DANVILLE -- Hartz Avenue in Danville became memory lane for thousands of car enthusiasts and gawkers Aug. 15 at the 19th annual Hot Summer Nights Hot Rod and Classic Car show.
Though daytime temperatures lived up to the event's name, an estimated 15,000 attendees ogled the roughly 400 hot rods, classics and collectibles that roared into downtown for the second of two such summer events.
"You can't find a better place to show off your car than downtown Danville," said show producer David Miller. "Because this is a monumental year for the Corvette, we decided we'd do something a little unique."
In past events, entries were limited to those built before 1976, but in honor of the Corvette's 60th anniversary, organizers placed no model-year restrictions on the American-made sports car.
Corvette fanatic "Fast Arnie" Levy, who has owned 50 of the cars in his lifetime, brought his customized cherry-red '62 convertible from his Brentwood home, its fully chrome engine drawing scores of admiring looks. Levy restored the car from the ground up, investing about $80,000. He takes it to about 60 shows a year and has won numerous trophies.
"It's the pride of ownership," Levy said. "It drives terrible, but I don't care; I drive it because it's a classic automobile."
Other classics, too
Levy brought along 15 other Corvettes from his Glass Pack Corvette Club, ranging from the 1960s to 2013 -- but the 'Vettes weren't the only classics on Danville's main drag. A 1932 Chevy, a 1952 Jaguar XK20, and a World War II-era military Jeep were just a sampling of the vehicles lining Hartz and Prospect avenues. At one end of the line, San Ramon resident Gary Ford proudly displayed his bright yellow '57 Chevy, with flames hand-painted on the hood.
"Whether we're dedicated to working on it ourselves or not, we love to show off our passion," Ford said. "Showing it off in our own community is even better."
Even town council members got into the act, directing traffic and showing off their collectible cars. Councilwoman Karen Stepper pointed out her metallic blue-and-white '68 Camaro convertible, all original and complete with a working eight-track player. Danville Vice Mayor Robert Storer drove his 1974 Dodge Challenger, a gold-tinted muscle car he's had since he was in high school.
"We have nostalgic cars and a nostalgic town," Storer said. "It's a really good backdrop for the show ... It's become a destination for car lovers."
Though most car owners said they weren't concerned with awards, a panel of VIP judges did hand out 20 Town Choice Award plaques, along with instructions from Miller to "pick a really cool car" that reminded them of their youth.
William Lopez, of San Ramon, won for his lipstick-red 1959 Chevy El Camino he spent a year restoring. When he drives the car around, Lopez said he feels like he's living in a different era.
"It's been a dream of mine since I was 6, and 47 years later it's right in my garage," Lopez said. "It's very humbling," he added of the award. "It shows that hard work pays off."
The show drew an estimated 15,000 people downtown, including many out-of-state visitors. Attendees were treated to music and food as they walked, shopped and perused.
Car show enthusiasts Bill and Cindy Cook, owners of a '77 Corvette, recently relocated from Rancho Cucamonga to Richmond, and said they'd planned on attending a year in advance.
"We're certainly not disappointed," Cindy Cook said. "We wanted to see what's out there and meet people who have the same love for cars as we do. There's a little bit of something for everybody."
Jill Bergman, Danville's economic development manager, said the show's financial impact was difficult to measure but that, like all the town's special events, the goal was to promote local business and lure tourists back.
"Merchants have attested to return traffic, even if (attendees) may not have bought something that night," Bergman said. "Hot Summer Nights is probably one of the bigger regional draws."
Like most of the downtown bars and restaurants, spots like the Danville Hotel and Norm's Place were packed for the occasion. Norm's Place bar manager Chris Parsley said his business receives an average of three to four times the revenue over a typical Thursday night, bringing in out-of-town patrons who follow the car show circuit from Reno to Danville to Pleasanton and on to Southern California.
"It's always been nothing but an influx of cash flow for Danville," Parsley said. It's great for business .... This corridor is only so big, so it brings in the people for new exposure, and that's what we thrive on."
Contact Jeremy Thomas at 925-847-2184. Follow him at Twitter.com/jet_bang.