Barbara Lawlor, Central City. It’s not about one car going faster than another. It’s about one being shinier, louder, cleaner, dirtier, older or rarer. The Central City Hot Rod Hill Climb was resurrected by Nick’s Garage in Denver a few years ago and has come back to life with a vengeance.
Last weekend, September 16 and 17, hundreds of spectacular vintage hot rods chugged into Central City for a couple days of showing off their babies, their pride and joys, their cash guzzlers. If you are going to spend all that time, labor and money on a car, you might as well take it somewhere where it will get noticed.
The Central City Hot Rod Hill Climb is a sensory assault and for those who have a passion about cars, a joyous sensory assault: the growl of a big motor, the screech of laying rubber at takeoff, the cheers from the crowd, the band playing on Main Street and the announcements introducing the cars and the owners.
There was no room on the streets or in the parking garages and finding one’s way to starting line was like swimming upstream. Every now and then a poof of black smoke would orient the finish. Lining up at the start, the drivers were mostly middle aged; some had their honeys bundled up in the passenger seats and some had their buddies, elbows hanging out the window, letting the spectators take a look at what, in that moment, was as good as it gets.
Each car was backed up onto a ramp so it had a head start on the hill and when Nick’s wife leaped into the air waving her checkered flag, the drivers gunned the engine. It was a heart starting moment every time.
Wearing their old leather pilot’s caps, or their ball caps or their auto parts shirts, the drivers gunned it and were off in a dust wake. They drove through the dirt roads of Central City and over the ridge with a view of the mountains before they turned around and headed back down into the city where they got in line to do it all over again. Each car did the loop about eight times.
The best part of the event is having a large group of people get together who all love the same thing. They may argue now and then about the auto parts, the paint jobs, the hood decorations, but basically they all admire each other, because that’s who they are and what they do.
Saturday’s activities wound down with a campfire at Base Camp, an exchange of phone numbers and emails and pictures, so they can talk and look at the event until it is time to get out the chrome shiners for next year.
Grown men went home with a list of have-to-haves and children had tailpipes in their eyes as they looked to their future of driving a hot rod through Central City.
(Originally published in the September 21, 2017 print edition of The Mountain-Ear.)