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 Nicole Saydak and her fiancé, CJ Bennett, are showing their blue 2006 Yamaha YZF-R1C motorcycle at this year’s Autorama. The bike is fully custom, aside from the stock engine, and was acquired by the couple in November.

Nicole Saydak and her fiancé, CJ Bennett, are showing their blue 2006 Yamaha YZF-R1C motorcycle at this year’s Autorama. The bike is fully custom, aside from the stock engine, and was acquired by the couple in November.

Photo provided by Nicole Saydak and CJ Bennett


Harrison Township residents ready to roll at Autorama

By: Kristyne E. Demske, Nick Mordowanec | Mount Clemens - Clinton - Harrison Journal | Published February 21, 2020

 The bike is called Infinite Deceptions, reflected by the paint job and design.

The bike is called Infinite Deceptions, reflected by the paint job and design.

Photo provided by Nicole Saydak and CJ Bennett

 Bruce Kimmen’s black 1969 Camaro Z28 sits on display at a past Autorama event. Adorned in flames, it has been a winner in past years.

Bruce Kimmen’s black 1969 Camaro Z28 sits on display at a past Autorama event. Adorned in flames, it has been a winner in past years.

Photo provided by Bruce Kimmen

 A shot underneath the hood of the Camaro, which boasts a 547-cubic-inch motor with an F2 ProCharger.

A shot underneath the hood of the Camaro, which boasts a 547-cubic-inch motor with an F2 ProCharger.

Photo provided by Bruce Kimmen

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DETROIT/HARRISON TOWNSHIP — Looking for movie stars, both human and vehicle?

With a chance to see the Ford GT40 and P330 Ferrari used in the Oscar-winning “Ford v Ferrari”; Cody Walker, from “Furious 7”; wrestling legend Ric Flair; and more than 800 of the best and most outrageous custom hot rods, cars, trucks and motorcycles from across the country and around the world, the 68th annual Meguiar’s Detroit Autorama has something for every enthusiast.

“We’ve been doing the show since 1953,” said Butch Patrico, the co-chair of Autorama for the past 30 years and president of the Michigan Hot Rod Association. “It’s one of the most prestigious hot rod and custom car shows in the country.”

This year, the show will highlight the most significant hot rods of the 20th century, a group of five vehicles that have never been seen together at one time on this side of the country: Ed “Big Daddy” Roth’s Outlaw and Beatnik Bandit, Tommy Ivo’s 1925 T Bucket, Bob McGee’s 1932 Ford Roadster, and Norm Grabowski’s Kookie T Bucket, which cruised into fame on the TV show “77 Sunset Strip.”

The 2020 Autorama will be held at the TCF Center, 1 Washington Blvd., noon-10 p.m. Feb. 28, 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Feb. 29 and 10 a.m.-7 p.m. March 1.

Begun as a fundraiser for the Michigan Hot Rod Association’s efforts to build the Detroit Dragway, the show has grown over the decades to be one of the largest in the country, Patrico said. It was held at the Michigan State Fairgrounds and the Detroit Artillery Armory before moving to the now-TCF Center in 1961.

Autorama is also home to the “most coveted award in hot rodding,” the Ridler Award. For 57 years, the Ridler Award has been presented to the most outstanding new custom car shown for the first time anywhere, attracting the finest custom car builders on the continent to unveil their vehicles for the first time at the show.

“The Ridler Award ... has been one of the most sought-after awards,” said Patrico, of St. Clair Shores. “The competitors all want a trophy from Detroit just because of the prestige of the show.”

Patrico said the show is always fresh, since exhibitors can only show a car three times at Autorama before they have to change something on the vehicle.

“(We) keep the show fresh for the spectators ... by keeping the vehicles as fresh as possible,” he said. “That’s why we put an emphasis on relatively new cars and not a lot of repeats.”

Bruce Kimmen, of Harrison Township, is the owner of Heads Up Racing, in Mount Clemens. He has revamped myriad cars at his shop over the years, with many winning first-place designations in different Autorama classes.

He has won his fair share of top prizes at the event over the years, by way of his black 1969 Camaro Z28. He got the vehicle in Tennessee in the mid-2000s, when it was just a roof and quarter panels, and built it up himself to be a show car.

The Camaro is black with flames, featuring a 547-cubic-inch motor, F2 ProCharger, 18-inch wide tires and 1500 horsepower.

“We used to do a lot of drag racing back in the day,” Kimmen said.

His father was a toolmaker and taught him how to be a machinist, and he used what he learned to configure auto parts and create beasts on the road.

In his two-plus decades of Autorama attendance, he has won his share of trophies. He has also seen the proliferation of technology, which over the past 15 years has provided “a shot in the arm” for those looking to make parts or visuals.

“I love looking at different people’s stuff and getting ideas for my own cars,” he said. “You get knowledgeable. I don’t know everything, but I’m inquisitive. … It’s the pinnacle, a five-star show -- the best in the nation.”

Nicole Saydak, 33, and her fiancé, CJ Bennett, 39, both of Harrison Township, will be on hand with their custom blue 2006 Yamaha YZF-R1C motorcycle that they named Infinite Deceptions — due to its paint job.

The bike, originally built in Kentucky for about $70,000, features a fully chrome engine frame, blue LED lights, a titanium exhaust, performance brakes and calipers, a 21-inch front custom tire, and an approximate $15,000 paint job. The engine is stock.

“We are big motor people,” Saydak said. “It’s a really big deal to us. Some of our friends are quite jealous.”

She grew up with a father who invested in boats, four-wheelers and snowmobiles. Her “gear head” fiance has his own “toys,” including off-road racing bikes and mopeds.

They acquired this particular bike in November. They are repeat attendees of Autorama as spectators, but this time they will spend all weekend immersed in the activities. That includes showing off their show bike, complete with a custom carpet and signage display.

“Just being a part of the whole industry and other racers and other people who have passion for building stuff like this (makes us excited),” she said. “All of our friends go. Just being in the exhibit itself is an honor for us, especially in Detroit and coming from the Motor City.”

Along with awards and celebrity sightings, the 68th annual Detroit Autorama will include the Cavalcade of Customs, a 10-car exhibit of specially invited custom vehicles, and Autorama Extreme, which covers the entire lower level of the TCF Center with more than 200 traditional hot rods, customs and “bobber bikes” inspired by the 1950s.

On Feb. 28, more than 3,000 students will take part in Autorama Student Career Day, hearing presentations from hot rod builders and industry leaders about career opportunities in the field, then checking out the show’s cars.

Tickets for the 2020 Detroit Autorama cost $21 for adults, $8 for children ages 6-12, and are free for children 5 and younger at the gate. Discount tickets are available at O’Reilly Auto Parts for $19 and $7. For more information, visit www.autorama.com or call (248) 373-1700.

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