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Autorama motors back into Cobo

Local resident ready to show off ’73 Corvette at hot rod event

By: Julie Snyder | Mount Clemens - Clinton - Harrison Journal | Published March 4, 2015

DETROIT — Since he was a child, Mount Clemens resident Wayne Glasser has dreamed of entering a car in Detroit Autorama.

“I can remember as a little kid going to Autorama with my dad and always wanting to enter a car, and now I’m finally able to,” said Glasser. “I was able to convince my dad to bring his 1973 Corvette down to Autorama, and even my 11-year-old daughter, Ashlyn, is excited to go to the show to see the car under the lights.”

Glasser, 37, is showing his 1986 Buick Grand National at this year’s show being held March 6-8 at Cobo Center in downtown Detroit.

He found his prized possession in Cincinnati in February 2014. He brought it back to Michigan and has been prepping it for a coveted spot at Autorama ever since, including repainting the factory black body at Big C’s Collision, obtaining a few hard-to-come-by interior parts such as new door panels, as well as amping up the Hotchkis sport suspension.

“And there’s been a lot of performance upgrades to make this car really quick, which is another reason Ashlyn loves going for rides in it,” said Glasser. “We usually take the car to Eddie’s Drive-in so she can get her fried pickles and ice cream.”

Glasser said he’s hoping his Grand National will bring him a trophy.

“I have been spending the weekends cleaning and detailing it for the show,” he said. “Even my friends from work have made T-shirts to wear down at the show to support my car. Really cool.”

The 63nd annual Meguiar’s Detroit Autorama will feature something for everybody, organizers said.

Billed as “America’s greatest hot rod show,” Detroit Autorama will feature not only 1,000 of the most amazing chopped, channeled, dumped and decked hot rods and custom cars in the world, but five of the cars featured in the blockbuster “Fast and the Furious” movie series. These will include the cars driven by Hollywood stars Paul Walker and Vin Diesel in the feature films.

“We are delighted to have this amazing collection of movie cars at this year’s Autorama,” said Peter A. Toundas, president of Championship Auto Shows Inc. and show manager. “These souped-up performance cars look great, and show-goers are really excited to see them. Moreover, they are perfect symbols of the young excitement and appeal that is alive and well in hot rod culture today.”

Adding excitement to this year’s Autorama is the live flame burnout demonstration of the AA Fuel Altered Dragster named “Pure Hell,” which will take place at 11:45 a.m. on Friday, March 6, at the corner of Washington at Jefferson in front of Cobo Hall. All of downtown Detroit will know that Autorama has arrived when the sound of the flame-throwing dragster rumbles and reverberates through the streets, sidewalks and skyscrapers of the city.

Toundas said Autorama is a Detroit tradition and the largest and oldest hot rod custom car show in North America. It attracts visitors from across the U.S. and the globe. The calling card of the renowned show is the presentation of the Ridler Award, the most coveted award in hot rodding. For 52 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 to unveil their amazing vehicles for the first time at the famous show.

“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.”

The cars on display at Autorama, brought by backyard car jockeys as well as the top customizers in the country, compete for top awards in numerous classes, including the Summit Racing Equipment Show Car Series. The series competition culminates in the awarding of a check for $1,000 each to the Pirelli Great 8. Finally, one of the Great 8 is named winner of the Ridler Award, sponsored by Chevrolet Performance. The winner receives $10,000 in cash, plus a custom trophy and jacket.

Also hoping for a prize this year is Dana Panetta, a Mount Clemens resident whose 1970 Plymouth Roadrunner in lime green is bound to catch an eye or two.

“I’ve only had it for five months,” said Panetta, owner of Janssen Refrigeration in Warren. “Usually a car I take to Autorama, I’ve had it for a couple of years. Not this one.”

Yes, Panetta is no stranger to Autorama, nor is he a stranger to winning a trophy or two.

In 2014, his 1971 Mach 1 Mustang took third place, and in 2013, his 1970 Mercury Cougar Eliminator also took third place. “I’m hoping this Roadrunner will do a little better,” he said. “It’s in very nice condition.”

After purchasing the classic muscle car from a man in New York, Panetta, 53, took care of some electrical issues, repaired the power steering and refurbished the undercarriage. “It was a total rotisserie restoration, and the (440 six pack) engine has had 500 miles put on it since its restoration,” he said.

Harrison Township resident Vincent Silvestro and his son, Anthony, want their own trophies again for a couple of unique choppers they’ll have on display.

Vincent Silvestro said their 1969 Ruttman Chopper in lime green and their 1971 Ruttman Chopper in orange will surely stand out.

“These are old-school mini bikes; they’re the real deal,” said Silvestro. “We took them last year, and they took first- and second-place in the mini bikes category.”

The father and son purchased the bikes 4 and 5 years ago, respectively, and a little tender loving care turned them both into winners. “When we got them, they were all beat up. We completely restored them,” Silvestro said. He said the bikes were made by a man who used to build Indian motorcycles, and parts for both are rare and very hard to find.

“Kids love them and adults love them. They were once a really big deal in America,” he said, adding that during Autorama, he’ll again offer information about Ruttman Choppers and answer questions from those who stop by to take a look.

In addition to Autorama, Silvestro said they show the mini bikes at the Gibraltar Trade Center Bike Night and the Ann Arbor Mini Bike Show each year. “We show them all over,” he said.

“But the Autorama is the ultimate mothership of old school, all-American vehicles,” Silvestro said. “It’s the only show that understands everything from a Rat Rod to a mini bike. It’s a place where all ages come under one roof for three days, and it’s phenomenal. And the mini bikes are just as big of a hit as the vehicles.”

Detroit Autorama runs from noon-10 p.m. March 6; 9 a.m.-10 p.m. March 7, and 10 a.m.-8 p.m. March 8 at Cobo Center, 1 Washington Boulevard in Detroit. General admission is $19; children 6-12 years old are $6, and children 5 and younger get in free. Discount tickets are available at O’Reilly Auto Parts.

For more information, go to or call (248) 373-1700.