When the need arises for a vacation that includes warm weather, resort amenities, golf and gaming, there are quite a few destinations available. However, if those requirements also demand your hot rod or favorite cruiser be involved, the choice is most definitely, Hot August Nights! Hot August Nights has been around since 1986 and has grown to become one of the premier automotive events in the Western United States. The event itself is held across multiple venues in the communities of Reno, Sparks, and South Lake Tahoe, Nevada and extends over a period of almost two weeks.
Being an old school hot rodder, I would naturally gravitate to venues that provide lots of examples of cars from the mid-60s and earlier. However that would include nearly everything on the schedule! Therefore, the choice was made to hit the downtown areas of Reno and Sparks as well as attending festivities that took place at the Grand Sierra Resort.
Downtown Reno is where Hot August Nights began 26 years ago and it could still be considered its epicenter. A section of N. Virginia St., which is probably the most recognized street in Reno due to its iconic sign, is closed to traffic where it then becomes a show and shine display zone that attracts some of the most gorgeous examples of automotive expression in the West. All along the thoroughfare, the participants and the attendee’s happily interact while the temperature rises and the sounds of classic rock ‘n roll fill the air. A sense of community comes from the common interest in our sport and admiration for the dedication and sacrifice necessary to produce such wonderful machines.
The adjective that best describes the festivities held at the Grand Sierra Resort might just be, immense! The sheer size of the GSR property allowed for an outdoor concert stage that provided lots of live entertainment, an area that provided assorted bungee jumping activities, a show ‘n shine lot large enough for hundreds of cars on display and a road circuit that allows drivers to navigate safely around and through the property during their nightly cruises.
New this year was a “Ride and Drive” event presented by Ford Motor Company and General Motors Company where individuals could ride along with professional drivers in new Ford and GM performance vehicles on a closed racing course. Anyway you look at it, there is a ton of fun car related activities going on in one place.
Understandably the GSR venue was very popular and well attended by many. Like the downtown Reno venue, the quality of the cars on display was second to none. Everywhere we looked we could find another example of magnificent craftsmanship and dedication. The sounds of rock ‘n roll music and raw horsepower filled the air as we took in plenty of new ideas for inspiration. People were friendly and courteous which is always a plus, and makes for an even better time when getting to interact with others that share our passion!
The cruise was an absolute blast. Row upon row of fabulous hot rods, customs, classics and everything in between took to the cruise route for some old-fashioned “see and be seen” night rides. People of all ages drove and rode in classic chariots that put modern vehicles to shame in both style and performance. This celebration of vintage machinery along with the lifestyle that goes with it is something that enthusiasts like us should definitely partake in as often as possible.
The trip to Hot August Nights seemed like a perfect opportunity to get some inspiration and perhaps find that perfect beginning from where all things are possible.
There were literally acres of both covered and uncovered outside space available to bring out your unwanted parts for sale or to find those rare treasures that could help make your long-term unfinished project complete. After speaking with some of the volunteer workers down at the swap meet, the general consensus was that although foot traffic and vendors seemed a little light this year, the enthusiasm was high and the bargains were easy to find. With plenty of good “scores” to be had, this was were serious builders spent a ton of their week scouring the vendors.
There is also quite a large outside section reserved for car sales in various stages of repair and/or running condition. As you can probably guess, this area captured our attention quickly. While there were many projects in waiting that beckoned as we made our way to the marketplace, we just didn’t stumble upon that perfect match. However, there was one such specimen that was close though, and we still might make the deal and get started on another killer Rod Authority project buildup.
Inside the event center’s climate controlled 70,000 sq. ft. arena were the more expensive and refined examples of hot rods and muscle cars for sale. Negotiations between buyer and seller as well as family members could be overheard easily and a steady stream of test drives were being made in and out of the facility. Prices ran from the reasonable to the “are you out of your mind” range depending on who is asking. As we know, there is a buyer and a seller for everything…they just have to meet.
Drag racing is always high up on our list of priorities. Anytime we get the chance to participate or attend a race we can usually be found somewhere in close vicinity. Therefore it was a must for us to attend the drag racing venue held at John Ascuaga’s Nugget Hotel and Casino. The temporary racing facilities are constructed in a remote parking lot across from the hotel’s main building. The short course has all of the timing electronics and safety equipment that you would expect to see at any drag racing facility and also included all of the safety and amenities necessary to make the experience comfortable and fun for the spectators.
While the racing facility was shorter than normal, it did give the competitors a chance to experience the ‘stoplight to stoplight’ form of drag racing that spawned the sport. There was also a contingent of notable local racers that brought their cars out for exhibition runs. Although their performance was far beyond the facility’s capability to allow them to make full passes, their burnouts and launches were crowd-pleasers and exciting to watch.
Spectators filled the stands and the concessions were busy tending to the customer’s every need. But for some reason, some folks were reluctant to bring their cars out and race, which was a shame because the venue was safe, well run, and offered a chance to compete without too much wear and tear on your own custom ride. So give it a chance next year, and take a pass or two!
On the event’s final day, an awards ceremony is held in downtown Reno at the intersection of Fourth and N. Virginia Streets. Winning entrants selected by local dignitaries and Hot August Night sponsors are presented their awards and the festivities are followed by a final parade through the downtown area. This was a last opportunity for participants to show off their favorite ride and for the onlookers to appreciate and take in the sights.
Attending Hot August Nights 2012 was a terrific experience. It’s hard to see it all but that may just be one of the great things about HAN. There is so much you can do over an extended period of time that it allows you the versatility and flexibility to plan your experience and customize it each year to see different events. You can be sure, we’ll see you there next year!
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