Meguiar’s 70th Detroit Autorama

The Ridler and So Much More!

By Eric Geisert   –   Photography by the Author

Tradition is sometimes hard to find, even when something has been around for 70 years but, since 1953, the Detroit Autorama has been able to deliver on its boast of being “America’s Greatest Hot Rod Show.” Through seven decades the Detroit show has demonstrated its perfect blend of tradition and contemporary, with a little sideshow mixed in for good measure.

- Advertisement -
02 2023 detroit autorama great 8 ridler
To finance the building of their own dragstrip on 60 acres in New Baltimore, MI, members of the Michigan Hot Rod Association not only used their club dues but also organized a car show to raise funds. The car show became the Detroit Autorama, and the track, which opened in 1959, became Motor City Dragway, and closed in 1996.

Many facets of today’s Detroit Autorama are firmly entrenched in its long history. Celebrity autograph sessions used to feature TV’s Batman Adam West or well-known sports figures; this year’s show featured TV personality Dave Kindig, actor Henry Winkler, and hip-hop’s Falvor Flav.

03 2023 detroit autorama great 8 ridler

Thirty years ago, the Autorama debuted the Toy-A-Rama, where collectors and fans of model cars continue to meet and trade. More recent additions to the program include the Mavens Pinstripe auctions where pinstripers from all over the country gather to create artwork and put it up for auction to raise thousands of dollars for the Leader Dogs for the Blind organization.

- Advertisement -
04 2023 detroit autorama great 8 ridler
One of the most-talked-about trucks at the show featured a complete carbon-fiber Chevy C10 body, engineered and built by Fiber Forged Composites and Z Rodz and Customs for the owner, Rod Parsons, to go autocross racing. To achieve that goal, they used a Moran Motorsports 434ci engine with a Dart LSX-Next aluminum block, a MoTeC M150 fuel injection system, and a Detroit Speed Engineering chassis in the build.

But the main attraction, both in 1953 (when only 40 cars gathered) to today (where 800-plus vehicles are shown), has always been the cars. Located in the Motor City’s downtown Huntington Place convention center (called Cobo Hall for decades) you’ll not only be able to see a wide range of customized vehicles but also a high build standard.

05 2023 detroit autorama great 8 ridler
Jon Hall is a longtime hot rodder and owner of Shadow Rods. He modified the sheetmetal on this XL27 track-nose roadster before giving it to Greening Auto Company to paint, upholster, and mill all the extra parts, including the wheels. Hall was this year’s recipient of the CASI Cup (the show’s highest honor outside the Ridler and Great 8 awards).

In 1964, to honor the death of the show’s promoter who was instrumental in putting the Detroit Autorama on the national map, the Don Ridler Memorial Award was first given out. Open to any type of vehicle that demonstrates exceptional creativity, engineering, quality workmanship, and is of a first-time-shown status is eligible. The one and only next step in the process is to be awarded a BASF Great 8 trophy—the exclusive group of eight car owners from which the Ridler will be picked.

06 2023 detroit autorama great 8 ridler
There was a well-deserved multi-car display of the Alexander Brothers (aka “A Brothers”) creations, including Mike Alexander’s personal Grasshopper pickup truck. Also in the grouping was the Deora pickup—the car the A Brothers won the Ridler award with in 1968.

This year’s eight qualifiers highlighted two facts: This was first time no pre-’49 vehicles were in the competition and, even with two trucks making it into the Great 8, no truck has won the Ridler since the Alexander Brothers did so in 1968 with their custom Deora. This year’s finalists also demonstrated the diversity the Ridler always provides in that a ’67 Nova, a ’65 Mustang, a ’50 Mercury, a ’58 GMC, a ’55 Chevy convertible, a ’69 Super Bee, a ’53 3100 pickup, and a ’78 Mustang were all competing for the show’s highest honor, which is handed out during the last few hours of the show on Sunday evening. The intense guessing game on who will win the Ridler is just a part of the spectacle the Detroit Autorama has always been and will continue to be. MR

- Advertisement -

Related Articles

Search Our Site

More Modern Rodding

1949 Chevy Fleetline With Timeless Design

Custom Looks & Modern LS Performance By Brian Brennan   -  ...

How To Replace Upper and Lower Cowl On A Classic Car

New Sheetmetal From Auto Metal Direct For This 1964...

1932 Ford Highboy Coupe With 50s Vibe

Home-Built Hot Rod With 331 Hemi Power By Brian Brennan  ...

Rodding Around – ARP to Present Major Awards at 2023 Triple Crown of Rodding

By Brian Brennan ARP is getting into supporting the hot...

Truly Custom 1935 Chevy Coupe

Part Two: Ironworks Speed & Kustom Got It Just...

Donn Lowe’s 1929 Ford Model A Roadster

The Master Of Metal Brings Originality To The Ford...
More Modern Rodding

Seasoned Show Car: 1950 Mercury Custom

Kevin’s Candy Cobalt Blue 1950 Mercury Custom Has a...

Everything You Need To Know About a Ford 9 Inch Rear End

Our 1957 Ford Ranch Wagon Gets Rear End Components...

Deep Blue Bel Air With Big Block Performance

An Incomplete 1958 Chevy Bel Air Proved to be...

How To Install Firewall On A 1964 Ford Galaxie

Auto Metal Direct Supplies Replacement Firewalls For Your Classic...

Street Rod Rarity: Chevy Nomad Wagon

Jeff Calley’s ZZ4 Crate Engine Powered 1956 Chevy Nomad...

How to Install Heidts’ 4 Link Suspension On A Tri-Five (1955-1957) Chevy

Improving the Handling and Ride Quality On This 1956...