By Dan Clarke
Apparently, you can make a good thing better.
Reno’s Hot August Nights has been a success since its 1986 debut. Barrett-Jackson traces its history to the 1960s and has also done well. Its auctions in Scottsdale, Palm Beach and Las Vegas are a familiar presence on cable television’s Speed Channel.
The company initiated the inaugural Reno auction during the week of Hot August Nights and immediately ingratiated itself by creating the Barrett-Jackson Cup. In addition to providing the trophy, Barrett-Jackson donated $20,000 in prize money to Hot August Nights’ Show-n-Shine competition.
The winning entry also received a new 430-horsepower LS3 crate engine provided by Chevrolet Performance and valued at $10,000. A 1969 Ford Torino Talladega, owned by George Poteen of Colliersville, Tenn., and rebuilt as a street rod by Troy Trepanier of Manteno, Ill., was the first winner of the award.
Weather was beautiful ar this year’s event, but renaming the event to Surprisingly Mild August Nights was an unlikely option. The area actually experienced an unusual summer storm Thursday night. There was thunder, lightning and plenty of rain. It dampened cars, but didn’t seem to dampen the spirits of the participants. Not so much as a water spot was observed on the gorgeous oldies parked on the streets of downtown Reno the following day and car owners seemed in good spirits.
Thousands of vehicles participated in the daytime displays and the evening cruises. There were a few antiques from the early days of American motoring and some pristine examples of cars not likely to have been seen cruising main streets or parked at drive-ins—beauties like the red and silver 1954 Rolls Royce and the dark green 1947 Lincoln V-12 formal sedan, for instance. These attracted attention, too, and drew the respect of those who’d come in hotter, flashier rides.
For the most part, though, the spirit of the event seemed fixed in an era about 50 years earlier. For those who experienced that time, Hot August Nights successfully recreated the mood. Casino employees dressed in period garb and early rock and roll could be heard everywhere.
Ronda Shen and Route 66 were doing tunes like Rockin Robin and Mustang Sally at the Plaza in front of Harrah’s Club on Thursday afternoon. Another band was playing a block away in front of the El Dorado. Bill Medley returned as a solo performer Friday night at the Grand Sierra Resort. He performed 27 years ago his late partner, Bobby Hatfield, as the Righteous Brothers at the first Hot August Nights. Jan and Dean and Wolfman Jack were also on that historic bill.
Car appreciators chatted with car owners, several of whom volunteered how much they were enjoying their experience. Good vibes were everywhere. No doubt this was primarily due to the well-run event, but the may have been another factor. Between the cars and the music, many of these participants were reliving the vibrancy of their youth.
Most of the approximately 5,600 registered cars had come before, but Chris Killian, President of the Hot August Nights organization, was quoted in the Reno Gazette Journal as saying, “I’ve had so many first timers tell me they can’t wait to come back. This year was one of the best yet.”
Thirty-five of this year’s participants assembled Sunday morning at the University of Nevada-Reno campus for one last cruise. These category winners would have one more moment in the sun as they headed south on Virginia Street to ride in triumph in Hot August Night’s concluding event, the 2013 Parade of Champions.
Dan Clarke is the editor and publisher of tastecaliforniatravel.com.