Inaugural Polar-Rama puts hot rods on ice in Wisconsin

A 1929 Model A hot rod sports an early Hemi V8 engine
A 1929 Model A hot rod sports an early Hemi V8 engine | William Hall photos

With their post-season playoff football hopes dashed, classic car buffs in Menasha, Wisconsin had nothing better planned for a lazy Sunday afternoon than hold a car show –  in 20-degree weather with snow flurries.

Organized by the same folks who put on The Shakedown, one of the Upper Midwest’s largest traditional hot rod and customs shows, the Polar-Rama Winter Hot Rod and Motorcycle Festival invited all makes, models and variations of classic cars —as well as motorcycles and custom bicycles— to brave the winter weather and celebrate their shared passion.

Rods line the street at the 1st Annual Polar-Rama in Menasha, Wisconsin.
Rods line the street at the 1st Annual Polar-Rama in Menasha, Wisconsin.

More than 300 participants and spectators came out to The Locker Room bar in north-central Wisconsin for free chili, bratwurst, cold beer, raffle prizes and a judged car show, with all proceeds going to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

One unique fundraising event timed enthusiasts at how fast they could perform a spark-plug change on a spare Mercury V8 engine. The only restriction was they had to do it wearing winter mittens on their hands.

Cars in attendance varied wildly, from a gothic-decorated Cadillac hearse nicknamed Bella (for Lugosi, I presume) to a newer Ferrari 458 Spider driven top-down to the event. A number of vintage off-road trucks and Jeeps showed up, parking their rigs in creative, cantilevered positions atop snow mounds.

RELATED:  Nice ice: The history of the Zamboni

An older couple happily showed their lime-green 1974 Dodge Dart Sport, made all the more interesting as it retained its original Slant 6 engine, rebuilt to show condition. Another gentleman proudly displayed his 2015 Dodge Challenger with a custom air cleaner and under-hood display honoring America’s POW-MIAs.

This event seems to be another statement by a growing segment of vintage vehicle enthusiasts determined to enjoy their classic cars year-round, regardless of cold, snow or salty roads.

“They make car washes,” organizer Mike Rosenow said cheerfully as a light snow squall blew in. “It’s not that big of a deal.”

William Hall photos

William Hall is a writer, classic car broker and collector based in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. He has spent the whole of his professional career in the automotive industry, starting as an auto-parts delivery driver at the age of 16 to working for some of the nation's premier restoration shops. He is a concours judge and a consultant to LeMay-America's Car Museum in Tacoma, Washington.