Cars

2019 Detroit Autorama: The Motor City’s Celebration of Rodding

When we arrived at Cobo Center on Wednesday, the show was still a day and a half from opening to the public, and the cavernous main hall looked pretty empty. A few vehicles were being unloaded off their trailers; the rest were on their way or still in the frantic final stages of completion. When the doors flew open on Friday morning and the crowd stormed in, every car was in place and the 67th Annual Meguiar’s Detroit Autorama Presented by O’Reilly Auto Parts was on.

The main floor was the site of a huge variety of show vehicles, with almost 1,000 phenomenal hot rods of every type, style, make, and description—from dragsters to lowriders, muscle cars to custom trucks, and of course, rods and customs. Approximately 200,000 spectators were treated to this exhibition of performance, in addition to club displays, vendor booths, and other activities and attractions, such as the tribute to legendary custom car builder Carl Casper, the annual Cavalcade of Customs, the lowrider exhibit, and the 50th anniversary recreation of Chuck Miller’s Red Baron show rod. At the bottom of the escalator, the Cobo Center basement was, once again, home to Autorama Extreme where traditionally styled, owner-built hot rods, customs, trucks, and bikes hang out.

On Friday, the first morning of the three-day show, judges announced the eight vehicles they had selected as Great 8 finalists for the most prestigious award of the weekend: The Ridler Award. On Sunday, they revealed the winner of the 2019 Don Ridler Memorial Award.

STREET RODDER joined the fun by looking for (and finding) 10 of our own favorites for the Top 100 award presented by Painless Performance Parts and the Best Ford In A Ford presented by Ford Performance.

Thanks to Championship Auto Shows, the Michigan Hot Rod Association, Meguiar’s, O’Reilly, and every participant for an unforgettable weekend.

The Great 8 Winners

By the beginning of the event the judges had selected eight finalists for the Ridler Award. Large banners identified those cars as the Great 8 presented by BASF. The field was as diverse as always, including Fords, Chevys, a Cadillac, and a Willys, ranging from 1932 through 1969. Body styles, build styles, budgets, colors, and origins were as different as can be. The common denominators were taste, technical excellence, and a huge passion on the part of the owners and builders.

These seven Great 8 finalists from this year’s Detroit Autorama are followed on the next page by the winner of the Ridler Award. For more info, photos, and video visit hotrod.com/articles/2019-detroit-autorama-great-8-winners.

Phil & Debbie Becker’s 1932 Ford Victoria / Builder: Dave Lane, Fast Lane Rod Shop
“Legacy” features reshaped original steel and a Moal coachbuilt chassis. The Chevy small-block runs eight-stack injection, a 1939 Zephyr dash and gauge cluster dress up the interior.

Sonny Freeman’s 1965 Chevelle / Builder: Mike Goldman, Mike Goldman Customs
The Chevelle is inspired by cars from Sonny’s past. The modified body sits on a Morrison chassis with a 900-horse LS7 underhood, a Paul Atkins interior, and Mike Curtis wheels.

Quint Walberts’ 1941 Willys / Builder: Quint Walberts
The Willys was owner-built in eight years of weekends. A ZZ5 engine provides power to a Moser Wavetrac rear. The interior is hand-fabricated leather with textured floor material.

Robert & Lorna Chapman’s 1935 Ford Slantback / Builder: Robert Chapman
The build began eight years ago with original ’rails and a $400 shell. Bob chopped the top and added Harley headlights in addition to a blown LS1 and other touches.

Danny, Sandy & Cody Jadresko’s 1964 Acadian / Builder: JF Launier, JF Kustoms
In the family for decades, the former drag racer is now a street car, with a Nelson Racing 632 making 2,510 hp. The cockpit boasts custom seats, a rear luggage trunk, and a full cage.

Mel Harbaugh’s 1947 Ford Sedan Delivery / Builder: Chris Dixon, Wounded Knee Motors
Mel’s Sedan Delivery was finished inside and out with a long list of tasteful components and well-made modifications. The Coyote engine earned Mel our Ford In A Ford award as well.

Pat & Debbie Moran’s 1969 Camaro / Builder: Willy Peart, Willy’s Workshop
Pat and Debbie are ’60s muscle car fans with a particular passion for Chevys. This full-frame driver blends old and new and runs a Cadillac LSA engine and 2012 Camaro interior.

The 2019 Ridler Award Winner

The Detroit Autorama’s greatest award was won by this 1959 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham, owned by the late Steve Barton of Las Vegas, and built by Jordan Quintal II and the team of builders at Super Rides By Jordan in Escondido, California.

The long-awaited “Cadmad” was a 16-year project that started with Steve’s low-production 1959 Brougham and drove onto the floor of Cobo Hall as a one-of-a kind wagon. The custom accomplishes something even GM didn’t attempt until a few years ago—a Cadillac wagon. The raw material for the luxury hauler is a 1959 Eldorado Brougham. The limited-edition Brougham was something like a factory custom from Cadillac, hand-built in Italy by Pininfarina. We’re told this in Number 85 of the 99 Broughams built in 1959.

In transforming this one into a wagon, the Super Rides By Jordan team made a few dimensional modifications. The length was reduced 18 1/2 inches, the body was sectioned 2 1/2 inches, rear doors removed, and front doors stretched 6 inches. The body was narrowed 4 inches to match the pancaked Nomad roof. The Fawntana Rose paint is similar to a factory Cadillac color from 1961, with pearl replacing the metallic.

A Nelson Racing Engine 632 is fed by 88mm Mirror Image turbochargers and capable of more than 1,000 hp. The wagon rides on an elaborate frame constructed of 1 5/8-inch round tubing, with independent front and rear suspension. It rolls on modified 18-inch Evod wheels designed to look like stock Brougham wheels. The Ron Mangus interior includes Classic Instruments gauges in a custom dash.

Steve Barton died before this car was completed; his brother Craig exhibited “Cadmad” at the Detroit Autorama in his honor. The car started creating a buzz among participants on Thursday setup day and continued throughout the weekend. On Sunday afternoon, it earned the ultimate title of the Ridler Award.

See more photos here.

Best Ford In A Ford Presented by Ford Performance

YEAR: 1947
MAKE: Ford
MODEL: Sedan Delivery
OWNER: Mel Harbaugh
STATE: Michigan

We were telling Mel Harbaugh that he had won the Ford Performance/STREET RODDER Best Ford In A Ford award when Autorama judges approached to inform him that the car had been selected into the 2019 Great 8. All this news was a little overwhelming, Mel told us, considering his 1947 Ford Sedan Delivery was built as a driver not a show rod. In fact, of all the 2019 Great 8 winners, Mel’s delivery was the only one not displayed on stands or with mirrors.

Mel, from Ottawa Lake, Michigan, has owned many great cars, mostly Fords from the ’50s and ’60s, but always wanted a Sedan Delivery. When he bought this one at the Auburn Auction in 2008, it was black with red steelies, running a Flathead. “People called it a hearse,” he recalls. His first modification was a Chassis Engineering chassis.

In 2017, Mel took the car to Chris Dixon at Wounded Knee Motors in Toledo, Ohio. When it was finished last October the only original parts were the body and the instrument panel. The sheetmetal was shaved of all trim and hardware, and Kindig flush door handles were added. Doors now feature hidden hinges, and the windshield and side windows are one-piece glass. The parking lights were eliminated and stock headlights replaced with Indian Motorcycle headlights. The taillights were handbuilt. The rear bumper is removed and a first-generation Camaro front bumper was transplanted below the painted grille. The Oasis and Emerald paint combination was inspired by Ford fleet colors and shot by Becker Automotive Specialties in Wauseon, Ohio. Dave Knepper applied the pinstriping, beltline graphics, and underhood lettering.

The upgraded chassis includes Mustang II IFS and RideTech ShockWaves. Colorado Custom Lazear wheels, measuring 18 and 20 inches, roll on 225/40ZR18 and 245/40ZR20 BFGoodrich radials, with Wilwood disc brakes at each wheel.

Lee’s Trim Shop in Toledo finished the cavernous interior in tan leather with black trim on the components. Mazda buckets allow room for the fabricated center console, which houses the head unit for the Pioneer audio system and vents for the Vintage Air A/C. A Billet Specialties Formula steering wheel sits on an ididit column. Classic Instruments provided gauges.

Mel always wanted his delivery to be Ford powered. He planned on a 4.6L 32-valve DOHC engine but changed his mind when Ford offered a 5.0L Coyote compatible with an automatic transmission harness and control pack. The Aluminator is a Coyote crate engine from Ford Performance Parts featuring premium high-performance pistons and rods. Chris Dixon built the engine cover. Mel’s engine is backed up by a six-speed AOD and a Ford 9-inch rear with 4.10:1 gears.

Now that’s he has earned Great 8 honors and a Best Ford In A Ford pick at the Detroit Autorama, Mel is thinking about showing off his 1947 Ford at outdoors shows. After that, he is heading to Florida to spend the winter months driving his Sedan Delivery, as he has always intended.

See more photos and video here.

Painless Performance/STREET RODDER Top 100

Tech Tip:
Relays/Solenoids

Relays and solenoids take on a different look but have the same basic function. They are used to control high current flow by using internal contacts that are designed to do so. They require a small amount of current for their activation so the switch can be a small one in the dash or a sender in the engine.

See more here.

1931 Ford Model A Coupe | David Weinberg | Royal Oak, MI
David wanted “something badass” and Bill Jagenow of Brothers Custom Automotive replied with a chopped and channeled Model A coupe. The 8BA Flathead features Harrell heads, Navarro intake, dual 97s, Roto Faze distributor, and many other period parts. It continues with E&J headlights, vintage brake backing plates, and roll-down rear window. A 1936 Ford dash, leather bench, and boat steering wheel add to the interior.

1956 Pontiac Star Chief | Frank Howard | Venetia, PA
Tim Kilkeary at Customs By Kilkeary took Frank’s 1956 Pontiac from a restored original car to a mouth-watering custom without losing the original character. Body mods include a 7/8-inch chop, custom headlamps, tucked bumpers, and Evod wheels. There’s a Roadster Shop chassis underneath and a full-leather custom interior inside. Power comes from a Whipple supercharged Don Hardy LS engine.

1936 Ford Roadster | George Poteet | Collierville, TN
In January, George’s 1936 roadster won the 2019 America’s Most Beautiful Roadster award. Built by Eric Perratt of Pinkees Rod Shop, it boasts a stretched wheelbase, chopped top, and fabricated hood, doors, and decklid (for starters). Eight-stack EFI tops a well-dressed 351 Windsor. A TKO five-speed and Winters quick-change move power to Mike Curtis rear wheels. We featured this amazing roadster in the July ’19 issue.

1963 Buick Riviera | Ray Rezner | Estero, FL
After finding a rust-free Buick Riviera to build, Ray contacted Justin Nichols at Nichols Paint & Fab, who transformed it from stocker to showstopper. The 1-1/2-inch chop, the re-angled rear window front air dam, rear spoiler, and 20- and 22-inch Boze wheels add to the Riv’s aggressive appearance. The interior features a 1958 Thunderbird dash and seats. An LS3 engine is paired with a push-button–shifted 4L70 transmission.

1933 Ford Speedster | Tim Irwin | Coopersville, MI
Tim’s “Lamont Special” ’30s-style speedster was built by Mike Boerema of Gas Axe Garage. The handbuilt body was fitted with an early Dodge truck grille. The Model A ’rails, with 1933 Ford suspension, roll on Coker Firestones and Model A wire wheels, stopped by mechanical brakes. The 21-stud Flathead is backed by a 1933 Ford three-speed. A pleated leather bench, F-1 steering wheel, and Stewart-Warner gauges fill the cockpit.

1956 Ford Fairlane Victoria | Tony Confalone | Massillon, OH
Thirty years ago, Willard Adkins restored Tony’s 1956 Vicky, owned since 1966. Willard’s son, Wes, at Wild Wes Paintworks & Hot Rod Factory, recently rebuilt it on a custom chassis. The Ford Y-block runs dual TorqStorm superchargers and Holley Sniper EFI under an old-school oil bath air cleaner. Mickey Thompson tires wrap around 18-inch Schott wheels and Thunderbird-style seats were upholstered by Jeff Elwood.

1932 Ford Phaeton | Roy & Donna Richardson | New Castle, DE
Roy and Donna are new owners of the Brookville two-door phaeton built by Gary Corkell of One Off Rod & Custom and debuted as an AMBR contender at the Grand National Roadster Show. After a chop, re-arched rear fenders, 1937 Cadillac headlights, and other exterior mods, the body was mounted on a Johnson’s Hot Rod Shop suspension. A DeSoto Hemi runs six deuces. Paul Atkins upholstered the interior.

1940 Willys Coupe | Buck Creek Ranch | Condon, MT
Buck Creek Ranch commissioned this LS3-powered, handcrafted Willys from American Gasser Hot Rod Shop. Pro Auto Interior upholstered the custom leather interior, equipped with Recaro seats and a Nardi steering wheel. The engine is tied to a TREMEC T56. The chassis combines a Heidts frontend and a four-link–located 9-inch rear. The BCR Willys is designed as a timeless classic that will be a driver as well as a family heirloom.

1927 Hupmobile | Bob Mermuys | Fenton, MI
Bob, a former vintage drag racer, paid $1 for a stock Hupmobile, built it as a race-oriented street rod by Pat Weiss, and had it painted at Austin’s Body Shop. The body is channeled over scratchbuilt 1-inch tube ’rails. E-T Wheels, a suicide frontend with a 1934 Ford dropped axle and split ’bones, continue the ’60s hot rod look. Roof wood was beautifully redone. A Chrysler 354 Hemi is fed by a six-pack carb setup.

1938 Lincoln Zephyr | Dave Jolly | Norval, ON, Canada
Making it into a convertible is one mod Dave made to his original Zephyr coupe. Extended fenders, a chopped windshield, vertical grille bars, 1939 Zephyr headlights, 1937 running boards, and a driver side suicide door are more. A custom frame stretches the wheelbase 2 inches. The Lincoln 460 is topped with a 1938 Zephyr hubcap air cleaner cover. Inside you’ll find 1989 T-bird seats and an extended Zephyr console.

Autorama Extreme

The escalator to the Cobo Center basement is a portal to the subterranean show-within-a-show known as Autorama Extreme where you will see vintage (or vintage-styled) hot rods, customs, drag cars, and cruisers. Most are low- to mid-budget, owner-built, and carry long histories. The imagination, quality, and coolness are high, and STREET RODDER typically finds one or two Painless Top 100 winners down here. Autorama Extreme also features live bands, tradition-oriented vendors, the Vinsetta Garage Miss Autorama pinup girl contest, and Gene Winfield’s Chop Shop.

See more here.

Cavalcade Of Customs

Every Detroit Autorama brings something new and retains something old, which is why the Cavalcade of Customs display has become a favorite Autorama tradition. Located near the center of Cobo Center, this annual exhibit shows off some of the nicest traditionally styled custom cars. This year’s 10-car exhibit was a great mix of styles and makes. All of them represent what customs have always been about— creativity, fabrication skills, imagination, and great taste.

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