The annual Hot August Nights festival – we choose to call it a festival because it is much more than a car show and spread out to the surrounding townships – is really too much to cover in just eight days. With every casino and convention center in the area supporting the event with entertainment, show ’n shines, auctions, and organized cruises and events covering Reno, Sparks, and even areas as far away as Virginia City, we reserved a special coverage for the Sparks Victorian Square exhibits.

Victorian Square in Sparks set the tone for some truly great classic car builds. The event was partially sponsored by Summit Racing Equipment, and it is fair to say that the square was packed with cars and people.

Our second day at the festival was spent in Sparks at the Victorian Square public plaza, where the town closed several city blocks for a massive street side car show, sponsored by Summit Racing Equipment. The car show was located just outside the convention center where the Big Boys Toy Store event, hosted by Silver Legacy and the El Dorado casino, was taking place at the same time.

The Big Boys Toy Store features over 320 booths of vendors with aftermarket parts, accessories, tires and wheels, chassis, engines, and engine builders for the classic and hot rod markets. Admission to the show was free for the enthusiasts, who gathered in the building at the hottest part of the day to take advantage of the air conditioning. This is a “must see” part of the Hot August Nights festival.

We arrived early enough that the streets were still pretty clear. That didn’t last long.

Outside on the streets, swarms of people gathered around their favorite vehicles to look at and take pictures of cars that were similar to ones they used to own, want to own, or were conceived in – which explains why so many fans were taking photos of the rear parts of the passenger area. Our job as reporters is not to question, just report what we see.

Walking the streets, we spotted an old friend. This 1961 Impala SS was reviewed at this same event in 2012.

The Top Cars We Spotted On The Street

We saw a familiar face as we entered the first street blocked off for the show. Our old friend, a 1961 Chevy Impala SS that Lodi, California’s, David Gates built for driving was parked on the roadside. We didn’t see Gates so we’re not sure if he still owns the car, but most of the basics still seemed to be the same as we last saw it in 2012 at Hot August Nights.

The Imp is still as well maintained and glorious, and the Brandywine candy paint still flawless as the day it was coated. The ’61 bubble top is one of the most desirable body design in this era. The paint color choice is just icing on the cake for what lies beneath.

The creamy looking interior is pleasing to the eye and adds to the creature comforts Gates built into the dream machine. Air conditioning, power seats, power windows, and digital electronics make this a ride to look forward to. When it comes to power, this Impala has it in spades. A 572 big-block provides the grunt to make this cruiser go.

1953 Ford Sunliner

What is amazing about the 1953 Ford Sunliner, and a fact that most people don’t know, is that it was the pace car for the 1953 Indianapolis 500. This was in a time when pace car selection wasn’t paid for. The cars were selected based on genuine selection of the top car of the year. Being selected as the Indy 500 pace car meant instant credibility.

This perfect example of a 1953 Ford Sunliner made the trip worth our time.

You may notice the “Crestline” trim tag on the front fender as the model was previously only called Crestliner until 1953 when it became the Sunliner Crestliner. If you look real hard at the steering wheel, you’ll notice that it is a special commemorative steering wheel for Ford’s 50th anniversary. This beauty still has the stock flathead V8 in the engine bay too.

We were both excited and saddened that many people walked past this piece of history, not understanding what was in front of them. Yet, it gave us more time to admire the details, which were spot on perfect for this year and model. Our only wish was that the owner was nearby so we could have talked with them.

This 1956 Ford F100 Pickup truck was very stock looking and had the appearance of being driven regularly.

1956 Ford F100 Pickup

This was another example of a pretty clean, stock appearing, well put together restoration. From the wood in the bed to the tread on the tires, it was evident that this truck was driven and used, like vehicles should be. It was also indisputably well care for and maintained.

The hood was not opened so we couldn’t see if the stock inline six or Y-block V8 engine was still in the engine bay. The first year that Ford trucks featured vertical windshield pillars and a wrap around windshield, this truck had the standard back window. Ford offered a wrap around back window as an option in 1956, and those trucks are now very common. It was nice to see a small rear window 1956 truck for a change.

Rarely do we see a classic build that is done in a home garage with help from local shops turn out this well. This Pontiac Bonneville was a pleasure to see.

Miller’s 1958 Pontiac Bonneville

This light green and white Bonneville is a local build owned by Reno’s Mike and Sue Miller. Easily one of our favorites due to the care that went into the restoration. Miller replaced the stock “Ever-Level” suspension with an Air Ride system, but he kept the original parts – which is always a good move.

The stock 370 Tempest engine has been completely rebuilt and balanced, along with the stock transmission. One of the few mechanical changes in the drivetrain was the addition of a Pertronix breakerless ignition and coil to provide the spark.

The body work and paint was done by B & T Custom Rod, with the interior restored by Steve Cleveland of Steve’s Custom Auto, both from Reno, Nevada. Seldom do we see a local car whose work is done by the owner and local shops turn out so well. This one really hit the mark.

1969 Yenko Camaro Clone

Again, this was another car where the owner was not available to speak with during the time we were there but, it was so well done that we wanted to include it in the coverage. Clearly not a true Yenko – or the owner wouldn’t have let it out of their sight – but great care was taken to reproduce the Yenko performance Camaro as closely as possible.

1969 Camaro Yenko tribute car.

We were impressed that the builder took the time to duplicate everything, right down to the plain black shifter ball and Hurst shifter. The correct tachometer was in the dash and 140 MPH speedometer indicate that everything was in order. All of the Yenko decals were correct and in the proper place. Someone did their homework on Yenko upgrades. Even the wheels appeared to be correct.

About the only thing we noticed on the clone was the lack of period correct tires. The original came with E70 raised white letter Goodyear tires and the “Turbo Jet 450 HP” air cleaner sticker. The Yenko L72 COPO 9561 models had the “Turbo Jet 425 HP” decal and a 427 engine badge on the front fenders. The engine badge was an optional accessory. They were included in the sale and provided in the glove compartment but left to the owner’s discretion to install them on the fender or not.  In any case, this clone was a very good representation of the real deal.

Wrap up

We were pleased with the number of people that gathered for the eight days of the Hot August Nights festival. It truly was a remarkable event with a great group of enthusiasts that came together to celebrate classic cars. The atmosphere was mellow with no “occupy this” or “occupy that” mentality going on.

The proof was in the Reno Police Department’s report of arrests and citations for the 2016 Hot August Nights event. A total of 21 people were arrested (out of an estimated 800,000 plus visitors to the show). The breakdown was: Unlawful use of a controlled substance (1), obstructing and resisting (1), littering (1), disturbing the peace (1), harassment (1), urinating in public (2), possession of an open container (8), DUI (3), warrant (3).

Security was provided by the organizers but the event was a mellow and incident free event. We’ve known all along that hot rod enthusiasts can gather in masses without causing problems, so the security officers seemed to be having as much of a good time as the visitors.

There were 12 misdemeanor citations that included; urinating in public (2), possession of an open container (7), minor in possession of alcohol (3). In addition, Reno’s Street Enforcement Team (SET) conducted several prostitution operations over the weekend where 6 males and 6 females were arrested (these numbers are not included in the total Hot August Nights arrest/citation numbers). 28 businesses were inspected and no citations were issued.

Those numbers are very tame for any city during an eight day period. Given that this was a major event for the city, these numbers were phenomenally low, which shows that three-quarters of a million hot rodders can get together for a week without wrecking a city and just have some fun with cars. Reno did a great job again this year.