Under the Hood of Chattanooga’s Car Community

Written by Rachel Jordan

Frank Zucchi and his co-driver race past the finish line with Charles Test close behind in their matching 1910 Nation race cars. Friday, October 15, 2021. (Photo by Jerrod Niles)

From growing up playing with Hot Wheels to owning your own hot-rod, the Chattanooga car community is a welcoming spot for all different types of car enthusiasts. Being so close to large cities like Atlanta, Knoxville, and Nashville, the car culture in Chattanooga has become a melting pot of these influences. The culture is diverse in many ways with different genres of car scenes, whether that’s the off-road, muscle or classic American. Chattanooga loves to blend different cultures and styles. 

Mason Gavin and John Ludwick give us a look under the hood of the Chattanooga car community. Video by Jerrod Niles and Kalie Shaw.

Recently, downtown Chattanooga held its second annual Motor Car Festival that showcased lots of exciting, interactive events transforming the area into an automotive lover’s paradise. The festival included four notable events- a Concours d’Elegance, a road rally, the Mecum car auction and the race-track competition. The track was designed as a new 2.1 mile road course that winds through the riverfront of downtown Chattanooga.

Mason Gavin, the host of two of Chattanooga’s most popular car events: Riverside Chattanooga and Chattanooga Off-Road Monthly Meet, has been involved in the car culture since his early years in high school. When asked what initially got Gavin into the car culture, he described his time spent with one of his friends when they were 16 at a local pop-up meet here in Chattanooga. At the time, Gavin was more involved with photography than cars, and he saw the meet as the perfect opportunity for photos. While taking stills hanging out of car windows, his enthusiasm was born. 

Amber Stephenson drives her 1963 Lotus Super 7 through turn 3 at the Pace Gran Prix. Friday, October 15, 2021. (Photo by Jerrod Niles)

The possibility of meeting new friends and strengthening older relationships is one of the draws of Riverside. Gavin hopes as Riverside Chattanooga grows, visitors take the opportunity to meet some great people, enjoy what Chattanooga has to offer and make the meet-up about more than just the cars. Unlike other car meets and shows, Riverside doesn’t award any prizes for the cars. This keeps the focus of the event on the culture and community.

“You don’t need some super cool car to feel welcomed in the community, just show up,” says Gavin. “Everyone is just as excited that you’re there as well.” 

While there is already a large car community here in Chattanooga, people from all over the country, Canada and Mexico have traveled to share their passions with others just like them at Riverside.

One of Gavin’s closest friends, John Ludwick Jr., recently migrated to the Chattanooga area with his 1965 Chevrolet Corvair, which has been featured in numerous car feature magazines and includes original pieces specifically made for Ludwick’s Chevy. Ludwick expressed how being a part of such a diverse community provides a lot of influence and insight for everyone — regardless of age. 

Everyone in the car community has something to offer others and for a lot of the younger generations, these communities build character. “Kids becoming better humans in cultures like this is what is most important,” says Ludwick. “They learn discipline because the car isn’t going to build itself.”

Mason Gavin gives us a glimpse under the hood of the Chattanooga car community and what it means to him. Audio by Kalie Shaw

Coffee, Cars and Catch-Up

Written by Virginia Campbell

It’s not the coffee that pulled over 630 cars onto Chattanooga’s Riverfront this past September, but the people and the culture. Quick Everett’s Garage hosts the Chattanooga Cars and Coffee every other month, bringing in hundreds of cars and their owners from all walks of life.

Cars and Coffee is a national title, with meetups occurring all the time all over the country. The Chattanooga meeting has been around for years, however it came to a halt in 2020 following the pandemic. Perry Freeman says the baton for the event was handed over to him and Quick Everett’s in January, after customers said they wanted to bring back a routine event for their cars, instead of keeping them in a garage all year. 

During their first Cars and Coffee this past January, Quick Everett’s found their parking lot overflowing with over 150 cars. Freeman expects it to continue growing, garnering drivers from outside the city.

The community surrounding the meetings are large and diverse. “All walks of life show up at cars and coffee,” says Freeman. “That’s the great thing about it.”

He cites people of all races and nationalities, all income brackets, age groups and genders. There’s always one thing people can count on from everyone in the community: a mutual respect for cars, the collecting, the working on and the driving. 

“That’s the good thing about cars and coffee being organic,” says Freeman. “It doesn’t matter what you bring…You may have a ten thousand dollar Subaru parked next to a half a million dollar Lamborghini.”

Freeman expects the culture in Chattanooga, and in general, to continue growing and evolving, including additions of more electric vehicles and more customized cars. Because of the car and labor shortages, these changes are already happening. People often bring in cars to Quick Everett’s that have been abandoned for years, or tucked away in their garages, to be repaired and ready for the road. 

Freeman makes a point of adding that both the culture and the Cars and Coffee meetups wouldn’t happen without the people around him. “It’s almost like a baby,” he says. “It takes a community to raise it.”

With Chattanooga being a local hotspot for car culture, this event continues to grow at every meeting and Freeman encourages anyone with a car and a craving for community to take Cars and Coffee for a spin. 

Meet The Storytellers

Virginia Campbell is a senior at UTC studying Communications. She is an avid writer, with visual design skills and five years experience in live sound engineering at First Presbyterian Church of Chattanooga. She has interned at Glass House Collective and found much of her passion lies in non-profit work. To read some samples of her work, visit https://sites.google.com/mocs.utc.edu/vlcampbell-portfolio/home.

Ben Ducklo is an audio producer and writer. He specializes in audio recording and editing. Ben has a few stories posted on Rising Rock. Ben is an outdoorsy person and loves to go hiking. Ben is also the captain of the UTC rugby team. Ben’s contact information is txh872@mocs.utc.edu and check out some of his work on RisingRock.com.

Rachel Jordan is a broadcast journalist with four years of broadcasting experience and is currently a junior Communications major at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Rachel is a hardworking, dedicated individual who aspires to capture people’s interests through her words of storytelling. In her free time, Rachel enjoys listening to music, painting, and catching up on her favorite podcasts. For questions or collaboration with Rachel, contact her at vwr245@mocs.utc.edu.

Jerod Niles is a multimedia producer who specializes in camera operation and post-production. Niles has over 5 years of experience in media production and is always looking towards the future. He is currently working on multiple freelance jobs as well as a media internship for Wanderlinger Brewery. You can find more of his work as well as contact information on his portfolio here: https://cqm463.wixsite.com/mysite

Kalie Shaw is a multimedia producer experienced in telling community driven stories. Her past work with Rising Rock gives platforms for overlooked voices. Shaw’s ongoing project is a story on the people of Rossville, Georgia; a town in economic decline since the mill industry left yet the community remains hopeful. For more, and to view her portfolio, please email her at kalieshaw99@gmail.com.

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