Antique Car Tour Drives Profit to Byway
A byway organization assumed coordination of and now profits from a proven annual tour event targeted specifically at antique car owners and enthusiasts.
When the previous sponsor could no longer host the nearly 30-year-old event, the 501-c-3 Indiana National Road Association (INRA) took over coordination of an antique car tour. Because Association staff is limited, a host of volunteers, businesses, Chambers of Commerce, churches, Convention and Visitors Bureaus, schools, libraries, museums, government agencies, and citizens groups help with preparation and implementation of the tour. See How. INRA received a Best Practices for Byways Award for this tour for its success in creating awareness and educating the public.
Sixty antique and classic cars (pre-1960 vintage automobiles are preferred) are occasionally joined by a modern-day experimental model car for a slow- speed tour of the historic National Road in Indiana. Because the Indiana National Road Association is focused on preserving the historic nature and landscape of its byway (the National Road was the first federally-funded highway in America), this tour event featuring antique and classic cars is perfectly in keeping with the mission of the byway organization (INRA) and of its partner organization, the Historic Landmarks Foundation.
INRA held its inaugural National Road Antique Car Tour in 2001. The tour is held each year the weekend after Labor Day.
The tour covers a section of Indiana’s 156 miles of the multi-state National Road and in the past has included a lap around Indianapolis Speedway. The first tour covered the byway stretch from Indianapolis to Richmond. The 2002 tour took drivers from the Indy 500 speedway in Indianapolis to Terre Haute. The 2003 tour included the historic National Road and Henry County attractions off the byway. The 2004 tour included the byway and the historic bridges of Putnam County. The 2005 tour will take drivers on the byway to points south of Knightstown. Organizers expect the 2006 to span from Effingham, Illinois, to Baltimore, Maryland, in honor of the road’s bicentennial.
The owners of antique, classic and experimental cars are invited to tour the byway, driving at an historically accurate driving pace. Tom Carnegie, “Voice of the Indy 500” for more than 50 years, serves as the volunteer Grand Marshal of the tour and the banquet speaker.
Each driver receives an information packet; a CD-ROM with tour events, auto photos and the history of the National Road; a trophy; and a banquet invitation. That packet also includes a tour survey.
Motorcycle police provide escort and traffic control. Volunteers along the way provide refreshments, host the tour drivers’ banquet and have donated trophy bases.
The byway organization carries event liability for the tour. Volunteers staff starting locations.
Cars stop at designated sites in each county. Museums, such as the Texaco Museum, open especially for participants. College students assist with parking at each stop.
The tour is promoted with a publication showcasing both the autos and the byway. Publicity efforts focus on media, historical societies, and city and county officials in the byway’s six states. The tour also draws national attention from magazines, newspapers and radio stations. Three thousand copies of a newsprint tour promotion publication with car photos, byway history, and articles were distributed to schools along the byway and to public attending the tour. A commemorative CD-ROM is presented to all the schools along the road. VIPs also receive a CD-ROM. A website was developed during INRA’s second year coordinating the tour.
In 2003 a Trophy Clock with the Historic National Road logo was presented to drivers and sold as a souvenir.
When INRA first assumed coordination of this tour, the tour was structured as an awareness builder rather than a fundraiser. In-kind support was critical to reach the break-even goal. The total cost of the 2001 tour was $11,762.00 with 42 percent of that total received as in-kind value from Chambers of Commerce, photographers, artisans and others.
Since those first tours organized by the byway organization, INRA has developed ways to make the tour a fundraiser. In 2005, drivers paid a $75 fee to enter their car (2005 Application PDF) and for two meals - lunch and a dinner banquet, site admission, and a commemorative gift. The fee for each passenger for lunch, banquet and site admission fees was $40.
Merchant advertising underwrites program costs. Clocks designed with the byway logo are presented as trophies and are sold as souvenirs for $25.00. Among the souvenirs sold to benefit the byway organization have been pins, hats, shirts and, the most profitable item sold ($20/sign), a road sign with the Historic National Road name.
In the 4th year of the tour, INRA made about $3,000 in profit. Merchandising sales of pins, hats, shirts, etc. has the potential to raise more funds, but would require more staff time for marketing efforts.
Why An Antique Car Tour:
• Antique cars and an America’s byway are a natural
pairing that draws public and media attention
Best Practices for Byways brochure: The Road Beckons: Creating Awareness and Educating the Public: National Road Antique Car Tour – contact Jeanine Buck, America’s Byways Resource Center, Duluth, MN; 1-800-429-9297 x5, then x4