Regarded as “America’s Premier Custom Show Car Series” the World of Wheels, Autorama, and Cavalcade of Customs events are highlighted by the Detroit Autorama. It is during this event that the recipient for the Ridler Award is recognized. This three day pilgrimage also serves as a homecoming for automotive enthusiasts. It provides the nation, and foreigners alike, with a chance to flock to the Motor City where it all began.
This year’s event was no different; all the sights, spectacles, and sounds you’d expect from this legendary annual were present. Read further as we spotlight the 2015 Pirelli Great Eight, two standout creations that were displayed in the subterranean Autorama Extreme exhibit, and some insight from Chip Foose on this year’s Ridler Award winner, plus more.
Just as exciting, if not more, as the Ridler recipient is the lineup of who the year’s contenders are. Finding out who the Pirelli Great Eight are is an objective for every attendee and enthusiast following the Autorama and Ridler series.
While others were on a mad dash to snap photos and upload them onto the web as soon as possible we wanted to go the extra step. We interviewed as many of the Great Eight vehicle owners and/or builders that we could for real insight, details straight from the source, and to see what the Ridler Award represented to them.
Rod Authority was able to catch up with six out of eight individuals who provided some great information on their contending vehicle. Unfortunately, there were two which we were not able to hold interviews for, but none the less, we captured photos of all eight for your viewing pleasure. Which is your favorite from this year’s lineup?
Tim Palazzolo’s ’69 Ford Mustang
Palazzolo’s bold-blue Mustang is powered by a Boss 572ci motor. The car has been widened 1 1/2-inches in the front and 2 1/2-inches in the rear. It sits on air ride suspension and 20×10-inch front and rear wheels with Michelin Pilot Sport 345s in the rear.
“We just tried to make it look real wide and mean, and it looks like it’s going fast while sitting still,” Palazzolo said.
We asked Palazzolo what the most challenging modification on the build was: “Oh man, just trying to incorporate so many aftermarket parts and making them all work together. Every vendor’s part is really great, but they don’t always work with the next person’s. Trying to make everything cooperate together and match, from the finishes and the colors, and just making them look right–that’s one of the hardest parts is picking out where those separations are and making it work.”
When it came to what the Ridler Award meant to him, Palazzolo told us: “That’s a dream come true, man. Winning the Great Eight was a big deal for me, it was a big achievement. As young as I am, I’m 34 years old, it’s a huge milestone.”
He continued, “It’s like winning the Oscar, and it’s one of the biggest awards you can win. I really respect the judges and their process because they don’t just inspect the car on its appearance, they judge and critique everything. I really appreciate the fact that they take the time to judge each aspect of the car individually, from the wheel wells and the bottom of the car, to the engine.”
This ’69 was definitely a crowd favorite, but despite the great styling, challenges where met for Palazzolo and his team upon their arrival to the Autorama: “This car had pushed me to my end, we had trouble getting the car started when we came here. We had low voltage on the battery because of the cold weather and the motor has such high compression that it kicked back and sheered some teeth off the flywheel; it fought me the entire way.”
“We finally got it started the last day and it’s awesome because all the other Great Eight guys here, they were standing by cheering us on and rooting for us the whole time. It’s big camaraderie here,” Palazzolo said in closing.
Willie Maise’s ’65 Dodge Dart
Some of the Dart’s highlights include, “110 body modifications, 42 one-off machined parts, a 392ci supercharged Gen II HEMI paired with a TREMEC six-speed, and an interior done up by M&M Hot Rod Interiors.
In terms of the most challenging aspect of the build for Posey and his guys, the shop owner had this to say, “Chopping the top and shortening the body, that was probably the biggest part for us.”
“The Ridler Award is one of the top awards in this industry,” Posey said when we asked what it represented to him. He continued, “It represents one of, if not the, top car of the year.”
Gil Losi’s ’56 Plymouth Belvedere
Losi’s ’56 Plymouth Belvedere Convertible, dubbed Rare Air, was wedge cut. Losi explains, “In stock condition the sides are built to run down low and the bumper looks like it’s about a foot in the air, so we had to wedge cut it to level everything out.”
New floor pans were built for the front and rear floor sections and the bumpers were reshaped. Losi decided not to chop or tilt the windshield because, in his eyes, the roofline and windshield rake had a sleek look off the factory line.
The most challenging aspect of the build for Losi was getting the headlights to look just right. Losi explained, “I bought ’56 Chrysler fenders and headlight surrounds and we married them with the factory fenders.”
For Losi, the Ridler Award sparked some of the same sentiments as Tim Palazzolo, “The Ridler Award in our hobby is like winning the Oscar for cars. I would love to win it, but it isn’t the end of the world if I don’t. I was really hoping that I’d make the Great Eight coming back to the Detroit Autorama and I did that, so my bucket list is checked off.”
Losi wanted to thank all the individuals involved with the creation of Rare Air, “There are so many people to thank; Steve Cook and his associates at Steve Cook Creations, Gabe Lopez who did the interior–he did an incredible job, Mike Curtis who cut the wheels and other pieces such as the air cleaner. There are so many manufacturers to thank; Air Ride, Baer Brakes, Airaid, Lokar, Billet Specialties, Axalta, and many more. I know I’m missing some, but I want to thank all of the manufacturers and individuals involved in this build.”
Dean Osland’s ’59 Rambler American Wagon
The interior was reproduced off of a 2008 Chevrolet Malibu. The dashboard was recreated out of farmed aluminum and wrapped with fine leather.
Osland expressed that assembly of the motor was the toughest challenge for his Ridler contender, “This motor is one of only one that has been put together this way. I wanted to keep it under the hood so I had to have a custom intake made. The original engine builder ended up going bankrupt so it was a challenge getting all my parts back.”
When we asked Osland what he thought the highlight of his build was amidst the fact that it had 35 modifications he had this to say, “The fact that it’s an orphan, it stands apart.”
“The Ridler Award for me is a bucket list item,” Osland said. He continued, “It’s very prestigious and it teared me up when I got the selection for the Great Eight this morning, it means a lot.”
In closing Osland had this to say when asked about why he chose the Rambler American as a vehicle to contend with at this year’s Autorama, “I guess you could probably call me a freak because I own three Ramblers. My start was a two door coupe that I customized and won several awards with. Then I bought a stock one, which I kept stock. Somebody offered me this wagon that you see here and I bought it, seven years later this is what I have.”
We got a chance to catch up with Phil Gerber, co-owner of Roadster Shop of Mundelein, Illinois. It was his shop who exhibited their talent on Al Nagele’s ’32 Roadster, affectionately named, Deuce Flyer.
Here is a run-through of some of the roadster’s specs: It is powered by a GM LS6 touting CNC heads, a COMP cam, Edelbrock dual four-barrel carburetors, and a custom 2.5-inch stainless steel exhaust system built by Roadster Shop. The LS motor is paired to a TREMEC TKO500 five-speed for some no-holds-barred fun on the road.
The ’32’s chassis has been optimized by Roadster Shop to be “optimized for under-car airflow and clearance for tie rods.
The wheel and tire combination are 17×7 and 18×9, front and rear respectively, by Billet Specialties wrapped in Goodyear F1s.
“Al’s a retired engineer who drew everything to scale for the car and we built it to his specs,” Gerber explained. While builders sure love the chance to have free reign on a project and creative license to produce a one-off creation for their customers, Gerber told us that the collaboration with the retired engineer was a genuine pleasure. “It was a cool and unique project with a really hands-on customer.”
We asked Gerber to point out some details on the Deuce, “Literally everything on the car is very subtle, and at first glance you probably don’t notice a lot of the stuff that’s done. Every piece on it is a one-off specifically built piece. Al Nagele went from designing the shape and profile of the frame rails to where we were routing the brake lines; every crossmember is one-off tubing; every bracket that holds spark plug wires, starter wires, the leather-wrapped accents throughout, the machined wood bows for the headliner; you know, all the little stuff that you take for granted, it’s all been addressed.”
Mike & Belinda Terzich’s ’37 Ford Woodie
We didn’t get a chance to catch up with the builders or the owners of this ’37 Ford Woodie, but we did snap a few photos for you. Mike and Belinda Terzich’s modern rendition of the iconic surfer’s transport was built by C. Cook Enterprises and designed by Ragle Design.
It is highlighted by carbon fiber inlays and parts, most apparent on the doors, courtesy of Protech Composites, and is powered by a Roush 427ci Ford with EFI rated for 525 horsepower. Custom Billet Specialties wheels wrapped with BFGoodrich tires keep it rolling. Wilwood six-piston calipers clamp down on 14-inch rotors for stopping power.
Alan Reed’s ’69 Chevrolet Camaro
We weren’t able to catch up with Alan Reed or any of the builders from Hot Rod Joes Rod & Customs out of Lafayette, Louisiana to get the inside scoop on this ’69 Camaro, but check out some of the spec highlights and photos below.
2010 Camaro headlights and taillights have been swapped into the housings while altered body lines, shaved drip rails, and flush mounted glass add to this Ridler contender’s many subtle design elements.
The chassis is comprised of a Heidts Pro G front clip with 13-inch six-piston brakes and a Heidts 4-link with 12-inch four-piston brakes in the rear.
The inside of Reed’s ’69 features a custom dash and gauge pods, Dakota Digital instrumentation, and grey leather & suede with copper stitching masterfully executed by Pro Auto Interiors of Knoxville, Tennessee.
Ridler-Winner Don Voth’s ’65 Chevrolet Impala
We’re sure there’s been lots of press on this year’s Ridler winner that has been circulating since the Detroit Autorama ended last month. We wanted to do something a little more than just report on the specs and instead asked designer Chip Foose where the inspiration and direction for the Voth’s ’65 Impala stemmed from.
Don’t worry, inside our full gallery you’ll find some snapshots of a reference car that was displayed next to the Ridler winner. It detailed where cuts where made and modifications were executed by displaying reference lines, notes, and measurements in easy-to-see permanent marker against the car’s white paint job.
“Well, Don drove a ’65 Impala back when he and Elma were dating. After that, they actually drove an Impala on their honeymoon,” Foose said. “Elma wanted this car for herself and when Don told me he wanted to build this for Elma I said, ‘let’s go buy a brand new Corvette and put the ’65 on top of it so it’s bulletproof.”
An extremely lavish idea to say the least, Foose went into more detail, “She can enjoy it and drive it; if you give a woman a hot rod and it fails on her and she’s stranded somewhere, she’ll never want to get in it again. By using the technology and all the factory engineering & prototyping off of a brand new Corvette, it is a perfect car to drive; it’s not going to fail. If it does have a problem Elma can drive it into a dealership, they can plug it into a computer, pull a part number off the shelf, put it back on, and she’s on the road again.”
Spotlights From The Under Hall Exhibit, Autorama Extreme
It wasn’t just about the Ridler winner and Great Eight contenders this year. We cannot overlook the fact that below, in the Autorama Extreme exhibit (reserved for traditional hot rod and kustom builds) there were a plethora of one-off creations on display.
Which of our two spots is more your flavor? One is a nostalgic-gasser inspired monster and the other is a jaw-dropping work of rivets and copper meant to pay homage to the rum runners and bootleggers of the outlaw days of hot rodding.
Glen Botting’s 1962 Mercury Comet “Instigator”
Instigator was the first vehicle to catch our eye in the Autorama Extreme exhibit underneath all the hustle and bustle on the top floor of the show. Glenn Botting brought his Mercury down from Brantford, Canada to spread his brand of hot rodding and nostalgia racing inspiration.
“It has a 355ci roller that uses a cross log ram intake, dual 600cfm vacuum secondaries, Ford 9-inch with 3.73 gearing,” Botting said as he went into detail about the drivetrain and vehicle highlights. He continued, “The whole interior is dead stock except for the roll cage. The cage was installed as period correct.”
We asked Botting for some history of how he came to own the Comet, “There was a gasser that was five doors down from where I lived. I dragged it home at the end of last September.” It was stripped bare and Botting certainly hit the jackpot as the original owner had been diligent during the teardown. “Every nut, bolt, grommet, and bezel was tagged, bagged, and organized in banker boxes.”
A Canadian-native and regionally renowned painter, Kenny K, was the source of inspiration for Botting’s psychedelic paint job. “The car is a Ford color, Wimbledon White,” Botting explained. “We did the old neon trick–this is just pinstriping with airbrush over top to give that neon effect. Then, we got into the lace, I didn’t want the doily or the flower lace so I went to the mill and they had some Halloween lace leftover. Then we have some scallops as well. The name has been done in variegated gold leaf.”
Rusted Crow’s 1930 Ford Model A
We caught up with Joe Schebel, owner and operator of Rusted Crow distillery to get the scoop on their hot rod meant to pay homage to the moonshiners of the 30s and to serve as a promotional vehicle for his distilling company out of Dearborn, Michigan.
Motor City Rat Rods handled the fabrication while Schebel’s friend, Don Farmer, built the chassis. Schebel got his hands dirty on the project as well. It is powered by a 350ci out of a ’71 Camaro paired to a 700R4. The headers are custom built by Schebel who wanted to emulate the worm condenser on a moonshine still.
“There’s over 9,000 rivets all done by hand, I have over 800 hours into riveting the car,” Schebel explained. He continued, “What I would do is start with one plate–I was a fan of a cartoon when I was a child; the old submarine that kept springing a leak and they would just keep putting patch over patch to fix it. It was originally just supposed to be the roof, but then it transferred to the firewall, the radiator cover, and the interior…”
The interior door panels are Kentucky whiskey barrels that have all been cut down and sanded down to achieve the right profile. It features a 5-inch chop, 5-inch channeling, and 4-inches deleted from the bottom section of the car.
Schebel tells us that he pulled the car out of the woods in Minnesota. “The original owners were using it as a dear blind, hunting deers, for the last 20 years–that’s why you see birdshot and buckshot riddled all over the car,” Schebel explained.
What Does This Year’s Great Eight Say About Next Year’s Pick?
Based on this year’s Great Eight spread what do you think will catch the attention of the judges next year? An orphan car? A truck? A lavish modern-undercarriage swap paired with an iconic classic body? A big-bodied custom?
What do you think of this year’s decision? Would you agree that Don Voth’s Impala was the hands-down winner or do you have a different opinion of who should have won? Be sure to comment with your thoughts below and make sure you check out the FULL gallery from this year’s Detroit Autorama below as well.