Detroit Muscle Featured Projects

Detroit Muscle Builds

Parts Used In This Episode

The Industrial Depot
Tools, Hardware, Shop Supplies

Episode Transcript

(Tommy)>> You're watching Powernation!

(Tommy)>> Today on Detroit Muscle we have all the flavors no matter what you're craving. LS-6, Hemi, Boss 429, all coming up right now. [ MUSIC ] [ engines revving ] [ MUSIC ]

(Tommy)>> There's a unique bond between a man and his machine. The feel of the driver's seat, the rumble of the engine. It's quite amazing how it can make you feel like you're on top of the world. Muscle cars elevate one's emotion, no matter the make or model. Sitting behind the wheel of a piece of Detroit Muscle out on the open road is the stuff dreams are made of. This sense leaves you craving for more, and as a result often times owning just one isn't good enough. So, to satisfy that need you might decide to become a collector. [ MUSIC ] After a quick stroll to Alexander City, Alabama, we're here at the Wellborn Muscle Car Museum. We're gonna take a look at some impressive examples of automotive history. [ MUSIC ] Tim Wellborn has been collecting cars for quite some time, and saying this collection is impressive is an understatement.

(Tim)>> We're here in Alexander City, Alabama, at the Wellborn Muscle Car Museum. Give you a little history about the museum. I didn't intend on having a museum when it all started. Pam and I live about two blocks down the road. We were gonna actually build a building to put our cars in, and this old car dealership came up for sale and I'm like, whoa, this is a real place to put cars. And so, we bought it, remodeled it, came here, and that's why you have the atmosphere, and it feels like you're going back in time when you walk into this old dealership. You'll swear you're in 1970 when you come in here, and I see a lot of people get a lot of smiles thinking, ah, I went back to a dealership just like this and bought my car back in the day. This is our tenth year at the dealership, and it probably took the first three years to get it to looking like you see it here. When it started off, we got cars in here. Then you started getting a few more neons, and then a few more true memorabilia pieces from that era, and over the last seven or eight years we've really come a long way in converting it to a true 1970 dealership. The things you see are truly from '68, '69, '70, like the flags on the cars, the danglers in the ceilings, the neon. All of this would be exactly what you would have seen back when you went searching for that muscle car.

(Tommy)>> The big three made thousands upon thousands of muscle cars. If you're looking to start a collection you need to make sure that you pick the right one for you.

(Tim)>> I'll put it this way. All cars in here have a story. Whenever I bought the car I always wanted to know the story behind the car, but there are a few special ones that I can think of that comes to light right away. Pam's pink 440 Six Pack R/T over here, which they only made two of, and she lays total claim to it. That's one that will never leave. It almost left a few years ago at Mecum. I got some pretty sharp words about that. It'll never go back there. I have to say the K & K Dodge that raced in Nascar, the Grand National Champion in 1970, and then 28 land speed records. I went with my dad to the Talladega 500 race, the very first one, and that car was racing, and I said that's a race car. It just really imprinted me into the Mopar world when I saw that. Who would have ever thought that I'd have the opportunity to buy it? Probably the most emotional car I would have here would be my dad's '71 Hemi Charger. I grew up with it. I can't believe it's still here, and I have to say my dad made sure as I got 16 years old those keys were not to be found, and that's why I'm talking to you today because I'm here and the car's here because a 16-year-old with a 426 Hemi, that would have been the end and my dad knew it.

(Tommy)>> Now I know this is the one that is dearest to your heart, right?

(Tim)>> Yeah there's always something that starts you to thinking about where you want to be in life, and what you want to have in life, and I can tell you this started it all with the collecting world for me. This is my dad's 426 Hemi Charger. I could almost get a little teary-eyed thinking about all the fun we had in this car. As a kid I sat in it, dreaming about some day getting the keys to it. That never happened, but I could clean it, and wash it, and do all that fun stuff, but the reason I'm talking to you today is because he didn't give me them keys at 16 years old. That's why the car is here cause a 16-year-old with something like this my dad knew would not be a good scenario, but yes there's always something that sparks you to want to collect. This is what did it for me right here, and my dad loved this Mopar and I do too, and so does my brother. So, this car will never leave the family. It'll never be sold in my lifetime. There's no value you can put on something like this.

(Tommy)>> It's an impressive car, hands down.

(Tim)>> They only made 63 of them. That's what's kinda fun too, and I'll tell you what. I think my dad would smile pretty big right now if we took this car out for a drive.

(Tommy)>> I'll bet you I'm gonna smile bigger than he would.

(Tim)>> Well let's go!

(Tommy)>> Coming up, dad tosses us the keys and I'm dropping the hammer!

(Tommy)>> Often times as a collector there are pieces that you have an emotional attachment with, which makes them priceless. Multiplying that with them being rare and it takes them to a whole other level. Muscle cars are meant to be enjoyed. With a combination of iconic styling plus Hemi performance this ride would put anyone on cloud nine.

You know I have to say I feel pretty cool riding in the passenger seat. So, we might have to turn the heat on for you.

(Tim)>> It is a nice fall day down here in Alabama, and what a pleasure to get out dad's car and go down the highway. There's nothing like a 426 Hemi Charger. One of 63 built, and obviously something special to me because this what started it all. My dad back in the day buying a Hemi Charger, and that's what you're riding in today.

(Tommy)>> So sitting in the driver's seat over there do you get the allure of why your dad bought this car?

(Tim)>> Oh yeah! He talked about it a lot. The '71 through '74 Charger was his favorite car of all the racing history because the aerodynamics of this thing is so good. If you look at the grille on it its really only about 10 inches tall, and when you lower that down into a race car shape you've got something that'll slip through the wind really good in this coke bottle body style.

(Tommy)>> I know just sitting over here its unique how an old car, or at least for me the connection I have of even the smell.

(Tim)>> Yeah, they've got a unique smell.

(Tommy)>> It just transports you into yesterday. My young son, I hope that he's picking up on the same stuff when he's riding beside me, or in the back seat of one of these old cars.

(Tim)>> Just like I did with my dad, and hopefully that is happening for you Tommy because I'll tell you people who are around cars and they get the connection to them, it's something that's good for you. You see how big I'm smiling right now driving my dad's Hemi Charger. All the other cars put a smile on my face too, but this is the one that does most of it for me. Let's see if it'll accelerate here. How about that?

(Tommy)>> It's got some grunt to it.

(Tim)>> We went from 55 to about 90 real quick!

(Tommy)>> I liked how it got loud.

(Tim)>> We drank probably a couple gallons of fuel just then. Good ole race /aviation mix we put in them.

(Tommy)>> I'm not gonna like, my cheeks are kinda hurting.

(Tim)>> Anyway we're pulling into a stop here and you know what? I'm gonna let you drive it back.

(Tommy)>> My stomach just started hurting just a little bit. I'm kinda giddy!

(Tim)>> Alright, let's go.

(Tommy)>> Oh my goodness! I really am, I'm kinda nervous right now.

(Tim)>> It's just a car, with a Hemi.

(Tommy)>> No, it's not just a car.

(Tim)>> Well it is a car. It just happens to have a 426 under the hood.

(Tommy)>> If you don't mind I'm gonna say a little prayer real quick.

(Tim)>> I may need to instead of you. You'll get the feel of an unrestored 1971 Hemi. I guess I better shut my door. Well, how's it feel over there?

(Tommy)>> It's not therapeutic like I was thinking.

(Tim)>> You still a little nervous over there?

(Tommy)>> I'm on cloud nine and I'm scared I'm gonna fall out.

(Tim)>> Of all the cars that something could happen to you're driving right now.

(Tommy)>> I'm almost thinking about driving school. Like 10 and 2, eyes up.

(Tim)>> We go to this little straightaway here you'll have to kick into that Hemi a little bit.

(Tommy)>> You'll have to tell me when.

(Tim)>> Alright, don't blow it up. [ engine revving ]

(Tim)>> How does that feel?

(Tommy)>> I think I'm in the market for a Hemi.

(Tim)>> That's right! I'm gonna hear those big pistons as long as I'm around, and that's just what makes me smile, which I'm smiling cause we're almost back and you haven't done anything wrong with the car yet.

(Tommy)>> I want to say thank you that you don't understand the pure joy that this is.

(Tim)>> You're one of the few people that's ever got to drive this one.

(Tommy)>> Well bucket list, check! Got one more! Up next, want to know the secret to keeping a car running for 50 years? We get the inside scoop from some experts.

(Tommy)>> Whenever you have a collection there's nothing wrong with having good friends that are considered experts in the industry. John Kramen has been surrounded by muscle cars his whole life. Working at Mecum Auctions has given him the opportunity to see the best of the best and seeing Tim's collection is way more than just another day at the office.

(John)>> And I was warned before I came here that this collection of his, his museum, would be sensory overload, and that is an understatement. This is top shelf, world class, not only with the cars that are on display but with all of the memorabilia and the way everything is arranged, and organized, and displayed. Ground zero, especially if you're a Mopar fan. Generally speaking, car collecting stems from having a passion about cars, and specific cars. You can be a car collector with one important car, and certainly we know lots of folks that have worked hard through their life and have found out and have identified a car or two that's important for them to have, and certainly that's what drives the auction business is folks that really want to either recreate an experience they had with the car as a youngster, or maybe it's a car that they've recently discovered. We find that to be the case as well. So there really is no defining ingredient on what it takes to be a collector other than a love and a passion, and it becomes a priority in your life that over a period of time may not be the worst place to put a little bit of extra disposable income. Most people that have had cars, or even a single car, for a long period of time when it comes time to sell, they're gonna do pretty good with it.

(Tommy)>> To be the proud owner of vehicles like this isn't all fairy tales and pixie dust. There is some issues that come along with them.

(John)>> Some of the things that are really important that might affect the ability to buy a car, or two, or more, is where are you gonna keep it at. You got to have room in your garage or your house. You have to rent a facility. So, you need to have all that planned out as well, but what's really interesting about the collector car market is the cost of care and feeding on a well-presented car is surprisingly reasonable. These cars are fairly simple. Now granted, after time things can wear out, things can start leaking, but generally speaking it's not gonna be really crazy expensive, and maybe one of the big surprises in today's collector car world is how reasonable collector car insurance is. Way less than your daily driver. So, if you've got multiple cars, you can insure them quite inexpensively, and most states even have multi year antique vehicle license plates at a fraction of the cost of real license plates. So, pros and cons to everything, but I can tell you from experience that having the cars and having to write a check occasionally for some of these issues, it almost really becomes secondary.

(Tim)>> When you get one of these cars the worst thing that you can do is not drive it. So, we drive every car in the museum. Not one of them won't fire right up and go out the door. There's one little trick to it. They're carbureted cars. If you can put race fuel, 50 percent with aviation fuel, and your local airport will sell it to you. We mix it half and half, and we never have carburetor issues. Why, because the race fuel goes out clean. If it sets a while the aviation fuel has preservative in it, and the two combined give you what you need to keep your carburetors going.

(Tommy)>> You know sometimes with vehicles with this type of prestige requires skilled hands.

(Daniel)>> We do carburetor service every so many years whether they need them or not. We at least check them out. We want to know that we're ahead of the curve servicing those parts before they age themselves into a problem, whether it be spark plugs, plug wires, fuel systems, fuel pumps. The smaller the amount of fuel in something the quicker that it can turn bad or evaporate to a point that it dries out the materials in the carburetor or in the fuel pump, whether it be the diaphragm or the accelerator pump. Those things take a toll. Sometimes petroleum products can turn rubber into hard as a potato chip, and then it cracks, and it leaks, and it causes problems. So, the last thing you want is to have a very nice, low mileage car with a fuel leak that could potentially cause a fire, or dissolve paint, make the paint change colors. There's a lot of things that can happen from that. That's a big part of the job.

(Tim)>> As you get past four, five cars and you get on up around 60, 70, sorta like where we're at here, it's the time that it takes to keep them all running, and I absolutely pride ourselves in the fact we have no car that will not just drop a battery in and go. So, it becomes a time factor as time goes on the more you get and you'll find, oh gosh, I've got 10 cars and I might have time to drive five of them. You might keep that in mind as you grow your collection. You may be needing some help like I have here because it's important to keep these cars running.

(Daniel)>> You can't be nervous and work on a car like this. If you're nervous you're more focused on your nervousness and on that car from that point of view than you are just going in there and doing it. I mean it's like having a heart surgeon. You can't have a nervous heart surgeon. Therefore, in this case you can't be nervous. You have to be cautious. You have to be aware of what you're working on, but you can't be scarred to fix the car. We just fix it, we move on. That makes it also comforting to be able to work here. It's always a challenge, and I think the challenge is what helps keep it fresh.

(Tommy)>> Coming up, if you think car collecting is all about who has the most pink slips then you're in for a surprise.

(Tommy)>> Before you just jump into collecting it's always wise to do a bit of some research because not all these vehicles are created equal.

(John)>> So the first thing that I always recommend to folks that ask me where do I start is really identify number one, more than anything else, a budget, a price range because there's no sense in getting all excited about a great example of whatever particular car that you like but when it's priced out of the range that might be possible. Pick out some cars that you want to buy. Do some price comparables so that you know that you're gonna be roughly in the same ballpark, and then of course you want to see out the best example of that, whether it be at an auction or anything else. The market right now is very strong, it's very hot, but there's no reason to think that the market's gonna be easing off even anytime soon. So, what I also recommend to people, jump in now. Owning these cars puts us all in our happy place, and I don't think you can put a price tag on that.

(Tommy)>> To accumulate a collection this extensive doesn't happen overnight. It takes years of hard work and dedication.

(Tim)>> When did I start collecting cars? That would have went way back to my dad's day with the '71 Hemi Charger. That's where the roots started. I've been collecting cars now for close to 40 years. It would be hard to build a collection like you see here in today's world because I've had all the years to find just the right cars at prices that were a lot more reasonable in the early days than they are now.

(Daniel)>> Maintaining a car collection like this you have to think about things getting dried out. You also have to think about moisture being collected in certain fluids in a car. Brake fluid for instance collects moisture. It attracts moisture out of the air. So does engine oil, and it's the carbons that are in that oil or brake fluid that attract that moisture, and it's also the chemical of it as well. A car stays young the more it's driven, and that has to do with not just the motion of car going down the road and the vibrations from the road resonating through the car. It has to do with temperatures, and getting warmer, coming up to a temperature, cooling back off. You're steaming the exhaust system out. One big thing with these cars is when they're cranked, they need to be ran long enough for the exhaust system to steam itself out and dry out because the exhaust system by nature, breathing fuel and air creates moisture and water in the exhaust system, and it can rot the exhaust systems out of these cars from the inside out.

(Tim)>> Recently I just bought a 1970 Hemi Charger, 426 Hemi four speed. The car is beautiful, untouched. We'll actually be showing it at MCACN this year for the first time ever. I called this gentleman for 33 years once I heard about the car. Always the same story. Polite, around Christmas we'd have a good conversation. He says, no son, it's just not for sale, and a few years later he came through the museum here on a trip from North Carolina down to Montgomery. He came in here, walked around, and I thought boy, it's time. I'm gonna get this car, and he says no son, it's not for sale, but I'm gonna share with my daughter this is where I want the car to be, and so he did just that. He passed away, and just as his wishes were the car's now in the museum, and he told me all the stories about how he drove the car, and he drove it to Talladega and brought his whole family down. Just neat stuff that you'd like to put into the story lines whenever people read about the cars here. I'll probably collect for as long as I feel healthy and come in here and have a smile at these cars, and I look for that to be a long time. I think collecting is something that's in your soul. You never really quit. I say it like this. I'm a curator of these cars. I'm really not the owner. They're gonna go to somebody else someday, and I want to make sure they're presented well here in my lifetime and presented well on into the future with the next curator that comes along cause let's face it. These things are a piece of our automotive history. They'll never be another period of time quite like it, and they deserve their place in history.

(Tommy)>> There is a lot more than just some old cars assembled in a colorful room here. Friendship, good times, careers, history, and a man's legacy. Car collecting is much more than just a pastime. It's a way of life. If you like what you've seen on today's show go to Powernation TV dot com, and until next time keep it between the ditches.
Show Full Transcript