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 Rudy Ruedisueli’s 1932 Ford Roadster gets the final detailing before the 2020 Autorama.

Rudy Ruedisueli’s 1932 Ford Roadster gets the final detailing before the 2020 Autorama.

Photo provided by Rudy Ruedisueli

St. Clair Shores residents to show off cars at 2020 Autorama

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published February 21, 2020

 A closeup of the engine in Rudy Ruedisueli’s 1932 Ford Roadster.

A closeup of the engine in Rudy Ruedisueli’s 1932 Ford Roadster.

Photo provided by Rudy Ruedisueli


DETROIT/ST. CLAIR SHORES — 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.

“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.”

Patrico is bringing a 1941 Mercury Coupe to the show this year. He said it’s probably the fifth vehicle he has brought to the show over the decades, either with his dad or on his own.

“It’s almost impossible to manage a show and show a vehicle,” he said.

Patrico and Rudy Ruedisueli, of St. Clair Shores, are both part of the Millwinders Racing Team, one of the charter clubs of the Michigan Hot Rod Association and this year’s featured club at Autorama.

Ruedisueli is bringing his black 1932 Ford Roadster to the show as part of the featured club’s display.

“I built the whole car from pieces,” he said. “It’s been modified and fashioned to look like a roadster that was built in the early ‘60s.”

He’s spent decades fixing up old cars, hot rods and Corvettes at home, he said, and he works on cars for a living, as well; he’s a collision technician at Genisys Cadillac in St. Clair Shores.

St. Clair Shores resident David Dudek is also bringing a vehicle to this year’s show: a 1971 Dodge Charger RT that is owned by Peter Swainson of Alberta, Canada, that Dudek has restored.

“It’s a really rare car because it’s a sunroof car,” he said, explaining that sunroofs were cost prohibitive in the early 1970s, so there aren’t too many classic cars that sport them.

Dudek said that, normally, they would have restored the classic to its original condition, but the original transmission was broken. So instead, they decided to put a modern, Hellcat engine, in the car and then updated the suspension and the car’s interior, as well.

He said he’s looking forward to attending the show with Swainson, who is flying in for the event.

“I’m a car guy and go there, and there’s cars,” Dudek said.

This year’s Autorama will also pay homage to the late Dick Forton, of Fortons Mowers in St. Clair Shores, who was chairman of the show for 39 years with a video in memoriam during the trophy presentation.

“He was one of the founding members of the association and probably involved in every Autorama from 1953 to 2012 or 2015,” Patrico said. “We’re just doing a little video tribute to him.”

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.