Interviewed by Jessie Eustice
Retired autoworker Bill Wetherholt started working at the Twinsburg Stamping Plant in 1964. (See part 1)
Our very first car show was very good. People contributed the door prizes, not just local people, national vendors that sell across the country. They were pretty free with some of the stuff they gave us, for example parts or goodie bags, things that we could use, that were beneficial to us. So, in appreciation of that, when I went down to Columbus Ohio, they have the MoPar Nationals down there every year in August, I went around and I handed them this video of the show, in appreciation for what they did for us.
One guy, I think he's from South Carolina, said that he had called me and said that that was the best tape that he'd ever seen. Most of them drag on, just mope along with the cars and the show, and this one, the quality of it, with background music and the showing a ot of the cars, the overall character of the car, and things like that.
What was really great about this show was that it was a rain date car show. We had picked a date but the weather forecast was bad, so at the last minute we cancelled our car show, and postponed it to the next week. It rained worse then than it did on the day that we cancelled. You see in the video. The disk jockey we had there blew out the speakers because of the water.
It was a judged show, so these guys were going out with their tablets, their clipboards and papers, and giving their marks using the point system, and they didn't put the number that was on each car on the sheet that they were using to record their judgements to correlate the marks to the car. Then it started raining, and all their marks were being washed away, so we had one heck of a time putting together the sheets with the cars. It was just a real messed up affair. But everybody had a good time.
The number of cars, and the class of cars that we had, was just great.
[A large part of the success of the show was] Jim Whipple, the plant manager at the Stamping Plant. He was plant manager for 5, 6, or 7 years I think. He could give you the management perspective. He’s a car guy and he still is. When he was out on the floor making his rounds, he came over to me and introduced himself, and I said, “I was wondering how long it was going to take you to get over here,” you know, because everybody around there knew me and knew that I was into cars and stuff.
He said “Why don’t you come in the office, and we’ll talk,” he said. I said, “We’ll talk right now.” And so a little bit later I went into his office and sat down and just talked about 15-20 minutes.
Then we’d, I’d go in, or he’d call me, he’d call me off the floor to come in, wanted to discuss something with me, so then, this one friend of mine, he was a foreman on the assembly line, I called him, and we went in and talked to Jim Whipple, and that’s how we got started on this whole car show thing.
It was funny, because with Jim, if we wanted something, we just said “We want this,” and he said “Okay, how do you want to do it?” Or “Who do you see to get it?” and everything was okay with him. For example we wanted concept cars, and he’d call the Labor-Relations mangager, now resource manager, you know, human resources, and tell him which cars we want, and he’d bring down a whole truckload of cars. Money was no object, because this was promoting our product, and it was good for the community.
We didn’t charge any admission, and what we did was we had an entry fee of $5 or $10 but with that we got door prizes and t-shirts. What we tried to do was on the entry fee we just tried to cover what the T-shirts and the prizes were.
The first year, we had the carpenter’s shop cut out a pentastar out of plywood, I asked for 350, and I brought them home, stained them, and varnished them, I had these things all over the house. We have this big dadgum table, a relic, a seven foot table, probably the size of a pool table. And I had these papers, I had all these pentastars laying on that, and I had all these, I had stain and varnish lying around. It was all hand done stuff.
Later we had ceramic dash prizes, we always had good door prizes. This was just a great show that we had, and with Jim, the money that came in pretty much covered the money that went out. We never had an account to see how much, maybe it was like $10,000 or something like that, we worked off, we got it, we ordered it, and the bill was paid, and then when the money came in we could turn it back into the general fund, and then we never knew whether we made any money on it or we lost money on it. We never found out about that.
So when Jim left the plant, when he went back to Detroit, the plant manager, you know, they changed hands, and we had one more show, and then that was it. Because it cost too much money, now we can’t do it, if you want to do it on your own, and use the parking lot, you’re welcome to it. In fact, I wouldn’t have the nerve to ask these guys to print me up five hundred t-shirts or a symbol, and not give them any money and wait until the entrance fees came in, and pay them later.
One guy called me late in the year, our show was in July, and this guy called me in November, and said “Bill, I haven’t been paid yet.” I said “You’re kidding me!” and he said “No, I haven’t been paid.” So I went into the office, and talked to the Human Resources guy, and he said, “Well he never sent the bill.” I said, “Well, I did.” And so he finally got paid, but just that, that last record that we had, they were late in paying, these guys, I wasn’t going to have these guys standing out there waiting two or three months to get paid.
So when Jim left, everything just kind of went to pot. He was a great guy. Today he drag-races. He set up his own company called “Whipple Racing Incorporated.” And he had a 1962 Dodge Dart, and he races in this nostalgia group. The old guys, they come out, and they run their cars, and they don’t run them in competition, they just run their cars and show them off; show these younger people what they had back a couple of years ago. It’s kind of neat.
We received this note in late 2009: “The picture of the LeBaron Turbo GTC in front of the plant shows a boy looking out the passenger window. That boy was me, Nick Romanov, and I was 11 years old at the time. My father was a Twinsburg employee and he received first place in the convertible class at that car show.”
Also see: First interview | Second interview | Bill’s 1966 Charger | Factories | Other interviews
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