In 1970, Jim Wilderman’s career began as a high school English teacher. He then worked selling cars for various dealers in Mt. Carmel. At the time, there were five car dealerships in Mt. Carmel in the early 70’s. In 1974, he was asked by one of the owners to buy Kamp Motors in Mt. Carmel. He did, and Wilderman was the operator of that dealership until December of 1985 before purchasing Sunnyside Motors in Mt. Carmel, the local Ford Store. He then combined the Chrysler and Ford Lincoln Mercury lines which are still in business today as J. Wilderman Autoplex.
In 1991, he purchased the GM dealership from the Bellessa family who were also in Mt. Carmel IL. In 2005, Jim Wilderman and his current partner Mark Ide then purchased the property in Princeton which is now Patriot Chevrolet, Buick, GMC. Both stores are still in operation.
When Wilderman bought the Chrysler franchise (Kamp Motor Sales started by Mr. Kamp) the name and location had not been changed since its origination in 1917. And since the Chrysler franchise has never left Mt. Carmel, Chrysler Corporation is presenting Wilderman’s dealership, J. Wilderman Autoplex, with a 100 year of continuous service award. This award will be presented at the J. Wilderman Autoplex on Thursday April 27th at 3pm by a representative of the Chrysler Corporation.
“I’m proud of our longevity and serving the Mount Carmel and surrounding counties. I hope to be here for another 100 years!”
After graduating from PHS in 1966, Wilderman studied journalism and English at Indiana State University.
He intended to enter the newspaper industry, but returned to Mt. Carmel to be close to his father, who was in ill health.
Wilderman took a teaching job in Mt. Carmel. When it was time to buy a car, he stopped by Princeton Ford, where Tom Sharrett was sales manager.
“Tom told Wilderman, ‘Jimmy Joe, I’m not gonna sell you a car…I’ll give you one if you come to work here to sell cars. You’ll never go back to teaching."”
The deal was too good to pass up, said Wilderman, although he continued to teach a while longer.
“I learned a lot from Tom. He had a big heart. He was very good to Princeton and to Gibson County.”