Revenge of the Plymouth Valiant

One of the easiest things to do here in late July/early August is listen to a local bitch about what a royal pain in the bum Hot August Nights is. And—because of acute automotive congestion—it is, at times, exactly that. No doubt about it: Your ability to zip around town is fairly well zapped by the event.

That said, it should also be noted that there is plenty that is terrifically fun and satisfying about Hot August Nights. It’s free, it’s festive, it gets bodies out of the house on a summer night, and it reminds you to go get a burger and shake at Scooper’s Drive-in in Sparks. Bottom line is this: You don’t have to be a crazed gearhead to dig our Mardi Gras of steel and chrome. And dingle balls.

One of the things that stands out in my mind from this year’s event, besides the sighting of a ‘58 Cadillac (what a magnificent monstrosity!) is the realization that HAN encourages and enables a wonderful financial alchemy. You’ll see these certain cars, like the ‘62 Plymouth Valiant or the ‘64 Dodge Dart, now prized and cared for by their owners as classics (which they most certainly are), and yet these were cars that 30 years ago were being peed on by guys in my high school parking lot.

I mean that literally: The boys were dissin’ via pissin'. I can still see Chevy- and Ford-oriented hoodlums back in ‘70, wearing T-shirts, dangling Camel non-filters from their upper lips, urinating derisively on the grilles and tires of the Valiants and Comets being driven by the cute girls who turned them down for dates because the girls knew intuitively even back then that these guys were probably gonna turn out to be losers, drunks and batterers. So the hoods would take their cheap revenge on those sweltering summer nights in the Central Valley of California, splattering those semi-homely little Valiants and Corvairs with the overflow of beer that was bursting from their bladders, unaware that their loutish vulgarity completely justified the girls’ decisions to pass on their amorous offers of drive-in movies and stolen liquor.

And now, if you have a stock Valiant in righteously clean shape, you can sell it for six to eight times what it cost new in ‘62.

You wonder just what part SUVs will play in the HAN of 2025. Will future crowds go ga-ga for the mastodonic mammothity of the 2001 Ford Excursion? Will they long to see the sleek, erotic curves of the ‘99 Dodge Durango? Will they shout out whoops of approval when a lovingly restored Chevy Blazer slides by? Will there be a rally of ‘75 Isuzu Trooper owners cruising on up to Virginia City for shots of espresso at the Starbucks inside the Bucket of Blood?

Tough to say. But then again, how many folks ever figured ‘62 Valiants would go for 20 grand 39 years down the line?