Watch These Amazing Cars Get Restored in Real Time
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Carroll Shelby had a vision, and he worked hard to make that vision come true. The Shelby Cobra is a staple of American muscle car power and road prowess. Mr. Shelby’s numerous contributions to the American auto industry are numerous, so it’s only fitting that a museum exists to honor his life’s work.
Las Vegas is known for a lot of things, but it’s also a fitting home to this museum, just off the Strip. Officially known as The Shelby Heritage Center, this massive building not only houses vintage collectibles and phenomenal reproductions, but also an entire garage dedicated to restoring these amazing cars. You can watch them while they work.
Admission is free and guided tours are available on most days. No reservations required. You can learn more about tours here. The Center also has a store where you can buy official Shelby memorabilia.
Even if you’re not an avid car fan, this is a definite bucket list item that must be checked off. There’s more to a Shelby than just the car; there’s an amazing history of a man and a company whose impact reached far beyond the road. This is a must for any road trip through Nevada or a weekend getaway in America’s lovable Sin City.
We waited a long time to see this place in person. The Bonneville Salt Flats is as close to an alien landscape on Planet Earth that you can find. We were drawn to it because it’s so…different. It’s the ultimate escape from reality.
The final fight between humanity and the alien queen in this summer’s Independence Day: Resurgence took place on the Flats, with a little help from CGI magic. We didn’t see any alien queens out here, but we were ready if one decided to show up. The Salt Flats is featured in countless movies, TV shows, and commercials–especially car commercials. Even Don Draper made an appearance in a modified 1970 Chevelle SS in the Mad Men series finale. Countless land speed records were set and broken here over the years.
It was a hot, dry day in July when we took off from the last paved road and waltzed onto what looked like oblivion. Driving on the Flats is an experience that’s second to none. Sure, you could take a few laps on a (paved) racetrack, but how about driving on a field of table salt, as fast as your car can go and in any direction, without the horizon changing? Distance is impossible to gauge out here. Once you drive a few miles inward, you can get out of the car and walk across the crunchy surface to take in the eerily silent, beaming white emptiness. Want to get away from civilization for a while? This will work.
You can drive as fast as you want to within the realms of safety. There’s no official speed limit. That’s why the Salt Flats is so popular for racing specialized cars. Since we visited shortly before the popular Speed Week, we were lucky enough to meet a crew working on a specialized car capable of going 400+ mph. It was in pieces at the time, undergoing final preparation, but it went on to race on the Bonneville International Speedway–a 9-mile stretch on the Flats marked by two blue (painted) lines–a couple of weeks later.
Some Words of Caution
But the fun things in life come with caution. Racing on the Salt Flats–professionally and for fun–comes with serious risk, so be prepared. We write these words of caution not to be condescending, but because we had a few hiccups out there ourselves, from almost driving into an abandoned spool of barbed wire that came out of nowhere–and would have probably shattered the windshield at our speed–to nearly running out of gas. The Bonneville Salt Flats are to be feared and revered.
The Salt Flats occupy a large swath of Northwestern Utah, but the best place to enter this magical land is right at the Utah/Nevada border at Wendover, UT, just across from West Wendover, NV (see map above). That would be Exit 4 on I-80, about a two-hour drive west of Salt Lake City.
Before entering the Salt Flats, please check with the local Bureau of Land Management office to make sure the Flats are drivable. They’re safe to drive on when dry, but it’s illegalto drive on the Salt Flats when wet, since it’s federally protected land. BLM will have up-to-date information for you and speed limit recommendations. They can be contacted here. There will also be signs posted nearby to tell of the current conditions.
When driving on the flats, bring lots of water, cell phone, extra food, hats, sunglasses, sunscreen, and perhaps most importantly, a full tank of gas. Driving on the salt is like driving on very crisp, crunchy snow, so your car’s gas mileage will be terrible. We could actually see the fuel gauge move down as the speedometer moved up. It could costs hundreds to have your car towed.
Those of us who have spent even one winter in the Northeast know all too well the effects salt has on a car. WE’RE NOT GOING TO LIE: YOU WILL GET SALT ON AND UNDER YOUR CAR. LOTS OF IT. It could cost a lot of money and time to get all the salt off the underside of your car; one car wash is simply not enough. We spent $100 at do-it-yourself car washes over the course of two weeks getting salt out of every crevasse. In the end, it was all worth it to us since it was a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, but we advise you, the reader, to enter the Bonneville Salt Flats at your own risk.
It Wouldn’t be a Car Show Without Driving Around Like a Maniac
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View from the Front Seat: Drifting in a modified ’93 Mazda RX-7
Our second installment on Reno’s 2016 Hot August Nights focuses on a swap meet. Yes, you read that correctly. Turns out swap meets aren’t limited to just jewelry, curtains, and lawn ornaments. Car enthusiasts have long relied on these meets to build their custom rides on the cheap. And why not? There are plenty of old car parts to go around.
But this swap meet–one of the more popular attractions of Hot August Nights–is big enough to incorporate some other items of interest, like antique gas pumps (see gallery below), old car phones, and other oddities that could satisfy any collector. So, come shopping with us!
Reno, Nevada is known for a lot of things. The “Biggest Little City in the World sits within a morning’s drive to the West Coast–but Lake Tahoe is a lot closer–and the sun’s out pretty much all year round. As the city reinvents itself for the 21st century, there is one staple to this city that will always be here…
Hot August Nights, an annual auto show, is famous for its display of classic cars and adrenaline junkies. For thirty years, it has been well attended by professional and amateur enthusiasts alike. Usually held around the first week of August each year, Hot August nights have numerous venues in Reno and Virginia City, and it has also expanded to include other points of interest, like racing, swap meets (for car parts), and, more recently, drifting.
Needless to say, it’s a big deal and worth a look not only if you’re in the area, but worth the trip if you’re really into cars!