If car collecting were pro wrestling, Bill Goldberg and muscle cars would be the perfect tag team: a muscle man and his muscle cars, an ideal pairing of performers.
In acquiring his impressive range of cars, though, Bill Goldberg is far more than just a well-known buyer. He’s also one of the more colorful collectors on the auction scene, with not only flair for drama in the entertainment world, but also a sharp eye for a good deal.
Earlier this year, Goldberg’s ’70 Dodge Challenger R/T hardtop went for $126,500, and his ’67 Belvedere GTX Hemi hardtop brought $170,500. The year prior, he sold another Mopar, a ’70 Plymouth ’Cuda convertible for $172,800.
When asked if those figures were what he hoped for, he points out that, “You never know going into an auction what it’ll sell for, so I don’t have an expectation, other than I hoped to break even. Otherwise you’ll end up disappointed.” As Goldberg readily admits, unlike pro wrestling or acting, you just can’t predict the outcome at an auction—and that’s a big part of the appeal for him.
When all was said and done, though, how did he do on the Belvedere in particular?
“Much better than break even,” he smiles. “I bought the car two years ago, and made little or no changes, and drove it for only 50 miles.” So he serves as yet another example of how smart buyers can do well with cars offered at auction.
Even so, he doesn’t view cars purely as a financial investment. “I don’t buy cars to sell them,” he says. “There’s a reason for buying each every one of them. I buy them to drive and enjoy.”
Goldberg is especially fond of nostalgic dragsters now, and races his Candymatic, a ‘63 A330 lightweight super stock racecar, at events in Norwalk and Columbus Ohio. He also has his eye on a ’62 Fury Max Wedge car, but declines to give specifics because he doesn’t want the attention.
“I’m not necessarily looking for big-name cars with all the lineage,” he says. “For some strange reason, I’ve gotten into pushbuttons. I feel nostalgic dragsters are gonna take off. Look at what the Grumpy Jenkins Pro Street Vega sold for.” (It went for $577,500 at the same auction, in case you’re wondering.)
As a former pro wrestler, Goldberg expresses some no-holds barred views on auction values. “Scottsdale was a screwy year pricewise,” he comments. “There were many, many surprises, like those two Boss Mustangs. Makes me want to shoot myself for selling my Boss 429, but it raises the value of my Lawman [a blown Mustang dragster]. It’s all kinda like a crap shoot, but it’s not going to affect my passion.”
Goldberg doesn’t go to the auctions just for the cars, though. He’s there to help others, as well. At Scottsdale in 2007, a 1990 Chevrolet custom pickup had been donated, with auction proceeds going to the Darrell Gwynn Foundation, which helps fund targeted research to find cures for spinal injuries and which also provides power wheelchairs for those in need. Goldberg was so moved by the gesture, he also threw in his last pair of wrestling shoes—a piece of history in its own right. Then he made sure the crowd bid up the car (and the shoes) as much as possible.
Goldberg got up on the stage and did everything humanly possible to get people to bid, and helped raise nearly $200,000 for Darrell with a car that wasn’t worth $15,000. Bill was up there promoting it the whole time, with no benefit to him whatsoever. He actually donated money, and he was up there doing everything he could. That is Bill Goldberg personified. He’s one of the most approachable, personable, kind, caring guys you’d ever meet.
In his professional life, Goldberg has grown to become a media figure in a number of areas. Initially known for his wild antics as a pro wrestler, he’s expanded his role in “sports entertainment” to other appearances in movies and television. He appeared on an episode of Law and Order, and also enjoyed his role as a commentator on Showtime’s Elite XC, a mixed martial arts event. He also launched another series on Spike TV called Bull Run that involves a dozen drivers of a wide range of cars in a series of elimination contests extending from Canada to Mexico. “It’s like Survivor meets Fear Factor,” he says.
In tracing back through Goldberg’s early years, and how he came to be fascinated with all things automotive, most car enthusiasts like him usually point to a vivid memory. You might expect him to fondly recall the screech and smell of burning rubber and the rumbling exhausts on Cruise Night while hanging out with fellow car guys at a drive-thru. In Goldberg’s case, though, what inspired his desire for muscle cars was, surprisingly enough, a trip to the dentist.
During his young adolescence, long before he ever became a successful pro wrestler, and later appeared in movies and TV series, Goldberg wore braces. And during those tedious hours spent in the orthodontist’s chair, the 12-year-old Goldberg stared out the window at his doctor’s Shelby GT500. “It was the only thing that gave me happiness,” he admits, as he fantasized about what it would be like to cruise the boulevard with a burbling exhaust, manhandling the gearshift and picking up chicks.
This formative experience as a youngster led the grown muscleman to a takedown of more than 20 superb muscle cars, any one of which we’d be proud to call our own. Because of its historical significance during the Vietnam War era, his personal favorite is the Lawman (the blown Mustang dragster mentioned earlier). But there’s also the Shelby GT500 (not from his dentist), a Yenko Camaro, a 1970 Ram Air IV Trans Am, and so on, and so on.
He had seen the Yenko before, and was familiar with car from his internet research, which he credits as his main source of information for collecting vehicles. When the car came up for sale, though, he was wrestling in Japan. “I’ve always wanted one,” he smiles. So he bought it long distance through an agent, along with the Lawman at the same time.
Although he loves to drive fast cars and motorcycles, as a sharp-eyed collector he also knows when to leave well enough alone to ensure they keep their value. “I’ve put maybe 13 miles on the Yenko in four years,” he notes.
For those readers not familiar with the Yenko’s history, it all began in 1969 with the availability of special 427 cid V8-equipped Camaros. The first were special dealer-installed units, most notably the Yenko Camaro 427. Yenko Sports Cars, based in Pennsylvania, would install the L72 427 cid block, rated at 425bhp by Chevrolet. The engine was ordered under the Central Office Production Order System (COPO) code 9562 into a buyer’s Camaro.
The Yenko Camaro 427 is a typical example: it came from the factory with no ornamentation, badging, and the 427 engine in a crate. Yenko installed the 427 block, changed the rating to a more realistic 450bhp, and added 15-inch rally wheels, bigger front roll bar, and Yenko badging, all for less than $4000! A full complement of racing add-ons was available, and sub-13-second quartermiles were possible for a few more dollars. Goldberg’s Yenko is one of 33 of these “specialized” models.
Many of Goldberg’s other cars have low miles on them as well, but he does occasionally drive to cruise nights on Main Street in Escondido, California, from his sprawling estate in the nearby hills. Perched on the side of his canyon property is a building with a dozen or so garages, dedicated solely to most of his car collection. The structure also houses a gymnasium about the size of a typical Bally’s fitness center. Every morning at 6:00 a.m., he fires up his Polaris ATV and rides it up the hill from his mansion to the weight room. “I probably drive that vehicle more than any other,” he laughs. While cooling off from his workout, he often peruses his extensive collection.
When asked which one he enjoys driving the most, he points to the 1970 Ram Air IV Trans Am. “It has the best balance of handling and power. For a muscle car, it’s the most practical one to drive.”
Goldberg admits to some limitations in his knowledge of cars, and doesn’t claim to be an automotive expert. For instance, even though he personally races the Candymatic, he frankly admits that, “The Lawman is a pretty complicated car to start up, considering it can run 8.90 at 190 mph in the quarter. I’d rather leave that to a professional driver. I rode in the back with my wife on the Irwindale dragstrip with Dale Armstrong driving. That was a rush.”
Some of his cars were picked partly for nostalgic reasons. The Hemi-powered ’67 Belvedere GTX, for instance: “It reminded me of my grandma. It’s the prototypical grocery getter, a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”
The ’69 blue Hemi Charger is even more personally significant, since it was the first muscle car he ever purchased. “If I were a car,” he says, “this car would be me. It’s big, powerful, aggressive. I’ve had it for 10 years, and I don’t think I’ll ever let it go.”
What cars does he still lust after, the ones that got away? He quickly rattles off a list of some others he’d like to add, such a ’67 Ford, 427 Vette, and ‘69-’70 GS Stage 1 convertible Buick. “There are so many flippin’ cars out there, though,” he says. “You can’t beat yourself up all day worrying about them.”
To afford these cars, pro wrestling and his other entertainment ventures have obviously been very, very good to Bill Goldberg. Judging from his taste in cars and real estate, he’s a lot more than merely a muscleman. Despite his imposing 270 pounds of beef (down from his fighting weight of 300), packed on a 6’ 4” frame, along with tribal tattoos and shaved head, he has an amiable, low-key manner. He actually was a bit reluctant to pose in the shots, humbly noting that, “The cars are the stars here.”
When we commented about the quality of his automotive TV shows and his obvious car-guy enthusiasm, he appeared to be genuinely flattered by the compliments. There’s none of that swaggering braggadocio typical of the pro-wrestler persona (although we’ve seen him project that image at will). In his autobiography I’m Next (yes, this college-educated wrestler co-wrote a book with his brother Stephen), he essentially says that the emperor has no clothes, admitting that outcome of pro-wrestling is “predetermined” and that it’s not sports, but “sports entertainment.”
Born and raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the improbable son of a concert violinist and a doctor, William Scott Goldberg traced a similar route taken by many wrestlers who cut their teeth on the gridiron. Starting in high school and college, he worked his way up the ranks of football, eventually signing on with the Atlanta Falcons in 1991. After three years with the team he suffered a torn abdominal muscle, which put him out for the 1994 season. Goldberg was signed by the Carolina Panthers in 1995, but could not rebound from the injury sufficiently enough to play, was forced to retire from football.
Goldberg never planned on becoming a professional wrestler, but crossed paths with many World Championship Wrestling stars while living in Atlanta. Though the world of wrestling intrigued him, joining the ranks of professional wrestlers was not an option that Goldberg seriously considered at the time.
Later, Goldberg was working out in a gym owned by Lex Luger and Sting (the pro wrestler, not the recording artist) and was convinced to take a chance in the squared circle. After several months of training in the WCW Power Plant, Goldberg made his official professional debut in WCW against Hugh Morrus.
Over the years, some his signature wrestling moves included the Spear and Jackhammer (see www.billgoldberg.com for streaming video examples). The Spear is similar to a headfirst football tackle. As he jokes in his book, “Growing up, my parents told me to use my head, and I guess, in a strange way, I am, although I don’t think that this is how they intended me to use it.”
Goldberg later transitioned from being a star in the ring to a television and feature film star. His filmography includes starring roles in movies such as The Longest Yard and Santa's Slay, along with appearances in Warner Brothers Pictures' Looney Tunes: Back In Action, Ready to Rumble and Universal Soldier II.
In his heyday as a wrestler, Goldberg was named one of the 100 most powerful people in the sports industry by The Sporting News and has graced magazine covers from Entertainment Weekly to TV Guide, has also been featured in articles in People, Spin, Rolling Stone, Gear, and USA Today. His many talk show appearances include The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Live with Regis and Kelly, Larry King Live, The Dennis Miller Show, Turn Ben Stein On, and The Man Show.
Yet for all his media notoriety and big-guy bluster, the other side of him, that hardcore car guy, hearkens back to a young kid in a dentist’s chair dreaming about driving a Shelby. Goldberg’s fever has taken him a long, long way. We should all be so lucky in life.