By Darren Jacobs
Bill Clinton. George W. Bush. Steve Wedel. What common experience links these three men? All have served in the role of president—Clinton and Bush as president of the U.S., Wedel as prez of the Viper Nation (a far more important job, as far as Viper owners are concerned).
So what has former President Wedel been up to following his 2005–2006 term as head of the VCA? Attending each and every VCA event his schedule allows and enjoying his role as a “Viper statesman!”
“It’s said in every part of the world that you purchase the Viper because of the love for the car, but you stay in the VCA because of the love for the people,” observed Wedel. “I don’t know which I love more, the car or the people. They’re equal and intertwined. However, there is no automotive experience like driving a Viper.”
Wedel embarked on his life-changing Viper experience in 1995, when the St. Louis resident purchased a black 1994 Viper RT/10 and founded the Gateway chapter of the VCA. After leading the Gateway club in its formative years in his role as president from 1995–2000, Wedel served as Director at Large for the Midwest Region (2001–2002), National VCA Secretary (2003–2004), National VCA President (2005–2006) and as a member of the VCA Board of Directors as a past president (2007–2008).
“I really miss the people,” Wedel said. “I especially miss not spending time with my fellow National board members, Vice-President Don Parsons, Secretary Kingman Hitz and Treasurer Bob Carroll. I miss being on the inside with regards to Chrysler and VCA. Being a part of the inside is really exciting, especially when it’s your hobby.”
Wedel cites a more business-like approach to club accounting procedures as the most important achievement he and his board accomplished.
“I believe in team management. What we had was four presidents,” Wedel recalled. “We equally worked on getting the VCA budget above water.”
Wedel in his post-presidency has taken a page from Jack Kerouac’s playbook, heading out on the road and making up for the many times he was unable to take to the wheel of his Viper while attending to his presidential Viper duties. He enjoys the perks of tooling around in a Viper, such as the outrageous reactions the public often exhibits for the Snake.
“St. Louis has a very large St. Patrick’s Day parade, and the VCA led the parade three years in a row,” Wedel recalled. “One year, as we were in the middle of the parade, a young lady came running out of the crowd, leapt over the door and landed in the empty passenger seat. The crowd went wild, of course!”
Evidence of Wedel’s devotion to the Viper can be found at his home. He has owned five Vipers, with four still taking up residence in his expansive St. Louis garage. The “firstborn” RT/10 remains, modified by Hennessey, which served as Wedel’s track car until last year. His “Fab Four” is rounded out by a blue-with-white-stripes 1996 GTS, a yellow 2005 SRT10® convertible (Wedel’s wife, Lynn, claims that Snake as her own) and his “baby,” a 2008 violet Viper ACR, one of only four produced, and now used by Wedel as his track car.
Could Wedel choose a fave Viper?
“I have two daughters, Lisa and Megan, and if you asked me which of the two would be my favorite, the answer is that I love the both of them equally,” said Wedel. “The RT/10 is the one we all fell in love with. Then the GTS comes out and just knocks your socks off. Then the SRT10 comes out with higher performance and a new body, then the convertible, then the SRT10 coupe, then the ultimate, the ACR. It’s why I own four. I can’t pick one over the other. I love them equally, just as I love my daughters equally.”
Wedel’s Viper passion has been fueled by his business, Four Seasons Wealth Management. He received a national award in 1994 recognizing him as one of the top financial advisors in America. Early in 2009, Barron’s Magazine named Wedel as one of the top 1,000 financial advisors in America and in the top three in Missouri. “I’m very proud of my professional success, which has helped me enjoy Viper ownership,” Wedel said.
The Viper has also helped Wedel make a positive difference in the world through his charitable work with the VCA.
“There are two things I’m very proud of,” he explained. “My very first act as a member of the Gateway club was to establish a charitable relationship with the Make-a-Wish foundation, and since 1995 we have been the official car of Make-a-Wish for Missouri and Illinois. We have raised thousands and thousands of dollars.” Wedel has also worked with the Gateway club to start a RidemakerZ Build-a-Viper charity event to help a local children’s hospital in St. Louis.
Wedel has a closing message for VCA members.
“I strongly urge the VCA members to get involved in their club,” exhorted Wedel. “The more you give, the more you get back. Once you experience that giving and how much you get back, I highly recommend taking it to the next level and volunteering as a Zone Director, Director at Large and then on to the National Board.”