Robert Dollinger walks past a 1964 Chevrolet Impala SS at the 50th Anniversary of the World of Wheels at the Chattanooga Convention Center on Saturday, Jan. 6, 2018, in Chattanooga, Tenn. The event, which showcases classic and modern automobiles, continues Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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Annual World of Wheels car show marks 50th year

Cars packed the 100,000-square-foot display floor in the Chattanooga Convention Center for the 50th annual O'Reilly Auto Parts World of Wheels show Saturday.

People of all ages flocked to the convention center to see the wall-to-wall vehicles, enjoy the festivities and take part in the event.

"This gives grandma a break," said Ron Wise, 61, who came with his son, Aaron, and grandson, Camden. "We love seeing the variety of cars."

Children jumped on bungee trampolines, roller derby girls skated, Star Wars droid R2-D2 rolled through the event accompanied by a Storm Trooper and a packed crowd shuttled through looking at row after row of vintage vehicles.

"Gilligan's Island" star Dawn Wells, who played Mary Ann Summers on the show, was the celebrity guest. She sat onstage, interacting with fans, signing autographs and taking pictures.

"The people who come through here are average Americans, many in an age bracket like mine," Wells said. "It's a clean venue. It's a family venue, and bringing me in, I think, brings in the good of television. It's not the sex symbols or the shoot-em-ups. It's a character that's loved by three generations."

One of the highlights of the show was a 1968 Chevrolet Impala convertible Pat Tillman once cruised in with his friends.

Tillman gave up an NFL career to serve in the military, where he was killed in combat.

The car was restored and painted with photos of Tillman and his friends and family. The car is on an American tour to get potential buyers interested for when it is auctioned next year. Proceeds will go to the Pat Tillman Foundation and to help build a veterans center at the University of South Carolina.

"We want to get people interested and get a little exposure behind the car," owner Dan Pritchard, who was a friend of Tillman's, said. "This community has a lot of great people, and there are a lot of egos, in a good way. We're hoping to tap into someone who says 'I want that car.'"

The World of Wheels event continues today from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m.

Contact staff writer Mark Pace at or 423-757-6361. Follow him on Twitter @themarkpace and on Facebook @ChattanoogaOutdoors.