The Journey Begins: Reno

Greetings from “The Biggest Little City in the World” – Reno, Nevada. This morning I packed up and hit the road on the first day of what for me is an eight-day long Speedhunting road trip through the states of Nevada and Utah. Later this week I’ll be losing my salt virginity when I experience Bonneville Speed Week for the first time, but for now I’m here in Reno to enjoy a few days at an event called Hot August Nights.

Hot August Nights is a long standing gathering of Hot Rods, Customs and Muscle Cars and other classics that happens in the city of Reno every August . Actually, the word “gathering” is an understatement – the city is absolutely overwhelmed with cars.  Everywhere you look there’s an interesting car to see, so I’m quite excited to be here and experience this. A nice little appetizer before Bonneville.

Today’s drive was quite enjoyable. Heading east on Interstate 80 from the city of Sacramento, I crossed the Sierra Nevada mountains on the historic Donner Pass. Needless to say, the scenery up here is pretty breathtaking, even when viewed from the confines of the modern interstate.

The route follows the original transcontinental railroad line over the Sierras, part of the groundbreaking ribbon of steel that first connected the United States in the late 19th century.

In the winter months these mountains and the highway itself can be covered in snow, but right now it’s typical California/Nevada summer conditions – hot and dry.

Along the way I passed several vintage machines making their way towards Reno – none of which seemed to have any problem pulling the long grade.

This Chevelle I spotted on the highway was actually wearing New York plates. Talk about a long way from home.

After coming down the hill, it was right into the heart of city of Reno. I didn’t spot a too many classics on the streets here, but you can bet the place will be packed within the next couple of days.

This is my home for the next couple of days – the Peppermill Resort and Casino on Virginia Street.

Reno might have an image of being a gritty casino town with cheap buffets and loose slots, but this hotel reminds me much more of the high end resorts you find in Vegas. A pleasant surprise as I personally haven’t been to Reno for years.

Not a bad working space if I do say so myself. It also happens to be one of the centers of activity for the Hot August Nights action, which I’ll get to in just a moment.

But first some foodhunting at the in-house deli. I couldn’t stop myself from pulling a Larry Chen and posting a picture of the sub sandwich which I promptly devoured after working up a big appetite on the drive in. This is actually pretty high end cuisine compared to my usual road trip diet of energy drinks and assorted junk food.

With the belly full I made my way outside into the heat, where cars were already gathering in the Peppermill’s parking lot. Monday marks the official kick off for Hot August Nights, so this seemed like the place to be.

This is of course just one small part of Hot August Nights – which includes events held all over the Reno area. There are car shows, cruises, drag racing, swap meets, and even a collector car auction. It’s a massively popular celebration of cars, Rock and Roll music, and Americana.

I really can’t overstate just how big this event is. There are thousands and thousands of cars that come out, representing every state in the Western US and some that travel from even further. I’ve already accepted the fact that I won’t even come close to seeing everything during my time here.

The event is officially open to American and European cars from the 1970s and earlier, and among the mix you’ll find everything from rat rods to fully restored Muscle Cars, along with some truly crazy street machines.

To be honest, there are plenty of cars that are a bit “unfashionable” in my humble opinion, but with so many of them around, there are lots of gems as well. Note – the traditional-styled coupe pictured here most definitley gets a thumbs up from us.

One of the cars that caught my eye during my early browsing was this bitchin’ Corvette out of Arizona. I don’t think there are many who won’t agree that that the C2 ‘Vette is simply one of the best American cars of all time.

This particular example was wearing some positively meaty rear tires. If only you could have heard the sounds that came out of the those side pipes…

Elsewhere in the parking lot I found this ’56 Chevy Gasser, which was interestingly built out of a four-door sedan. Kind of cool.

This G.T. 350 was one of many Mustangs that had come out. Nothing outrageous, but when the car is this cool it doesn’t need to be.

Perhaps a little hint of what I’ll be seeing at Bonneville later this week?

The Fairlane – Ford’s drag weapon of choice during the mid 1960s.

I’d be really interested to see the breakdown of the different cars registered for Hot August Nights. For example, how many Pontiac GTOs will be taking to the streets of Reno this week? Based just on what I saw today, I’d say there are a lot.

Slightly more rare is this little Bianchina and all sixteen and half of its horsepower.

Although heavily outnumbered by American models, vintage European cars like this Austin Healey add a nice variety to things.

On the outside, this Ford Sunliner looked like your typical ’50s cruiser…

…but under the hood it was actually packing one of Ford’s legendary SOHC 427s. Pretty wild.

Sometimes it’s the downright simple cars that tug on my automotive heart strings the most. Such was the case with this SS 396 Chevelle. There was nothing crazy about it, just a tasteful and timeless example of a great Muscle Car…

…with an equally timeless set of American Racing Torq Thrust wheels.

It’s been a long day and I should probably get rested up for another day of Speedhunting in Reno. Check back tomorrow to see what I find on day two.




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Looking forward to the upcoming articles
By the way, the vegetable to meat ratio in your sandwich is all wrong!


How about another speedhuntersWKND this week? i'm heading to a 24hr race at VIR with my buddy in his 1990 accord with prelude engine and trans swap.


 @bradjh Hi there, the SpeedhuntingWKND is on pause for now, while we develop it into something bigger and better... stay tuned!


 @RodChong Thanks Rod! You guys rock!


reverse teardrop hoods make everything better 


@morbias It's the American way!


oh goodness that corvette took my breath away.


What rims are those on that Chevelle SS???


What wheels are those on the Chevelle in the first pic?


seriously, what rims are on that SS in the first pic?


I think they're RS Watanabe's R-Types but not 100% sure. 


That Austin Healey is a replica.


 @JustinLucasEastman I think they are V48s from Vintage Wheel Works - another take on the classic eight-spoke style.


YEEEAAAAHHHH!!! Finally speedhunters coverage of the local event I look forward to each year. I've lived in Reno my whole life and go to virtually every event during Hot August Nights. The Peppermill is a very nice spot, I'm there once a week regardless of what's going on. Good crowd. Same goes for downtown Reno and the Atlantis, which is down the street from the Peppermill. For more cars you'll have to see the Grand Sierra Resort's parking lot and the nightly cruise in Sparks in Victorian Square. There's an unofficial event at the A&W on Kietzke and Plumb that allows virtually every classic and gets really big, really fast.


is that a chevelle on RS Watanabe wheels?


I love foodhunting !
please Mr Mike Garrett enjoy the event to the max for all the guys like me that just can't be there !


 @wigg1 No they aren't, the likeliness of Wat's on a muscle car are 1%... they have to be something else


 @Mike Garrett V48's lack the curve on the spokes of this car


They're PS Vintage Wheels 17" T/A II


Reno is the only place I know of where you can get Heineken Dark and IPAs free while you gamble (+tip). Sparks isn't bad, either.


 @JustinLucasEastman  It could also be LT III from ET Wheels


Great pictures Mr Garrett, thank you. I particularly liked photo 11... although i had to sit down and drink a glass of water after viewing it! Mindbending decor.


Awesome! You passed by my house on the drive up! Couple cool eating spots to check out when you pass Auburn, if you drive back down to Sac.


Wheels on the Chevelle are a modern 17" repop of Panasports, the wheel which RS Watanabes are based on - yes, RS Watanabes are replicas. Panasports were a common wheel of 60s-70s Trans Am series race cars, so a very fitting and modern-application-period-correct, and amazing looking wheel on this car in person. I'd say that Chevelle was the best Resto-Mod Pro-Touring car I've ever seen. 


Great article Mike! You're the frickin' man!