Chattanooga Motorcar Festival 2023
Volume 48 Issue 21
Nov 4, 2023
Chattanooga Motorcar Festival has so much to see and do it's hard to put it into one article. Block out next October and see you in Chattanooga!
Over the years I’ve seen car events come and go. They start out with big plans and lots of ambition. After a couple years they falter, and the excitement is just not there.
Three years ago, I was told about a new event that was going to have a racetrack and rally. They would have cars displayed. Car clubs would be included and there would be a proper concours.
I was invited but the schedule did not coincide with taking the weekend off. Not that it is very far from Atlanta. Chattanooga is a short two-hour drive from Suwanee through some of the finest back roads in the Georgia countryside.
My excuse for year two was about the same. Funny how you will travel to faraway places to see the sights and you can’t make it to things in your own backyard.
Last year I took the plunge and made it to the Sunday concours, mainly because I heard there would be Ferraris. Some Ferraris were parked at the Westin Hotel in the West End Village and others were placed along the streets in the surrounding neighborhood.
Nice, but not what I would have considered to become a must-see, must-attend, surely not-to-be-missed event. Then I met Byron DeFoor at the Amelia Island Concours.
I had bumped into Ken Gross and he soon said I needed to meet Byron, who invited me to come to Chattanooga the next Tuesday to help with plans for the fourth annual Chattanooga Motorcar Festival.
Monday morning, I left Amelia and headed to Chattanooga. It was there I joined a group of Ferrari owners and Byron’s capable staff to begin planning. I had no clue as to what I was getting myself into.
I can assure you my contribution was small as my celebrity status is still fairly unknown. To be included with greats such as Ken Gross, Wayne Carini, Justin Bell, Dick York, Corky Coker, and Ferrari owners such as Kevin and Connor Cogan, Kevin Caulfield and Judd Dayton, I was honored to be part of the process.
The driving force behind it all was Byron DeFoor. He owns the Westin and several other hotels and understands how important the customer experience is. He also has a passion for cars and a love of Chattanooga.
Chattanooga, Tennessee, lies smack-dab between Nashville, Knoxville, Birmingham, and Atlanta. From those points it’s a two-hour drive through some of the prettiest country in the south. It’s also just a full-day’s drive from nearly every state east of the Mississippi.
Chattanooga itself lies in a bend of the Tennessee River and is in the shadow of Lookout Mountain which is the home of Rock City. Who has not seen the red “See Rock City” birdhouses, billboards and barns throughout the country?
Much Civil War history surrounds the area, and the Tennessee Aquarium is one of the finest in the country. So why can’t Chattanooga have a world class automotive event?
Byron is a force of nature. What he wants is to put on a good show and highlight the city of Chattanooga. Even more important is promoting the Fifty Plus Foundation he started with Brian Johnson of AC/DC fame.
Malcolm Young was one of the guitarists of AC/DC and he suffered from dementia. The Fifty Plus Foundation works to raise funds for Alzheimer’s research which is the driving force behind this event.
Proceeds benefit Neuroscience Center at CHI Memorial and the Neuroscience Innovation Foundation of Chattanooga. While most think Chattanooga would not be the center of stroke and Alzheimer’s research, the gains made at CHI Memorial are recognized worldwide.
My own father benefited, not directly, but indirectly, from the knowledge this research provides. At 90-years old he was discovered in bed by the staff where he lives. Slightly disoriented, he was transported to the local hospital in Venice, Florida.
There he received a clot-buster drug and was given a CAT scan. This revealed a blocked artery in his brain and he was flown to a Sarasota hospital to be operated on to remove the clot. From discovery to recovery was less than two hours. Today he has no paralysis, motor or memory effects from the stroke.
The signs of a stroke can be slight, but all should be able to recognize if you feel ‘off’. Time is of the essence and if caught quickly, usually in the first four hours, damage can be prevented with minimal aftereffects.
This public service announcement is over. Needless to say, the Chattanooga Motorcar Festival helps to continue needed research.
So, how do you entice people to come and enjoy the show? Let’s have a track set up for demonstration runs. Partner with Brian Redman and Targa 66. Bring your car and have fun driving a nearly two-mile course set up with fifteen challenging turns.
The demonstrations include fast Porsches to a Smartcar. The highlight of each day were the Mercer and Stutz models along with other makes no longer in business. To see these runabouts at speed with drivers and riders hanging on for dear life was exciting.
There was even a 308 GT4 outfitted with number 4 making laps. It was a European version and while not being pushed as hard as many of the others out on the track it still sounded good as it went by.
It was also fun to be walking through the track area making small talk with Brian Redman himself. There was no end to the celebrities at the festival.
Celebrities included the aforementioned Wayne Carini, Corky Coker and Justin Bell (Derek Bell’s son and racer in his own right) and many others. David Gooding, Chip Foose, and Donald Osborne came, along with Lyn St. James and Linda Vaughn.
Jay Ward is a name most might not recognize but you know his work. He is the creative director for Pixar “Cars” movies.
The best celebrity and Grand Marshal was Luigi Chinetti, Jr., himself. It was very special to have him attend. More on him later.
Canossa led a rally on Wednesday that spent the night in Asheville, North Carolina. Remember those nice southern mountain roads. What better way to exercise a Ferrari than by an excursion through the Appalachian Mountains. The return on Thursday must have been just as thrilling.
Friday started with a short Ferraris-only rally that wound through the Lookout Mountain area with a lunch stop overlooking the river and city.
That group included a Dino and Daytona, a 250 GT SWB and a GTC. Several modern cars rode along also.
Various car clubs were displayed on the streets making it interesting to wander around to discover something unusual or rare around each corner.
The beauty of holding the show in the West End Village is nearby restaurants and bars all within walking distance. Hungry? Just drop in and continue to people watch. Good food was always a few steps away.
Two blocks down the street was the Mecum auction. Every good concours should have an auction, right? For two days the auction floor was jumping with cars flowing into and out of the convention center.
Cars were parked inside, and it was interesting to walk around and dream about having a garage large enough to fit my desires, but alas, I left without bidding or buying. Several Ferraris crossed the block and while they were not spectacular cars there was a 1979 308 GTS that sold for $69,300.
In my last article I talked about affordable Ferraris. This would fall into that category, too rough to be collectable, but nice enough to drive and enjoy.
The day is not over yet because there is a concert stage, and a band is going to rock the streets! Who? None other than the B-52s. Attendees fill the streets and large screens project the band so even if not directly in front of the stage you feel like you are right up front and personal with the band and the music. Love Shack and Rock Lobster drive the crowd wild, and today’s activities are over.
And it’s only Friday!
On Saturday there was a whole new group of cars to see.
But first breakfast. We stop into a little diner, the Innside Resturant. From the next table a guy sees my hat and asks if I brought a Ferrari. “No, did you?” He did not, but soon we are deep in conversation with Mike Gillespie from Nashville, a Tennessee Region FCA member and subscriber.
When it comes to Ferraris you never know who you might run into. We exchange cards and the next time I’m in Nashville… Biscuits and gravy are finished, time to check out the cars.
There were Ferraris on the street and in their own dedicated parking area. Ferrari of Atlanta displayed several new models and nearby was a group of modern cars lined up with lots of attendees checking out the 458s, 488s and F8s people brought for display.
The special Ferraris are cordoned off in their own parking area. Right next to a new feature called the J.W. Marriott Ferrari Club. Ferrari owners who bring a car or have brought a Ferrari in the past are able to gain access to the lobby area of the Hotel Clemons.
Inside was a comfortable, quiet place to unwind, relax, or hide from the throngs of people roaming the streets. DeFoor, a Marriott hotelier, was able to persuade Mr. Marriott, a long time Ferrari enthusiast, to bestow his blessing and use the name on this relaxing getaway. Drinks and snacks were provided along with a couple of Ferraris parked inside.
One was a 246 GT in Rosso Dino, S/N 03058. Displayed by Connor Cogan, this very original car was a delight to see. Nearby was one of Pininfarina’s most beautiful creations, a 500 Superfast, S/N 7817 SA, resplendent in Grigio Argento with red leather interior.
Outside the line of Ferraris was impressive. A 250 GT SWB and a 250 LM greeted those in attendance. Next was a 250 Europa and a 250 MM. Two F50s, an F40 and a GTO filled one side. A Daytona and a 330 GTC occupied the center.
Hanging out with Ferrari people is always fun. While standing with Frank Campanale, Bill Warner came by with Donald Osborne in tow. Osborne inducts Campanale into the secret American Sarcasm Society. Warner indicates I may be a candidate in the future. Even if it doesn’t come through on these pages, I have often been referred to by its acronym.
Saturday evening banquet is a dressy affair. Our table had several extra seats and I invited Chris and Pat Current and Stuart Field to join us. The evening was enjoyable with much conversation about Ferraris, what else?
The live auction raised funding for the Neuroscience Innovation Foundation. Remember this is why we are here. To help further knowledge in the hopes of preventing Alzheimer’s and strokes.
Sunday brings yet another group of cars. These are not just for display but judged. Porsche, Corvette, classics, runabout and even some Concours d’Lemons fill the streets. And Ferraris are there.
Many of the Ferraris from Saturday are now being judged. Last preparations have been made and all are ready for close scrutiny.
A 250 Europa Vignale Coupe, S/N 0295 GT, and a 250 MM, S/N 0258 MM, brought by Kevin Cogan and Brian Ross, respectively, have their hoods and doors open with judges swarming over details and checking operational items on each car.
Other teams are inspecting a 250 GT PF Cabriolet, S/N 3233 GT, by Garrett Hayim, and a 330 GTC, S/N 10573, by Larry Benson. A blue GTB Turbo, S/N 79590, by Glenn Butler was one of the most colorful in a sea of red and was also a rare Italian market only car.
There was one group of interesting Ferraris: Challenge cars. One of each Challenge car was represented. From a 355 Berlinetta and 360N-GT to 430 Challenge and 488 Challenge car. From a generally stock 355 modified to track use to the very purposefully 488 the transition was interesting to see.
All the Ferraris were winners with the crowd. Clearly the public who came to see unique, rare and special cars were winners. Chattanooga Motorcar Festival pulled off another fantastic event.
After all the concours winners had crossed the ramp and received trophies it was over. Three full days of fun and fellowship, unique cars, good food and yet it was still not over. At least the official event was over but there was still one more thing to report.
Luigi Chinetti, Jr., invited a group of us to dinner and a short walk across the street to the Old Gilman Grill capped the end of a fantastic weekend. I was honored to spend time with the icon of Ferrari in America. There were stories and drinks, laughter and new friends.
The Chattanooga Motorcar Festival is so much more than track time, or an auction, concours, or rally through the countryside. It is more than sharing automotive art with the public. It is even larger than the donations to the Fifty Plus Foundation and the Neuroscience Center.
It is about the friends we make and the passion we share. Chattanooga may not be on your radar in October, but it should be. Don’t come for the day, you will miss all it has to offer. Come for the week, you will not be disappointed.