldn't have been better for our car show and People's Choice judging. A few cars didn't show due to the questionable forecast earlier in the week; the members still came and some expressed regret for not bringing their cars. The setting was the front parking lot at Victorian Village. Another thing I highly suggest for future meet hosts is to arrange the cars by year. It takes some extra effort, but they sure look good that way. Plus the public can see the progression of styling rather than having them all jumbled together. The parking lot was just about the perfect size. Though we ironically did not have a 300B at the track, Mark Obermann got a B there Saturday through heroic efforts. Every year letter was represented except a 300D. We had more 300Cs than we have seen together since the Spring 1996 Meet, including three Gauguin Red coupes. Each was a slightly different interpretation and Carlton's was deemed the closest match to Gil's original Chrysler master paint chip.
Some extra special treats were Randy Guyer's freshly restored C coupe and F convertible. Then Wayne Kutschinsky's C convertible. We've seen it before, but that's a car that really sneaks up on you. Sure it looks nice but then you start to really look at the details and wow. And now he has a Concours Best of Show to prove it. And certainly the icing on the cake was Joe Jordan's 300F Gran Turismo. This is the Andy Drumm 400-hp, Pont-a-Mousson 4-speed, air conditioned car that many of you will remember was owned by Wayne Graefen for a long time. What a car! And how great to see it at a 300 Meet.
Lots of other nice 300s for a grand total of 27. That's the most we've seen in a few years, so I and the cohosts really appreciate the effort everyone made to get there. We had a selection of other interesting Mopars that members brought, as well as a few drop-ins. Things went smoothly with everyone's help and succeeded in my personal goal of organizing a Meet that avoided chain hotels, franchise restaurants, and four-lane highways.
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