Quite some time ago, Larry Breed and Rick Hertzberg spent many nights at the Old Sierra City Hotel bar talking about owning a couple of awesome hot rods but not being unable to attend car shows as they were busy running businesses. One evening, a very smart lady then came into the bar at the hotel and said, “I’m tired of listening to you two boys complaining about your cars so, let’s just have a damn car show here in Sierra City!” She took a dart from the dartboard and threw it at a calendar on the wall. It landed on a date in mid-September and so it was born, the idea of a Sierra City car show.
Several years prior, Larry and a couple of his cousins went to a car show in Truckee. One of his cousins had a 1948 English Ford Anglia. It had wheelie bars, flames, injectors out of the hood, you name it, nice car. It was a classic hot rod but they were turned away from the show because they only allowed American-made cars. They left the car show and it bothered Larry for many years. Eventually, Larry proclaimed that Sierra City was going to have a car show, and the first show would be on September 18/19, 2009. We'll invite our friends and there are not going to be any rules whatsoever! You can bring anything you want, heck you can bring your lawnmower as long as you can drive it. It is all about getting together to hang out with their guys and gals, tell stories, and make stuff up. Talking about all the things that they got away with when they were young. We always talked about how back in the day we did this or we did that. It was to be a celebration of hot rods and lost youth.
The first year several friends were invited and we had 35 cars in the show. We had no idea how many would show up and to this day, that reality remains the same. Back in the day we didn’t advertise or do anything really, it was just word of mouth. To be honest, we didn’t care because it was just a little itty bitty car show in a little mountain town. We just wanted everyone to leave with a smile, spend some money in town, and have a good time.
We started with a meet and greet at Sorraccos Saloon around 4 o’clock the prior evening. It wasn't a requirement to pre-register but the meet and greet was a fun way to kick off the event.
The first meet and greet for the car show finally arrived and well, Larry’s youngest daughter decided that she was going to have a baby! Larry went to Rick and said, “sorry brother but I have got to go.” Rick said, “you can’t leave, I don’t know what I am doing!” Larry said, “well, I don’t know what I am doing either but I have got to go to Sacramento.” So, Larry and Kathy took off and returned many hours later with the news of the birth of their first granddaughter. It was now up to Rick and Debbie to see that the meet and greet was a success, which it was.
One year there were a bunch of blown boats down at the Sierra Skies RV park and Larry said, “the only rule (if we're going to have one) with the boats is that you have to fire them up!” They said well, we might break some windows but they did it anyway and oh boy did it crackle through the whole town. One year we even had some rock crawlers up on the side of the Old Sierra City Hotel Building. We also always tried to line up the cars in the Sierra Skies RV park which proved to be very difficult but we did it so that people could see the person and the car receiving the award. They would then head up Butte St over to Castagna Alley by the store and wait for the best of show to be announced. Then the cars would parade down to the Sierra Pines Resort and back up Main Street to the Yuba River Inn. They would drive up and down Main Street, while people would be hooting, hollering, and high-fiving as the cars drove by. Many folks returned home saying that this is a totally different car show than they have ever been to.
One memorable moment was a year when it rained for the whole weekend. There were still 45 cars and everyone toughed it out. One of the guys had a 52 Chevy Convertible that he parked in front of the post office. He put a tarp over the car and slept in it that night. The next day everyone was hanging out at the Old Sierra City Hotel bar for the awards presentation. Kathy and Larry would announce the winner of the award and they would run across the street to the store to pick up their award, do a little rain dance, then head back over to the bar for a drink.
The car show has continued over the years and every year a few more cars would come to the show. There were a couple of years where there were a hundred cars which is a bit too much for our little town to handle. The biggest problem is finding a place to stay. You’ve got to get a room for the car show next year or you may have to camp!
One of the unique things about this show is that local businesses sponsor an award to give to their favorite car. It might be a car that they rode in as a kid or a car that they always wanted or had as a teenager. The businesses pick clever names for their award like Sorraccos Saloon, “the best trunk to stuff a body in” or the CHP “Red light Runner” it’s just fun.
Well, folks, that is a little bit of Big City Rod Run history. Two car-crazed guys and a gal decided to have a car show in a little mountain town to satisfy their craving for hot rods and classic cars. We have always wanted people to stay longer and come up Thursday or Friday as there are a lot of beautiful things and places to see up here not to mention the wonderful winding road that leads to Sierra City. Driving highway 49 in a hot rod, classic car, or motorbike, there is nothing like it. This year's show is September 9-10 and we hope to see you there!