Science & Technology

Bucky Wagon Goes Electric

Engineering students will upgrade a campus institution.

Badger fans always recognize the Bucky Wagon by its bright-red exterior, but inside, the historic vehicle’s engine is going green.

Over the next year, students from the College of Engineering will renovate the Bucky Wagon into an electric-powered vehicle with power hydraulic brakes.

Glenn Bower MS’89, PhD’92, a mechanical engineering faculty associate who advises the college’s six vehicle project teams, will supervise the students.

The project will preserve the vehicle’s exterior, wheels, and hubcaps in order to maintain the iconic appearance of the wagon, which is owned and operated by the Wisconsin Alumni Association.

“During the last twenty years, our leading automotive program teams have developed seven generations of hybrid vehicles,” says College of Engineering Dean Paul Peercy. “This partnership with the alumni association is an excellent opportunity for the students to apply their innovation to a great Badger tradition.”

The third in a line of vehicles known by this name, the current Bucky Wagon is a restored 1932 La France fire engine, donated by alumni to WAA in 1971. Until recently, the wagon ran on all original parts and could be heard blocks away by its distinctive horn, which plays the first eight notes of “On, Wisconsin!”

WAA uses the Bucky Wagon to ignite Badger spirit on football Saturdays and during each year’s Homecoming festivities and parade. Until 2001, the Bucky Wagon was used on game days to carry the Spirit Squad into Camp Randall Stadium.

Under Bower, more than 1,500 students have participated on the vehicle project teams and developed innovative designs that will influence the auto industry.

In recent successes, the two snowmobile teams, one building a zero-emissions sled and the other an internal-combustion sled, won their respective categories in the 2009 Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Clean Snowmobile Challenge. In 2007, the Formula SAE racecar team claimed the world championship.

Badger fans can track the Bucky Wagon renovation’s progress over the next year through the College of Engineering’s blog at

Published in the Winter 2009 issue


  • Tom Anderson January 2, 2012

    The Bucky Badger Wagon was originally a Wisconsin Rapids Fire Department truck, donated by a citizen of Rapids and alumnus of UW Madison. As President of the Wisconsin State Firefighters Memorial located in Wisconsin Rapids and also a retired member of the Wisconsin Rapids fire Department, could you make sure that you save all articles that are taken off the Bucky Wagon. Once gone it can never be retreived. Thank you. Tom Anderson

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