Five Fabulous Favorites From The 2020 Detroit Autorama

The Detroit Autorama, now in its 68th year (making it the second-oldest indoor custom car show in the world), rolled in the Motor City this weekend. We had a chance to see all the show had to offer — from the rough and ready traditional-type hot rods in the basement of the TCF Center (previously Cobo Hall) to the hundreds of vehicles spread across the 200,000-square-foot upstairs floor space.


Some show car owners attend in hope of their rides being picked as a Great 8 vehicle, one of the eight spots given out making a car eligible to win the Don Ridler Memorial Award, one of the highest honors in the hot rod world.

We’re highlighting five cars that brought something special, including one car from the Autorama Extreme basement display, one of the Great 8 vehicles, plus a good cross-section of the wide variety of cars this show always demonstrates. It’s why the Detroit Autorama is known as America’s Greatest Hot Rod Show.

Let’s get started.

Dave Jolly / 1938 Lincoln Zephyr

Dave Jolly’s Zephyr convertible started life as a coupe and is made from an original steel body. A custom tube frame allowed the wheelbase to be stretched two inches, and an IFS and four-bar suspension system added. Body mods include extended fenders, ’39 Zephyr headlights, a chopped windshield, and a driver’s side suicide door. House of Kolor black and green pearl paint finishes the exterior. Under the hood is a Lincoln 460 outfitted with Super Cobra heads fed by a Demon carb. Inside the cockpit is a pair of ’89 T-Bird seats covered in leather.

Bob Matranga / 1955 Chevrolet

Bob Matranga’s Brute Force ’55 Chevy rolled in from Southern California and picked up a Great 8 award, qualifying him to win the Don Ridler Memorial Award on Sunday. The body has been massaged (3/4-inch roof chop, fenders sloped downward, reverse-open aluminum hood) and a twin-supercharger Merlin 540 engine with Arias heads for power. A long list of technology-based items allows Bob to turn on the headlights, open the trunk, or even start his car from his smartphone. The leather used for the interior has been perforated by CNC, creating a Chevy V-pattern that is used throughout the car.

Larry Mingus / 1930 Ford Coupe

Though the Autorama Extreme car show held in the basement of the Detroit Autorama caters to roughly-finished rods and customs, there are also some glossy cars on display, too. Larry Mingus, from Harrison, Ohio, started working on his Ford coupe and found the condition to be much worse than he’d originally thought, so new quarter panels had to be made. Though chopped, the coupe isn’t channeled, though it appears to be. A .080-over ’39 Merc Flathead is used (backed to a T-5 trans) and hundreds of louvers are found on the decklid and roof insert.

Marv Wiegand / 1960 Rambler American Wagon

Folks have modified Rambler wagons for years, but we’ve never seen it done the way Marv Wiegand’s ’60 American two-door was done. That’s because he used and modified many parts from a ’55 Chevy to customize his ride, including the front fenders and headlight area, bumpers, grille, dash, and a narrowed ’55 hood. A ’55 Nomad roof design, with reveal lines crossing the roof from side to side, and ’55 side trim completes the transformation. The wagon sits on a Fatman IFS sub-frame and a fuel-injected 360 AMC V8 is backed with a 2004R auto trans. Brown and beige leather are found inside, while a desert khaki and ivory paint scheme was used on the exterior.

Gizmos/Greg Friedrich / 1960 Plymouth Fury Wagon

This ’60 Plymouth Fury is a four-door converted to a two-door with the help of (longer) two-door doors, which changed the B-pillar along the way. The rear quarters are stretched, and the top chopped 2.75 inches while retaining the stock length. Bought a dozen years ago, the wagon was turned into a land speed car after the owner/builder (and Gizmos shop owner, Greg Friedrich) spent a decade involved in land speed racing at Bonneville. The wagon was built at Gizmos on a full tube-frame chassis and includes one-off suspension pieces. The naturally-aspirated 528 Hemi GenII engine runs on gas or ethanol and made 780hp on the dyno. But, keep in mind, this is a street-driven vehicle Greg intends to drive to Bonneville later this year with an eye on going 200-mph, aiming later at the 256-mph record. The trans is a four-speed Jeffco trans with a Gear Vendors overdrive, which connects out back to a Winters quick-change rearend. The House of Kolor base (Galaxy Gray, in which Greg worked with Jon Kosmoski on) had pearl added to get the slight green tint, then covered with a satin clear. Forgeline wheels (one race set, one street set) were engineered to work with the Mickey Thompson Bonneville tires.

Be sure and stay tuned to Rod Authority for all the updates from the 2020 Detroit Autorama.

About the author

Eric Geisert

A journalist and photographer, Eric Geisert, worked for three years at VW Trends magazine before joining Street Rodder magazine in 1991. In 2002, he was named one of The 50 Who Made A Difference at the 50th Detroit Autorama and, in 2004, was named editor of Kit Car magazine, a 30-year-old title. By 2006, a move back to Street Rodder came with a senior editor position and, in 2007, Eric was inducted into the Circle of Champions, the Detroit Autorama's Hall of Fame. In 2013, he became a freelance writer and works on his expansive car collection that includes a ’34 five-window Ford coupe, '32 Ford roadster, reproduction '59 Lotus 11, 356 Porsche speedster, and '59 Karmann Ghia.
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