You might think that the only thing a black-and-silver 1959 Chevrolet Impala lowrider coupe and a pale-blue-like-the-ocean 1956 Mercedes-Benz 190 SL could have in common was the fact that both were on display April 17 at the mid-week Circo Massimo LV: An Evening of Cars & Culture show, being held for the first time at Downtown Summerlin.
Fact is, both the Impala and SL were in dilapidated condition when they were acquired, but they have been restored and were among the nearly 60 “royal chariots” chosen for display April 17 on the main street through Downtown Summerlin, a shopping district in a fast-growing and upscale Las Vegas community well west of The Strip.
Summerlin is named for Jean Amelia Summerlin, grandmother of aviation mogul and movie producer Howard Hughes, who in 1952 bought 25,000 acres west of Las Vegas with plans to move his businesses from California. That didn’t happen, but decades later the Howard Hughes Corporation began development of what is now home to more than 100,000 people and to the new Las Vegas Ballpark, a Triple-A minor league baseball field and home of the Las Vegas Aviators.
And now, four times each year, the home of Circo Massimo LV car shows, organized by AND Studios, a media and marketing firm. The next shows are scheduled for June 27, August 29 and October 24, which is the eve of the inaugural Las Vegas Concours.
Tyler Gallo, 30-year-old co-founder of AND Studios, said the goal for the car shows is to present an eclectic mix that anyone and everyone can enjoy because, as he put it, “cars move all of us.”
Francisco Franco said he wasn’t sure what to expect when he saw the notice for the first Circo Massimo LV car show in Summerlin. He submitted his entry, with some photos of his ‘59 Chevy lowrider, and then forgot all about the event until he was notified by email that his car had been selected for the “royal chariots” display.
Franco, who works for the Las Vegas Valley Water District, found the Chevy in a barn in Chico, California, though much of the front end was missing. But he brought it back to Vegas and turned it into a lowriding showpiece, redoing not only the exterior, but the engine, glass and interior.
The Chevy gets driven nearly every weekend, said Franco, who also has a 1984 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme that he’s customized (and displayed at SEMA), and is currently working on a 1948 Chevrolet Fleetliner he acquired last year.
Like Franco’s ’58 Impala, the ’56 Mercedes roadster was in sorry shape when Justine Nikoleit’s grandfather found it sitting outside, suffering from rain and other damages next to a doctor’s home in Laguna Beach, California.
But her grandfather was so taken with the car, which had been driven by the dentist’s wife, so he swapped his relatively new Cadillac for the 190 SL, took it home, restored it, and presented it to his 16-year-old daughter.
Because the car had been pretty much abused, he restored it, even changing it from its original cream color with red interior to the ocean blue shade inside and out because his daughter asked for that color.
Nikoleit said the car has never been any sort of garage queen, and that her mother, who died two years ago, used to drive it regularly from Laguna Beach to Durango, C0lorado, where her father (Nikoleit’s grandfather) moved to build and operate a motel.
Nikoleit’s mother moved more than 40 years ago to Las Vegas, where she established a successful interior design business. She died two year ago, leaving the car to Nikoleit, whose license plate lets everyone know that the car really remains “MOMS56.”