Last year when the Wildcats made it to the state playoffs, Kurt Berndt and Country Dodge in Cassville decided to take a bright yellow 2009 Dodge Ram pickup truck and turn it into a representation of the community's pride for its Wildcats.
The truck was covered in Wildcat graphics designed by Berndt and then displayed at home playoff games. Shortly after the Wildcats' state championship victory, the original truck was sold.
This summer, after Country Dodge acquired the assets of several dealerships in Ozark, Berndt was inspired by the sight of a yellow 1958 Dodge one-ton truck included in the acquisitions. Berndt and his team quickly got to work on the truck, which had been slightly modified by the previous owners with dual exhaust and side pipes, a modified V8 wide block engine, a black heavy duty flat bed and leopard print seats.
Many local businesses decided to contribute to the new "Wildcat Express." The body shop at Les Jacobs Ford repainted parts of the truck, Stolle's Custom Woodworking crafted custom cattle racks and fold down benches for rear passengers, and Rick's Car Audio, of Crane, donated stereo equipment.
Freedom Bank made a monetary donation in support of the effort, and Ken's Collision finished the cattle racks with a custom coat of stain. Mule Man Graphics of Cassville created the graphics for the Wildcat Express, and Country Dodge added a custom interior, including bucket seats and black diamond tread panels.
Bruce Holt, father of senior Wildcat starting tight end Taran Holt, worked countless hours on the truck and has driven it to all home football games.
"We created the Wildcat Express to show our pride in the community," said Berndt. "It really belongs to all of Cassville."
Future plans for the Wildcat Express consist of adding custom wheels and tires from Ball and Prier Tire in Golden, additional LED lights from Able 2 in Cassville and lower fender skirts from Vollenweider Metal Works of Exeter. Air cannon launchers will also be added to shoot out T-shirts and candy during parades and sporting events.
The Wildcat Express has been seen at every home football game, the Freedom Bank 10th anniversary celebration, Cassville schools for pictures with students and their Big Cats, the Chili Cook-Off and fundraising events for Project Graduation.
The Wildcat Express is available for school and community activities by calling Country Dodge at 847-2137 for details.