For Bill Collins, the first car, the one that sparked his lifelong appreciation of and affection for automobiles, was a yellow 1956 Chevy convertible that he can never forget. He bought it from a fellow Greene Countian named Edgar Seaton.
These days, Collins is president of Volunteer State Auto Club, the host organization this Saturday of an auto show in Hardin Park, an outdoor event designed to be free-of-charge family weekend entertainment. Collins will be there, but that old ‘56 Chevy won’t – he no longer has that fondly remembered car – but there will be plenty of other vehicles, cleaned up, shined up, lined up and presented for public inspection and enjoyment.
The event starts at 10 a.m. and will run until 4 p.m. Hardin Park is at 602 Crescent Drive.
The 19 Volunteer State Auto Club members make up what is possibly the oldest auto club in Tennessee and certainly the oldest in Northeast Tennessee. Car shows such as this weekend’s are familiar, well-practiced events for these men. And so far, the members all are men, though there is nothing to preclude women from joining as well, if they possess an antique or customized vehicle.
Collins has been a club member since 1973. His son, Todd, is a fellow member with him today.
Saturday’s show will be the 31st annual VSAC show. Not even COVID has been able to stop the car club from presenting its show each year.
The venue has changed over the years. In earlier years it had taken place at the New Burley warehouse and on Depot Street. When it made its move to Hardin Park about a decade ago, however, it grew bigger and better, club members say.
Collins said the shift to the park location was done because the park was a visitor-friendly, open and easily accessible location. The first show at the park saw more than 400 vehicles on display, an astonishing number. The crowd was huge as well.
Collins cites that first Hardin Park event as one of the most memorable in the ever-lengthening history of the VSAC car show.
Collins and other VSAC members gathered at Hardin Park Tuesday evening for a final talk-over about this weekend’s car show. All these men are owners of antique or customized vehicles, many of them personally restored or modified by the owners themselves. The club members who own them and take great pride in them.
They are wisely protective of their cars, always keeping them sheltered and securely stored. None of the members present at Tuesday’s gathering had driven one of their show vehicles to Hardin Park, coming instead in their day-to-day vehicles. The really good and special ones will be at the park Saturday.
Those who attend are likely to see variety among the displayed vehicles. The show is advertised as being “open to all rods, classic, customs & muscle cars, tractors, motorcycles & rat rods.”
Dash plaques will go to the first 200 registered participants. A $300 grand prize will be awarded.
There will be door prizes for attendees, and two $100 cash prizes will be given to lucky winners.
The VSACshow has gotten attention and participation from well beyond this region. Participants from as far away as Blacksburg, Virginia, and Raleigh, North Carolina, have taken part.
One club member, Richard Broyles, possesses an ISCA Detroit Autorama Great Eight Winning vehicle, which he brought to last year’s show and may bring again this year. A photograph of his Great Eight customized 1941 Ford is displayed on the Wikipedia page about the Detroit Autorama, also known as America’s Greatest Hot Rod Show, which is a prestigious showcase for custom cars and hot rods held annually at the TCF Center in Detroit.
Admission to Saturday’s show at Hardin Park is free.
Sponsors of the event are Gateway Ford Nissan, Apex Bank, Bachman Bernard, Greeneville Federal Bank, Greeneville Parks & Recreation, C&C Millwright Maintenance Inc., Marsh Petroleum, O’Reilly Auto Parts, Towne Square Shopping Center, Atchley Drug Center, Critters Corner Market and The Greeneville Sun.
For information about this weekend’s show, or the Volunteer State Auto Club in general, call Bill Collins at 552-8376, Jerry Metcalf at 620-3515, Greeneville Parks & Recreation Dept. at 638-3143, or visit the website volunteerstateautoclub.org.
The club also has a page on Facebook.
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