The Coatesville Grand Prix Is a Marquee Event for Chester County

Photos Courtesy NouSoma Communications Inc, Photo Credit Rachel Cathell

The seventh Annual Coatesville Grand Prix is expected to draw thousands of tourists and automobile enthusiasts to town.

It’s hard to imagine traveling back in time. Where would you be and what would you do if you could go back 40 years…70 years…100 years? The Coatesville Grand Prix lets us experience a short slice of that life on the road as it was for 80 years throughout the 20th century.

It’s important to note, though, that despite its name, this isn’t a race. The Grand Prix, taking place Saturday, September 16 on the streets of Coatesville, is an exhibition, though a prize is still awarded. Nearly 80 vintage automobiles and motorcycles from 1900 all the way up to 1983 will take to the course that winds from Lincoln Highway to the historic center of downtown Coatesville, while thousands of adoring spectators look on.

This, of course, begs the question: If the Coatesville Grand Prix isn’t a race, but a winner is crowned, by what metric are the vehicles judged?

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The winners themselves are decided based upon feedback from event workers and marshals, as well as members of the Brandywine Motorsport Club, who help put on the Grand Prix.

The Coatesville Grand Prix gives spectators a chance to see some truly unique vehicles. Photo credit Coatesville Invitational Vintage Grand Prix
The Coatesville Grand Prix gives spectators a chance to see some truly unique vehicles. Photo credit Coatesville Invitational Vintage Grand Prix

Dean Wilford, the chairman of Brandywine Motorsport Club and handler of all car and motorcycle registration, tries to give an idea of what makes an ideal winner. He sums up previous winners most succinctly as, “vehicles that embody the spirit of the event the best.”

The winner for Best in Show car in 2022 was awarded to a Dane Holland, who drove a 1963 Jaguar XKE. It wasn’t the fastest vehicle at the event, nor the flashiest, but perhaps it represented its era better than any other automobile at the show.

Purchased in 1963, the year of its production, it was used solely for racing, never as a street car. After 10 years on the track, it was placed in a garage underneath a tarp until sometime in the mid-2010s when it was purchased by Holland, who had it refurbished and now brings it out to events like the Coatesville Grand Prix.

While it’s expected that the Coatesville Grand Prix would attract unique cars like Holland’s, the event also brings out fascinating characters, perhaps none more so than Marcia Barker of Boontown, NJ.

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2019 Coatesville Grand Prix Best in Show Car winner Marcia Barker.
2019 Coatesville Grand Prix Best in Show Car winner Marcia Barker. Photo credit Rachel Cathell

Driving a Number 7 1928 Ford Roadster, she is, as Wilford puts it, a “silver citizen.” In 2019, she became the first woman to capture the award for Best in Show car, then named the Brian Hoskins Trophy. Despite her age, she holds a 200 mph speed license, which she puts to good use when she and her husband compete at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.

Regular competitors include names like Craig Charles and his 1974 Triumph Trident motorcycle and the father/daughter team of Brian Carrol and Heather Wiggens, who compete in sidecar racing.

Over the course of the weekend from September 14-16, spectators and tourists can expect more than just the Saturday Grand Prix. Leading up to the main event on Thursday is the PrixView Party beginning at 6 p.m. Hosted by Crosby Wood and his wife Nancy at their Brooklawn home, guests can mingle with auto enthusiasts, drivers and sponsors surrounded by a one-of-a-kind display of vintage vehicles.

Friday evening cruise-in
The Friday Evening Cruise-in provides a chance for auto enthusiasts to drive with classic antiques. Photo credit Valley Creek Productions

September 15 features an event in which even the newest of automobile fans can participate in the form of the Friday Evening Cruise-in. Open to anyone with a licensed vehicle, the to-do invites drivers to cruise down Lincoln Highway and into the city with Saturday’s competitors. There’s no entry fee or registration required, and free parking is available for all event participants.

The seventh Annual Coatesville Grand Prix is expected to draw over 5,000 tourists. For one very special weekend, this event gives the city a chance to become a hub for some of the most fascinating vehicles anywhere in America.

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