Quick Stats: “Wild” Bill Wichrowski, “Deadliest Catch”
Daily Driver: 2017 Mercedes-Benz G550 4×4 Squared (Bill’s rating: 9 on a scale of 1 to 10)
Other cars: see below
Favorite road trip: Blue Ridge Parkway
Car he learned to drive in: 1965 Oldsmobile F-85
First car bought: 1966 Lincoln Continental
When he’s not king crab fishing in the Bering Sea on Discovery’s hit Deadliest Catch, Capt. “Wild” Bill Wichrowski enjoys some rather expensive four-wheeled rides including a 2017 Mercedes-Benz 4×4 G550 4×4 Squared.
“It’s a Mercedes G550 on steroids,” he says. “I don’t have a home in [the U.S.]; my home is in Mexico, so my tax guy says, ‘Go crazy on a car.’ So … for the last three years I’ve gotten a new one when these things are released and it’s a maniac,” he tells Motor Trend, proudly.
He rates the Mercedes a 9 on a scale of 10 and says he knows he’s never going to use the vehicle for what it’s designed to do. “It can go in a meter and a half of water, it’s made for going through the Alps,” he says. “The capabilities of it are so great, it’s so damn expensive I would never push it through those extreme conditions that it’s designed to travel in. I had an AMG S63. It’s the ultimate touring car but the value drops like a rock,” he says, adding that G550 4×4 Squared SUVs hold “their value, which not many cars do. It’s an amazing off-road rig.”
Wichrowski is hoping to drive it on an off-road trail at Nemacolin in western Pennsylvania.
2016 Ford F-150 Raptor
Wichrowski calls this an event truck. “All the affiliates that I use threw some money together, it’s the real deal for off-road,” he says. “It’s the eye-catcher rig that I run in some of the events I do. I go to the Bassmaster Classic here in South Carolina, and I’m driving it up to that.”
He says it’s tough to push both the Raptor and Mercedes G550 down the highway at 75. “They’re geared so low. But other than that, they’re pretty amazing vehicles,” he says.
2005 Chevrolet Silverado Heavy Duty Duramax
Wichrowski is based about 300 miles south of Nogales, Mexico, where he keeps his 2005 Chevrolet Silverado Heavy Duty truck powered by a Duramax diesel engine.
“I’m always hauling parts and pieces back and forth between the Mexican border and my house, up to the States and back and forth,” Wichrowski says. “The thing just goes and goes and goes. I’ll change tires on it, it’s been real solid for me over the years. As far as the run of the mill vehicle, it does have an 8-inch lift and 37s all the way around, so it’s a beast. It’s never let me down, it’s never gotten me stuck.”
1972 K5 Chevrolet Blazer
This rare Blazer belonged to just one family before Wichrowski bought it. “I took the interior out, and I took it to Mexico and did a crazy seven coats of white, five coats of clear on it; it’s got a great paint job.”
It definitely needs a little bit of work, however. “It’s one of those garage projects that eventually I’ll get back to. It’s a daily driver, but it wanders across the road like a drunken mule. The front end’s a little loose on it, but it’s one of those dream cars. I’ve always liked the early ’70s K5.”
This Blazer is a work in progress for Wichrowski. “It is what it is. It’s a ’72, and the technology was in ’72. There’s a lot of stuff that could be improved on it,” he says.
1981 Jeep CJ-7
Wichrowski likes the fact that his CJ-7 is “a beater,” he says. “It has one of 1500 race motors, it’s a 282 instead of a 258. There’s no doors, there’s no top, it’s got 33s all the way around. It’ll climb a tree,” Wichrowski says. “You have a cooler and you head out into the desert and … just go till you get tired and your teeth rattle, and you get home and rinse it off and put it back in the garage.”
For Wichrowski, his CJ-7 sounds like an old tractor. He rates it an 8 for the fun factor alone, but his overall rating is a 5.5. “You have an inline-six, it’s real throaty,” he says. “It makes people turn their heads when it goes by.”
Car he learned to drive in
Wichrowski grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He learned to drive in his mom’s 1965 Oldsmobile F-85, but he would later log more drive time elsewhere.
“My buddies worked as valets. The day after I had my driver’s license, I was parking cars, so I learned to drive in OP—other people’s cars,” he says, laughing.
Although Wichrowski’s dad taught him to drive, he also took driver’s ed. “Four days after I had my license, I ended up rear ending my driver’s ed instructor’s daughter in her Fiat on the way to school,” he says. “She called her dad, I called mine, and I saw my driver’s ed instructor pull up and I had this big lump in my throat.”
Wichrowski recalls how easy it was to drive before one turned 16 in those days. “I’m old, I’m 60, back then it wasn’t such a big deal, you’d go out in the country. You’d go hunting and fishing on country roads, your dad would let you get behind the wheel,” he says. “It was a different world back then.”
Wichrowski learned to drive a stick with some help from his restaurant valet friends. Whenever a manual Volkswagen would pull up, he’d get a chance to practice.
“My buddy got in the passenger seat and I got in the driver’s seat, and we figured out how to drive a clutch. They would drag their feet until the people went into the restaurant and then after they were inside, they would step aside and let me learn on that, then I’d run it around the parking lot a little bit, and get used to it. I picked it up pretty quick,” he says.
First car bought
When he was in San Diego, Wichrowski bought a 1966 Lincoln Continental with suicide doors, baby blue paint, a black leather interior, and a black vinyl top. It had been in Arizona and was a one-owner car.
“I’d crashed by dad’s Buick 225 into a cemetery and blew up about 13 tombstones and hit an oak tree. I was supposed to go to Slippery Rock State University for college, but I skipped school and joined the Navy,” he recalls.
He went out to San Diego for training and these well-preserved west coast cars surprised him.
“I’m from Pennsylvania where every car in the world rusted away, I get out to San Diego, my dad was always a big car guy, the big Buicks, the big Oldsmobiles, Chrysler wagons, so when I saw this four-door Lincoln, being an unintelligent kid, I put up the $1,300 that I had in the bank to buy this thing and it was quite the land yacht,” Wichrowski says. “It was in perfect shape because it was an Arizona car. It caught my eye, so I had the big ghetto cruiser.”
Wichrowski recalls saving up money from various jobs to buy that Lincoln. “I always had all kinds of crazy jobs—cut grass, do whatever I could to make a buck. I always had aspirations of making some money for myself,” he says. “I think they gave me $800 worth of credit on it because I was enlisted in the service, and they gave me I’m sure some outrageous interest rate for a one-year deal. Back then they paid you $480 a month to be in the service.”
Favorite road trip
Wichrowski describes his favorite drive as “a twisting, turning, well-banked beautiful piece of pavement” near Blowing Rock, North Carolina.
“I’m up and down the east coast a lot now, I’m working my way back to the east from the west. When you get on one of those roads that the trees are on both sides of the road, and they meet in the middle and you’re driving underneath the trees—I always think that’s the ultimate car ride, when the sun’s coming through the trees and the leaves,” he says.
Wichrowski says there are many roads like that in Virginia and North Carolina, but he particularly likes Blue Ridge Parkway because of its switchbacks.
“There’s a lot of people who consider that like the Aspen of the East, there’s a lot of NASCAR drivers who have second homes up there,” he says. “When I had the [AMG S63], I put it in Sport and paddleshifted, and it was pretty exhilarating.”
Wichrowski loves Blue Ridge Parkway and other similar roads on the east coast because it feels like he’s in the middle of nowhere. What made that drive particularly memorable was the way he was always trying to figure out the next turn, whether he had too much throttle, or if he wanted to downshift and paddle-shift down to make the turn.
“I wanted to use the car for what it was designed for,” Wichrowski says. “It’s designed for that kind of thing. The quick acceleration, deceleration, the suspension, that you put it in the Sport mode. You want to drive the car for what it’s made to do.”
He says he pushed it like that for only about half an hour. “It was still exciting because you have a ledge on one side that falls off into a ravine, and then you have these trees hanging over the road and the sunlight, you come around the corner and there’s an old farmhouse,” he says. “It’s what driving is. It’s getting behind the wheel and enjoying the place you like and the vehicle you’re in.”
Deadliest Catch Season 14 on Discovery
Discovery’s long-time hit Deadliest Catch is currently in Season 14 and Wichrowski promises this season has many highs and lows. “These guys keep looking for bigger and better content, better cameras to get better shots. We have to raise the bar because we have something that goes on and on, and people don’t want to see the same thing every year,” he says.
This season is dramatic in a way Wichrowski couldn’t have predicted. “We had a thing that was life-threatening to the guy. I fished for 40 years and I’ve never had a man overboard,” he says. “This kid, I’ve known him since he was an infant, and his parents have been my friends for 30-some years. I held my deckhand in my arms when he was an infant fresh out of the hospital, so as he was in the water, I had visions of me having to tell his parents that I lost him.”
Wichrowski says that episode was the most surreal moment in his four decades of fishing. “That was really bizarre, it was indescribable. I was on the stern, and as he was coming along towards the back of the boat, I contemplated if he had passed out, I was going to tie myself off with the life ring and jump in and grab him.”
Deadliest Catch airs on Discovery Tuesdays at 9 p.m.