There’s nothing quite like the feeling of returning to reality after a weekend you’ve anticipated for months. Every year, I look forward to my return trip to Chattanooga, Tennessee for the Riverside Spring Meet where I catch up with all my childhood friends, make new ones, and enjoy some of the best builds the East Coast has to offer. This year, Riverside 6, was something truly special. With record attendance, an unbelievable amount of quality builds, and perfect weather, this trip once again lived up to my mental hype that has Riverside cemented as my favorite annual show. Take a trip with me to the mountain city and enjoy the sights captured for the first time through my own lens. Welcome to the Riverside Chattanooga 6 full event coverage.
Like any good road trip in my old E30, this one began with some hair-raising problems I should have expected. Every year seems to present a new challenge with my BMW, a tradition that goes back to the very first Riverside event before I had moved here to work at ECS. The first year I blew up my M20 engine on the way to the show, the following year I cracked my oil pan. I actually couldn’t make it the third year for Riverside 3 (because my car was broken too severely to drive down.) The year after that, I chased electrical issues the entire time. Two years ago my convertible top leaked profusely, which caused yet more electrical issues that year. Last year was the first where I made the trip without any issue, mainly because I spent the preceding weeks with the engine out of the car and performed some serious maintenance. However, this year, despite pulling my car from storage and addressing all the seasonal services, I still had my fair share of hiccups.
A clogged fuel filter stranded me the morning before my drive down to Chattanooga while on the way to work. Naturally, I had just filled the tank in preparation for the drive, so I spent that evening replacing the filter while I received a shower of gasoline that ruined one of my favorite Hawaiian shirts. Since I’m a smart boy, I had disconnected the negative battery terminal while I fiddled with the fuel system. Somehow, I forgot to tighten it down fully, which ended up saving my bacon. On the drive down, torrential rains kept my speed to a near crawl from Akron to Columbus. As I came into town, I noticed some funky electrical things began to happen. I grimaced as I was flooded with memories from past years dealing with more electrical problems, and pulled off at an exit ramp to find out what was happening.
As I exited the highway, I hit a good enough bump that the negative terminal must have jostled loose enough that the engine died instantly. This turned out to be perfect timing, as I entered what looked like a small puddle. The puddle was a flooded section of road that submerged my E30 up to nearly the hood of the car. Fortunately, I coasted through it with the engine off thanks to my previous negligence. That loose negative terminal likely saved my M52 from sucking in gallons of water, which was certainly a blessing in disguise. I was able to tighten the battery terminals down and continue with my road trip issue-free, happy to think that a stupid problem likely turned into a saving grace.
After the long trip down, Friday morning came much too soon. Despite exhaustion, I joined John Ludwick of The Governor’s Club/Ludwick’s Garage for their small brunch meet-up. John is a staple at the Riverside shows, but we have only had the pleasure of speaking briefly on a handful of occasions. This year, with his own pre-meet organized, I was able to spend time with him and his crew, appreciate the work that has gone into one of his more famous projects, this BMW 700 dropped on a shortened VW Beetle frame and sporting a VW air-cooled four-pot engine.
The stunning, minimalist interior, aggressive natural patina, and story behind this car make it something truly special. John has established this unique style that he expertly weaves into all his builds, with the help of his father, which has contributed to his recent internet fame. Even with that growing recognition, the man exudes car culture idealism and humility. Spending the morning with him and the other drivers in attendance at the intimate gathering carried that vibe I love so much about Riverside. No clout, no awards, just friendly enthusiasts deeply ingrained in car culture who love to share their passion with new and old friends alike.
That evening, the official pre-meets happened for the first time in two locations due to the insane turnout. Our usual pre-meet in a lot downtown Chattanooga simultaneously took place while hundreds of us also gathered at the lot beside the event venue. Unfortunately, I was somewhat trapped since I had arrived early and was blocked in, so we stayed for the duration of the meet happening at the UTC Moc’s stadium beside the pavilion where the official event would happen the following morning.
The pre-meet is always such an adventure. Show cars, spectator cars, and builds that decided not to enter the show are scattered among each other, which supplies an incredible variety, unlike anything you can find in similar large-scale organized shows. It would be too lengthy to describe that kind of range, so we’ll just show you instead. Bear in mind, this is nowhere close to everything, just some of the better shots I took with my untrained photography skills.
Saturday morning, my friends and I caravanned to the official event for event car load-in. It is usually a bit crowded, as there is only one entrance into the back lot that allows access to the open-air pavilion where the event happens every year. This time, a thirty-minute gridlock gave some idea as to the scale of Riverside 6. Normally, there are somewhere around two-hundred cars that are approved and roughly five-hundred total including the spectator lot. I don’t know the official numbers from this year, but somehow they managed to pack what I could only guess was double the attendance numbers into the event space. Double-parking was required and there was almost no space around any car left as we tightly packed into the venue.
Ordinarily, I would have complained that they ‘let too many people’ into the show. However, as you can see from the images, everything that was approved deserved to be there. The quality of Riverside is always unmatched, as is the creativity of each build. This year was no exception, there was just considerably more to appreciate. In part due to Riverside being the first real event of the year for the region, but also likely from the lack of events due to the pandemic, this year’s show was unbelievably full.
I could scarcely spend minutes with each car or conversation as my attention was pulled away to another build. The indoor showcase is for vendor cars, high-budget builds, and generally the ‘best of the best’ that are admitted to the show. However, for the first time, the sheer volume of astounding builds in the outdoor showcase kept my focus entirely on that segment, which was massive. Wading through the sea of people and cars was nearly impossible but in a good way. Every few feet had me stopped to admire something simply stunning.
This year, I’m going to let my photography do most of the talking. I feel at a loss for words due to the overwhelming attendance and the spectrum of cultures, styles, and vehicles present. I just couldn’t summarize the show in a concise enough article, so enjoy the shots and cars that made Riverside 6 unequivocally the best rendition of this annual show yet. I’m already looking forward to next year. Maybe we can top it once again, and hopefully, I’ll see you all there for Riverside 7.
Riverside 5 Fall Coverage:
Riverside 5 Unofficial Spring Coverage
Riverside 4 Coverage