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  • Zachary Suell

Great Cars and Bikes at World of Wheels 2020

If you’re like me, you’re ready for car show season after the Holidays. Or maybe you’re always ready for car show season. In either case, you’re in luck with the O’Reilly Auto Parts World of Wheels. The 2020 Chattanooga World of Wheels was my second year attending the show, and it impressed once again. Just inside the exhibitor’s entrance was a build outstanding as it was unique. This build, known on Instagram as lowlybenz_dh, is a 1976 Mercedes Benz 300D. It features a stately gray paint job with a rich saddle brown interior. Mercedes builds of this vintage are uncommon. The few that are out there usually have a late-model engine swap. This one maintains its diesel engine, showing it off like a proud hipster fiancé in her engagement photos. If the engine wasn’t enough jewelry, this beauty features an Airlift air suspension system, making sure the rocker panels are intimate with the ground. Finished off with a Focal audio system and Nardi steering wheel, this is a car that might just Rock You Like a Hurricane.

The Mercedes wasn’t the only star from Germany at World of Wheels. A swarm of Volkswagen Beetles invaded the show floor in a wide array of styles. If entomology isn’t up your alley, perhaps you can get behind a cool 1959 VW Double Cab (Doka) packing a Scat performance 2234cc engine rolling on rare Speed wheels. The double cab was a fresh build and it showed, with a beautiful pistachio green and off-white finish. I learned a lot about these scarce automobiles, including that they have a flat undertray like a high-end racecar. The double cab’s owner, Mike Turner, said about 80% of the sheet metal on his truck has been replaced with new stampings made in Colombia, using the original dies. In the quest for more speed in this notoriously slow hauler, Mike intends to install a new 2234cc engine with 4-barrel carburetor and turbocharger.

Not your typical truck by any stretch of the imagination.

Vaughn’s Hot Rods out of Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia brought several builds for their booth in the center of the hall. One display was a black 1969 Z/28 Camaro that was still in progress. Their real gem was their 1950 Ford Club Coupe. Resplendent in a coat of glossy black, this shoebox Ford was an absolute stunner. The finish was beyond compare, as was the chrome. The stance was spot on with a tasteful Ridetech suspension drop tucking in the Billet Specialties wheels wearing BF Goodrich rubber. Wilwood disc brakes behind those retro wheels haul this little shoebox down to a stop with ease. All of that said, my favorite part of the car was the engine bay, packed with an iconic Ford Flathead V8 mated to a Ford AOD transmission. The Flathead was topped with Edelbrock cylinder heads, an Offenhauser intake, and three Stromberg 97 carburetors. A ribbed metal canister on the firewall was an aftermarket oil filter made by Moon just for Flatheads, since they didn’t come with one from the factory. The interior is a clean, simple tan leather with stock gauges.

I’ll be the first to tell you I’m not a huge motorcycle guy, but I would be remiss not to talk about the bikes of World of Wheels. Motorcycles had a much larger presence this year over last, with everything from a vintage Honda Goldwing to a Vietnam War memorial Boss Hoss trike. Custom bikes were plentiful and diverse. There were several bobbers sporting throwback gold leaf designs and engraved brightwork. One even had engraving on the carburetors! These were just the traditional V-Twin-powered bikes. There was an old-school build that used a Moto Guzzi longitudinally mounted engine. There was a Marilyn Monroe tribute bike, featuring no fewer than three airbrushed images of the Hollywood icon.

If I had stupid money, I’d buy one of these as a decoration for my living room.

There were numerous Indian motorcycles as well – a good sign for the current incarnation of the storied manufacturer. One vintage Harley Davidson Knucklehead build stood head and shoulders above the rest. It was a clean build without any crazy paint or wheels. Simple black and chrome worked well on this bike. Long tailpipes accented much larger-than-usual fenders on this Harley, with a tooled leather seat. This bike wasn’t for the novice – the lever coming up from the transmission means it’s equipped with the infamous ‘suicide’ shift. This means you must take your hand off the handlebars in order to change gears. I have enough trouble just walking on flat ground, so I’ll limit myself to just admiring this bike.

I usually like the cafe racer style of motorcycle the most, but this Harley makes me rethink that.

I could go on for hours about the cars, trucks, and motorcycles of World of Wheels. The quality of all the builds was top notch, and the builders and owners knew their machines well. World of Wheels and similar shows are not the “you gotta drive it” type of car show, but they are a great way to spend a day in the offseason for car events. What’s not to love about a car show immune to rain?

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