Reno Tahoe: America’s Secret Car Destination

Reno Tahoe: America’s Secret Car Destination

Pink Cadillac, starring Clint Eastwood and Bernadette Peters, is a cult classic from the 1980s that helped to ignite a classic car culture in Reno Tahoe. Although the plot has been widely panned, the on-screen romance between Eastwood and Peters, as well as the stunt work done by Eastwood himself, attracted a core following. But the auto chase sequence on scenic Highway 89 is the real show-stealer, drawing attention to Reno Tahoe, much in the same way Bullitt and The Dead Pool showcased the harrowing streets of San Francisco.

That iconic film is just one of the ways car-lovers are drawn to Reno Tahoe; it’s also home to the prestigious National Automobile Museum, and Mount Rose Highway (SR 431, which scales the Sierra Nevada and ends in Tahoe) serves as a great place to spot classic cars, especially during the annual Hot August Nights celebration. In Reno Tahoe, car enthusiasts can feel right at home, all year round.

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National Automobile Museum

Located just south of the Truckee River in Reno, the National Automobile Museum displays historic automobiles dating to the late 19th century. Also known as “The Harrah Collection,” in honor of the personal collection assembled by the late casino owner William F. Harrah, the museum features more than 200 cars, including one of the finest Horseless Carriage collections anywhere.

Every gallery features authentic street scenes, replicating each quarter of the 20th century. All the sounds, artifacts, facades, and autos for the respective periods are on display. One of the more unusual vehicles featured is the “Jerrari,” a one-of-a-kind, customized four-wheel drive model built by Harrah’s mechanics. That team took a V12 Ferrari engine and wedged it into the engine bay of a 1977 Jeep Wagoneer. Harrah had asked Ferrari to build him a special 4×4 model to handle his excursions to Lake Tahoe. When Ferrari refused, Harrah ordered the special build. You can find the “Jerrari” on display in one of the connecting corridors between galleries.

Plan on spending at least two hours at the museum. If you prefer to linger, you can leave for lunch and return, perhaps enjoying two of the four galleries in the morning and saving the last two for the afternoon. Please note that while the Harrah Collection is permanent, some exhibits do change. For instance, from now through February 2017, you’ll want to check out the moon buggies and Mars cars exhibit.

Automobile Museum

Hot August Nights

This year marks the 30th anniversary of Hot August Nights, a celebration of classic cars, vintage rock ’n roll and 1950s/60s Americana. From Aug. 2 through Aug. 7, the Reno area transforms into a car mecca as more than 800,000 enthusiasts attend.

Hot August Nights is so large that seven different venues host the main events, including the Reno and Sparks downtowns, several casinos and resorts, a livestock events center (for the swap meet), and the convention center for the auction. Another 16 venues pitch in for this six-day, region-wide extravaganza.

On four consecutive nights, you can participate in drag racing and burn outs beginning at 6 p.m. and running ’til midnight. As always, participation is free.

This year, a special event for the ladies, Dazzling Divas, debuts. Held in the Reno Ballroom, 200 booths featuring ladies’ clothing, jewelry, cosmetics, arts and crafts, and other items of interest are displayed. While the guys are having their fun in the Big Boy’s Toy Store, the gals now have an event they can call all their own.

As for the musicians, you’ll find Beatles, Rolling Stones and ABBA tribute bands. Herman’s Hermits, America, the Monkees and other entertainers will also be on stage this year.

Hot August Nights

Rev Up Your Engines All Year Round

While August nights are certainly hot, some people prefer to visit Reno in the winter when days are cool and the nights are chilly. And with world-class Lake Tahoe ski resorts within an easy drive, you can combine casinos with white powder adventure and sate your automotive appetite too. Whether your trip is inspired by Pink Cadillac or another car classic, Reno’s secret is out.

About the Author: Matt Keegan is a car enthusiast and writer for CARFAX. He keeps his pulse on auto industry news and trends, including significant safety, technological and engineering changes.

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