Bill Tower has done it all. If there were a checklist of personal adventures he’d have to have just about ticked all of the boxes. From racing the American Bandstand-sponsored Top Fuel “Rat Trap” digger in the late 1960′s to working on the Space Shuttle launch program, Tower is a man of many talents. A GMI trained engineer, from 1965 through the mid 1980’s Tower worked for Chevrolet Engineering along side his boss, the legendary Vince Piggins. Tower is extremely active today still working with GM on exotic products like RO-something engines for NASCAR and even doing a little shake down on race cars with his good buddy and accomplished racer/car developer Ron Fellows.
But enough with the name-dropping clichés, Tower is the real deal with some of the most significant street and race cars ever built. The central Florida-based engineer has built his collection of ultra rare, highly desirable Chevrolet-built racecars over the years buying these vehicles back when no one wanted them. Most of the vehicles are restored to absolute original glory by his own hand including engine building and chassis set up. His GM-Proving Grounds-tested L88 Corvette was purchased many years ago as was the case with the Penske/Hall Grand Sport, the Bill Mitchell SR2 (which Tower used to drive legendary Air Force pilot Chuck Yeager around the Indy 500 oval back in 1986) and a very unusual prototype Monte Carlo SS. And if you’re ever lucky enough to visit his place, don’t be talking money with the man. These cars are his prized possessions – not commodities to be transacted. As he says, “if I sold them, I wouldn’t have them any more.”
While the Chevrolet collection is amazing and highly coveted by the Corvette Museum curators, it may be his cool collection of Chevy NASCAR racers that put this collection over the top. The Skoal Bandit Monte is plenty cool as is the last Tim Richmond Chevy (he is finishing up the aero on the car and plans to reset the closed course lap speed record at Talladega). The Bobby Allison Coca Cola is significant as the last 427-powered Winston Cup ever created. But the crown jewel of the collection is one that draws a crowd whenever it rolls out of his trailer.
For anyone who knows anything about NASCAR, Dale Earnhardt Sr. is a god. “The Intimidator” was one heck of a driver and his “Pass in the Grass” move against Bill Elliott down the front stretch at Lowes Motor Speedway back in 1987 has been voted time and again as the most exciting moment in NASCAR history. The real deal Monte Carlo sans grass stains – as verified by the Banjo Mathews serial numbers – resides in Tower’s garage. Best of all, the car runs amazingly well luckily owned by a guy who really understand engines. In testing at Daytona, the car clicked off over 190mph laps testament to the performance of the car and the talent of the driver.
Tower is a throwback – and a mystic. A guy who knows where he’s been and looks to the future with state-of-the-art NASCAR engine development. His stories are incredible. His cars – beyond that.