Autorama gets into gear

Brad Hicks • Jun 8, 2012 at 9:50 PM

ERWIN — It seems there is a story behind each of the classic and modern vehicles that surround the Unicoi County High School track at the annual Southeastern Autorama car show.

Attendees will also find that the owners of these vehicles are happy to share the histories behind their antique automobiles.

The first vintage vehicle that Autorama attendees will come across after passing through the gates is the 1930 Model A Ford that belonged to longtime Southeastern Autorama club member Raymond Bailey, who was known to those in the club as “Model A Ray.”

“Raymond came from a family of Model A lovers,” his wife, Faye Bailey, said. “His dad had them around for years. They fiddled with those cars all of their lives.”

After Bailey’s retirement from the railroad in 2005, his children purchased the Model A to give him a “little project to work on,” Faye said. She said her husband began working to restore the vehicle. Last year, he got the engine set down in the car, but didn’t get the chance to hear it run. In October, Bailey passed away.

Although it is unfinished, Faye said her son, Joey, had the Model A towed to the high school track on Thursday to be displayed at the Autorama event.

This year’s Southeastern Autorama, the 52nd consecutive year the event has been held, was dedicated to Bailey’s memory. Both Raymond and Faye took part in the first Autorama event in 1960, and she said the couple’s children grew up in the Southeastern Autorama car club. She also said the decision to honor her husband’s memory means a lot.

“It’s very hard for me, and I wondered if I could get through it,” Faye said. “I did not know that Joey was bringing the car down last night. I love it. Our family has evolved around this car club, but it’s been hard for me without Raymond.”

Faye said restoration of the Model A will be completed by family members in her husband’s honor.

Autorama attendees will also likely come across several vehicles owned by Southeastern Autorama club member Mike McIntosh, who also owns Model A Mac’s, an antique vehicle restoration garage in Unicoi. Two of these vehicles, a 1930 Model A Ford and a 1924 Model T, were recently featured in a documentary about a bank robbery that occurred in Mars Hill, N.C., in September 1935.

“Since this bank robbery was done in 1935, they were needing some antique cars to park on the side of the street and also be in the documentary,” McIntosh said.

The documentary was shot on 76th anniversary of the robbery, which saw six men from Newport drive to Mars Hill to rob the Bank of Mars Hill. Not only were McIntosh’s vehicles featured in the documentary, he also got the opportunity to portray Madison County Sheriff Guy English, who pursued the bank robbers.

McIntosh installed a vintage police siren in his Model A used in the documentary and placed a Madison County Sheriff decal on the doors. McIntosh said a number of classic cars owned by him and his late father have been featured in several films throughout the years. But it doesn’t appear the acting bug has bitten McIntosh, as he knows that cars are his true passion.

“I’ve been real lucky in life to do what I love, restoring and working on antique cars and meeting and greeting people,” McIntosh said.

A little down the track sat Jim Buchanan’s 1968 electric blue Plymouth GTX, which has been featured in a number of hot rod magazines and the Speed network. Buchanan said he got the car in December 1967 and has owned it since.

But, as Buchanan proved, not every vehicle at the Autorama runs on horsepower. Next to his GTX, Buchanan displayed the 1955 Schwinn Corvette bicycle that he has owned for nearly 60 years. Buchanan, who grew up in Hampton, said when he was young, his family owned a 21-acre farm and he was responsible for three-tenths of an acre of tobacco crop. At the age of 14, Buchanan took part of his paycheck for the year and paid $85 for the Schwinn bike at the BF Goodrich store in Elizabethton in November 1954.

Buchanan described the bicycle as a “survivor bike,” with the original paint, fender, decals, seat, pedals, grips and brake handles intact.

Buchanan said the bicycle was stored at his mother’s home until he retrieved it last year. He said he put approximately 40 hours into working to prepare the bicycle for the Autorama.

“I mean, it’s harder to get that thing ready for a show than it is that car,” he said.

The Southeastern Autorama car show continues today from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. at the Unicoi County High School track. Admission fees for attendees are $5 for adults, $3 for children ages 6 to 12, and free for children under the age of 6.

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