Couldn't make it to the Fiat on the Dragon event this year? Our friends over at FOD sent us a report on their Spring Drive for those who missed out. If you aren't familiar with Fiat on the Dragon, it is a family fun driving event that is the perfect place to enjoy your Fiat, Abarth or Alfa Romeo. The event takes place at one of the most beautiful areas in the country and on one of the best roads anywhere in the world. The road called Tail of the Dragon is located deep in the Smoky Mountains on the North Carolina/Tennessee state line. With 318 curves packed into 11 miles, the road is an Italian car enthusiast's dream.
I'm happy to say, Fiat 500 USA Forum and this site have been significant sponsors of Fiat on the Dragon since its first run in 2013. It really is something that shouldn't be missed as you can read below. Next year's event will be held April 6-8, 2018.
By Larry Smith
FIAT on the Dragon Celebrates 5th Year with Biggest Turnout Yet
Springtime came roaring into the hills of East Tennessee and Western North Carolina as the 5th annual FIAT on the Dragon event brought FIAT enthusiasts and their favorite rides back for more of the twisty mountain drives they’ve come to crave. Over 150 Italian cars made their way to this year’s event, including lots of modern FIATs, several new Alfa Romeos, and even some classics. The numbers were nothing short of impressive, considering that the first FOTD in 2013 drew around two dozen participants, mostly from the surrounding area. In 2017, drivers traveled from all over the Eastern U.S., reaching from New York to South Florida – and even as far west as Texas, Oklahoma and Nebraska. All in all, 26 states were represented! What is so amazing about this is that so many people willingly drove hundreds of miles for, wait for it… a driving event! It’s truly a testament to both how much FIAT owners love their cars and how much fun they have driving them.
The presenting sponsors for FOTD were EuroCompulsion and Auto Ricambi. Both, along with several additional sponsors and friends, provided amazing support and have helped tremendously in building the event into what it is today.
The weekend unofficially kicked off on Thursday, March 30, as many of the registered participants arrived at the base of operations: the long-standing Talley Ho Inn in scenic Townsend, Tennessee, widely known as the “Peaceful Side of the Smokies.” Of course, as waves of FIATs took to the town’s streets over the next few days, that title took on a bit of a disclaimer. As always, that first night was a great time of friends catching up and new connections being made. The anticipation was high as a steady stream of folks made their way through registration, settled into their rooms and broke off into groups for dinner at area restaurants.
The last of the March showers greeted the participants on Friday morning, but the weather did not dampen spirits at all. With the initial drive of the weekend being the famed Tail of the Dragon itself, it was impossible to feel anything but excitement. Still, all were thankful as the rain gradually began to taper off and the skies opened a little as the line of cars made its way to the day’s main attraction. For those who’ve never visited, the Dragon is a serpentine stretch of Highway 129 that crosses the Tennessee-North Carolina border. Its 11 uninhabited miles contain an astounding 318 curves, some much more treacherous than others. The road is extremely popular with car enthusiasts and motorcyclists alike, though even a small error or miscalculation can have dire consequences. It is definitely a road to be respected.
The merry band of FIATs and Alfas made it through without a hitch, as the group reconvened at Deal’s Gap at the NC end of the ride. Cars had departed from the hotel in smaller groups, sorted by driving styles from the most spirited to those who preferred more of a touring pace. This worked out well, as everyone got to enjoy exactly the drive they wanted. From there, the group headed to nearby Fontana Dam for lunch and group photos before continuing further on to Bryson City in Swain County and the intriguing Road to Nowhere.
A popular addition to the FOTD itinerary last year, the Road to Nowhere extends about eight miles out from town before it ends abruptly just after passing through a 1200-foot tunnel. The short version of its storied past is that the National Park Service agreed to build the road around Fontana Lake, after much of the county’s land was given up to create the lake and a portion of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Due largely to environmental issues, construction on the road was suspended and, once everything was eventually resolved, never completed. Though born out of unfortunate circumstances, the road is
nonetheless a fascinating discovery. To travel to the very end, the group had to park and walk through the long, dark tunnel before emerging to a forest area with multiple trailheads and a spectacular view of Fontana Lake.