History | Coker Tire Chattanooga
Introduction to Coker Tire
Harold Coker started the Coker Tire Company in 1958 as a modern day tire and service center. Harold’s first hand knowledge of the old car hobby, and his own struggle to find the correct tires for vintage cars led him to the concept of producing and selling era-specific tires for classic cars. It may have been a gamble, but gut instinct took over and Harold set out to make an attempt at the vintage tire trade, which was in its infancy. At the time, the old car hobby was very different, and no one had a firm grasp on the future of the industry, or if it would be a profitable market.
In 1974, Harold's son, Corky Coker was handed the reigns of the fledgling antique tire division of his father's tire dealership. During these early years, he sold vintage tires out of a 500 square foot area in the back of the retail center, while the main business came from walk-in customers wanting tires for their everyday drivers. Aside from direct sales, his job was to determine how to produce tires that were no longer being manufactured, and which sizes and styles would be most popular. He also decided how to market and distribute the tires, so he had plenty to keep him busy.
To overcome the challenge of producing brand new tire designs, Coker Tire determined early on that purchasing discontinued molds from old factories was the best source for truly authentic tire reproductions. Corky literally searched the world, including South America, the Philippines and Australia to acquire molds from various factories. When the molds cannot be sourced, Coker Tire has new molds built from original drawings and blueprints. Either way, the molds are refurbished to today’s standard and tested thoroughly.
Through the years, the Coker Tire team brokered deals with major tire producers that gave the company worldwide licensing agreements and exclusive distributorships to big-name vintage brands. These brands included B.F. Goodrich, Firestone, Michelin and U.S. Royal thus increasing the variety of products available from Coker Tire. To expand the customer base in an industry with no recognized method of distribution, Coker Tire initially sought customers by way of car shows and swap meets. In the early days, a small van would be loaded with tires and the crew set up at car shows across the country. Larger trucks took the place of the van and show travel became the mainstay of Coker's commitment to its customers. Today, Coker Tire attends more than 40 shows a year utilizing a fleet of tractor-trailers.
Now, after more than 60 years in business, Coker Tire Company consumes over 300,000 square feet of warehouse space alone. The company now occupies several buildings in the historic Southside district of downtown Chattanooga, Tennessee and there’s a Coker Tire store and warehouse located in City of Industry, California as well.
After 40 years of hard work, Corky Coker retired in 2014, and he appointed Wade Kawasaki as President to oversee the operations of the growing company. Wade is a lifelong car guy who grew up in Southern California during the peak of the muscle car era. He has worked in the automotive industry for his entire career, and his years of experience, as well as his passion for collector vehicles keeps our historic company running strong.
Take a look at everything Coker Tire Company has to offer, and you’ll see why it’s a staple in the old car hobby, and a passion for Wade Kawasaki and his entire crew.