The city will play host to the club’s Southeastern Division National Fall Meet, as it did back in 2008.
The three-day event will see more than 250 antique cars rolling into town, as well as auto enthusiasts from 27 states and the country of Australia, said Connie Wright, the event’s chairman. Though she did not have an exact number, she estimated that 2008’s event attracted some 7,000 spectators.
Though many of the items on the club’s event schedule are for members only, anyone from the general public can inspect the finest details of the antique cars during events taking place that Friday and Saturday. Wright said she encouraged everyone to attend the free events because of the cars’ ages.
“This is history,” she said. “These antiques are solid.”
Amid events like outings to tour the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga and historic houses in Cleveland, club members will be showing off their vehicles for spectators at a cruise-in event downtown and the meet’s main event at Westwood Baptist Church, the meet’s location in 2008.
While some vehicles were displayed downtown during the last national meet in Cleveland, Wright said this was the first time many members would be showing their personal cars downtown.
“This year, we decided to make it a good, old-fashioned cruise-in,” she said.
While “cruise-in” may be a familiar term to locals because of the MainStreet Cruise-In events that take place monthly during the summer, she said this would be distinct from that. However, she said Joe Sharp and many of those who take part in Cleveland’s regular cruise-ins will be volunteering to help park cars and make sure everything goes smoothly.
Spectators can view the antique cars downtown from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, Sept. 20.
The main event is set to happen the next day.
Westwood Baptist will play host to the main part of the meet, where all the antique cars registered will be judged and awarded trophies if they do well at meeting certain factors like having historical authenticity and good workmanship on restorations. Wright said 255 cars have been registered.
Included in the list of cars on display will be rare ones like a 1948 Keller Super Chief, a 1969 Plymouth Road Runner convertible and a 1927 Marmon.
Aside from just looking in the antique cars, Wright said families — and young people — will be able to take part in other activities as well.
“It is hard to get the young people interested today,” Wright said.
That is why she said the event will include car-themed activities for children, including free rides in a Ford Model A. A program that will allow teens to learn more about how cars work will also be offered.
Spectators will be able to view the vehicles and take part in the other activities from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 21.
Wright said the church was the original location of choice for the national meets because of the amount of outdoor space available, will use much of its property.
The front parking lots will be filled with antique cars, and numerous activities and vendors will take space on the front lawns. The back of the church will be filled with equipment used to transport some of the oldest cars, and free parking will be available in a nearby field at the corner of Georgetown Road and Villa Drive.
Church pastor Steve Smartt called 2008’s antique auto meet a “wonderful success” and said he and the church’s staff were looking forward to hosting the club’s event again.
“The staff help us with the show and are so gracious,” Wright said.
While the Antique Automobile Club of America is a national group, local chapters exist throughout the country. There are about 70 members in the Cherokee Valley Region which car owners from Cleveland can be a part of, according to its website.
Prior to the Cleveland event, another national event will be taking place in the area. The Glidden Tour, which allows members to drive antique cars from the Brass Era from city to city, will be making stops in Ocoee and Chattanooga this weekend. The event is, however, completely separate from the national event starting Sept. 19.
Wright said between 12 and 15 events billed as “national” take place in different parts of the country each year.