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Interviewed by Jessie Eustice
Details on Bill Wetherholt’s experience in 40 years at Chrysler
Bill restored his 1966 Charger, one of 37,344 made that year; it came with a four-barrel 383, 4-speed manual transmission, bucket seats, lighting console, and full width tail lights. He found the car in 1985, in rough shape.)
I also go to car shows, I go to Carlisle Pennsylvania. Detroit has a good one, that’s where I met Dave. They have a good one in June, and one up in Canada, they have a big MoPar-fest in August. I have a ’66 Charger, and I drive my car to whatever show I go to. I went out to Jefferson City, Missouri one year, and the Ozarks one year, and so forth - went to the thirtieth anniversary, thirty-fifth anniversary, and the fortieth anniversary, up in Detroit, there were 87 Chargers.
Mine’s a fast-back, and there were 86 other Chargers in that particular show. They were featuring the fortieth anniversary, although there were other cars there, they were featuring our 1966 and 1967 Chargers, and I got best ’66, of all these cars. It kind of blew me away. I mean, I have a good car, but there were a lot of nice cars there. Mine was judged like best of the bunch.
Jessie: Do you take care of your own cars?
Yes. I have for twenty some years. When I was a kid, when I first worked at the plant, I bought my first car, it was a 64 Plymouth. Then I traded that in, and got a 66 Charger. Then I had a 69 Charger, and then a 72 Charger. The ‘66 I have now, I bought later on. I bought it down in Kentucky, in 1985, restored it, and I’ve been showing it ever since.
Jessie: Did you specifically go shopping for a ‘66 Charger?
My brother-in-law, he had a ‘67 GTO, and I had a friend who was on vacation. They were driving to Florida, and back. So, he and his wife were taking the scenic route. He came across this yard sale; a guy who had a Charger for sale. This was in Kentucky. When they got back to work, he asked me what a ‘66 Charger I was worth. I said it all depends on what kind of condition it’s in - could be anywhere from $1500 - $2500. Well he was asking $1400.
Earlier, I mentioned my brother in law. He said “you know Bill, I have that ‘67 GTO in my garage,” (I had my first ‘66 when I first got married.) We’d go to the drive-in together.
He said “You know, we could go to shows together again, we could go to car shows.” My wife had given one of her kidneys to my brother-in-law. He said “I’ve got a two car garage, and one side is yours as long as you want it. You know you’re going to kick yourself if you don’t go and get that car.” So he kept badgering me about it, you know, he’d call me up and ask me when I was going to go get that car.
So I finally called the guy, and asked if he’d take a thousand dollars for the car, (he was in real estate) and he said, “Yeah,” he said “I would consider that.”
So I said “okay, I’ll give you a call back, and let you know when I’m coming down.” So I talked to my brother-in-law about that, I said “how are we going to do that?”
He said, he had a Chevrolet Blazer, and he said “We’ll use my car and tow it back.” So I called the guy back again and asked if he’d take $900 for his car, and let me use the $100 for my travel expenses. He asked me if I was going to restore the car, or make a hot rod out of it. I said “no, I’m going to restore it back to the original,” so we drove down there, and got the car.
We towed it back on a tow-bar, instead of a trailer, my brother-in-law (who just had brain surgery, and a kidney transplant in the summer of ’85…this was in November of ’85) and me.
We were going down to get the car, and when we were coming back through Cincinnati, the car started swaying back and forth. I couldn’t stop it; it was controlling the car I was driving.
I tried to pull off the road, pull over and give a lot of room, but I was going from one side to the other and I couldn’t stop it, it was controlling the car, and my steering wheel was just going back and forth. It ended up pulling me over into the median.
I just sat there, and my brother-in-law laughed. I said “What in the hell is so funny?” He said “well,” he said “you’re white as a sheet.”
I said, “Well, I almost killed us! I am scared to death.” I said we had two hundred and fifty miles to go yet, and there’s no way I can drive it.
Well, we just started again, and I was driving 40 MPH. I just didn’t feel safe anymore. Then it started raining that evening, and we had no lights on the car, so the highway patrol stopped us. They just un-hitched the car, and we had to go to an off ramp, to a service center at a truck stop. We got some wiring and things, and my brother in law hooked us up, so the lights were run off a two path to his car.
I drove down to Kentucky in about 5 ½ - 6 hours and it took about 14 hours to get done. I was so scared, when I got back to his house, I just left the car right there, and didn’t unload it or anything. I took my car and went home. I said “I can’t do anything now; I’ll come back tomorrow and load it up tomorrow.”
So the next day, I went back over there and loaded it. I called the guy in Kentucky. I told him “I wouldn’t come after this car and bring it back under these conditions if you gave it to me!” It was just terrible.
Jessie: Do you know why it was doing that?
It was a bigger car than what I was towing with, it had big old wide oval tires, they were bias-ply tires, and they were probably worn. You know the older bias-ply tires handle a lot differently from radial tires. Bias-ply tires just follow the cracks in the road, so when it started swaying back and forth, the momentum pulled me off the road.
The way it was hooked up, it wasn’t a hitch like towing a trailer; it was hooked up to the bumper, a scissor operation. He had a bumper hitch on his Blazer, and this hooked over his bumper, but it was a scissor operation that hooked onto my bumper. There was so much play in there, it just started moving, and it got out of hand. It was terrible. But anyway, we got the car back on the road, and I’ve been showing it ever since.
Jessie: Are you glad you did that now?
Oh yeah! Of course my older son was born back in ’66, and he’s got his hopes up for that car when I finally get rid of it. I won’t sell it. I’ve had offers on it, but I won’t sell it. I think I’m going to give it to my son when he gets, or when I get where I can’t drive it any more.
Bill’s Charger was featured in the following books and magazines:
Also see: Bill Wetherholt: 40 years at Chrysler | Dodge Charger | Other interviews | Cars of the Month
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