The journey to America’s ‘urban Festival of Speed’

After an overdue visit to the DirtFish mothership, David Evans travelled to the Chattanooga Motorcar Festival


The Chattanooga Motorcar Festival wasn’t something I’d seen coming. Certainly not on the same weekend that Sébastien Ogier could be crowned World Rally Champion on the other side of the Atlantic at Rally Spain.

I was in Seattle for a long overdue week in the DirtFish mothership and travelling out slightly earlier made even more sense when DirtFish owner Steve Rimmer agreed to display his beautiful ex-Fabrizio Tabaton Lancia 037 at the festival in Chattanooga.

First job, where’s Chattanooga?

Turns out it’s between Atlanta and Nashville, pretty much on the border between Georgia and Tennessee. That flight booked, I moved on to the internal from Atlanta to Seattle.


Five hours?


I’m used to an internal flight from London to Edinburgh and vice-versa. They’re not really supposed to be longer than an hour. It’s fair to say, my grasp of American geography has improved considerably in the last week – not least when our CEO Justin Simpson casually dropped into conversation that it had taken four days’ driving to get the Lancia trailered from the America’s northwest to the southeast. And those four days included three significant snow storms in Montana and Wyoming.

Chattanooga Motorcar Festival was packed with the full range of automotive history, from some very, very early NASCAR metal all the way through the full gamut of Ferrari road cars and onto some of our world’s more bizarre creations.

In the middle of the weird and very wonderful sat Steve’s Lancia, looking resplendent and happily ahead of a Porsche 917 wearing a Martini livery I’d never seen before.


Chattanooga’s a great place. Sitting alongside the Tennessee River and in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains, it’s somewhere with deep significance in American Civil War terms.

Unfortunately, my American History is right up there with my American Geography. Suffice to say, I asked all manner of stupid questions when I was confronted by canons on top of Lookout Mountain (pictured below).

I almost redeemed myself by almost understanding some of the rules guiding a football match won by Chattanooga Mocs (the local college team).

The Motorcar Festival was great, like an urban Goodwood Festival of Speed with an American twist.


Predictably, once I was told some of the roads through the State forests were gravel and open to the public, I felt the need to nose the Toyota Corolla hire car towards the woods. Good? Great. Wide, Finland fast in some sections with a bit of New South Wales Australia thrown in and then some tighter, twistier, technical stretches.

My enthusiasm was curbed slightly by news that Black Bears and Coyotes were equally big fans of these same woods.

Will I go back? Definitely.

But by Sunday evening it was time to head south to Atlanta to fly north to Seattle. More of that trip later in the week.