Cool Collection – Bill Whetstone’s Collection of Classic-Style Rods and Customs
If you’re wondering how to amass a car collection as cool as Bill Whetstone’s enviable selection of customs and hot rods showcased on these pages, one answer is to start young.
Of course, there’s much more to it than that, but it’s true that Bill, who is now 82, had his first custom car when he was just 17. It was a black ’52 Ford convertible. After that he bought a black ’56 Chevy convertible with a factory 265c.i. V8, dual four-barrel carburetors, and a three-speed, which was quickly customized with a Cal Custom tube grille, Moon wheel covers, and lakes pipes. Stan Yee later leaded the hood, trunk, and doors and Bill had the top bows chopped and a mail-slot rear window added. Detroit-area painter Paul Hatton add a wild flame job and pinstriping to complete this custom.
Bill’s next custom was a ’60 Ford Starliner, which he bought new in December 1959 and drove from Detroit to California to get the white rolled-and-pleated interior done. In April of 1960 he dropped the Ford off at the famed Alexander Brothers custom shop and by December they had finished the “Adonis,” a trendsetting creation that would take Best Custom at the 1961 Detroit Autorama – the first one held at Cobo Hall. It went on to grace the cover of three magazines and was featured in 12 magazines in total, in addition to touring all over the country for indoor shows.
As was the custom for custom cars in that era, the Adonis was regularly updated with new modifications and fresh paint over the next couple of seasons. Some of those updates came with design assistance from Budd “the Kat” Anderson of AMT models. The Ford continued to be shown and win awards until Bill sold it in April of 1963 at a show in Washington D.C.
With growing a business and family, Bill got away from the car scene until 1989, when his son Matt came home from high school and asked Bill if he would like to restore an old car. A few weeks later Bill bought a ’66 Mustang coupe. He got the bug again, and three years later he had 12 Mustangs. Soon the buying and selling started with a variety of Mustangs, muscle cars, and sports cars.
In the mid-’90s Bill decided to get back to his roots. He sold off the muscle and sports cars and started buying hot rods and customs. He has owned over 80 cars since 1989 and has had nearly 30 cars in the Detroit Autorama over the last 20 years. One of his biggest honors was being inducted into the Detroit Autorama Circle of Champions on his 80th Birthday.
Bill’s current collection includes more than a dozen vehicles, each of which would appeal to nearly any discerning traditional hot rodder. There’s a Deuce roadster, a ’34 Ford Cabriolet, several ’40 Fords, a ’51 Merc, and a couple of classic Ford pickups.
Proving that life can come full-circle, Bill’s stable also includes a clone of the Adonis, the ’60 Ford that became a custom star 60 years ago. The original was eventually destroyed, and in 1999 Bill purchased another Starliner to build a clone. He didn’t realize that at the same time John Schliecher of St. Paul, Minnesota, was starting on his own Adonis clone. John eventually contacted Bill and it was decided there was no need for two clones; Bill helped John with his. The car came out exactly as the original in every detail, from the candy wild cherry paint to the beautiful pearl white tuck and roll interior. It premiered at the 50th Detroit Autorama. The car changed hands a few times before Bill bought it in 2017. He showed it at the 2018 Detroit Autorama, the same year he was inducted into the Circle of Champions. Later that year the car won Coolest Custom at the Goodguys PPG Nationals in Columbus, Ohio.
Bill’s most recent purchase is a ’36 Packard three-window coupe running a 383c.i. Chevy stroker V8, 700R4 automatic, and all the bells and whistles. He will be making some changes to the car to give it what he calls the “Whetstone look.” Between working 60-70 hours a week and playing with old cars, he doesn’t have time to grow old!
Photos by Chris Herod