Quincy man wins Best in Show at Hot August Nights

Jay Skow’s 1952 Ford Victoria sits outside his house in Quincy. Skow’s car won him the Best in Show and Grand Marshal Award at Hot August Nights earlier this month. Photos submitted
James Wilson

  When Jay Skow bought his first car at the age of 15, he knew he had something special. Fifty-six years later, that same car would win him Best of Show and the Grand Marshal Award at the Grand Sierra’s Hot August Nights in Reno.

  Skow went to a dealership in his hometown of Bethesda, Md., with his parents when he was just 15. His parents were trading their car in for a new Plymouth. At that same time, someone else brought their 1952 Ford Victoria in to trade. Skow saw the car and immediately fell in love.

  “I saw that car and knew I wanted to have it,” recalled Skow. “I talked to my dad and said, ‘I’m 15 and will have my driver’s license soon enough. I should get a car now.’”

  Skow had money saved up from odd jobs he took on as a kid. In third grade, Skow got a paper route and the only item he bought with the money was a bicycle. Similarly, Skow had saved money he earned mowing lawns around his neighborhood. The price for the car was $600.

  “I was ready to pay $600 when my dad told the dealer we wouldn’t give him a penny over $550,” continued Skow. “I had never seen haggling before and didn’t understand what was going on. When I went to the grocery store with my mother and a gallon of milk costs $1, she never tried to get it for 75 cents.”

  The dealer wouldn’t drop below $600, even after Skow’s father raised his bid up to $575. Skow had tears in his eyes as he and his father walked away from the dealership empty-handed. Right when they were almost off the lot the dealer poked his head out the window and yelled, “Let’s split the difference — $587.50 is my final offer!”

  Shortly after buying the Ford Victoria for $587.50, Skow began customizing it. The first thing he did was cut the top off to make it a hardtop convertible.

  Over the next several years Skow made several altercations. Skow added a 1957 Thunderbird engine, a 1954 Ford dash and 1956 Packard taillights that were inverted, to name a few changes. In 1960, while still in high school, Skow painted his car aquamist and frost white.

  After high school Skow joined the Navy. While in the service he repainted his car different colors. Skow eventually bought other cars and focused more on preserving his Victoria rather than driving it. By the time he met his future wife, Diane, in 1970, the car had become a permanent item in his garage.

  “For decades I never heard that car start up,” commented Diane. “We married in ’72 and the whole time the car was sitting in our garage.”

  In 2006, Jay and Diane traveled back to Bethesda for Jay’s 45th high school reunion. His old classmates reminisced with him about the good old days when they traveled around in Jay’s Victoria. This rekindled Jay’s love of the car and he decided to restore it.

  Over the next six years Jay dedicated countless hours giving the car a body-off restoration. One aspect that truly helped the car come alive was repainting it the aquamist and frost white colors he remembered.

  “I told Jay he had to paint it the same color it was in high school,” continued Diane. “He always says the car is like a time machine; it takes him back. This really helped with that.”

  The restoration was finally completed in late July 2012. Jay entered his car in a few shows within a couple weeks at the 2012 Hot August Nights. Jay won Best of Show at three casinos. He knew he had to re-enter the car in 2013. This year Jay once again won Best of Show from several casinos, and even got one step further.

  On Aug. 10, Jay’s 1952 Ford Victoria won the Grand Marshal Award at the Grand Sierra. The best of the best cars from all the casinos were entered into this show, and Jay’s turned out to be the best of them all.

  Jay is now preparing his car for the 27th West Coast Nationals to be held in Pleasanton this weekend. With any luck, his first car will catch the judges’ attention once again.

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