Coker Tire Challenge: Part 1

Coker Tire Challenge: Part 1

I dig Tennessee. And I think the reason I enjoy the area so much is that it reminds me of Austin. The folks are hospitable, timing isn’t all the important, and there’s just a general laid back vibe all around. You gotta dig pretty deep to find anything too pretentious around these parts and frankly, I’m never around long enough to even catch a glimpse of anything less than novel. All in all, it’s a pretty damn good setting for a bunch of old farts in old cars.

I arrived in Chattanooga just last night. Jess Hoodenpyle picked me up at the airport, took me out for some fine BBQ, and then dropped me off at the hotel in order to get ready for the big day today. Having never been to or driven in a “Rally” of any kind, I had no idea what I was in store for. All I knew was that I was to meet my navigator (Jeff) and that he would help me tune my speedometer and show me the ropes.

All morning, I walked around asking folks for Jeff.

“You mean Jeff Stumb? He’s your navigator and you’re a rookie? Boy, he’s competitive. I hope you have your wits about you.”

As I continued my trek around the Coker campus looking for Jeff, I began to take notice of certain peculiarities. For one, this is an older crowd – I’d guess the average age of the competitors to be well over 50. Secondly, their cars featured subtle (and some not so subtle) differences from what I’m typically around. The seemingly avid competitor drives a 30′s era Ford although there are some odd ball makes, models and years around such as 70′s era porsches and even a later model Blazer. It seems to me, most of the diehards and event favorites drive “crazy old” speedsters that look like very early Indy cars and feature the appropriate power plants to boot – flathead fords, 4-bangers, straight sixes of various manufacture, etc…

Most of the cars are covered in decals from past rally events and none of the competitors flinched as tech inspectors added even more for this event. NASCAR would be proud.

Tech inspections continued and I had yet to find my nav man, so I kept walking, exploring, and meeting folks. It seemed like every ten minutes or so that I would meet a 60 to 70 year old man and hear about the story of him and his wife driving their 1917 “so-and-so” from coast to coast multiple times. Most had won what sounded like an important rally in the process. Of course, the conversation would inevitably end with, “Ohhh… You are Jeff’s partner? Hope you’re ready!”

And then, finally… I found Jeff. He wasted no time in getting me acquainted with the car that I was to drive during the event – Corky and Honest Mike’s ’32 roadster powered by a blown flathead. Within minutes of our meeting, he had me installing what looked like a seriously sophisticated speedometer in the car and buttoning up any lose ends. Half an hour later and we were on the highway calibrating that speedometer.

“Hold it at 50 mph for the next 5 miles. Not 51, not 49… But 50 mph!”

It sounds easy enough, but you try to do it… Especially if you are driving a seriously hopped up flathead that is just begging to go twice that speed. I managed, but just barely.

The question, however, remains… Will I be able to keep hold of these reigns during an entire day of rally racing tomorrow or will I give into my hot rodding heritage and let it rip? And if it’s the later, what are the chances of Jeff strangling me with a piece of bailing wire liberated from my speedo install?

Only time will tell gentlemen. Tune in on Monday to read for yourself.

Note: No idea if I’ll have the time or not, but I might be updating my “from the road” blog here as I rally my ass off.

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