I inherited my love of racing from my dad. He loved motor sports and started racing hydroplanes on some nearby lakes in the 1930s. But what really piqued his interest was a then new sport – midget car racing – born about the same time.
At first, midgets ran on board tracks originally used for bicycle and motorcycle racing. It wasn’t long before the sport caught on, and tracks were built specifically for midget racing. Companies back then didn’t just sponsor a race car; they owned them. Ours was the Winzeler Manufacturing Special, a midget with an Offenhauser engine.
It’s not too surprising that toymakers wanted to get in on this incredibly popular sport too. One of them was the Chicago-based Woodettes Company. During the 1940s, Winzeler was asked to help Woodettes build its new Tornado Racer, a toy midget with a Mot-Air-Ette compressed air engine. Pressure pumped into the engine’s air cylinder and then released powers a turbine on the front axle, “driving” the toy midget.
Dad and my grandfather assisted with the car’s design (which looks quite similar to the Winzeler Manufacturing Special), and built stamping dies for the drawn-aluminum body, chassis and drive components. Thousands of Woodette Tornado Racers were later manufactured and assembled at our plant on Chicago’s west side. Even today, Tornadoes are very popular among vintage toy collectors worldwide.
Thanks to my dad, I not only grew up in a racing environment; I acquired an appreciation for cars as art forms from a very early age. I’ve since integrated that with my own passions for fashion and art. You only need to walk through our plant to see how these elements are all fused together into an atmosphere of creativity, evident in everything we do at Winzeler Gear.