The Party Under The Show: Detroit Autorama Extreme 2018

So far our coverage of the 2018 Detroit Autorama has centered around the glitz, glam and chrome of the upper level. As great as the Ridler finalist cars are they can be quite far removed from what the average enthusiast is putting together in their garage.

With that in mind we’ve decided to head down to Autorama Extreme (unofficially know as “The Basment”) before presenting our larger look at the entire of the show.

The contrast from upstairs to downstairs is quite significant. Really they are two different events one literally running under the other.

The basement is more party than show. Downstairs the smell of gas mixes with rock music and the sound of metal grinding. Judge’s clip boards are replaced with beer cans. It’s where patina, oil stains, and stone chips co-mingle. Downstairs is where vehicular diversity lives.

It’s where the personality of the hot rod community shines through. In the basement, it’s not uncommon to peak into the window of a car and see something unexpected staring back at you.

Be it a blow up doll or the face of Frankenstein’s monster. A far cry from the sterile displays upstairs.

Don’t interpret our words as hate. We do love both sides of the show, we just get a little excited about the laid back nature of the basement.

Embracing The Wild

One of the first vehicles in the basement that we took a long hard look at originally started as a Volkswagen Beetle.

Today it more closely resembles a space ship than it does a German Import.

We can already picture the windowed paint job and extravagant interior this car is more than likely going to be finished with.

Another kustom, cut from the same cloth as the Beetle, could be found not too far away.

Looking more like an insect, than the beetle above, the front end of this truck didn’t originate from any factory.

Instead it was hand fabricated by the vehicles owner.

With no identifying marks we had a bit of a hard time placing the chopped and shaved cab. It could be Ford, or it could be Chevy, either way it is now one of a kind.

One of the founding principals of hot rodding is using the best motor for the job. In the case of the car above the owner decided the best motor for the job happened to be a turbo diesel.

It wasn’t traditional like many of the cars in the basement, but the beige paint really helped keep things as understated as possible. 

Of course there’s no hiding the large chrome stack.

There’s always been a bit of a push and pull between traditional cars in the basement and non. In 2018 the mix swayed more towards the traditional.

This is what people have been pushing for the last few years.

The Canadian Contingent

Coming over from Canada The Jalopy Jam Up group of cars brought with them plenty of traditional hot rodding style.

One of the organizers of that event (which we covered in 2015) is Jeff Norwell. Jeff owns the Diamond Deuce below.

The Diamond Deuce is a beautiful, period correct, Hemi powered ’32 Ford Pick Up. Like the majority of the cars in the basement it gets driven as a hot rod should.

A stones throw away from the Diamond Deuce was the “90 inch death trap”, built by Binbrook Speed Shop. As the name implies it is 90 inches long. With no front brakes and a healthy Oldsmobile Rocket V8 it just might live up the second part of its name as well.

Another Canadian group, the East London Timing Association, brought with them a collection of eclectic cars. A stand out of their display was a vintage Corvette funny car.

The Corvette actually appeared on film in the 70s movie “Hot Rod”. It was listed on eBay a few years ago as a rolling shell the E.L.T.A. scooped it up.

Currently being made track ready the car will get a mechanical over haul with the body remaining as is.

Under Construction

Plenty of vehicles downstairs were actually still in the build phase. Thankfully downstairs there are no criticisms lobbied for under construction projects.

One of our favorite, not quite done, vehicles was this Task Force Chevy truck. 

It’s clear low and slow isn’t in this trucks vocabulary.

Under the hood is a turbo LS power plant. The triple reservoir on the firewall and cage that snakes from the rear to the front suggests a strong performance slant to this build.

This is going to be one mean truck when it’s done. Hopefully the builder drops us a line when it is finished. We’d love a chance to check out all the fine details when it is complete.

Ohio based Cornfield Customs brought out two of their shop projects. Car one was an incredible 31 Ford coupe. Known as the ‘Minges Coupe’ there are louvers all over this vehicle inside and outside.

The second Corn Field Customs vehicle was the Rouster Roadster an Indy inspired street car. It’s based on a AJ Watson design and has a French block flathead under the hood.

We can’t talk about the basement without mentioning the Chop Shop located in the corner. Here legend Gene Winfield lead chopping a 34 Chevy roof live.

Even at 90 years old Gene practices what he preaches making everyday a school day. Below one of his students buttons up the roof install.

Gene wasn’t the only celebrity in the basement, Joiliet Jake and Elwood J, Blue, aka the Blues Brothers brought the Bluesmobile to the basement.

The cop motor, chop shocks, and lack of catalytic converters made the drive no big deal.

If you’ve been to the show and never taken the elevator down let this post be your invitation. One trip down and we promise you will be a return visitor.

We look forward to seeing you down there next year, at the party under the show.

About the author

Dave Thomas

Currently living near Toronto, Dave spends much of his free time behind a camera at car events, and likes just about anything with wheels, but usually the lower the better. When not taking photos, writing articles, or going upside down on his bike he can be found in the shop wrenching on his 1951 GMC pickup.
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