Gearheads, hot rodders to flock to Cobo March 2-4

By: Julie Snyder | Mount Clemens - Clinton - Harrison Journal | Published February 22, 2018

 Peter Cubi, of Shelby Township, stands next to his customized 1968 SS Camaro at Heads Up Racing in Mount Clemens. Cubi’s Camaro will be on display at Autorama March 2-4.

Peter Cubi, of Shelby Township, stands next to his customized 1968 SS Camaro at Heads Up Racing in Mount Clemens. Cubi’s Camaro will be on display at Autorama March 2-4.

Photo by Deb Jacques

 Harrison Township resident Bruce Kimmens will be showing his customized 1969 Camaro at Autorama. The owner of Heads Up Racing in Mount Clemens is a familiar sight at the annual event at Cobo Center.

Harrison Township resident Bruce Kimmens will be showing his customized 1969 Camaro at Autorama. The owner of Heads Up Racing in Mount Clemens is a familiar sight at the annual event at Cobo Center.

Photo by Deb Jacques

DETROIT — Metro Detroit’s — and the world’s — hottest hot rods will be inside Cobo Center March 2-4 during the 66th annual Meguiar’s Detroit Autorama.

Autorama also attracts the most devout gearheads eager to get an up-close look at the work of talented backyard car jockeys, as well as the top customizers in the country.

Harrison Township resident Bruce Kimmens, owner of Heads Up Racing in Mount Clemens, is one of those popular car builders — and racers.

In the Heads Up block at Autorama, Kimmens will display seven custom-built cars, including his own 1969 Chevrolet Camaro RS-Z28.

Kimmens purchased his record-breaking race car 14 years ago, when it was just a roof and a quarter panel. Today, the black, flamed beauty has a 547-cubic-inch, 1,400-horsepower engine and is one of the fastest street-legal cars in the country. Though known at Autorama, Kimmens said the Camaro looks more sinister this year with a new set of wheels and tires.

“It’s real fun to drive and it’s eye-catching,” said Kimmens. “People know this car. They know it will be at all the shows and all the cruises. It’s always the loudest one there.”

Kimmens will also show off a ’66 Corvette, a ’77 Corvette, a ’68 Camaro, a ’67 Camaro, a ’65 Impala and a surprise classic Jeep. Each has been customized in his shop.

“A lot of people come up and ask how we did it,” Kimmens said of himself and Heads Up customizer Peter Cubi. “You can fluff your own feathers all you want, but at Autorama, people can see the work that we’ve done.”

Autorama, which this year will feature 800 visually stimulating, souped-up muscle and custom cars, is slated to be the most exciting for lovers of fast cars.

Organizers said this year’s show brings a collection of five of the cars featured in the 2017 movie “Fate of the Furious 8,” as well as an appearance from NASCAR racing legend Dale Earnhardt Jr.

“We are always striving to bring new excitement to Autorama along with the most spectacular showing of performance cars anywhere in the country,” Peter A. Toundas, president and owner of Championship Auto Shows Inc., producers of Autorama, said in a press statement. “This year, hosting Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the famous ‘Fate of the Furious 8’ movie cars, along with all of our features, makes the Detroit Autorama 2018 a show that no one will want to miss.”

An additional big draw to this year’s Autorama is a special exhibit of five of the most exciting land speed record-breaking speedsters that have run on the famous Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, including the 2017 record-breaking gold Speed Demon. In 2017, Speed Demon claimed the Speed Week trophy for the seventh consecutive year with a 438.643 mph pass on the Salt Flats.

Starting off the three-day event will be the live outdoor Rolling Towering Inferno Flame Throwing Fest in front of Cobo Center, on Jefferson Avenue, at 11:45 a.m. March 2. The Flame Throwing Fest features two cars and a super truck shooting flames.

The calling card of Autorama each year is the presentation of the Ridler Award, which organizers say is the most coveted award in hot rodding. For 56 years, the Ridler Award has been presented to the most outstanding new custom car shown for the first time anywhere. Because of this distinction, the show attracts the finest custom car builders in North America, unveiling their vehicles for the first time in an effort to claim the award and the $10,000 cash prize.

“It’s extremely gratifying that Detroit Autorama is the home of America’s most important hot rod award,” said Toundas. “This is the Motor City, and Detroit is where hot rod, custom car shows started, so we make every effort to let everyone know about this important heritage.”

Another popular feature at Autorama is Autorama Extreme, which takes up the entire 100,000 square feet of Cobo’s lower level. More than 200 traditional rods, customs and bobber bikes inspired by the 1950s will be displayed, along with Gene Winfield’s “Chop Shop” demonstrations, sponsored by Summit Racing Equipment, as well as continuous entertainment by rockabilly bands and the Miss Autorama Retro Pin Up Girl contest that will take place at 5 p.m. March 3.

The 66th annual Meguiar’s Detroit Autorama, presented by O’Reilly Auto Parts, will take place  noon-10 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday March 2-4 at Cobo Center, 1 Washington Blvd. in Detroit.

At the door, tickets cost $20 per adult, $7 per child ages 6-12, and they are free for kids 5 and younger. Discounted tickets may be found at O’Reilly Auto Parts stores, and group discounts may also be available.

Learn more by visiting www.autorama.com or by calling (248) 373-1700.