Forget for a moment that on the opening day of the 2017 Detroit Autorama the Motor City hit a record 70 degrees in February, because for 65 years it has been an automotive oasis amid the misery of Motown’s notorious winters.
It started in 1953 and was hosted by Michigan Hot Rod Association (MHRA) – and it was an immediate success. The group handed the show’s reigns to Don Ridler, a local promoter, and the Autorama grew quickly over the next few years, with proceeds that helped fund MHRA’s quest to build Michigan’s first official, sanctioned drag strip.
After Don Ridler’s death, a memorial award was created in his honor and the first one was bestowed in 1964 to Al Bergler’s AA/C race car, dubbed “More Aggravation.” In the years since, the Ridler award has become one of the hot rodding world’s most prestigious trophies, ranking with the Grand National Roadster Show’s America’s Most Beautiful Roadster award.
While the Ridler contenders represent the upper echelon of project car spending, typically costing hundreds of thousands of dollars, the rest of vehicles on display convey decidedly more down-to-earth approaches to personalization and performance. Detroit is the quintessential blue-collar city, after all, and that’s reflected in most of the muscle cars, street rods and the strong contingent of trucks.
The Detroit Autorama is definitely a bucket list event – and for those who slog through dark, cold and slushy winters, it’s a warm respite providing a glimpse of the warm-weather car season that’s not too far away. We’ve included a gallery of the best Bowties this year, but you owe it to yourself to attend in person.