Above, Penske CHOSE the KMPR team to restore the Mark Donohue raced 1972 Gurney All American Racers Indy Eagle #7225. Here they are at the 2016 Milwaukee Concours d'Elegance, where KMPR's work won Best in Class for Race Cars.
Thirty minutes outside Milwaukee, there is a small warehouse in the back of a quiet industrial park. It is one hour south of Road America, one of the greatest and most storied road courses on this continent, and not by accident. There is no signage, nothing to identify the business, just a few parked trailers and a small gravel parking lot. The grass out front is neatly kept but slowly subsuming the rocks.
And then you walk inside, and there are Indianapolis race cars. There are also race car parts, from loose gears on a bench to shelves full of hand-lettered bodywork, the chassis attached to the latter long ago crashed or broken up.
Rick and his son Jacques are historians. The work of their shop, Kettle Moraine Preservation and Restoration (KMPR), has been showcased at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and lauded by Dan Gurney and Roger Penske.
Penske’s outfit asked the Dresangs for help when restoring one of the team’s enormous 1970s International Fleetstar transporters. Penske himself requested a Dresang-rebuilt Penske Eagle—the ex-Mark Donohue 1972 example shown here—to be present in 2016 when he received a lifetime achievement award from the International Motor Racing Research Center in Watkins Glen. Staff at Gurney’s All American Racers shop in California have referred to Kettle Moraine as “AAR East,” due to the store of Gurney blueprints and cars, and the Dresangs’ devotion to sleuthing the team’s past.
Even with those ties, KMPR is an odd bird in the world of motorsport: a top-shelf restoration facility with no customers. The shop was founded to maintain and share the Dresangs’ vehicles, but it’s more than just a collection of machinery.
“The sport is a flushing toilet, and only a few people make it to the rim. It’s like anything—if a war’s fought, we want to know about the losing side. At Indy, there are 32 losing sides.”
“We just want to share the stories,” Jacques says. Preferably, he adds, those from outside the spotlight.
It’s why the KMPR trophy cases are full of vintage cups, from America to Europe, engraved with obscure names. Why Jacques hunts down crew members from C-level teams, or even their relatives, gently inquiring about the past.
“When I started this, I just started calling people, collecting data,” Jacques says. “Cross-referencing things, crew-member A to crew-member B. I’m an ass for the truth. I don’t care if it’s not what I want it to be, I just want to know what it was."
The work may be tedious, but the result is valuable insight into the sport’s dimmer corners—that unglamorous zone where journalists and historians rarely tread.
The Dresangs have day jobs and thus mostly deal with Kettle Moraine business in after hours. Evenings and weekends of research, mechanical work, or simply helping the odd well- known driver sort through his history.
“Take David Hobbs . . . it was funny. We were going through old photos at his house with a bottle of wine. I was asking, Who’s this guy, who’s that guy? He said, ‘Why do you want to know about him?’ I said, Because he did this and this and this, with nothing. He goes, ‘You really like the little guys, eh?’
“Yes. Because they tried. And you if you go to the Wikipedia page, there’s nothing, and it bothers me.”
In 2009, the team found an ultra-rare 1977 All American Racers Eagle DGF Formula Ford in California.
After a year of restoration, the car took to the track at the SCCA Kettle Moraine Regionals, winning one of the two sprint races. The season-ending Fall Sprints Regional event at Blackhawk Farms Fall Sprints proved difficult for the team, losing longtime friend and team member Loyd Haslee to cancer the morning of qualifying. Dresang and the team went 10-10ths for their lost friend, capturing pole position, winning all three heat races and the feature event in a car many had thought was past its prime.
Since 2011, the team primarily focuses on vintage open-wheel car racing and restoration, mainly with AAR Eagles as their specialty