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Former Factory Transitions to “Four Wheel Drive” Museum

Did you know that the four-wheel drive was born in Clintonville, Wisconsin?

Courtesy of the FWD “Four Wheel Drive” Museum

The Four Wheel Drive (FWD)Foundation was formed in 1964 for the purpose of preserving the history of the invention of the first successful four-wheel drive vehicles in the world.

The small machine shop located on the corner of Eleventh Street and Memorial Drive in Clintonville is where the famous invention was designed, built and tested by inventors Otto Zachow and William Besserdich. The world’s first successful FWD vehicle, nicknamed the Battleship, in addition to other historic FWD vehicles, were housed in this historic building to be viewed and enjoyed by visitors and residents of this community for many years. 

In 2015, former residents Mark Thomas and Marcia Olen, granddaughter of The Four Wheel Drive Auto Company’s first president Walter Olen, set out to find a larger home for the foundation to grow the museum and house the archives and historic vehicles in storage by the FWD-Seagrave Corporation.  

The former Topp-Stewart Tractor Company, which later became the Atlas Conveyor Company, at 325 Fifteenth Street was purchased by Thomas to become the newly expanded addition to the museum. Since then, a small group of volunteers have been transitioning this former factory into the popular FWD Seagrave Museum destination, currently housing more than 60 historic vehicles.    


A grant of $2,000 from the Community Heroes Award Fund within the Clintonville Area Foundation, one of our five regional affiliate partners, supported unrestricted need for the FWD Seagrave Museum. The grant was generously directed to the museum by the 2020 Community Hero, Terry Lorge. The purpose of the Community Heroes Award Fund is to honor individuals or organizations for their volunteer service to the greater Clintonville area. Each year, an award recipient is selected and they may direct a grant from the fund to a nonprofit of their choice. 

Interested in exploring a family fund? We have a variety of flexible fund options. Check them out here.

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