By Tara Hurlin
Through the weekend of February 26-28, the annual 2016 Detroit Autorama presented by O’Reilly Auto Parts lit up the Cobo Center for yet another mind-blowing show of cutting-edge customs, and this year I stepped back into the spotlights and the shimmering reflections of shiny paint, metallic flake and spotless chrome with a mission: to share the experience of Autorama with the world.
No expense is spared on the cars of Autorama, and every year tremendous technology advancements are made. Several contestants entered to win the honorable Ridler Award presented by Chevrolet Performance, but only eight finalists, the “Great 8,” make it into judging. The lineup included a luxurious 1961 Chevrolet Bubbletop wagon, a graceful 1938 Graham, a 1941 Ford pickup respectively named “Mirage,” a mouth-watering 1952 Mercedes, an all-steel 1937 Ford Coupe, a radical red 1940 Willys and even a pleasantly purple 1976 Ford Falcon from Western Australia. Competition was stiff, and each build could have easily taken the Ridler award, but this year’s honor went to Billy Thomas from Georgetown, Texas, with his elegant 1939 Oldsmobile convertible.
This event is the epitome of eye candy, and I managed to weave through every single aisle, which is something to be proud of considering all of the brain-stimulating distractions, such as the 1940 Mercury Coupe featuring a gasp-worthy sparkling yellow paint job with highlights to accentuate its seductive curves, and a nosed, decked and shaved 1953 Cadillac that gave new meaning to the term “heavy metal” with its 427-cid. LS7 engine. Before heading to the basement, I passed through the model car and automobilia vendors, waved hello to the pinstripe Charity Panel Jam artists and stopped for a quick bite to eat.
“Glorious” and “basement” are two words that are rarely seen together, but this is an exception. While I made my way to where the driver cars rule, the escalator was packed with amped-up hot rodding enthusiasts who were anxious to see the rough-and-tuff basement builds. It is where all the action is: Gene Winfield was welding away in the Chop Shop, classy gals were anxiously awaiting the pinup competition and vendors with everything from breathtaking artwork to one-of-a-kind hot rod memorabilia sat proudly behind extensive displays. The smell of old car swirled up my nostrils as I ogled over every vehicle, like the original 1953 Plymouth gasser built by the late Mike “Chico” Stewart in 1965, and “Chevamoco,” an original restored racecar that ran on the Detroit Dragway. And before leaving for the four-hour trip back home, I of course made a pit stop at the Throttle Gals booth to say “hi” to the girls and pick up my yearly t-shirt purchase.
Just like that, the weekend was gone in a flash, but fortunately there are many photos to allow the event to live on, just a little bit longer until next year.