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Alumni Profile/Race Car Biz Picks Up Speed

The first order of business for Bart Wolf ’94 upon earning his business degree from St. Norbert College was buying a race car. That might not typically seem like the most appropriate use of funds for someone fresh out of college, but it makes perfect sense for someone with racing roots as deep as his.

Growing up near Road America, the world-famous road course in Elkhart Lake, Wis., Wolf caught the racing bug at age 7 on the go-kart circuit and watched his father do some racing as well. His grandfather even did some of the excavating work when Road America was built in the 1950s. Wolf has raced cars at various levels for 37 years, and his Wolf Motorsports shop caters to others with the same passion. Now Wolf has taken his interest in all things car-related to a level never before seen in Wisconsin with the development of Motorsport Villas of Elkhart Lake. The private condominium community caters to car enthusiasts and racers who, as Wolf puts it, “have a car habit they’re trying to house.”

“I had heard about these communities in Naperville (Ill.) and Minneapolis, and I started to think there might be an opportunity here,” Wolf says. “I talked to customers at my shop who live in other states, and they were excited about it. I had commitments before we even had drawings up.”

Wolf acquired some property near the track and made plans to construct eight buildings with 32 customizable residence units. He figured a realistic goal for selling out the available units would be three or four years, maybe quicker if things went well. That timetable hit the accelerator when the local newspaper, the Sheboygan Press, did a story on the project that was picked up by USA Weekend. Activity snowballed from there. “Sales were happening so fast, and people were worried about missing out, that we sold out in four and a half months,” Wolf says. “It blew my mind.”

Wolf expected about 65 percent of the units would have interiors completed this summer, with the rest not far behind. Many of the owners live in warmer states during the winter, while some are Elkhart Lake residents already. Their high-end hobby features collector cars as well as active race cars.

A significant business benefit for Wolf lies in the captive customer base he has for his expanded Wolf Motorsports shop, which sits on the south end of the development. The new shop is five times larger than the previous facility and is already full. The shop focuses primarily on race-car preparation, with some restoration capability.

After the dust settles, Wolf sees his property becoming a motorsports arena for meetings, weddings and other events for “car-crazy people.”

Shop Talk
For as much success as Bart Wolf ’94 is having with his Motorsports Villas development, his true passion remains with race cars. The Wolf Motorsports teams prepare as many as 10 cars on race weekends at Road America.

A shop that serviced three customers two decades ago now services 17, with some cars worth upwards of $2 million. In addition to mechanical expertise, the Wolf Motorsports team performs custom fabrication and machining, at times making parts that haven’t been made in 40 years.

“Some of our guys helped me out when I was racing. It’s like getting the band back together,” Wolf says. “I trust each one of them to prepare these cars well. I would jump in any of these cars and feel confident.”

Nov. 10, 2017