The celebrity-driven Lifestyle Weekend is emerging as a new wave of car events. I’m just returning from the inaugural Chattanooga Motorcar Festival, where the backdrop of downtown Chattanooga, a 1.5 mile flat-out time trial against the clock along the Tennessee River and various celebrity panels provided three full days of engagement for owners and enthusiasts.
In fact, the entire downtown area became one non-stop celebration of motorcars.
Just last week was the debut of Audrain’s Newport Concours and Motor Week (see details in this week’s Concours Corner) held in tony Newport, Rhode Island. Jay Leno was the headliner, along with SCM’s own multi-talented Donald Osborne.
The event included multiple parties, displays and expos. By all accounts it was a great success. It was a complete weekend of gala dinners, rock concerts, tours and car shows.
The Chattanooga event was a mini Goodwood Festival, with time trials and rallies in addition to the typical displays of cars. There were plenty of automotive icons, including Alain de Cadenet, Brian Redman, David Hobbs, Corky Coker, Barry Meguiar, Bill Rothermel, Wade Kawasaki, Miss Hurst Golden Shifter Linda Vaughn, Wayne Carini, Donald Osborne, NASCAR racer Bill Elliot, Ken Gross and yours truly.
We were all in a variety of panel discussions about the market, ranging from the changing demographics of collectors to how to get started in vintage racing.
Having the 1.5-mile Time Trials Between the Bridges occurring between two bridges over the Tennessee River contributed to the unique character of this event. As we sat in the broadcast booth, Alain and I commented that if your commentary was going to be drowned out, having that done by an authentic Ford GT40 going by all full-tilt was a quite a nice way.
The Motorcar Festival was presented by DeFoor Brothers and sponsored by VW of America, which has a plant in Chattanooga. The founder of the event was the ever-gracious and engaging Byron DeFoor.
The City of Chattanooga contributed by closing off the downtown streets for the weekend. The charitable beneficiary of the event was Chattanooga’s Erlanger Neuroscience Institute, a leader in stroke research and rehabilitation.
Given that I had a stroke in January, my conversation with Dr. Thomas Devlin, the Executive Medical Director of the Institute was quite meaningful to me, and he provided me with some thoughtful insights.
It’s always a treat to see a city embrace a vintage car event. Without question the Motorcar Festival was an economic bonus for the area. The host Westin Hotel was located in the heart of the activities, making it easy to get to everything. It was sold out for the weekend.
Many people I talked with had never been to Chattanooga before. They were charmed and planned to return.
I spoke with Head Judge Ken Gross about Audrain, Chattanooga and the upcoming Las Vegas Concours, another lifestyle event. He noted that “People are looking for more than a car show, they are looking for a complete experience.”
Best of Show was awarded to Al and Barbara Mason of Purceville, VA, for their spectacular 1928 Auburn 8-115.
These mega events require big checkbooks to get them launched. According to some, it took $4 million to produce the Audrain event.
The jury will be out for a few years concerning the economic viability of these large events. Will the sponsors continue to be willing to write big checks? Will the public respond in the numbers necessary to make everything balance out? Only time will tell, but the Audrain, Chattanooga and Vegas events are certainly launching this era of life-style shows with flair.
The Chattanooga event was special for me as well, as it was my first time flying and attending a car event since last January.
The well wishes I received from everyone were welcome and filled me with warmth. The car world has been my life for 31 years. I’ve missed it, and it was good to be back. I had as especially moving conversation with Barry Meguiar about the curveballs that life throws at you, and how you have no choice but to respond with positive energy. And just take one day at a time — always moving forward.
In this week’s “Concours Corner” you will find links to the complete results of the Motorcar Festival, as well as a photo gallery.
For a first-time event, the DeFoor Brothers and VW of America hit the ball out of the park. The event was well organized, the sound system was terrific, which kept attendees connected — no matter where they were at the event. Finally, the cars on display, and in the time trials, were of very high quality.
It’s an event to put on your calendar – you won’t be disappointed.