Nation’s Oldest And Largest Antique Automobile Tour Comes To Chattanooga

Friday, September 6, 2013

Chattanooga will be home base for an automobile tour unlike any other—the AAA Revival Glidden Tour—the oldest and most prestigious antique car tour in the country. Some 229 antique autos and their owners will tour approximately 425 miles during the week-long event from Sept. 8-13. Local residents will have the opportunity to view the vehicles along the route.

The tour re-creates similar events first sponsored by AAA in 1904 to demonstrate the reliability of automobiles and the need for good roads, uniform traffic laws and services for automobile travelers. Building off the success of that initial tour, AAA organized a second run the following year. But where the 1904 tour was a “pleasure trip” and not a race, the 1905 event was a competition. The winner of the 1905 tour—and subsequent tours—received a $2,000 trophy offered by Charles J. Glidden, a wealthy New England industrialist and avid automobile supporter. From that point on, Glidden’s name would be used for the tour. The original trophy is on public display in the atrium of the AAA National Office in Heathrow, FL.

After the 1913 event, the tour ended its run, as its purpose had been fulfilled. American-made cars had proven their reliability, good roads were being built, and fair motoring laws were being enacted. Today, AAA is involved in the re-creation of those original tours, working with the Antique Auto Club of America and the Veteran Motor Car Club of America. AAA Tennessee will partner with these organizations to provide AAA roadside assistance for the tour and to promote tourism to the state.

Unlike a car show, the tour emphasizes driving a pre-determined route, re-creating the purposes and traditions of the early AAA events and providing a week of pleasurable daily car trips to points of scenic or cultural interest. To win the AAA Revival Glidden Tour trophy, participants must complete the entire tour without requiring the aid of AAA roadside assistance. Drivers must also complete a set of daily tour cards recording their start and end time for each day’s trip.

This is the third year Tennessee has hosted the event since the revival tours began in 1946. At least seven of this year’s participants were at either the 1969 or 1985 tours that originated out of Tennessee. The 2003 North Alabama tour also briefly visited Tennessee. This will be Bud Jonas’ 30th AAA Revival Glidden Tour. At age 82, Mr. Jonas, of Michigan, will be driving the same 1910 Oakland he drove in the 1985 tour. He purchased the car in 1958 and has put more than 200,000 miles on it since.

Wayne and Rosa Anna Hadden were on the 1985 tour traveling from Gatlinburg to Asheville when the designated route was closed by the authorities because a fugitive was on the loose. Ms. Hadden says it didn’t worry them much, except that they missed lunch because of it. The couple owns a restaurant in their home town of Georgia and until recently they would close down the restaurant during the week of the Tour—it was their vacation week. Now, their son helps run the restaurant and he keeps it open while they are out touring.

Participants will tour nearby attractions such as Rock City, the International Towing Museum, visit Raccoon Mountain, Red Clay State Park, South Pittsburg and take a ride on a Chattanooga riverboat and the Tennessee Valley Railway and more.

For the first time ever, a modern Electric Vehicle (EV) will be included in the tour in order to demonstrate to the motoring public the important role EVs are already providing as a viable alternative to gas-powered vehicles. The AAA branded Chevy Volt along with AAA’s newest EV charging truck, stationed in Orlando, Fl, will be on display at stops throughout the tour and also at a special event at the AAA Chattanooga branch on Wednesday, Sept. 11, from 4:30-6 p.m. Additionally, visitors will be able to view a few vehicles on the tour this year, as well as one of the first electric vehicles ever manufactured. The AAA branch is  at 2111 Gunbarrel Road.

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