Staff Photo by Matt Hamilton / Corky Coker at The Coker Museum.

Joseph "Corky" Coker, self-proclaimed "car guy" and perhaps Chattanooga's leading ambassador to the collector-car community, is the grand marshal of the 2021 Chattanooga Motorcar Festival.

The three-day festival here, Oct. 15-17, will feature a Concours d'Elegance, a 600-vehicle Mecum Auction, a Ferrari show and a series of wheel-to-wheel auto races in downtown Chattanooga.

The festival is expected to attract up to 40,000 auto enthusiasts. Coker, who operates the The Coker Museum and Honest Charley Speed Shop in Chattanooga, was a previous owner of Coker Tire, the largest supplier of collector-vehicle tires and wheels in the world. (The company, started by Corky's late father Harold Coker, was sold in 2018.)

The Coker Museum on Chestnut Street houses some of his 180 vintage cars and motorcycles. Coker has also been chairman of the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA), the world's biggest auto aftermarket entity with 700 member companies.

Here, in his own words, Coker gives a more detailed look at the upcoming festival.

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Staff Photo by Matt Hamilton / Corky Coker looks over a 1959 Jaguar at The Coker Museum.


On Chattanooga becoming a major "car city" ...

"I actually had a vision for this. I was involved with Volkswagen deciding to come to Chattanooga. My father (Hamilton County Commissioner Harold Coker) was the first one who applied to the military to have the VAAP (Volunteer Army Ammunition Plant) site completely decommissioned. A car plant is what you looked for because of the number of jobs created."


On attracting visitors to Chattanooga through the Chattanooga Motorcar Festival ...

"Car people are the best people in the world, I believe. (Festival founder and philanthropist) Byron (Defoor) and I and the motorcar festival team want to bring the best people in the world to the best mid-size city in the country."


On the new Pace Grand Prix at the Bend races for vintage and historical cars on Riverfront Parkway ...

"There will be cars from the 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s. There will be some pretty high-end race cars. There will be grandstands in a number of places. ... Maybe we can have an Indy car race in the future."


On a world-class Ferarri exhibition being part of the festival in 2021 ...

"It will be a gathering of the greats at the Westin (hotel). We have connected with a bunch of people who are willing to share their cars with Chattanooga and the people who come to the festival."

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Staff Photo by Matt Hamilton / Corky Corker with a 1910 Nyberg, a car made in Chattanooga, at The Corker Museum on Tuesday, August 24, 2021.


On the nationally televised Mecum Auction at the Chattanooga Convention Center Oct. 15-16 ...

"Frankly, Dana and Frank Mecum have developed a celebration of automobiles and motorcycles. ... They bring in their tractor trailers and set up their show. Half of Carter Street will be closed. There will be tents so people can come and look at all these collector cars. ... Car guys are coming from all over the nation."


On the national exposure the Chattanooga Motorcar Festival will give the city ...

"Chattanooga is poised. We've got the climate, a great government, a Governor that is very open, two mayors (Chattanooga and Hamilton County) that are very positive.

"I'm just tickled to be part of lifting up Chattanooga to make sure more people come here."


On the goal of the festival ...

"I just want people to have fun around collector cars. We need to bring back the Sunday drive."