The residents of Highlands, North Carolina, are very proud of their altitude, as is suggested by the motto of their Motoring Festival. They put the altitude, 4118 feet, on pretty much anything related to the town or the Festival. I had heard of the show and had considered attending for Vintage Road & Racecar magazine, especially since it was only a three hour drive from home. Thanks to a chance meeting with Gus Lard at the Trump Charlotte Concours, I made plans to attend this June. You see, Gus Lard had a ’66 Shelby GT 350 exactly like my first new car – candy apple red, no body stripes, rear seat option. We became friends.
When I emailed about the show, Mark Chmar replied to my questions. His answers and our subsequent conversations caused me to look forward to the show even more. The Highlands Motoring Festival exists to support three local charities. This year the charities were REACH of Macon County, Literacy Council of Highlands, and the Community Care Clinic. There is an entry fee for those who enter their cars, but spectators enter the show free; donations are appreciated. For the first time, I didn’t need a media credential to attend. Like everyone else, I just walked in, although I did leave a donation.
One of the attractions of the Festival is, in real estate terms, location, location, location. The town is in the beautiful mountains of western North Carolina. The permanent population is around 3000, but part-time residents and tourists (like me), can bump that to over 20,000. Don’t expect to see a McDonalds or a Holiday Inn in Highlands – all businesses appear to be locally owned. Then there’s getting to Highlands – the roads are incredible. You will see a warning sign that let’s you know that the road narrows and has many 20 mph turns over ten miles. Perfect! If you enter the Festival, you will have an opportunity to drive those 10 miles and many more, as you’ll see.
Thanks to Chmar, I was given access to several events attended by the entrants. On Thursday night, June 6th, I was invited to Monte Carlo Night. There was food, a silent auction, and gambling with play money. Everyone got chips with which to gamble, and you could purchase additional chips. Once the gambling was over, you could apply the chips to the purchase of something of interest in the silent auction. I’m not much of a gambler and was spending my time meeting some of the interesting people who were attending. I gave my chips to a fellow who was lusting after a fly-fishing rod in the silent auction – hope he won.
One of the people I needed to meet was Lambert Chandler. Chmar arranged for me to ride with Chandler on the One Lap of the Mountains driving tour on Saturday. We were to go in his Austin Healey, but his Bentley turned out to be the better choice for the drive. Chandler and I had several common threads in our histories in addition to our classic automobile passion – Army service, Germany, BMW motorcycles. We spent a lot of time telling stories to each other, many of them quite similar.