The Oldest Car Show in the South

Red Boiling Springs, Tennessee has hosted a car show every year for 62 years. The show usually draws several hundred cars to the Thomas House Hotel, but was smaller than usual this year thanks to rain in the forecast. Since the show is hosted by the Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA), the rules are pretty stringent on what is required to be in the stock class. I talked to the owner of an incredible 1968 Plymouth Road Runner in the “modified” class. The only things not dead stock on the car were an aluminum radiator and wheels from a 1969 Road Runner – things that wouldn’t get a second thought at many shows. Ultimately, I understand why this makes the car fall into the modified class, but it seems a little too picky to me.

Beautiful B5 Blue Road Runner.


If you want a car show that has it all, this one does. Everything from a 1903 Curved Dash Oldsmobile (probably a replica) to  a Ferrari 488 Spider in an enclosed and wrapped trailer (which I rolled my eyes at) graced the lawn. Well, those happened to be right next to each other on a concrete slab, but the point is still valid. Buick Grand Nationals also made a strong showing, with three of the G-Body brutes on display. One GN owner had cleverly changed the “B” in the Buick badge on the grill to “Q”. Among the more unique vehicles at the show was a 1980’s Ford pickup with a lot of wood body parts. I did not photograph this truck, but you can probably imagine what it looked like. Several cars rarely seen in the United States also made the show, including a 1969 Sunbeam Alpine and a Trabant.

I had no idea what this car was when I saw it. It’s a 1969 Sunbeam Alpine GT.

I like cars of all kinds, but garden variety classics like Camaros, Tri-Fives, and Mustangs can get a little stale. That’s why I gravitate to less common brands or straight-up weird stuff so often, and things like a front-engine-swapped Corvair drag car with front-facing headers really get my attention. Not far from this creation were a minty fresh Rambler and a Ford Model A in a traditional hot rod style, except with a Ford V6 for power. The show even hosted not one, but two, Cross-Fire Injected Corvettes. At least two of them still exist, in other words. One of my favorites from the show was a 1950’s Willys Jeep in full farm implement trim. If it was mine, I would have to change the green shag seat covers, but to each his/her own.


Nashville’s famous Lane Motor Museum brought out a couple of their signature bizarre European cars: a wonderfully wooden 1950 Martin Stationette and a 2006 Smart Brabus Roadster. The Smart Roadster is a surprisingly attractive car considering the brand’s much more well known (and much more heinous) product. It reminds me of a scaled-down Lotus, even though I’m not sure how you can possibly scale a Lotus down. The front of the Martin resembles a tiny wooden trolley car, but the overall package is more BMW Isetta. Granted, the Martin came out before the Isetta, but that should help you, the reader, visualize this odd little car.

If you ever find yourself in this part of the country, a stop at the Red Boiling Springs car show is well worth a few hours of your time. The town itself holds several historic hotels and the nearby landscape is a nice place to drive or take in the sights. Just bring plenty of water, because it’s still hot in Tennessee in September. As usual, you can find a complete gallery of my pictures from the show here.

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