In 1942, when Staff Sergeant William "Bill" Butler arrived in Casablanca in North Africa as part of the 45th Infantry Expeditionary Force, he didn't know what he wanted to do after the war. But he knew it would have something to do with cars.
"When we got to Casablanca, the place was full of Italian and German POWs," Bill says. "I was part of a group that was selected to load about 6,000 or 7,000 of them on a boat and transport them back to the United States. Even then, I knew what I wanted to do with my life involved cars, I just wasn't sure what."
Eventually, Bill was back home again in Indiana. He married his high school sweetie, Evelyn, and after a while decided to go to school. "A friend of mine and I decided we wanted to attend a metallurgy school, which would help us do bodywork," he says. "So we hitchhiked to Fargo, North Dakota, from Shelbyville."
A few weeks later, Evelyn announced she was pregnant and Bill had a choice: either she was moving to Fargo or Bill was coming home.
Back in Indiana, Bill went to work for a Chrysler dealer and spent time doing bodywork, parts, sales, and working in the office, "I wanted to learn the car business from the bottom to the top, and I did everything I could," Bill says. Eventually, he got a job offer from Associates Investment Company.
"Among other things, they floor-planned for car dealers and I spent the next 10 years doing that," Bill recalls. "I left them because I figured out the only real money in the car business was salvage. So I started a company called Arrow Auto Parts in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, which I owned for about 10 years." At that point Bill retired for around five years before getting back into the salvage business for another three years. "Then I decided to retire again and go fish for a while," he says. However, a short time later, Bill was back in the car business as part owner of the first Mazda dealership in Baton Rouge.
Through the years, Bill encountered many Corvettes and was savvy enough to hang on to as many as possible. "Back when I was in the salvage business, I must have acquired over 30 Corvettes in one corner of the yard," he says. "I never crushed them. What we did was use three or four cars to rebuild one. With all the Corvettes I had in the salvage business and the ones I've bought and sold, I imagine I've had over 150 Corvettes over the years."
Right now, Bill has three Corvettes in his Kerrville, Texas, garage: a '65 red four-speed 327/300 Sting Ray roadster, a '93 Ruby Red 40th Anniversary, and the car you see here, a '66 Nassau Blue Sting Ray coupe, and he's still looking. "I'd love to find a ruby ZR-1, but they're so rare," he says.
Bill bought the blue '66 in the early '80s. "Essentially, we're the second owners," he adds. "We were living in Sedona, Arizona, and a lady from Nebraska who purchased it new traded it on a Dodge. After that, the car passed through a couple of dealers, but was never titled. So when we bought it, that made us the second owners."
What made this car especially desirable to Bill was how it is equipped. "This was a lady's car, and she ordered it just the way she wanted it," Bill says. "In addition to the Powerglide and 327/300 motor, it came with an AM/FM radio, power steering, power brakes, and factory A/C, which was rare in those days. And believe it or not, all of that stuff still works today."
Bill was one of the original founders of the southwest chapter of the NCRS in Phoenix. "In about 1983, I had the car judged at the NCRS national meet in Copper Canyon, Colorado," he says. "The car took a Top Flight which means it was a 95-100-point car at the time. About the only thing I've done to it since is repaint it myself in the original color with acrylic lacquer-which is how it came from the factory."
Bill still drives his '66 to car shows and cruise nights. "Of all the Corvettes I've had over the years, this one is still my favorite," he says. "And it's funny, all of the guys in the southwest chapter of NCRS refer to that car as Evelyn's Corvette. That whole thing was started by Loren Lundberg, who always called it "Evelyn's car." To this day I don't know why, but the name stuck."