First time Autorama participant Joey Jacobs, of Rochester, will bring his 2009 Audi A4 Avanti to the show.

First time Autorama participant Joey Jacobs, of Rochester, will bring his 2009 Audi A4 Avanti to the show.

Photo provided by Joey Jacobs

Rochester-area residents revved up for Autorama

By: Kristyne E. Demske, Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published February 25, 2020

 Dan and Susan Wilson, of Rochester Hills, will show off their newly restored 1957 Chevy C 10 at this year’s Autorama.

Dan and Susan Wilson, of Rochester Hills, will show off their newly restored 1957 Chevy C 10 at this year’s Autorama.

Photo provided by Dan Wilson


DETROIT — 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 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.

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.

“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.”

The 2020 Autorama will be held at the TCF Center, 1 Washington Boulevard, from 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. Feb. 28, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Feb. 29 and 10 a.m. to 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.”

Many Rochester-area residents will show off their hot rods, custom cars and boats in this year’s Autorama.

Dan Wilson, of Rochester Hills, will unveil a newly restored 1957 Chevy C 10 Stepside to his wife, Susan, at the show.

Susan Wilson bought the car on a whim at a car show in Reno, Nevada, in 2018.

“She fell in love with it when she was in Reno,” Dan Wilson said. “We weren’t looking to buy a car … but two hours later we’re driving the truck out of the arena and parking it at the hotel.”

After the motor blew in 2019, the couple hired a restoration company in Shelby Township for a complete overhaul of the vehicle.

“Susan said, ‘Well, since the motor is blown, can we do a bigger motor?’ And I said, ‘Well, sure we can — now you’re speaking my language.’ So that’s what we did,” Dan Wilson said. “It started out with just the motor. … It was in very good shape when we got it, but there were some things in the paint that I didn’t like — the guy had done a quick restoration job — that went into a full restoration job.”

Dan Wilson said everything was redone on the car, including adding air conditioning, new wheels, new tires, LED lights and more.

“This a surprise for my wife. She knows the truck is being renovated, but she hasn’t seen it, so it is going to be unveiled to her at Autorama, which is kind of cool,” he said. “It’s going to be a nice display.”

Dennis Scott, of Rochester, and son Geoffrey Scott’s 2017 hydroplane boat in white, with red and black details, will be featured on the main floor of Autorama this year.

Boat racing has long been a family affair, according to Dennis Scott.

“I’ve been a racing fan for years. I started when I was 2 years old, being taken to races by my dad,” Dennis Scott said. “The whole hydroplane racing community is basically a family-type group. Everybody helps one another, and if somebody has a problem, everybody’s there to help pitch in.”

In the fall of 2019, the father-son team bought their 2017 hydroplane and have been “preparing it for this summer’s entertainment” ever since, according to Dennis Scott.

“The boat was made in 2017 and it was the national champion in 2018, and it was raced professionally last year. It became available at the end of the racing season, so we bought it,” he said.

Dennis Scott said his son — who has completed the American Power Boat Association Driving School in Dayton, Ohio — is looking forward to participating in six or seven races this year.

“This particular class of boat, I think the world record speed is 125. Generally, the races are closer to the 100 mph average,” he explained.

Joey Jacobs, of Rochester — a first-time Autorama participant — will show his 2009 Audi A4 Avanti.

Jacobs has always been interested in cars.

“I always loved playing with Hot Wheels when I was a kid. I played more with Hot Wheels than I did with superhero stuff, so I’ve always loved cars,” he said.

His interest in cars really took off when he turned 16 and got his first car — a Toyota Matrix that he decided to modify by adding air suspension and changing its color.

Today, Jacobs continues to enjoy modifying cars — including the 2009 Audi A4 Avanti he bought in 2015 and has changed every year since.

“I really had a thing for Audis and I wanted to get a vehicle that would not only look good, but would also be very practical,” he said. “It is orange right now, but it was previously teal, and before that it was arctic camo.”

Jacobs tries to do as many of the modifications to the car as he can himself — most recently including vinyl wrapping the car orange and adding air suspension and a full custom exhaust, to name a few.

“There’s really not a final form that I’m going for with the car. I’m just trying to modify it as much as I can,” he said. “There’s definitely a lot of plans for the future to keep modifying it. I try to change the color of it every year and I try to get new wheels every year.”

Other locals in the show include Tony Johnson, of Rochester Hills, who will show his 1968 Dodge Charger; and James Uhls, of Rochester Hills, who will show his 1967 Dodge A-100 in blue and white.

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 or call (248) 373-1700.