Auctions, SEMA Show, even a new concours make Vegas a destination for the car enthusiast
For a six-week period from early October to nearly mid-November, it’s not Monterey or Goodwood, Scottsdale or even Hershey that becomes the epicenter of the collector car universe. Believe it or not, it’s Vegas, baby!
Here’s the lineup of events that will car collectors and enthusiasts making regular flights into and out of McCarran International Airport should they not be arriving via Interstate 15 or that new Interstate 11, which will connect Las Vegas and Phoenix once Arizona gets busy and completes its section of the new super slab:
October 3-5: Barrett-Jackson’s 12th annual Las Vegas collector car auction, at the Mandalay Bay resort and casino, where last year 733 vehicles were sold to new owners (for an venue-record $32.9 million) and where this year Toyota joins Dodge in providing thrill-rides on a 60,000-square-foot circuit and where the 2,000-square-foot TechFord STEM Center will be open to give students a better understanding of automotive technology careers.
October 10-12: Mecum Auctions’ third annual Las Vegas collector car auction moves from the South Hall to the Central Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center, where last year it sold 667 vehicles for $25.2 million. This year the auction will feature the inaugural “Mecum Presents Guitar Search by Domino” with 21 curated vintage guitars on the auction block.
October 25-28: The inaugural Las Vegas Concours d’Elegance will be a four-day celebration with an opening night gala at the Frank Gehry-designed Keep Memory Alive Event Center, with food by celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck and with the presentation of the first Helene Awards for innovation and contributions to the auto industry; the concours d’elegance on Saturday at the Dragon Ridge Country Club; a Sunday morning Tour d’Elegance with the concours cars touring The Strip, which will be closed to other traffic for the 2-hour event; and a celebrity golf tournament on Monday at the Dragon Ridge course, with funds going toward scholarships at the ArtCenter College of Design.
November 5-8: The 52th annual SEMA Show overflows the Las Vegas Convention Center, filling all four huge exhibition halls, the parking lots and nearby hotel facilities as around 150,000 participants (the second largest convention of the year in Las Vegas) who are part of the $45 billion automotive aftermarket industry and who gather to share their newest products. The show is a trade show open only to those registered with the Specialty Equipment Market Association, though a SEMA Ignited car show in the convention center’s Platinum parking lot is open to the public on the late afternoon and into the evening of November 8.
Oh, and SEMA is only part of the automotive aftermarket action taking place during the week. Over at the Sands Expo, from November 5-7, it’s AAPEX, the Automotive Aftermarket Products Expo is yet another trade show, though primarily aimed at those who sell and install such products.
So, since you, car enthusiast/collector/industry employee/business owner are going to be spending time in the next few weeks in Las Vegas, you might wonder if there’s anything to do when you’re not at an auction/concours/trade show.
Guess what! There are plenty of things to occupy your time and attention in Las Vegas, no kidding. You know that song about how New York is the city that never sleeps? Well, Frank Sinatra could easily have sung those words in relation to Las Vegas, except that they would add an extra syllable and ruin Fred Ebb and John Kander’s tune.
I’m writing this article because I’ve been a Vegas Valley resident for the past year, moving up from Phoenix just before Monterey Car Week 2018.
Since this website specializes in classic and collector cars, that’s where we’ll being our focus. The amazing car collection atop the parking garage at the Linq (nee Imperial Palace) no longer exists, but there are plenty of intriguing car museums to visit while you’re in Clark County:
Shelby American and Carroll Shelby Heritage Center Museum
6405 Ensworth Street, Las Vegas
Located just of The Strip and adjacent to I-15 is where Shelby American builds its Mustang GT350s and other specialty vehicles, including Ford F-150s, and where it houses its Shelby car collection and museum, and a gift shop with seemingly everything a Shelby fan might want to wear or hang on a wall — or, for that matter, park in a garage. The place is open from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. until 6 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Sunday. Guided tours not only a wonderfully informative but also free.
Nostalgia Street Rods Museum
5375 Cameron Street, Las Vegas
The Goldstrom family likes to collect stuff, and several buildings are full of among the world’s most amazing collection of street rods as well as autographed celebrity and sports photos and memorabilia, guitars, dolls, and so much more. The complex is located just west of the new Raiders pro football stadium construction site (itself a new Las Vegas tourist attraction as it rises toward the sky) and is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. and weekends by appointment. However, due to the nature of the displays, visitors need to sign up for one of the seemingly continuous tours the museum offers.
Hollywood Car Museum at Hot Rod City
5115 Dean Martin Drive, Las Vegas
Michael Dezer’s vehicle collection is large enough — 1,800 cars large enough — to fill museums in Florida and Las Vegas. In Vegas, the emphasis is on vehicles that have appeared in movies and television shows. The museum also houses for former collection of the Liberace Museum, including musical instruments, costumes and, of course, candelabra. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m.
But the museums aren’t the only places to see collector cars in Las Vegas. There also are car shows:
The Car Show on Eastern
Sansone Park Place shopping center parking lot, southeast corner of Eastern Avenue and Richmar Avenue, Henderson
Officially organized by Celebrity Cars Las Vegas and benefiting the Las Vegas Rotary Club, the show is held every Saturday morning from 7 a.m. until 10 a.m. and attracts a diverse group of 300 or so cars and their owners.
Shelby American/Heritage Center
The Shelby American facility (see above) offers up its parking lot for a weekly Cars and Coffee gathering from 7 a.m. until 10 a.m. on Saturdays.
Gateway Classic Cars
6580 South Lindell Road, Las Vegas
The Las Vegas location for the national collector car dealership group will stage a Caffeine & Chrome car shows beginning at 9 a.m. on September 28, at 6 a.m. on September 30 and at 6 a.m. on October 26 and November 30.
702 Classics & Comedy Car Show
Las Vegas Golf Center, 6730 South Las Vegas Boulevard, Las Vegas
Weekly Sunday evening car shows from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Upcoming themes are “Calling All Classics” on October 6, “Lights, Camera, Action” (iconic TV and movie cars) on October 13, “Calling All Corveettes” on October 20, “Spooky and Sinister” (Halloween trunk-or-treat) on October 27, “Modified Muscle” on November 3 and “Italian Stallions” on November 10. By the way, 702 is the Las Vegas telephone area code.
The Elite and Just Clean VW car show
Galleria at Sunset shopping center parking lot, 1300 W. Sunset Boulevard, Henderson
Hosted by Findlay VW Henderson and Jet Performance the Volkswagen gathering runs from 7 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. on October 5.
A&W 100th Anniversary fall car show
1410 Boulder City Parkway, Boulder City
The A&W drive-in restaurant in historic Boulder City, home of Hoover Dam, hosts a 100th anniversary car show on October 13 from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Halloween Hot Rod Las Vegas Strip Cruise
Las Vegas Harley-Davidson, 5191 South Las Vegas Boulevard, Las Vegas
Las Vegas Harley dealership stages its annual Halloween-time cruise of The Strip this year on October 19 beginning at 8 p.m. Though organized by the motorcycle dealership, the event is open to all sorts of vehicles, especially those decorated for Halloween, outside and in, which includes the driver and passengers.
Circo Massimo LV car show
Circo Massimo LV, organized by a couple of next-generation car enthusiasts, stages its new quarterly car shows on October 24 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. in Downtown Summerlin, an upscale shopping district just west of Las Vegas (and also home to the Las Vegas Aviators minor league baseball team). The events attract a variety of cars and owners (see story link below).
C10 Vatos SEMA Pary
Atomic Liquors, 917 Fremont Street. Las Vegas
Chevrolet C10 specialists C10 Vatos hosts its second annual SEMA party/get together on November 9 beginning at 8 p.m. at Atomic Liquors.
Goldstrom’s Classic Car Show
The Nostalgia Street Rods Museum (see above) stages a car show with Give Me Las Vegas Channel from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. on November 9.
Mustangs On The Strip 2019
Silver State Mustangs anticipates a turnout of more than 200 Ford pony cars of all generations for its fourth annual “Strip Takeover and Car Show” based at Shelby America. The event is November 9 and runs from 7 a.m. until 4 p.m.
WildHORSE POWER Car Show
Wildhorse Golf Club, 2100 West Warm Springs Road, Henderson
Also on November 9, from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., the Wildhorse golf club focuses not on golf carts but on classic vehicles as it celebrates its 60th anniversary.
Instead of looking at collector cars, perhaps you’d rather drive some modern exotics?
14200 South Las Vegas Boulevard, Las Vegas
For fees ranging from $69 (Chevrolet Corvette Z51 or Porsche Cayman 718) to $109 (Ferrari 488 GTB, Lamborghini Huracan) or up to $395 (Baja race truck), SpeedVegas offers supercar driving experiences on its paved or off-road tracks.
NASCAR/Andretti Racing Experiences, Dream Racing and Exotics Racing
Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Speedway Boulevard, Las Vegas
NASCAR/Andretti can put you into a car to ride along at triple-digit speeds on the 1.5-mile superspeedway oval track, or you can even take the wheel yourself in its various programs. Dream Racing uses the track’s infield road course and allows you to drive a variety of exotics. Exotics Racing offers a racing school and on-track experiences in supercars, race cars and go-karts as well. By the way, the track, which hosts a NASCAR race on September 15, is across the street from Nellis Air Force Base, so as fast as you think you’re going, just look up as the fighter pilots zoom overhead toward Mach 1.
Also on the track’s schedule for the fall are the Dodge NHRA Nationals drag racing championships October 31-November 3 and the NHRA Lucas Oil drag racing series November 7-10.
Las Vegas Off Road
3113 W. Tompkins Avenue, Las Vegas
Las Vegas Outdoor Adventures offers the Las Vegas Off Road experience on its 1-mile off-road circuit. Prices start at $299 with Pro Race trucks, Pro Dune Buggies, Razor ATVs and Pro Rally car packages.
Spring Mountain Motorsports Resort
3601 South Highway 160, Pahrump
The Spring Mountain road course is located in Pahrump, around 65 miles west of Las Vegas, and offers a variety of racing and driving school programs.
So now that you know how to drive, the question is where are the best driving roads in the Las Vegas area?
Valley of Fire State Park is a few miles northeast of Las Vegas and its roads are so wonderful — full of hills and curves — that it has become a favorite place for the world’s automakers to shoot their commercials. There’s a strictly enforced speed limit in the park, but the scenery is so spectacular that you won’t mind slowing down to enjoy the view.
The fastest way to get to the Valley of Fire is to take I-15 north, but the best driving route is through the Lake Mead National Recreation Area from either Henderson or Boulder City. Like Valley of Fire, there’s an admission fee, but the speed limit is more reasonable and again, the vistas are amazing, and there are plenty of places to park and take a short hike.
Another nice drive is up Mount Charleston, the nearly 12,000-foot-tall mountain on the western horizon. Again, watch your speed but enjoy the vistas, especially on State Road 158 as you do the 157-to-158-156 loop from U.S. Highway 95.
Hey, all this car stuff is wonderful, but what if we want to see a few Las Vegas attractions that don’t focus on looking at or driving cars? Isn’t there anything else to do there?
Oh, you mean like casinos? Or all the live entertainment shows? Yes, there are a few from which to choose. And don’t be surprised if you find slot machines in gas stations, grocery stores and at the airport.
But there’s much more to participate in the Lost Wages tradition. We suggest you consider these options:
The Neon Museum
770 Las Vegas Boulevard North, Las Vegas
You may not be able to time travel back to the days of the Rat Pack and the birth of The Strip, but you can revisit many of the huge and historic neon and electric signs that lite up the Nevada sky. The collection is open daily from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m. Guided tours are available.
The Mob Museum
300 Stewart Avenue, Las Vegas
This museum’s mission is to educated the public on organized crime and its impact on society, and includes a speakeasy in the basement, a crime lab and much more in a building that used to be a post office and — how fitting! — a federal courthouse, but is now a museum by the team that curated the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland and the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. The museum is open daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
The National Atomic Testing Museum
755 East Flamingo Road, Las Vegas
Atomic bombs were tested not that far from Las Vegas at the Nevada Test Site. The museum is managed by the Nevada Test Site Historical Foundation to preserve that history without all that nasty radiation while telling the story of nuclear weapons and the Atomic Age. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. and from noon until 5 p.m. on Sunday.
Seven Magic Mountains
South Las Vegas Boulevard, Clark County
This art installation by Ugo Rondinone was supposed to be erected and in place for only a few months but seems to have become a permanent landmark in the desert along Las Vegas Boulevard near Jean Dry Lake south of SpeedVegas and visible from I-15. The “mountains” are actually stacked boulders towering around 30 feet each and with each boulder painted in a bright color. The site, now with a permit from the Bureau of Land Management through 2021, has become a favorite for taking family and selfie photos.
Eldorado Canyon and Mine
16880 State Highway 165 (Mile Marker 13), Nelson
This is the site of the historic Techatticup Mine and is a 45-minute drive from The Strip. It’s buildings, with vintage vehicles scattered here and there, have been the set for several movies and are frequently used for fashion photo shoots, weddings and other events. There are three tours daily that share the site’s amazing history and that lead you down into and through the mine.