‘Wildfire’ gains inspiration from Elizabethton Car Show

Published 10:43 pm Wednesday, October 27, 2021

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Bill Bledsoe’s love of Mustangs and a challenge to his art students led to the creation of “Wildfire.”

The 2016 red five-speed custom Mustang was unveiled on Wednesday, and Bledsoe said its creation was due in part to inspiration from Elizabethton car shows and in part from a challenge presented to his art students at Tusculum.

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“This new generation of kids that are coming into college can’t draw or paint – they are getting a degree in art because they love working on a computer and they don’t understand until they get in that they have to be able to draw or paint,” said Bledsoe, who heads the studio art program. He decided to challenge the students with scenarios in which they had to figure out how to make a living based on their art. “To prove my point, I told them ‘here are these drawings that I did of this Mustang that are all hand drawings’ and I came up with this package and I told them that I bet them that I could make more of an impression with a presentation with these than anything generated on a computer.”

Working with a team of five volunteer students, Bledsoe developed a presentation for car guru Lenny Lawson from Gateway Ford in Greeneville.

Not only did Lawson appreciate the presentation but he asked how he could help make the project a reality.

“I said ‘I need a car’ and he said, ‘go pick one out of the parking lot.’ I picked the red because it is the most difficult color to put a package on,” Bledsoe said. “He asked if I could make the car look exactly like the one in my drawing and I said yes, so we worked on it for two and a half months. I picked it up on July 17th and we finished two weeks ago. We found out that in two and a half months if we do another, we can get it completed in 48 to 72 hours.”

Many of the ideas for the package on the car came from the Elizabethton Downtown Car Show.

“My Uncle Tommy McNutt has a 1933 Ford that is beautiful and is like a hot rod,” Bledsoe said, adding that he joined his uncle at some of the car shows in Elizabethton. “I went around and talked to those guys. You have custom cars and cars that look like they just rolled off the line there.,” Bledsoe said. “I would get in long conversations with these car owners about what a custom car is and what a production car was.”

Bledsoe said a custom car is the one-off type of vehicle where there is no limit to the expression of the person who owns the car. A production car is one that remains the way the manufacturer intended the car to look.

“The people in Elizabethton knows as much about cars as anyone does and Lenny Lawson will tell you that,” Bledsoe said. “There are a lot of people there who have Mustangs and I look at the Camaros even though I am not a Chevy person but I appreciate the car for what it is. ”

From Eddie Woods, Bledsoe drew inspiration for a custom package on a red car. “We got into a discussion about red cars and red cars are beautiful and striking but if you are putting stuff on it, it’s either too much or too little,” Bledsoe said. “I was absorbing all this stuff like a sponge. My Uncle Tommy and I walked around and spent hours talking with these people.”

Foster Signs in Jonesborough was instrumental in getting the project completed with the help of Chris Rader, a Tusculum alumni who is over production and layout, and Garret Wright who helped with the detailing.

“Cars are a big part of my life and to see and be a part of this vehicle’s transformation has been very rewarding,” Wright said. “I am very anxious to see how the public responds to the Mustang in regard to its uniqueness.”

After being showcased at Gateway for the next couple of weekends, the car will be stored.

“I hope to bring it to the first car show in Elizabethton next year to show it off to all those guys there,” Bledsoe said. “People really don’t realize the importance of having that car show in Elizabethton.”