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Coker Tire and Wheel
Chattanooga, Tennessee
(February 24, 2017)

Friday, February 24, 2017:
We dropped in for a visit to Coker Tire today, and got more than I was expecting. There are two locations, the warehouse to be seen later. First up was the business office, product display show room, museum, wire wheel shop wood spoke wheel shop, and a huge museum of vintage cars and motorcycles. Limited parking space available, so someone said it was okay to park out cute little rig in the loading dock access. At the front door there is a plaque noting the building is on the National Register Of Historic Places. [Okay, I looked it up. It used to be Cahill Iron Works, Crane Building (preferred name), registered October 14, 1983. Crane used to make plumbing valves and fixtures, noted for making the first colored fixtures rather than white]. Enjoy the pictures.

Up front in the entry gallery, just the teaser before the tour. A bit of brass, some early race, one of the earliest three wheel Morgans, like we just stepped out of The WayBack Machine.

Coker is into a lot of vintage things including manufacturing high-wheeler bicycles. They may be manufacturing the only 36-inch bicycle wheels and tires to match. The Thomas Flyer was one of the first cars to pass in the museum, this one having "graduated from 4-cylinders to 6-cylinders.

You can find lots of vintage engines here, mostly BIG, as back in the day specific power output was low, so displacement was king.

Below left is an early V8 airplane engine, missing most of the peripheral parts. I suppose the big green thing was probably a truck or bus engine. I don't remember the story, but the V12 overhead cam beast was petty impressive considering the era.

There was a pass by the wood wheel construction shop. Two walls were lined with patterns for almost any wood wheel spoke ever made (maybe twice as many as appear in this picture), so they can be reproduced.

Then the steel wheel shop, including steel hubs and wire wheels. You have to get the impression that these guys can reproduce any wheel that was ever made.

Then the tour was on to the warehouse, ... Uh, make the the museum that is big enough to be a warehouse. I have not seen this many early vintage cars in one place before. The blue VW Beetle is a special 20th anniversary edition. The Isetta (300 cc engine) is one of the earliest (sporting front bumpers for the American market). The large chassis on the wall is a 1917 Chevrolet V8. Too far ahead of its time, too big and too expensive (several times more expensive than the mass produced Fords of the era), it didn't sell well and was soon discontinued. When re-introduced in 1955 the engine was not changed much.

Did I mention that Coker likes motorcycles? Many are being restored here. A few vintage airplanes as well.

There are some British car here. You may see more of them later if you stay alert.

By now you should be noticing a preponderance of drip pans throughout the museum, certainly not just for British cars, but for everything vintage.

Did I mention that everything here runs? They like to take them out and drive them all occasionally.

The 1953 Ford truck has been hot-rodded a bit. I used to drive one of those, back on the farm. Notice "Honest Charlie" in various places all about. Some time ago Coker bought them out, and still run the business today. The supercharge roadster was once a 31-day construction project, assembled entirely from H.C. speed shop parts.

There seems to be no end to this stuff, and I didn't get pictures of everything.

The Autocar has a small engine under the seat, and chugs along about 12-mph. Get on or off while it's moving, so it doesn't have to stop and get moving again. The roadster with underslung frame was so low that it needed huge wheels to have enough ground clearance for the rough roads of the day.

The green roadster is more than may first appear. Independent front suspension, disc brakes, and a modern engine that could surprise anyone. The '51 Ford is highly customized and rodded, carrying a thoroughly modern Eco-Boost engine.

How fast can you say "Stutz"? The Stutz Bearcat was a sure sign of money in the family. It was once restored like new but Coker didn't like it, so it was intentionally "antiqued" to make it look real.

Heading out through the restoration shop. there are a few things that seem to be surplus and may be for sale.

Tour over, we had to drive across town to find the tire warehouse which is why we were here to begin with. This is where all your vintage tires come from. Coker doesn't actually make tires, but they have procured the molds and commission some smaller tire manufactures to make new vintage tires. If you like vigorous driving they have radial tires in vintage sizes. If you want concours originality, they also have original type bias ply tires.

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