MIDDLETON (WKOW) — After August’s historic flooding, a Madison mechanic was left with dozens of water-logged vehicles to repair, but unlike his typical work, these had no manuals, decades-old engines and irreplaceable mechanics.
When the Mazomanie Microcar Museum flooded, 26 microcars and bikes stopped running. Their engines soaked and inoperable, their owners asked Chris Beebe to recommend a mechanic.
“I couldn’t think of anybody so I just took it on myself and my coworker Doug, the two of us,” he said.
Despite decades of work with race cars, foreign cars and motorbikes, Beebe said he’d met biggest challenge.
“Every teeny little orifice had water in it,” he said.
So to start, Beebe said they had to drain each engine. That meant finding every little place water snuck into and sucking it back out.
“It’s all, knowing engines fairly well as I do and guessing what’s inside the transmissions and products like WD 40” he said.
After a few weeks, Beebe got his first car back up and running. Four months later, he’s up to 10 running engines.
“It’s thrilling, they’re smoky and stinky but I’ll tell you it’s very thrilling to have that rev up and sound good,” he said.
For Beebe, the thrill doesn’t just come from the challenge, but the unique nature of the job.
“It’s quite delightful to work on something as clown-sized as these things are,” he said.
Microcars, were popular in Europe in the mid 20th century. The smaller vehicles, many with three wheels were cheaper than a standard car. Many in the collection hail from Russia, France or Germany, with many built during World War II.
That means even if there were manuals to guide Beebe, they likely wouldn’t have an English copy. Instead, Beebe said he’s relying on his experience and knowledge and learning from each engine he’s repaired so far.
“I have at least some hairbrained idea how to face each one of them,” he said.
With about a dozen engines to go, he said the next step is getting the vehicles ready to drive. He hopes the owners will be able to hop into a few of them this spring and drive them back to the museum.
The microcar museum has been closed since the floods and plans to open once the cars are ready to return.
When that happens, Beebe said he’s looking forward to a tour.
“I can enjoy seeing them in a better condition,” he said.