Classic Car Owners Hurting Heading Into HAN

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High gas prices and a struggling economy are forcing many classic car owners to manage their budgets a little bit tighter than in years past. And that's expected to make a big difference when Hot August Nights kicks off next week.

Typically there are hundreds of classic cars from all over passing under the arch in the first week of August, but at a preview event on Friday night, some participants were saying the poor economy is forcing many out of towners to stay at home. And that could make next week's crowd considerably smaller than in year's past.

"I have a lot of friends that live out of state and they don't do any of our shows," says Nathan Cerniglia, a classic car owner. "And we're just staying local and it's the only way you can afford it, but it does affect everybody. It's not good."

Cerniglia will participate in this year's Hot August Nights, but only because it's so close to his Carson City home.

He, and others at the charitable classic car show in Reno say high prices at the pump and the rising cost of steel are forcing car afficianados to stay at home, which is bad news for shows that make a living by attracting out-of-towners.

"Here in town, we just put on a show 'Classics in Raradise,' says Randy Becker, a classic car owner. "And our numbers were down a bit because of people coming from over the hill have to make a choice: either gas or groceries, evidently they picked the groceries."

The cost of putting premium gas into a classic car with poor mileage is enough to cause at least one owner to regret his decision to buy.

"I think i'd be holding onto the money rather than spending it," says Richard Brown, a Hot August Nights participant. "These things aren't cheap even the old ones like this."

Those participating in next week's Hot August Nights say they're going to spend less on sprucing up their cars than in year's past. But even though times are tight, they're willing to wait it out.

"You just pull in the reins. This is what we're going to do for the next year or two, so hopefully it'll be better as gas goes down again, but that's all we can do," says Cerniglia.