Meet the Cross Creek Gearhead
Published: Thursday, January 17, 2013 at 7:54 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 17, 2013 at 7:54 p.m.
Jerry Wetherington is a master tinkerer.
Whether it's restoring a classic car to pristine condition or pulling apart and putting together computer systems for the University of Florida for 38 years, the lifelong Cross Creek resident has managed to make his mechanical and analytical skills pay dividends for him.
It started with his first car, a '49 Studebaker truck that used to ferry him back and forth to Gainesville High School. And it continued until today.
He now motors around Cross Creek between Alachua and Marion counties in a 1936 Chevy hot rod painted poppy red pearl.
"I love it," said Jerry's wife, Cheryl. "We take the Chevy on group cruises with the Gainesville Street Rod club to spots like Homosassa, Plant City and Valdosta for meals and to car shows and cruise-ins."
"We don't go to the events with the car on a trailer; it's a driver," Jerry said.
The couple has logged more than 62,000 miles on the hot rod since it was completed in 2001.
"I did all the work except for the paint and upholstery, which was done by L&S Auto Trim. I built the car to be driven with air conditioning, power everything and a 383 stroker engine," Jerry said.
Jerry said the car took about two and a half years to build and "cost about $38,000 in parts and $11,000 for the specialized one-component paint job.
"It's an unusual year of car and is all metal. It's the classic hot rod and I know each nut and bolt on it," Jerry said.
The '36 Chevy earned an award from the National Street Rod Association at a 2004 Tampa car show, outduelingabout 1,500 entries, Jerry said.
Working on vehicles and customizing them has been a passion for Jerry since he owned that Studebaker.
"I painted the truck blue and drove it as a student at Gainesville High School. It had a flathead six-cylinder engine," he said.
"Much of my interest in cars started when I was in high school and worked at Pon's Garage in Hawthorne. It was owned by my future wife's father," Wetherington said.
Jerry graduated from Gainesville High School in 1966, and Cheryl and Jerry Wetherington were married in 1968.
Jerry described his next vehicle as a real showpiece.
"I had a 1957 yellow four-door hardtop Chevy with the 283 engine, power pack heads and 30/30 cam. The car had 19 coats of lacquer applied to it. The paint shop guy said if I would rub out each coat he would do it. When we finished, it was just like glass," Jerry said.
Jerry worked from 1968 to 2006 at the University of Florida as a computer systems analyst who could understand the "nuts and bolts" of the equipment.
"I was more of a system architect involving hardware and software. There is a lot of (similarity) in building a computer system and rebuilding a car," Jerry said. "You have to take (either one) apart and catalog the parts," then reassemble them to make it work.
Cheryl and Jerry have been active with Gainesville Street Rods for more than 20 years.
"Cheryl was the first woman president of the club" Jerry said.
Jerry has modified numerous trucks including Chevy model years 1955, 1956 and 1957.
"My 1957 Chevy pickup was painted lunar yellow," Jerry said.
He's currently working on a 1972 Blazer with his grandson, Brett Cullinan, passing along his half century-plus of automotive experience.
Cheryl chuckled at the label "car nut" for her husband but felt it's probably appropriate; Jerry prefers the term "gearhead."
"I heard that name even back in high school," Jerry joked. "I've built these cars for the fun of it."