How Reno Transforms For Hot August Nights
Old School Cool

Old cars are the worst cars to own. They’re uncomfortable, they’re hot, they’re loud, they’re unreliable. They’re also relatively difficult to drive, and they make no sense for a trip through the desert, let alone across the 2,500-mile expanse that is the United States.

And yet, every summer for the last 32 years, thousands of classic cars have made the trek to Reno, Nevada. As the show essentially takes over almost every venue in the 140 square mile (360sq/km) Reno-Sparks area, it’s a bit hard to get everything. However, each time slot throughout the day has its own main event.

The one I’ve always enjoyed the most is right in the middle of downtown Reno. You’re surrounded by casinos and people, most of which you could describe as a bit ‘older’, but there’s something irreplaceable about the ambiance. There’s also something special about this particular tradition.

2018-SH-D - DT HAN-Trevor-Ryan_002

Purposely going through the shows early in the week when the crowds were thin, and early in the morning when they were even more thin, my wife and I strolled the downtown area.

2018-SH-D - DT HAN-Trevor-Ryan_003

As much as people talk about these cars falling out of favor, there are still those who painstakingly build and restore them. The value of these classics is steadily rising and they have appeal to those outside what our generation considers as an enthusiast, too.

2018-SH-D - DT HAN-Trevor-Ryan_004

And despite all their shortcomings, over 6,000 cars made the long drive out to Reno again this year.

2018-SH-D - DT HAN-Trevor-Ryan_007

If I’m honest, Hot August Nights is the only thing that makes Reno special to me, and it’s a place like no other. There’s something that doesn’t quite add up about it; it’s a city with as much character as the cars. And while it might be easy to come to the conclusion that both are past their prime, it’s really a matter of opinion.

2018-SH-D - DT HAN-Trevor-Ryan_008

It’s a very established niche of car culture and I’m really curious where these cars will end up in a few decades.

2018-SH-D - DT HAN-Trevor-Ryan_012
2018-SH-D - DT HAN-Trevor-Ryan_010

There’s no denying that many are built to a certain style that hasn’t continued on; there really are no other cars in the world which you could paint in this way and get away with it. I might even go as far as to say that some here can’t quite pull it off, but again it’s obvious that there are thousands who disagree with me.

2018-SH-D - DT HAN-Trevor-Ryan_013

At the same time there’s something incredibly badass about an old school muscle car. There’s nothing quite like it and the sky is the limit if you want to make one your own. They have character and class, and this old school styling and unlimited room for customization make them perhaps the best cars to own rather than the worst.

The Riviera
2018-SH-D - DT HAN-Trevor-Ryan_016

In my wanderings there was one car in particular that stood out to me. It wasn’t because of any aftermarket parts or a long mod list either; in fact, minus one obvious upgrade that allows the Buick Riviera to sit on the ground, it’s almost entirely as it came from the factory.

2018-SH-D - DT HAN-Trevor-Ryan_019

That’s because the KX Code Buick Riviera was a really great car straight out of the box in the 1960s. Not to mention the incredible styling, this example was highly optioned from the assembly plant and one of the rare Buicks in this spec to also ship with a number of performance upgrades. Disc brakes, limited slip diff, and dual carbs along with electric windows and a load of other things we’d expect as standard today.

2018-SH-D - DT HAN-Trevor-Ryan_020

As you would expect, a large displacement 425ci V8 sits up front with those dual carbs feeding fuel to the hungry engine. As with the exterior, the car has been restored rather than resto-modded.

2018-SH-D - DT HAN-Trevor-Ryan_024
2018-SH-D - DT HAN-Trevor-Ryan_028

Peeking inside, it’s very much the same way. It’s straight out of the ’60s and everything is nice and tidy. Talking to the Riviera’s owner, Dan, he said that this is one of only 1,000 KX Code cars, and he ‘found this one in the desert’ where it had sat for some decades.

2018-SH-D - DT HAN-Trevor-Ryan_029

With so much of the car preserved, it only made sense to resurrect the rare-spec car as it was from the factory.

2018-SH-D - DT HAN-Trevor-Ryan_031

That isn’t to say Dan hasn’t added a few of his own personal touches, although the ones that caught my eye the most aren’t really part of the car itself.

Dan says everyone wants his jacket, but personally, I’d take that cane. He says it opens up and you can store tube flasks or cigars, both of which are definitely high on my list of consumables.

2018-SH-D - DT HAN-Trevor-Ryan_034

Not really, but there’s no arguing this car has a personality. Everyone was stopping by to take in all the details, even though most have been exactly as they are for the past five decades.

Reno, Nevada
2018-SH-D - DT HAN-Trevor-Ryan_035

Leaving the Riviera behind me I trudged on through the endless rows of muscle cars.

2018-SH-D - DT HAN-Trevor-Ryan_036

Seriously, I mean endless. It’s not just the main stretch of downtown Reno that’s blocked off, but all of the side streets as well.

2018-SH-D - DT HAN-Trevor-Ryan_037

It was on one such side street that I spotted Bigfoot #5, which I’ve already given you a closer look at, with help from five-year-old me. It was here, looking at an old police cruiser parked up next to a modern one, both wearing Reno Police badging, that I really began to wonder if something like this could exist anywhere else.

2018-SH-D - DT HAN-Trevor-Ryan_038
2018-SH-D - DT HAN-Trevor-Ryan_039

As I’ve mentioned, Reno is a place like no other, and the downtown show is the most appealing one to me. Having the option to pop into any one of a couple dozen casinos makes the experience as unique as the cars. It’s a place full of strange opportunity.

2018-SH-D - DT HAN-Trevor-Ryan_042

You never really know what to expect in a place like this, a town known for cheap thrills and common indecency, if you will.

2018-SH-D - DT HAN-Trevor-Ryan_043

The same is equally true of the builds here; you just have to find the ones which are built outside the box.

2018-SH-D - DT HAN-Trevor-Ryan_044
2018-SH-D - DT HAN-Trevor-Ryan_047

But believe me when I say that they exist. This ’53 Chevy Stepside is the epitome of the strange mash-up style you’ll find at this event. Nothing about this build is conventional, and none of it really makes sense either.

2018-SH-D - DT HAN-Trevor-Ryan_048

But none of that matters.

2018-SH-D - DT HAN-Trevor-Ryan_049

This is the place to come if you’re normal, if you’re eccentric, if you’re young, or if you’re old. If you like classic American iron, Hot August Nights is the place for you.

2018-SH-D - DT HAN-Trevor-Ryan_050

There’s nothing like it, and I have a sneaking suspicion that 32 more years from now I’ll still find myself making the trek out to Reno. There’s certainly no replacement for the city, but I do wonder what kind of cars we’ll be seeing at the show.

Will the extravaganza continue to be a celebration of the ’50s and ’60s, or will the declining interest in these cars result in more ‘modern’ cars taking over? Whatever the result, it’s up to this next generation to shape the show and make the most of it.

Trevor Yale Ryan
Instagram: tyrphoto

Cutting Room Floor
2018-SH-D - DT HAN-Trevor-Ryan_051
2018-SH-D - DT HAN-Trevor-Ryan_052
2018-SH-D - DT HAN-Trevor-Ryan_053
2018-SH-D - DT HAN-Trevor-Ryan_054
2018-SH-D - DT HAN-Trevor-Ryan_055
2018-SH-D - DT HAN-Trevor-Ryan_056
2018-SH-D - DT HAN-Trevor-Ryan_057
2018-SH-D - DT HAN-Trevor-Ryan_058
2018-SH-D - DT HAN-Trevor-Ryan_059


Comments are closed.


by Oldest
by Best by Newest by Oldest

Hot August Nights is an event many look forward to every year in Reno, Nevada. Great article and I truly enjoy this authors style of writing. Keep up the great work.


Thank you Teresa, that means a lot!


As I kid I lived in Reno for 3 years (age 7-10) probably one a few years after Hot August Nights started. It's what got me into cars as a kid. Its something I went to every year with my father until just recently. And its something I will always think of fondly. With that said its past its peak and not as large as it once was similar to Reno its self. Reno in the 80s was awesome (people forget Porsche NA had a headquarters there), and with all the Tech companies moving in I think it can do I dare say "Be Great Again". I also hope that Hot August Nights evolves and that you see more stuff from the 70s, 80s, and even 90s start making its way into the event (including German and Japanese cars).


Yeah, it'll be interesting to see how Reno changes in the coming decades, along with the show. You already see a few Z-cars out, but I'm not sure if there's actually any regulation as for the cars that are entered. If it wants to survive over the next twenty or thirty years, HAN will definitely have to evolve in some way.


From the 2018 registration form: "The 2018 Event is open to all 1976 and older cars, pickup size trucks, and
emergency vehicles." So while there's no formal restriction on imports, the atmosphere of the event is a huge celebration of American rods and classics. Remember what Japanese cars did to the American auto industry in the 70's when they made their presence known. By adding a drifting event, they're starting to recognize another area and generation of car enthusiasts. Like the upcoming Rolex Monterey Reunion featuring Nissan for the first time, it's probably the future for car events.


Okay, cool. Yeah I think there will have to be specific venues/events that will need to pick up Japanese/Euro brands, but it's a big risk to do it. Something will need to happen though.

I'm definitely looking forward to covering everything in Monterey. I'll be at two or three events every day during car week, say hi if you see me!


Thank you for such a fantastic article and beautiful photo's!


im coming with you next time, lol


those 50ml's are pricey out there


The Nugget behind the blue Shelby Cobra...has a diner in the back where you can get a burger called the Awful-Awful. Its served w/ a pound of fries and will give you an instant coronary.


Nice, that sounds like exactly what I need...I'm always in for dinner recommendations, keep them coming.


I make no assurances on the quality, just the quantity of the awful-awful burger. Heh-heh. Eat at ur own risk.
For an actual decent, quality burger, google "Our Bar." 2 block walk from Virginia street where u got ur shots. Reno is an actual decent, non-cesspool town when u get a couple blocks away from the casino strip. Walk along the river/ riverwalk, tons of cool spots by the river. Source: aunt/uncle live there, my homebase for Hot August Nights. Not there this year.
Also, check out the Reno Auto Museum for tons of pre-war, Group C/classic race cars, and classic muscle cars. They have a Wagoneer w/ a 12 cyl Ferrari swap even.


Looks like a cool event. As for old cars being uncomfortable and difficult to drive, I'd much prefer to drive my dad's 66 Tbird across the desert than any modern car I've driven. Pure comfort cruising


I'm a softy for 60's Buicks. That Riviera is beautiful. The 2x4 Nailhead just makes it even sweeter. Great shoot.


If I’m honest, Hot August Nights is the only thing that makes Reno special to me, and it’s a place like no other. There’s something that doesn’t quite add up about it; it’s a city with as much character as the cars. And while it might be easy to come to the conclusion that both are past their prime, it’s really a matter of opinion.

This paragraph makes no sense, and contradicts this one.

As I’ve mentioned, Reno is a place like no other, and the downtown show is the most appealing one to me. Having the option to pop into any one of a couple dozen casinos makes the experience as unique as the cars. It’s a place full of strange opportunity.

Lastly the truck is a lowrider what exactly is it a mashup of?


Exactly. I get the feeling he's not been exposed to genres outside of jap/euro. Surprising for a Speedhunters staffer...


Did you experience the after hours HAN? It was always my favorite part of HAN when I was young. A lot of big money DONKS and Lowriders come up from the bay area and cruze and spontaneously put up their own car show in the abandoned business parking lots. Things can get a little rough down there though. You get side shows and people doing stupid stuff. One year police come in with riot gear and tear gas to break up a huge gang fight. Some cars got flipped over and some businesses got their windows smashed and looted.


How did that cement mixer(?) get stuck on the cutting room floor? That thing is awesome! Another event to add to my bucket list.