Hilton Head Island, SC - Bill Rothermel has had a lifelong interest in cars, both small and large. According to family accounts while a toddler in his stroller he would amaze an audience with his ability to identify the make and model of passing automobiles! An automotive historian and avid collector of miniature automobiles and automobilia; Bill’s interests range from the cars of the Brass and Classic Eras; muscle cars, Post-War American cars, European sports cars, and automobiles of all kinds.
Bill is a member of the Boards of Directors of the AACA Museum, Inc., and The Elegance, both in Hershey, Pennsylvania. In addition to his role at the Hilton Head Island Concours, Bill has served as the Color Commentator and Master of Ceremonies at many noteworthy events around the country including, but not limited to, the Saratoga Motorcar Auction, the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, the Boca Raton Concours d’Elegance, the Concours at Copshaholm, the Concours of America, the Radnor Concours d’Elegance, the St. Michaels Concours d’Elegance, the Chattanooga Motorcar Festival, the Palm Beach Concours and will, for the first time in 2021, emcee at the Greenwich Concours d’Elegance.
Bill serves as a judge at the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, Classic Sports Sunday at Mar-a-Lago, the Greenwich Concours d’Elegance, and the Greenbrier Concours d’Elegance.
As a freelance writer, Bill’s work has been featured in national, international, club and concours publications such as Automobile Quarterly, Old Cars, and Sports Car Market, as well as a regular column in Hemmings Muscle Machines. He routinely serves as a catalog writer for RM Sotheby’s Auctions and is a contributor to their in-house magazine Shift.
BEYOND THE BIO
A little more about Bill Rothermel
- Tell us about your first car.
Sadly, my first car was a 1964 Chevy Corvair Monza Coupe with “Slip and Slide” Powerglide automatic. It was a “Flinstonemobile” with no floors. My dad bought it for $50 for my 15th birthday in hopes that I would learn to work on cars. He forgot, I don’t like to get my hands dirty – to this day. So, he pop-riveted sheet metal in the floor and puttied up the cracks with bondo. Oh, and then he covered the floor with turquoise shag carpet that he glued down. The car burnt so much oil (which of course, came right through to the passenger compartment), I’m sure it has taken years off my life. People today would never let their kids have a car like that! Times have sure changed. On the other hand, it certainly set me up for my only having driven new cars my entire life. I admit, I like to get in and go.
- Tell us about one of your favorite driving experiences.
"My favorite driving experience involved me as a passenger. I was invited to go on a Brass era tour back in 2012. I was a guest riding in the back seat of a giant Stoddard-Dayton automobile. The owner, well in his eighties – on oxygen – man handled that 7,000-pound car amazingly. He shifted gears effortlessly (or so it seemed) to maintain power up and down hills – I was mesmerized. Then, about ¾ way through a 60-mile tour, he didn’t like the way the clutch was engaging. He pulled over, got under the car with his oxygen pack attached, and proceeded to adjust the clutch! I will never forget the experience. It was awesome. And, I was just a back seat passenger. I have such an appreciation for early automobiles pioneers."
- What do you love about Concours events?
"So cliché, but it’s the people. I love automotive history and the story that goes with each car. My dear friend, the late-Beverly Rae Kimes once told me, “Every car has a story, and it's your job to tell it.” I love seeing old friends, meeting new folks, and learning about their cars. I never get bored."
- What is one of the best cars you’ve seen at a Concours event?
"Ironically, my favorite car was at Hilton Head way back when at the old venue, the Coastal Discovery Museum at Honey Horn. It was my first visit to the Hilton Head event and I saw this spectacular Chrysler Imperial. Don’t remember if it was a 31-32-33, but it was owned by a lovely lady, Ethel Laneau, from Louisiana, and it knocked me out. It was a Waterhouse Victoria. Waterhouse did comparatively few cars, and I think the Waterhouse Victoria body is one of the most beautiful of the Classic Era. The car was eggplant purple, with a matching top and leather interior. The belt line of the car was a slightly lighter shade of eggplant with Granny Smith Apple Green pinstripes! To this day, it is one of the most stunning cars I have ever seen. I remember going up to her and making a fuss over her car and told her I was sure she would win Best of Show. She was so modest and said that I was too kind. She did win Best of Show that day. I remember when the car paraded past me, I yelled to her and congratulated her, and said, 'I told you so!' I can still see her face and how thrilled she was."
- What is special about Hilton Head Island’s Concours?
"There is so much I like about Hilton Head. The weather, the expanse of the show field, the Club Day Saturday and the Concours Sunday, the proximity of the showfield to the host hotel. I literally arrive at the airport, take an Uber, and repeat the process when I leave. The shuttles are great and eliminate the need for a car. I see so many people I know the entire weekend. And, everyone involved with the concours is so friendly and helpful. Of course, great cars."
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