22 Hours in Chattanooga

I anxiously checked the weather throughout the week leading up to the Chattanooga Cruise-In. The forecast didn’t look good at first, but eventually the rain chance moved to Saturday afternoon and I left work Friday afternoon ready to head to ‘nooga. I arrived at my friend’s apartment in Chattanooga a little after 11:00 Friday night. Saturday morning came early as I wanted to be sure to make the most I could out of the day before the weather turned sour.

Just a clean and simple hot rod.
A ’40 Ford that could easily be meeting this early 50’s Ford pickup on a quiet back street to get the weekly load of ‘shine.

Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of the cars at the cruise-in were classic American cars. I probably saw more ’40 Fords there than the rest of my life combined up to this point. I guess that’s what you get in moonshine country. 50’s-style hot rods were not in short supply either, and Flathead V8s could be found around every corner. Flatheads could also be found in great quantities inside the Honest Charley and Coker Tire museum, among other more unique items. After seeing so many old school hot rods on Instagram recently, it was nice to see some in person. I don’t know what it is about them, but they speak to me on so many levels. They aren’t powerful by today’s standards, I’m sure they’re uncomfortable, and they probably aren’t reliable either. I don’t care. I will have one some day.

Aside from Flatty-powered hot rods, there were some other vintage gems of the era on the streets of downtown Chattanooga. Your eye could be drawn by everything from a 4-cylinder Bantam coupe done in a vintage racecar style to a row of cars on a back alley that would make you think you just walked into the early 1960’s. I would be remiss not to note the super clean lowriders that rolled in as well. I talked to the owner of one ’64 Impala riding on airbags, who was a Los Angeles native and happy to answer a few questions I had. One question I had was the translation of his club’s name, the Viejitos. He told me that it translates basically to “Oldies” – a fitting title for a throwback crew such as his.

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Muscle cars were stars of the cruise-in as well. Of course, you have to go to a show that is purposefully not for muscle cars to avoid seeing them. I’m not sure why you would want to do that, though. One that stood out in particular to me was a 1968 Firebird Convertible. Of course I am biased as a Pontiac aficionado, but the car would hold its own in any crowd. I talked to the owner a for a few minutes, who told me it did indeed have a Pontiac 428 as the badge on the hood stated. Of course, the 428 was never installed in the Firebird from the factory, and the owner said it was unusual for someone to use a 428 instead of a 400 or 455. Take that as you will, but it could have been a dealer install when the car was new.

The rare and unusual were not left out either, with such rarities as a factory supercharged Studebaker Avanti, a Plymouth Volaré station wagon, and a couple Ford Fairmont wagons with more than slight customization. One of these was complete grandma-style with wood grain and factory wheels with wire wheels covers. Oh, and an enormous BDS blower with dual quads and a funny car scoop sticking through the hood. I couldn’t help but laughing out loud at the levels of absurdity and awesomeness coming from this monster engine in such an otherwise sedate car. Burnouts for distance anyone? The other wagon was a bit of a different style, being lowered on BBS wheels with a roof rack carrying a set of drag slicks and skinny front tires. It was packing a Coyote 5.0 under the hood.

It was a fast trip to Chattanooga, as I was there for less than 24 hours. I can imagine the crowd would have been massive if the forecast was better, but there were still lots of cars and spectators. I will most likely be back in the future. As usual, there are many more pictures than I included in this article. I took well over 800 at the event, and the ones I kept can be found here. Thanks for reading!

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