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Frugal living tips from family to fun!

Wisconsin Automotive Museum, Hartford WI #History

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Over the summer, my hubby came home from work and asked if I had ever heard of a car museum in Hartford. Nope, never heard of it. They had been working close to it, so naturally he was interested when he saw it. He had no idea what was in it or any other details. He just knew we should look into it (meaning I should get the details) and make a visit some day.

He brought it up again this past week because work was slowing down. He figured we would have plenty of time to make an afternoon of it. I found their website, got their hours and started planning. It was going to take about 45 minutes to get there. I packed us a lunch and we hit the road.


When we arrived, we were impressed with the size of the building. We had no idea what was inside because we only glanced at the pictures on the website. As we headed in, we were greeted by very friendly staff where we paid our admission.


A volunteer met us to give us a brief introduction, then we would be on our way to look around at our leisure. Immediately, the boys saw the electric train set-up. It was going to be the first stop on our self guided tour. We watched as the many trains wound around the various tracks, through tunnels and over bridges. The boys could have stayed in that area all day if we let them.


The next stop was all the antique Kissel cars. Kissel? What’s Kissel? I asked the same question. I had never heard of such a car. Kissel was a high end custom built automobile manufactured right in Hartford, WI from 1906 until 1931. Of the 35,000 cars made, only 150 are known to still exist. Some of the cars are on loan by people who have restored them, while others have been donated to the museum.

The volunteer told us some great stories! Allegedly, Al Capone owned 2 Kissel cars and Kissel had made modifications to those cars for making moonshine runs. Other stories were of homes being available on the property for people to stay at while their cars were being custom built. If the people had enough money to afford these custom built vehicles, Kissel was more than happy to have them visit to see the process!

It was so neat seeing the cars and how they changed from year to year. There were signs in front of each one, giving a little history of that model. Like, how much it would cost brand new, the horse power, it’s top speed and other little interesting facts. One of them remains unrestored because it is used as a model for others that need restoring. It’s hard to imagine it being 100 years old and still runs soundly!


There were also displays of old spark plugs and oil cans, license plates, gas pumps, boat motors and other models of cars. The boys really got a kick out of seeing a Hudson! It looked just like Doc from the movie Cars! Then we saw a tow truck that looked like Mater(back when Mater would’ve had a nice paint job)!


After all this, we still had to make our way up to the 2nd floor! Upstairs we found old race cars, antique campers, more vintage cars…there was just so much to take in! Did I mention we saw a Delorean? No?! It was really cool to see the car that has time travel capabilities!(Yes, I know it was just a movie, but I’m a nerd and was imagining where the flux capacitor would’ve been had it been real.)

We had so much fun visiting the Wisconsin Automotive Museum! Having such amazing history, so close to home, is such a great thing to do on a day off. History is definitely more fun when you can immerse yourself in it!

What kind of fun history do you have near you?

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22 thoughts on “Wisconsin Automotive Museum, Hartford WI #History

  • That is quite interesting that of all the Kissel cars, only 150 still exist. I bet they are worth a fortune now! I had never known until this post that Wisconsin had an automotive museum- for some reason, it just seems like this would fit better in Detroit. My Dad would love this museum, as he has several cars from the 50s, 60s, and 70s.

    • Brianna K says:

      Sounds like he has quite the collection! One thing the signs did not say was the value of them today, but that sure would be fun to know too! I bet you’re right about them being worth a fortune.

  • I love going to museums. My boys love going too. We went to a car show that revealed classic cars so I am sure this museum is something we would enjoy as a family. We just have to make it to the area first.

  • Jeanine says:

    We love museums. I don’t think we have ever been to a car museum though. I am pretty sure my husband and four boys would absolutely go nuts to visit here! Looks very interesting and fun! I love looking at older cars too so I even think I would enjoy!

  • Marysa says:

    What a cool place! My father-in-law would absolutely love this place. Sounds like a fun experience – thanks for sharing!

  • Oh boy, my son would be in heaven at this place! He loves cars and trains and basically anything with wheels :) Like your boys, my son might have been content just watching the electric train for hours! Thanks for the recommendation!

    • Brianna K says:

      It’s great to see something capture their attention like that! I bet you love watching your son watch the trains, as much as I love watching my boys watch them.

  • I would have loved this automotive museum. I love looking at vintage campers and would have wanted to see inside each and every one of them, lol. My dad used to race back in his prime and I’m sure he would love to see the old race cars. Thanks for sharing.

    • Brianna K says:

      You’re welcome! I bet he would love seeing how primitive the old race cars were compared to what they are now.

  • Natalie says:

    How cool is this!?! I’m a huge fan of classic cars, and when I went on a trip for my blog back in November, I had the chance to go to a classic car museum in North Carolina. I loved it! As for cool history where I live, I’m from Charleston, SC, so there’s a CRAZY amount of historical stuff to do here from the colonial period to the Civil War!

  • Sky says:

    Sounds like such a fun afternoon! I love learning about the history of things, even if I’m not particularly interested in the topic (like cars). It’s really neat that there is still one car that hasn’t been restored.

    • Brianna K says:

      I didn’t think I would be as interested either, but it’s so neat to see how far cars have come in 100 years. I can’t even imagine driving one of them!

  • This place looks so cool! My son and boyfriend would be in awe of it!

  • Michelle Hwee says:

    What a beautiful museum to visit! My younger brother loves cars and trains especially so this automotive museum would be perfect for him! I love all the antiques they have there and all of the great information posts. It looks like quite the educational experience. If I am ever in Wisconsin I would love to visit!

  • I’m a visual person, so I have to say that I love the first photo of this post (and the font you chose to accompany it). I love seeing old, classic cars. We have a really nice annual show that’s a big deal around here.
    That’s so interesting about the Kissell cars and Capone. That blue and white tow truck looks really nice! When you asked about fun history close to me…the first thing that came to mind was that we have the Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, which is about 25 minutes away from me.

    • Brianna K says:

      Thank you! I would love to see the Boxing Hall of Fame! As a kid, I really didn’t have much interest in history. But now that I’m older, I find it all fascinating!

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