Las Vegas is great car town. You see things here on a daily basis that are rare and wonderful treats in most other cities: a Ford GT at Fresh & Easy, a 21-window VW bus on Interstate 215, a Trophy Truck doing a couple of laps around the block while the cops aren’t watching. A high percentage of our suburban garages seem to hold some kind of vehicular work in progress, and the backyards … one can only wonder about the treasures they conceal.
We’ve got the infrastructure, too: car meets, clubs, shows, rallies, races and auctions. We’re home to the largest automotive aftermarket trade show in the world (SEMA, held in November), a nationally televised collector car auction (Barrett-Jackson, Sept. 22-24), a pretty popular little NASCAR event (the Kobalt Tools 400, which draws 300,000 spectators in March) and more than a few name-brand off-road races. But the best thing about any car scene is the people you meet. The guy who drives a Kia to work and has a chopped rat rod he’s welding together in his garage. The woman in the next seat on a plane who collects Sunbeam Tigers and is on her way back from a trip to Kansas where she was checking out a barn find. The 20-something kid who—God knows why—decided a perfectly restored Gremlin was just the thing.
Car people create problems just to solve them. They find value in the past. And they’re great storytellers. What’s more, we’ve got an eclectic range of good car people here in Las Vegas. Meet five of them.
Brett Torino, The Collector
There is a place where three Hemi ’Cuda convertibles are parked in a row, paint gleaming and their tops peeled back as if you’d just walked into a Plymouth dealership circa 1971 and discovered that somehow a tenth of all Hemi ’Cuda convertibles ever built had rolled into one showroom.
Jeffrey Deitch, The Shade-Tree Mechanic
A 1972 RS SS Camaro with a big-block engine isn’t the car of Jeffrey Deitch’s dreams. He speaks more glowingly of the German engineering that went into the BMW 2002tii he bought recently, a car that started right up after sitting for 22 years.
Gordon Tronson, The Builder
If you have to ask why, you’ll never understand Gordon Tronson. There is absolutely no practical reason to build a twin-engine, 1,000-horsepower hot rod, by yourself, in your garage.
The Amazing Jonathan, The Showman
A lot of people start collecting cars as a way to preserve happier times in their lives. But not John Edward Szeles, better known in these parts as comedian/magician The Amazing Johnathan.
Andrew Ross, The Social Networker
Andrew Ross is Mini guy. The first car he ever owned, while still living in his native Australia, was a Mini. He’s worn a necklace with a Mini charm on it since high school, collected some 300 toy Minis, and owns two life-size examples of the marque: a yellow and black 2003 Cooper S, and a “classic” 1978 version painted Ford orange.