Bruce Wheeler's
"Wheeler Dealer"
Top Fuel Dragsters

The Story, Part 2 (1968)
1968 was a year of many changes, but not, necessarily, for the better ...

On Saturday, June 8, 1968, Bruce took as his bride one Roberta 'Bobbie' McCreary, a native-born Italian beauty that had been the swimming pool attendant at Bruce's Northwest Washington apartment building during her summer vacation from college the previous year.

It was a lavish wedding, held at Washington's awe-inspiring National Cathedral, and it, in turn, was followed with a full-on reception at the McCreary's suburban Maryland residence. Later that afternoon Bruce & Bobbie snuck away to begin an extended European honeymoon.

They flew into New York City first, for two days of exploring the Big Apple, and from there to Lisbon, Madrid and Barcelona. The couple continued on to Nice, France, situated on the beautiful French Riviera. While there they took delivery of an all-new, shiny red VW 311 fastback coupe, a car that had been specially ordered prior to their departure.

Bruce dressed up his new hot wheels by adding large, colorful, plastic 'hippie' flowers to its fenders - very much 'with it' during those days of Flower Power. At last the happy duo had a car of their own, which, in turn, allowed for a far greater experience of the many wonders of the Old World.

From Nice the Wheelers drove on to Italy, which was highlighted by a five-day side trip to the Mediterranean island of Sardinia, in between two visits to magnificent Rome. Eventually the Wheeler's trip would take them through various parts of Yugoslavia, Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Holland, Belgium and back, once again, to France - exploring many cities and noted tourist attractions along the way.

A highlight of the entire European holiday, for Bruce, was a visit to the Ferrari factory near Modena, Italy. Although arriving at the plant totally unexpected, Bruce dropped a few 'names', and he and his bride were soon given a guided VIP tour of the entire awesome operation, to say the least!

After a fun-filled five days and nights in Paris, 'The City of Light', Bruce & Bobbie left their VW with a shipping company for eventual shipment back to the 'States.'

The final leg of their 'magical mystery tour' included five days in London, where they arrived just a few hours too late for the closing of The Beatles' Apple Boutique in Carnaby Street. Had they been there when the store opened its doors earlier that day, they would have been among the hundreds of people vying to get some of the store's outlandish inventory, all gladly being given away - free! - by the shop's famous owners...

Bruce & Bobbie returned to Washington during the second week of August. A couple of weeks later, a disaster occurred. The 1968 U.S. Nationals were set to begin at Indianapolis Raceway Park, and the operators of Maryland's Cecil County Drag-O-Way opened that track for a pre-Nationals test 'n' tune session the Wednesday prior to the start of the "The Big Go" at Indy. With a fresh motor, and a determined will, the Dealer's crew pulled into Cecil County that Wednesday evening, full of confidence that this was going to be an outstanding Nationals for the WD team. Fate, however, would not allow this to be.

While making pre-race preparations, someone had neglected to install a cotter key that held the steering wheel to its shaft. On a solo pass, Bub left hard, and was on his way down the track in fine fashion, looking all the world like he would run a very good number. Not so! At about half-track Bub found himself grasping the steering wheel, but - surprise! - it wasn't attached to anything, much less the car's steering column!

The Dealer, out of control, began drifting to the left side of the strip, at a very slight angle.  It then left the track's pavement, where it slid along the guardrail for several hundred feet, finally coming to a stop a short distance beyond the finish line. Although the damage was relatively minor (the nose piece had been left off for that pass, and consequently was undamaged), it was decided that there was no way repairs could be made in time to allow the Dealer to run at Indy. By mutual agreement, the wrecked racer was put in its trailer, and the WD team headed for Indianapolis Raceway Park, to hang out and enjoy the action.

As it developed, good friend Jim Busby's car - with Dwight Salisbury at the wheel - had qualified solidly in the field, but at the expense of Busby's last motor. A deal was struck, and the Dealer's potent Chrysler hemi was installed in Busby's dragster, which then proceeded to make several stellar passes on its way to an eventual semi-finals loss.

With the 1968 season being all but over for the Wheeler team, plans were then begun for the construction of the all-new 'Wheeler Dealer 2'.

It should be mentioned that just before the end of the '68 racing season Bruce joined friend Gordon Tatum's crew for the NHRA World Finals at Tulsa, Oklahoma.  Although Tatum's beautiful full-bodied car didn't fare well at that event, a good time was had by all...

Also, for the record, at the time Bruce was on his honeymoon in Europe, during that summer of '68, the Dealer was raced at a 'number' of regional East Coast events. Bruce, to this day, is largely unaware of where the car was raced during much of the two months he was out of the country, or how it did in competition at the events that it was entered in. It was learned in 1998 that at least one of the events the Dealer competed in that summer was at Pennsylvania's Keystone Raceway Park. This came to light when old friend Tom Chastang sent Bruce laser copies of two pictures taken of the WD at Keystone during that time! Also, one week after Bruce's wedding, the Dealer competed at the NHRA Springnats, at Madison Township Raceway Park [aka'Englishtown'.]  It wasn't until fairly recently that Bruce found a copy of a racing publication that had some info on that particular Springnationals. Apparently, according to the article on the race, the WD qualified well at #6, and went at least a couple of rounds before finally being eliminated. 

(If you have more details about ANY event that either Wheeler Dealer car took part in, from 1967 through '69, Bruce would be very grateful for whatever information you might provide. If you have Wheeler Dealer photographs, magazine articles or videos you'd care to share or part with, please let him know! He'd love to talk to talk you about them!)

Next: The Wheeler Dealer Story, Part 3 (1969)