Club History

This is the club history as compiled by talking with founding, former, and present members, as well as, meeting minutes and newsletter articles. Harold Gilreath, a city policeman at the time, called a meeting for interested car people at the police station on Center Street in August of 1973. Approximately 7 people attended. Harold, Don Bellamy, Don Wolfe, Gary Childress, Bill Parham, Doug VanHuss were among those attending.

The first official meeting was held on January 10, 1974 at Bill Parham’s house with about 15 people attending. Election of officers was held with Don Wolfe as president, Tom Castle as vice-president, Phil Robinson as secretary, and Jack Tymon as treasurer.

Club 40th Anniversary Group Photo 2014

Club 40th Anniversary Group Photo 2014

The emblem of the Kingsport Antique & Rod Club. It is the profile of a mag wheel and an antique wire wheel set together to form a figure eight with the club name inscribed on the tire portions. The tires are black and the wheels are blue and silver. The state of Tennessee in red is laid over the area where the tires come together, and there is a white star on the state indicating the location of Kingsport.
The February meeting was held in Don Wolfe’s garage. Naming of the club was discussed with several choices to pick from, Kingsport Antique and Rod Club was selected. Club colors was also discussed at this meeting.

The next meeting was held in Gary Childress’s garage. with additional people attending. The club emblem and by- laws were discussed at this meeting.

We started having monthly meetings in the Civic Auditorium getting to standing room only with about 75 members.

We moved to the old Kingsport Rod and Gun Club building for a while in 1975 and then back to the Civic Auditorium before trying several restaurants in town, including the now closed Center Street Restaurant, Pratts, Western Sizzling, and Prime Sirloin before settling in at Ryans. When Ryans closed in 2008 the meetings were moved to Golden Corral.

Our first car show as such, was held in the Kingsport Mall in 1975. We had approximately 18 club cars on display. The good part was that they paid the club for doing it.

Our first Rod Run/Car Show, the Model City Rod Run, was held at Warrior’s Path Park in 1977. We had about 25 entries and lost money on this one but everyone had a good time. We moved to Broad Street for the ’78 and ’79 Model City Rod Run.

Headquarters was the Travel Lodge/Downtowner Motel across from City Hall with the Tommy Dickens Band for the dance on Saturday night.

Due to lack of interest we did not have a show in 1980.

We held shows in the tobacco warehouse in Weber City, VA. to benefit the Scott County Rescue Squad in 1981-82. Club member Harold Frye’s band furnished entertainment.

We held shows at the Appalachian Fairgrounds in Gray, TN, in ’83 & ’84. We rested until 1987 when we began having shows at Natural Tunnel State Park at the request of Kenny Fannon of the Scott County Chamber of Commerce. The show was called Natural Tunnel Auto Festival until 1991. We changed the name to Tunnel Run, which continued until 1999. We held a Friday night show for several years at the Kingsport Mall parking lot to benefit the local Humane Society during this time also.

We then moved to the Fort Henry Mall for what is now called the Wilderness Trail Rod Run. We have also held a Friday night Benefit Show at Walmart for the Johnson City chapter of Ronald McDonald House for several years preceding our Saturday show.

In 2003 through 2022 the Wilderness Trail Rod Run was moved to downtown Kingsport at the Historic Train Station location for a Saturday afternoon/night time event.