This is the thirteenth year Willie has provided rides free of charge to worthy folks nominated by KBPI listeners. But the 2018 project's scale dwarfs any of those that came before it.
After passing over the keys to 24 cars for Christmas in 2017 and topping 100 total since he came up with the idea in the middle of the last decade, Willie notes, "I said, 'I want to see if I can give away 100 next year.' And I might get there. Right now, I've got sixty or seventy that I feel comfortable giving away, and the way things are going, who knows what could happen."
As Willie told us for an April interview that marked his 25th anniversary at the station, he conceived of the Cars for Christmas idea as a way to help out members of what he refers to as the "BPI family."
Over the years, he's generally purchased vehicles in need of repair using his own resources and fixed them up himself, with more than a little help from a group of fellow motorheads.
As the size of the program grew, so did Willie's ambitions.
This year, he decided to put all the money he earns from Two Guys Garage, a show he hosts on the Velocity network (it airs at 8 a.m. Mountain on Sundays, with repeats at 11:30 a.m. Mountain on Saturdays) toward buying as many cars for Christmas as he possibly could.
But he also expanded his network of helpers, which includes some major auto dealers.
"Christopher's Dodge in Golden has been doing this for three years, and they're critical to the whole event," he notes. "And this year, the John Elway dealers heard about what I was doing and reached out. They were like, 'This is a great cause and we want to see what we can do to help,' which I was ecstatic about."
He adds: "Talk about coming through in the clutch. They've been dropping off cars people would pay $7,000 for, in my opinion. They're really nice cars. And they even donated their old shuttle they'd loan people when they were getting some kind of service."
Also making key contributions have been a quartet of shops: Best Auto of Longmont, Davis Repair in Greenwood Village, Right Auto Care in Parker, and Rodriguez Customs in Denver. And that's not to mention a man he refers to as "Jon the Mobile Mechanic," who Willie says goes extra miles on a regular basis.
"Jon comes down to my house on Saturdays and Sundays and we just wrench on cars," he reveals. "It's really crazy that we've been doing this for months. It's like a weekly ritual."
Willie picked up his first set of Cars for Christmas 2018 wheels in March, and he's kept the pedal to the metal ever since. The vehicles "vary in shape, size, form, function, gas mileage and purpose," he acknowledges, "but they're all going to people that need them. We've got everything from a couple with six kids and another on the way — they're getting a mini-van — to two different guys who need wheelchair access. One has ALS and the other one has cerebral palsy, and this is going to change their world."
In recent months, Willie has talked about Cars for Christmas on the air and posted about it on his assorted social media platforms, and the response has been overwhelming. He estimated that he'd received between 1,100 and 1,300 email nominations up to his conversation with Westword last week and was averaging seventy to 100 new ones each day.
Not all of these folks will find a free car under the tree on December 25, but he's jamming to make as many automotive dreams come true as possible. "You shoot for the stars and do the best you can to reach them," he says. "And it's amazing to see the number of vehicles that are ready to be given over. It's like we're giving away a car lot."
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