MILWAUKEE — One of the coolest cars ever assembled was made in Milwaukee. The car is called the Excalibur.
It has a distinct look that exudes luxurious vibes. What's more, one of the research and development designers and lead mechanic for the Excalibur racing team was a woman, Alice Preston.
“Those are opportunities, because women just didn’t get them," Preston who now owns Excalibur Automobile Corporation and Camelot Classic Cars said.
The car was first put into production at a facility in West Allis 1965, and they weren't too sure how they would be received.
"Kind of built cars day to day because we didn’t know if we'd be in business tomorrow, and then it just took off," Preston said.
They went from manufacturing about 20 cars a year to 50 cars a year to 350 a year at the peak of the company. The staff grew from just a handful of car enthusiasts to hundreds of employees.
Excaliburs weren't cheap. They were a luxury vehicle that celebrities like Phyllis Diller, Steve McQueen, and Adam West would drive. According to Preston, an Excalibur in 1965 would sell for about $6,000 compared to a Cadillac that would sell for about $3,000. Today, an Excalibur can range between $25,000 to more than $75,000.
"This is a car that you could put it next to a Maserati, a Ferrari, any of those things and people are going to gravitate towards this car," Preston said.
Most importantly, this was a Milwaukee-made car. It wasn't from Detroit. And for a brief moment, Milwaukee was on the car manufacturing world's radar.
That didn't last forever, though. The market for Excaliburs began to decline in the 1980's. The final Excalibur was made in 1997 as a special edition version of the car.
However, Preston still loves to work on these cars, which is why she now owns Excalibur and Camelot Classic Cars. But times have been tough for her. The pandemic set her expenses through the roof as the price of goods went up. Now, she has a GoFundMe that she hopes will help keep the company afloat. If not, she's looking for the right buyer.
"We own all the intellectual property, all the trademarks, all the molds, the rights to everything, and that’s all for sale," Preston said.
To make things worse, her suppliers are becoming fewer and fewer.
"The craftsmen are going. All the little shops that we used to use are closing. Most of our people that we bought things from are dying. The guy who used to make our trunks is in bad shape," she said.
While Preston recognizes she can't hold on much longer, she wants to make the most of every moment while still at the helm of the company.
"My customers won’t be able to get parts. They won’t be able to get somebody to answer their questions," she said.