For more than six decades, the Meguiar’s Detroit Autorama, presented by O’Reilly Auto Parts, has rolled into Cobo Center in downtown Detroit and delivered to the masses the current state of hot rodding. And, by all standards, things are looking great!
Massive crowds filled the 600,000 square-foot facility each day, all there to witness to one of the best indoor car shows in the country. The Autorama takes in all sorts of vehicles, motorcycles, race cars, customs, and even a few speed boats, and has become known internationally as a place to display your newly-finished ride.
The show is actually split in two, with an upstairs and a downstairs. The upstairs area is what you’d expect to find at a big-time indoor show, with hundreds of glossy vehicles on display, as well as many vendor booths, a large toy and collectible area, and even two of the Big Three: Ford and Chevrolet, presenting the latest offerings to the public.
The Autorama Extreme (referred to by some as “the basement”) is housed downstairs, and puts a spotlight on more traditional-style hot rods and customs, as well as vendor booths that cater to the lifestyle.
Upstairs you can find autograph sessions with trending television stars, while downstairs you can purchase original hot rod artwork and have it signed by the artist. Upstairs in the Motor City Auto Art Mavens section, pinstripers from around the world attend and donate art they created on show day to an onsite public auction that runs every few hours to benefit Leader Dogs For The Blind. At this show, $50,000 was raised for the charitable organization.
Downstairs, rockabilly bands pound out the tunes all weekend long, and a group of 20 pinup girls compete for a chance to win $700, and add another title to their resume. You can also find legendary customizer Gene Winfield over at the Chop Shop performing a chop on some type of vehicle.
But one of the top reasons the Autorama has attained the status level it has is because of the Don Ridler Memorial Award. Ridler was an early promoter of the show and, after he passed away early in his life, the show organizers decided to honor his memory with an award named for him; 2016 was the 52nd time they’ve handed out the prize.
The Ridler award has since become one of the top prizes in the country, one that both car owners and car builders look to obtain. Of all the possible entries in any given year, judges pare them down to eight vehicles (collectively known as the Pirelli Great 8), from which one winner is decided upon.
The eight cars are built to such an extreme level of fit and finish, no one knows how the judges are able to decide which one is best. It has to be a very hard job. This year the Ridler title went to Billy and Debbie Thomas of Georgetown, Texas for their exceptional ’39 Olds convertible.
This was the 64th annual Detroit Autorama, and it seems the show just keeps better and better each year. Though there have been “up” and “down” years in the past, this year’s event was very strong, with lots of great cars to check out, and we can hardly wait for the 65th next year!