When Tim Wellborn’s father came home with a 1971 Dodge Charger RT featuring a NASCAR-inspired 426 Hemi engine, Wellborn devoted many hours to washing, waxing and wishing he could drive his father’s new muscle car.
“My father never did let me drive it,” Wellborn said. “He was a smart man. I was too young to drive, and that car had way too much horse power for me.”
Undeterred from his dream of operating a high-powered muscle car, when he was old enough to drive, Wellborn got one of his own: a 1970 Dodge Charger RT.
“I still have it to this day,” Wellborn said. “It’s blue with a white top.”
Wellborn also still owns his father’s 1971 Charger. In fact, out of the 63 Dodge Chargers with Hemi engines manufactured in 1971, Wellborn owns 23 of them. He also owns a collection of Plymouth Road Runners and Barracudas, Dodge Challengers, Oldsmobile 442 W-30 convertibles, Ford Boss 429 Mustangs, LS6 Chevelles, GSX Buicks, AMC Javelins, and a Pontiac Ram Air IV GTO Judge convertible, one of six known to exist. Wellborn and his wife Pam, also an automobile enthusiast, share their collection of more than 45 muscle cars with the general public in their museum in Alexander City, Ala., The Wellborn Musclecar Museum.
“My collection represents the muscle cars from 1969, 1970 and 1971, and it is primarily Dodge and Plymouth. What makes these cars collectible is that this was the only time in history when there was a NASCAR-inspired racing engine in a street car. This era represents the pinnacle of muscle cars. They had the biggest engines and the wildest paint colors,” Wellborn said. “Bill France co-founder of NASCAR) didn’t like racing engines being made available to the general public. He thought that if cars with racing engines were sold to the public, there would be a loss of interest in racing. Ultimately, it was the government who put an end to it after 1971.”
The museum, which is located in a 1944 building constructed to house a Buick dealership, represents the largest collection of muscle cars from1969, 1970 and 1971 in the country. As a result, the Wellborn Museum has been featured in national magazines and television channels like SPEED and SPIKE. The museum also hosts visitors from all over the world and occasionally, famous race car drivers will make an appearance, such as drag-racing legends Mike Buckel and Dick Jones. “They are the Richard Pettys of drag racing,” Wellborn said. “Those two guys, who were also engineers with the Chrysler Corporation, changed the image of Dodge and Plymouth. They built the cars during the week, and they raced the cars on the weekend.” Like the original creators of Chrysler Corporation’s racing-engine American muscle cars, Wellborn has a 24-hour enthusiasm for his collection.
“I work on my own cars and keep them tuned and running. My favorite thing is the detailing. It’s a stress relief for me to work on the cars,” Wellborn said. “And every car is driven once a month. I don’t believe in static cars. I want to have a smile on my face, and I do when I am driving these muscle cars.” For more information on the Wellborn Musclecar Museum, visit the website at www.wellbornmusclecarmuseum.com. The museum is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.