Hot rods highlight ‘authentic’ 1950s experience

Hot Rod Hill Climb1By Jeffrey V. Smith
The Hot Rod Hill Climb, a “living, breathing experience of authentic 1950s hot rods,” moves from its historic home in Georgetown down the road—and up the hill—to Central City this September. The free event, now in its fourth year, will fill the town’s historic Main Street and surrounding roads, Sept. 16-18, with authentic hot rods, live music, tasty food and the sound of uncapped vintage motors.

Designed to be a family-friendly experience, the Hot Rod Hill Climb was brought back to life in 2013—60 years after the first one was held in Georgetown—by Nick’s Hot Rod Garage owner, Mike ‘Nick’ Nicholas, and held again in 2014 and 2015. The revival of the classic hill climb generated “great interest and encouragement” from fellow devotees. Together with a new generation of traditional hot rod enthusiasts, history had been remade, and new traditions initiated.

“The Hot Rod Hill Climb is a recreation and celebration of the forgotten events that happened in 1953 and 1954 in Georgetown,” Nicholas said. “The goal was, and still is, to breath life into a historic event that had been lost to time. The event is an authentic recreation of the time, the machines, and the men that made it happen in those early years. These men were the pioneers of drag racing in Colorado, it was a unique event, and I wanted to honor the history and the men.”

Hot Rod Hill Climb3The Englewood-based Nick’s Hot Rod Garage crew wants everyone to know this is no “parking lot” car show. “We don’t sit around all day looking at cars,” Nicholas explained. “The event is electric, there are things moving all day, we have four bands, hot rods climbing, vendors, and vintage cars all over town to see. It’s something you can not get anywhere else.”

While everyone can find something to enjoy at the Hill Climb, the event is especially interesting to gear heads. “Many of these cars have unique speed parts that were made way back when, parts that are one of less than a handful ever made. You get to see these rare museum-worthy cars alive roaring up the canyon, you can talk to the owners and drivers, and see the cars up close and personal,” Nicholas said. “Many of the owners are the type that will invite you into the car to have a bounce on the seat and make motor noises behind the wheel. You will meet people from California, New York, Canada, Texas, Michigan, Oregon… hell, they are from all over the nation and beyond.”

By bringing the Hill Climb to Central City, organizers are able to offer more hill climbing, hot rods, close-in parking,
hotel rooms and after-hours entertainment. Nicholas expects 125 hot rods climbing the canyon on the Saturday of the Hill Climb from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. A “return road” is built into the route, so spectators will see the cars run three to five times during the day.

Hot Rod Hill Climb2“Hot Rod Hill Climb is growing. We had a big year in 2015, and our goal is to provide the best experience for everyone,” Nicholas said. The route in Central City up Spring Street to the top of Virginia Canyon allows more runs, the cars can return to the Big T lot on the parkway, that means no waiting for the cars to return. We’ve never had that. The infrastructure in Central City is suited for the bigger numbers we are hoping for… there is something for everyone.”

According to Nicholas, the new location is “a little more spread out, so you should be able to experience it better.” The “pit area,” where all the hot rod climbers will be parked, is the Big T lot just off the end of Main Street. There will be vendors in the same area and along Main Street where there will be a band stand with live music from 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

While Saturday is the main event, a “Reliability Run” running through the hills and ending in Central City takes place Friday and all the hot rods drive to Estes Park and back on the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway on Sunday.

General admission to the Hot Rod Hill Climb is free, including bands, vendors, the Hill Climb itself and all the action on Main Street. A Pit Pass, which gets spectators “up close and personal” to the cars and drivers in the Big T lot is $10.

The Reserve Casino’s Lava Room hosts alternative country music artist Rosie Flores at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. Tickets are $10 or $20 for VIP. There will also be a camp fire and a possible “sasquatch sighting” at the Central City KOA Kampground. Gaming and alcohol service is also available 24-hours a day in surrounding casinos and mine tours are offered during the day.

Visit or call 303-815-5435 for information, complete schedule, registration and more.

Originally published in the September 2016 issue of the MMAC Monthly


Friday 9/16/2016

9 AM – 3 PM: Reliability Run – Starts at Wooly Mammoth at 9am (event registration here)
Noon – 5 PM: Driver Tech inspection at the KOA
Noon – 5 PM: Driver Check-in at the Reserve Casino – Banquet Room
3 PM – 6 PM: Live Music on Main Street in Central City – Adam Lopez and his Rhythm Review
7 PM – midnight: VIP Kick-Off Party at the Reserve for Registered Event participants only (event registration here)
5 PM – midnight: KOA Campfire, restaurant and playground for kids
All Day: Gaming is 24 hour, Food & Drinks, Entertainment, Mine Tours, Recreation, Shows and more to come

Saturday 9/17/2016

7 AM – 10 AM: Pancake Breakfast at the KOA and Reserve Casino
7 AM – 8 AM: Nicks Hot Rod Garage Tent at the Big T Lot (the Pits)
9 AM – 5 PM: Downtown Central City Vendors and Live Music:
    9-10:30: Coop & Chicken Pluckers
11-12:30: High Gear Daddies
    1-2:30: The Lucky Few
    3-4:30: Ethyl and the Regulars
9 AM – 4 PM: Hot Rod Hill Climb Feature Event Early 50s Hot Rods, just like 1954 apply
4:30 PM: Closing Ceremonies on Main Street on Band Stand
7 & 9 PM: Rosie Flores at the Reserve buy tickets NOW!
5 PM – midnight: KOA Campfire, restaurant and playground for kids, Sasquatch sightings too
All Day: Gaming is 24 hour, Food & Drinks, Entertainment, Mine Tours, Recreation, Shows and more to come



7 AM – 10 AM: Pancake Breakfast at the KOA and Reserve Casino
9 AM – 2 PM: Peak to Peak Run – Central City to Estes Park on the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway (and back)
All Day: Gaming is 24 hour, Food & Drinks, Mine Tours, Recreation, and more to come


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