Event Coverage From The 70th Detroit Autorama

The Detroit Autorama has been going strong for 70 years in the Motor City. Builders from every corner of the hot rodding world bring their creations to the Detroit Autorama to show off what they’ve created. If you really want to get a good sample of what’s going on in the hot rodding world in a concentrated dose, the Detroit Autorama is a show you need to check out.

The marquee award at the Detroit Autorama is the Don Ridler Award, also known simply as the Ridler. There’s a lengthy list of strict rules that Ridler contestants must adhere to, and to even be considered for the award, you must first make the Great 8. To make this group of builds is a massive accomplishment. You can check out our coverage of the Great 8 right here.

Luigi Deriggi’s 1950 Mercury “Maximus” is an absolute beast of a build and that’s why it won the coveted Ridler award in 2023. Pro-Comp Custom built Maximus and this is their second Ridler-winning vehicle. When you really take the time to examine Maximus, you can see all the detail that was put in the build. We go more in-depth about everything that makes up Maximus right here.

Keith Seaman commissioned KMS Kustoms Inc. to build an absolute unit of a 1970 Chevelle convertible. This pro touring-style build sits on a modified OEM chassis that features a Moser 12-bolt rearend. Under the hood, you’ll find 598 cubic-inches of big block Chevy that cranks out 880 horsepower. The Chevelle’s custom bumpers, hood, and bodywork is covered in a one-off HOK Candy Orange paint.

Pete and Karen Newell's 1986 has everything a Pro Street build needs. You can't tell this car was built over 34 years ago.

George Barris is known as “the King of the Kustomizers”, and that title is based on an impressive body of work. The entire custom car culture owes a lot of its popularity to Barris and the wild vehicles he created. At this year’s Detroit Autorama, guests got to see several iconic Barris builds including “Dragula” from The Munsters, and the original Batmobile.

Stephen Schock has owned his 1932 Ford five window coupe since 1962. This street rod has gone through many different looks, but the current build by AVS Fabrication Inc. is just divine. AVS Fabrication built a custom chassis for the Ford that uses a Kugel front and rear suspension. Jason Arrigo took care of the chop and hood stretch, while Dave Verschave from AVS Fabrication knocked out all the body and paintwork. Shaver Racing Engines built the 427 cubic-inch LS engine that receives boost from a pair of well-hidden turbochargers.

The Rat Fink Reunion display brought together some really cool Ed Roth-inspired builds.  The Surfink, Mysterion, and Tweedy Pie all show off Roth’s influence on custom car culture. Visitors to the Autorama also got to see Roth’s own Honda Civic which he painted himself.

Juan Torres calls his 1955 Chevy “Blackjack”, and it fits the car very well. This sinister looking two door ride has an evil looking supercharged big block Chevy and custom Corvette chassis.

Sam and Julie Nixon incorporated a lot of newer parts into their 1941 Ford convertible. The classic Ford still rocks it original color combination, chrome, dash, gauges, and running boards, but there’s been plenty of updates made to the car. The Ford now rides on a modern Roaster Shop chassis and is powered by a 347 cubic-inch mill with fuel injection. Other modern upgrades include four-wheel Baer disk brakes, a power top, power windows, a custom interior, and Vintage Air conditioning.

Larry and Mike Alexander blazed their own path in the custom car world which inspired countless people to modify their own vehicles. The Alexander Brothers area of the Detroit Autorama had several of their iconic builds on display for everyone to enjoy. These builds piled up numerous awards and were groundbreaking creations when they first debuted decades ago.

The Michigan Hord Rod Association (MHRA) plays a critical role in keeping the custom car culture alive in the state of Michigan. The MHRA is made up of several historic clubs that helped start the Detriot Autorama.

There’s something about a really nice 1934 Ford Roadster that just screams cool street rod. Daniel and Elisabeth Lettshek worked with Kosma Design and Fabrication (KDF) to create the “Hi Risk” ’34 Ford Roadster. The custom-built frame of Hi Risk has a Kugel independent front suspension, and Speedway Engineering quick-change rearend with coilover suspension bolted to it. SKW Motorsports built the rowdy small block that powers the roadster. Krist Kustom Hot Rod Interiors went all out with the streamlined bucket seats and custom upholstery.

Photo gallery


Kevin Kayne’s 1970 Barracuda is an absolute sledgehammer of a restomod. Under the hood of the ‘Cuda you’ll find a Gen III HEMI, but it’s not your typical elephant motor. Kayne opted to stuff a DSR Performance 1150 crate engine into his ride. This 426 cubic-inch mill cranks out 1,150 horsepower and 974 Lb-Ft of torque on pump gas, so more than enough to fry any set of tires.

If you want to build a Fox Body Mustang that stands out in a crowd, take a few notes on what Justin Wrona has done with his 1989 GT. The Dupont Hot Hues candy paint is a unique color that just really pops. Wrona’s choice of 18” SVE wheels is perfect and really matches the vibe of the car. The engine of this Mustang matches its hot looks with a 347 cubic-inch small block Ford, that’s rocking a Vortech V1 supercharger, and a hit of ZEX nitrous for good measure.

Homebuilt rides are always cool because the owners are so invested in the process. Gale and John Clish built their radical 1971 Pro Street Monte Carlo in a two-car garage. The G-body rides on an updated chassis that features a ladder bar rear suspension with a wishbone. Biggie Trim created the custom dash and other interior parts for the Monte Carlo. The 540 cubic-inch big block Chevy that has a massive blower on top is what really grabs people’s attention when they look at Gale and John’s Monte Carlo.

Tony DelSignore’s 1966 Stingray Corvette is a sharp car that has been tastefully modified into a solid street machine. Sharp-eyed Corvette fans will notice the rear quarter panels and rear bumpers have been widened, plus the doors, fenders, and hood have also been modified. King’s Auto Upholstery addressed the inside of the Corvette and perfected its modern look. Under the hood, DelSignore didn’t pull any punches when it came to a powerplant. Lingenfelter Performance Engineering built a Gen V 502 cubic-inch big block that makes a tire-roasting 800 horsepower. The chassis and suspension of the Corvette was also addressed with an Art Morrison frame, and tubular control arms that are paired with Aldan shocks.

If you’re going to build a radical Pro Street car, you’d better be ready to go all in and take things over the top. Henry and Rhonda Ruiz did just that when they built their 1968 Plymouth Roadrunner known as “Armageddon”. The 477 cubic-inch Keith Black Stage 3 Hemi that’s wearing a massive Dyer’s 10-71 supercharger is the first thing that grabs your attention when you gaze at Armageddon.  Armageddon is more than just a Plymouth with a big engine, the car also boasts a Dana 60 rearend with a Moser engineering posi unit, a full set of Wilwood disk brakes, and QA1 shocks at each corner.

Well, the 2023 Detroit Autorama was an amazing event and we can’t wait to go back in 2024. Make sure you keep an eye on Street Muscle, we’re going to have our favorite picks for a few different categories for you to check out very soon!

About the author

Brian Wagner

Spending his childhood at different race tracks around Ohio with his family’s 1967 Nova, Brian developed a true love for drag racing. Brian enjoys anything loud, fast, and fun.
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