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Double Feature at Museum - May 7, 2008

Double Feature at Museum - May 7, 2008
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Double Feature at Museum: Coker Tire/Honest Charley Exhibit Opens at Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum

“A Tribute to American Ingenuity” honors classic tire maker and historic speed shop

Text & Photos by Dick DeLoach & Bill Groak

A special "double exhibit" celebrating the 50th anniversary of Coker Tire and the 60th anniversary of Honest Charley opened May 7th at the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum (Pomona, California). Presented by the Automobile Club of Southern California, the new exhibit, titled "A Tribute to American Ingenuity," runs through November 16th. The May 7th opening was in conjunction with the Museum's monthly Prolong® Twilight Cruise Night.

 

"The long, colorful history of these two legendary companies will be a real treat to see," said Tony Thacker, executive director of the Parks Museum. "Both have had major influences on the hot rod and racing industries. The new exhibit ‘raised the bar’ in terms of professionalism. It’s one of the best ones we’ve ever had.”
 
"My family and I are honored that the NHRA has decided to help us celebrate our golden anniversary at the fantastic Wally Parks Motorsports Museum," Corky Coker said. "Wally Parks helped legitimize the car hobby and was one of the first staffers at Hot Rod Magazine. Honest Charley Card was one of Hot Rod's first advertisers, and Coker has been supporting car guys since its inception, so it's a great fit and we're very excited."

Harold Coker started the Coker Tire Co. in 1958. Coker had the vision of making rare and obsolete tires commercially available to antique car collectors. In 1974, Harold's son Corky was handed the reigns of the antique tire company. The vintage tires represented less than five percent of the company's total tire business. Today, Coker Tire is the world's largest and most prominent supplier of antique and classic tires for automobiles, trucks and motorcycles.

 

Corky Coker also had a hand in reviving Honest Charley, one of the first speed shops in America. "Honest" Charley Card established the store in 1948 in the foothills of the Great Smokey Mountains in Chattanooga, Tennessee. It was one of the first speed shops with coast-to-coast distribution, and one of the first computerized automotive businesses. "Honest" was a fixture at both Daytona and at Indy for many years. He retired in late 1970. In 1998, Coker acquired the Honest Charley name and trademarks. The store is now located within the Coker Tire Complex in historic downtown Chattanooga.

The exhibit, designed by Corky’s daughter Casey and Aaron Wolfe, features rare photos, catalogs, artifacts and memorabilia from the rich history of the two companies, according to Greg Sharp, curator of the Parks Museum. Special guests on hand for the opening included George Barris and “TV Tommy” Ivo.

 

Several significant vehicles are on display, including: the Double Exposure ’32 Ford roadster, the ’37 Buick Schaffer "Great Race" roadster, the Honest Charley V8-60 motorcycle, Ed Winfield's Model T racer - one of the most famous T racers ever, Sam Barris' ’49 Merc - arguably the most famous Merc custom of all time, "Jungle Jim" Lieberman's Camaro Funny Car, sponsored by Honest Charley, and the Tommy Ivo/Bruce Larson Top Fuel dragster, famous for its spectacular fiery crash at the 1974 NHRA Winternationals.

After the press preview and exhibit opening, Corky served as a Budweiser celebrity judge at the Cruise Night. “Go out and drive these cars,” he told a group of reporters. “It not only helps the industry, but wears the tires out.” The next Prolong® Twilight Cruise Night is June 4th. Visit www.museum.nhra.com for more information.