Nothing motivates a car enthusiast to get out of bed before sunrise more than the prospect of 75 degrees and a zero percent chance of rain. For once, I made it to Nashville Cars and Coffee before 8 o’clock. It was already so packed that I had to park in the back corner, but I didn’t mind. I spotted my friend Chris’ radical pro-touring 1970 Camaro on the way in, so I headed to check it out. I found the blinding yellow split-bumper easily, and waited for crowds of curious onlookers to move so I could get a decent shot of it. His car is deserving of its own article, but the highlights include a rowdy LS engine, Tremec 5-speed manual, Anvil Auto carbon fiber accents, and a nitrous system. Chris’ friend Bob made the journey from north of Bowling Green, KY in convoy with him in a nice, but notably more subtle, Mercury Cougar.
I’ve seen a wide variety of cars over the years – everything from Paganis and Ferraris to Morgans and Hemi Cudas. I’ve even seen the last 1931 Gardner. No, I had never heard of it before I saw it. I had yet to see the current generation Ford GT before Cars and Coffee when I saw a bright yellow one parked beside a bright yellow 2005-2006 GT and a bright yellow Porsche 911 GT3RS. I don’t know what the deal with the yellow cars was. I’m just happy to say I’ve seen the new Ford GT now. The banana boys from Caffeine and Octane should’ve been in Nashville! If that sentence doesn’t make sense to you, click here: https://vettesofatlanta.com/caffeine-octane-brings-out-corvettes-and-the-banana-boys/.
Staying with the yellow theme, Nissan brought out the Z Proto for its Cars and Coffee debut. It looks better in person, as the grill that looked like a black void in many pictures is more defined in the flesh. The rear of the car is the real star. It’s gorgeous from the rear three-quarter angle. This is a car people will love to watch leave. I later found a group of guys standing around a ’66 GTO and joined their conversation. I recognized one of them as my friend Mark whom I met at Cars and Coffee several years ago and have followed on Instagram since. He owns a 1970 GTO and is the vice president of the Pontiacs of Tennessee club, so I was excited and gracious when he offered to help me fix the leaking pinion seal on my own GTO that a shop had recently been unable to fix. Car people are the best people – someone I had only spoken to a couple times is willing to drive an hour and a half each way to work on my car.
When my time at Nashville Cars and Coffee was up, it was time to head down to Atlanta again. I plugged in the Marietta Diner – made famous by Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives – and selected the best option in all of navigation: Avoid highways. The weather could not have been better for a two-lane cruise as I got away from the high-end developments surrounding Franklin, TN. I passed through rolling hills, cattle farms, and Tennessee whiskey country on the drive toward the Alabama state line. I briefly found myself cruising behind a classic Mustang Shelby GT-350H, but couldn’t get a picture before it turned off my route. The road eventually wound up from the valley floor to the top of a ridge where the pavement was buttery smooth and traffic was all but nonexistent. Long, sweeping corners linked together for miles as I passed many trees and few vehicles. I stopped to take pictures of my car in the middle of the road, keeping my ears alert for approaching cars, but none approached for several minutes while I framed up some shots. I thought this was a road to absolutely nowhere, but finally passed a couple trailheads for the Walls of Jericho. I’ve heard of this hiking area, but I didn’t stop to take in the sights on this trip. Maybe next time.
From there my route took me through rural northeastern Alabama to Fort Payne, home of country music legends Alabama (the band). The road east out of Fort Payne climbed quickly towards Little River Canyon. Somewhere along the way, I passed a yard full of old Mopars, followed shortly by a neighbor who had an equivalent Chevy yard. I resisted the urge to stop for a look at what was clearly private property. “It’s better not to get shot today,” I thought. Shortly after passing through the Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield, I spotted the gleaming chrome exterior of the Marietta Diner. Being a party of one meant I got to bypass the seemingly endless line and go straight to the bar. The diner isn’t a 50’s kitsch-fest inside. Instead, it’s New York City Greek-style diner, as the couple next to me remarked multiple times. Their accents told me they were clearly from the Big Apple, so I took their word on the establishment’s authenticity. I ordered a burger, ate some of the spanakopita and sweet bread provided as appetizers, and watched the Kentucky Derby on the TV above the bar. The burger was good, but not the best I’ve ever had. I would give the Marietta Diner 4 out of 5. Finally, I headed for Gate City Brewing in Roswell, GA. Being unfamiliar with the area, I didn’t know Roswell was a Saturday night destination. Parking was a nightmare, but the brewery was a good place to spend a couple hours that I would’ve otherwise wasted in the hotel room.
Sunday morning arrived cloudy, but otherwise nice. Caffeine and Octane was already overflowing when I got there around its 8:00 AM start time. A few stray sprinkles passed through; not enough to dampen the spirits of droves of enthusiasts. A few curious car guys asked if my Hot Rod Magazine hat meant that their pictures were going to be in the magazine. I told them that I’m only a fan for now, but hope to be writing for the magazine one day. Nevertheless, I spent some time drooling over a mint Grabber Blue Boss 429 Mustang. The owner said it was restored to stock condition, but with lower compression to run on today’s lower octane unleaded gasoline. It even had the irreplaceable original type battery and space saver spare tire! Mustang May didn’t stop here – there was a plethora of stock and custom classic Mustangs, two police package Foxbody Mustangs, and innumerable late models of all flavors. The much-maligned Mustang II of the mid-70’s was conspicuously missing from the lineup.
Old school hot rods pull me in like a moth to a floodlight, so it’s only natural I gawked at a ’32 Ford with Buick Nailhead V8 power. While the Buick Nailhead may not have the panache of a Ford Flathead, it is an excellent way to achieve traditional style without some of the headaches of the ancient Ford mill. Plus, it makes more power right out of the box. Well, maybe right out of your grandmother’s ’57 Buick Special. The stance was on the money, too. Inside, this hot rod had a ’40 Ford dash and a shifter that looked like a skull. I heard the owner tell another person looking at his hot rod that it achieves significantly less than 10 miles per gallon. Combined with the miniscule stock tank under the trunk, I can imagine that makes for a lot of stops at the pump.
I scanned the lots a couple more times, then set up near the exit to catch people on their way out. It’s nice to have the show come to you. The mass exodus at the end of a show like Caffeine and Octane puts the diversity of the car scene on full display. Jeeps, Ferraris, Lamborghinis, customs, and even a Ford Raptor pulling a Porsche 911 GT3RS passed me. The Buick-powered ’32 passed me, and the occupants smiled as I snapped a couple more pictures.
Two shows down, one to go. I left C&O and headed for Cars and Cigars in Kennesaw, Georgia. It has become a kind of unofficial after show for Caffeine and Octane, with plenty of modern muscle and some other interesting attendees. Things like a Model A roadster and an Overfinch Range Rover caught my attention, as did a row of Skittles-colored McLarens. Someone revved a mild engine across the show as I examined a pair of Jaguar F-Type SVR convertibles. I joked to the owner of one, “I bet you can show them a thing or two.” He smiled and asked me if I wanted to hear it. “Of course!” I said. I had heard about the SVR’s raucous exhaust, but never experienced it in person. It snarled when he punched the accelerator. Even though it’s limited to 3000 rpm while in park, it popped and cracked like the Fifth of November while calming back down to idle.
I hit the interstate toward home after this, but quickly decided to go backroads after I saw road construction ahead on the GPS. I crossed over I-75 in Chattanooga and felt sorry for those stuck in the gridlock below, then saw the same misfortune on I-24. Never had I been so happy to not be on the interstate. I climbed the W Road up Signal Mountain, listening to a bit of the Fourth of July from my own exhaust on the deceleration. I saw a bit more yard art on the last leg of the trip – including an AMC Rebel “The Machine” at what looked like a closed repair shop. No, I won’t tell you where it was. Unless you pay me a finders’ fee.