“I did a lot of bad things to it before it looked good,” said Brian Howard, a Reno resident, about his blue 1965 Shelby Mustang fastback. “There’s a lot of my youth underneath it.”
Despite their tales of automotive apocalypse, the four locals — Howard, who trains law enforcement K9 dogs; Tony Ramociotti, a financial analyst from Reno; Jake Kinne, a data equipment salesman from Sparks; and Mathew Caton, a stay-at-home dad from Sparks — brought their now well-cared-for vehicles for others to admire during this year’s 25th anniversary Hot August Nights.
Each man has a unique but similar story behind his car. Howard acquired his Mustang more than 30 years ago, before he even had a license to drive. He bought it from a friend of his father’s with money he saved working at a gun shop. He even took the test for his driver’s license in it.
When he got it, the car was a wreck, he said. In his youth he did his own share of damage to it before committing himself to restoring its beauty. He has worked on it continuously over the years: It has had three engines, three different shades of blue, six sets of wheels and three transmissions.
Though the car is pretty much retired, it has even raced Ferraris up the hills around Virginia City, Howard said. Every year since the event’s inception, the car has come out of the garage to sparkle for visitors at Hot August Nights.
“This is its biggest week,” Howard said.
In this little circle of friends, just behind Howard in terms of longevity is Ramociotti, who acquired his 1966 Mustang GT coupe 27 years ago. He saw an ad in the Big Nickel for the car, which had sat idle in a yard in Stead for a decade.Then, at just 14 years old, he dragged it home and got it running in time to get his driver’s license.
By his own admission, Ramociotti “mistreated” it while a student at McQueen High School. He stored it while he went to college and then restored it after he graduated and started earning good money. Having learned from his gearhead dad, Ramociotti did all the work on it except paint and body. The restoration took 10 years, and he has now brought the car to Hot August Nights for 15 years.
Now on his fourth Mustang is Kinne. Nine months ago he bought a black 1965 Mustang off a Craigslist ad. His previous Ford ponies were a 1971, 1984 and 2002, all of which he has since sold. He doesn’t work on them, just buys them, but this is the first time he has owned a car to enter in Hot August Nights.
“It’s more fun to watch people look at your car than to look at cars,” he said.
The last of the four Mustang owners, Caton, bought his car exactly one year ago. The white, 1966 coupe has had only three owners, all of who are in northern Nevada. Caton, who moved here 12 years ago from Anchorage, Alaska, expected to inherit one of his father’s Mustangs, but dear old dad wrecked the last one on the freeway going 100 mph, Caton said.
After this year’s Hot August Nights is done, Caton plans to start a full remodel. He hopes it will be ready for next year’s classic car event, complete with a new metallic candy apple red paint job and super snake stripes. He wants to do as much of the work himself as he can. He has done work on his own cars before, but never a project of this magnitude.
“It’s all about reading the instructions,” he said.
Both Caton and Kinne, who are in their 30s, said they plan to pass their vehicles to their children, who right now are still very young. Kinne’s 2-year-old son, Cooper, is ready for it.
“He knows it’s his car,” Kinne said.
The elder two men, however, have different plans for their treasures. They intend to be with their cars for a very long time.
“That is my coffin,” Ramociotti joked. “They’re going to bury me in it.”