If you catch a glimpse of a parade of antique cars rolling through the back roads of your town, you’ll be lucky enough to have witnessed the Revival AAA Glidden Tour®. The tours are held annually by antique car hobbyists to celebrate automotive history.
In December 1902 AAA conceived of a tour of different parts of the country where a variety of road conditions would be encountered with the 1904 World’s Fair at St. Louis as the final destination. Three major routes were selected, leaving from New York City, Philadelphia and Baltimore. Officially, 77 cars participated in the run, of which 66 made it to St. Louis. The 1,350-mile run from New York to St. Louis took 18 days and culminated August 12th with a grand parade through the city to the fair site, featuring the 66 finishers and 200 local cars.
AAA provided the participants with maps and descriptions of the routes through their areas, along with local driving laws and licensing requirements. They sent out pilot cars to mark confusing turns in the route with confetti and encouraged local motorists to drive out and meet the touring groups and to accompany the groups out of town. The clubs arranged for letters of greeting from local officials, offered listings of local hotels, assisted in securing reservations, arranged for meals, and, in most instances, provided some form of entertainment. They also arranged for cars to be lodged overnight in a centralized location so they could be viewed by the public, and if repairs were needed, arranged for suitable overnight garage space.
One of the original participants, Charles J. Glidden who was a wealthy New England industrialist and avid automobile supporter, became the most notable sponsor for the next year’s tour. Subsequently, as Glidden continued this offer over the years, AAA tours became known as the Glidden Tours.
Today, AAA is involved with the re-creation of the original tours, working with the Vintage Motor Car Club of America (VMCCA) and the Antique Auto Club of America (AACA). Now known as the Revival AAA Glidden Tour, this annual experience is one of the most prestigious touring events in American auto history. This year the tour will be held in beautiful Saratoga Springs, NY with over 150 vintage cars participating.