Autorama roars back to Detroit this March

Local resident’s vintage racing bike to be featured in popular car show

By: Cari DeLamielleure-Scott, Sherri Kolade | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published February 20, 2015

 The Silver Bullet, created by West Bloomfield resident Dorne Rigby, is polished aluminum and made to resemble an 1899 board track racing bicycle.

The Silver Bullet, created by West Bloomfield resident Dorne Rigby, is polished aluminum and made to resemble an 1899 board track racing bicycle.

Photo provided


METRO DETROIT — Though it doesn’t feel like it, spring is on its way. That means one thing for local car lovers: Detroit Autorama.

Coming up March 6-8 at Cobo Center  in Detroit, the hot rod show, now in its 63rd year, will be bigger and badder this year, according to Peter Toundas, show manager and president of Auburn Hills-based Championship Auto Shows. He said some of the biggest television reality automotive stars are coming to Detroit, with more in store.

WWE superstar the Big Show, and Richard Rawlings from “Gas Monkey Garage” and “Fast N’ Loud” on the Discovery Channel, will pump up the event.

Toundas added that one of the new features to this year’s show is five of the “Fast and the Furious” franchise cars from the past six movies.

“We’re doing a tribute to ‘Fast and Furious’ cars. That is going to be a pretty cool feature in the show that people can see (the) collection,” he said.

The cars were driven by Hollywood stars Paul Walker and Vin Diesel.

“We have over 700 vehicles — hot rods, customs, trucks and motorcycles — on display,” Toundas said. “We take up the same footprint as the (North American International Auto Show).”

Because of the show’s popularity, Toundas said, organizers have had to turn down cars for the past few weeks.

“Every year it seems like people are building bigger and better cars, and it is amazing how fast the show fills,” he said.

West Bloomfield resident Dorne Rigby has either worked on or built cars for about 30 years. In the past, he has entered his hot rods in the Autorama show. But this year, he submitted a hand-built vintage racing bicycle, which he calls the Silver Bullet.

The Silver Bullet is polished aluminum and is made to resemble an 1899 board track racing bicycle, Rigby said. Though Rigby considers himself a “car person,” he said he decided to build the bicycle — which took him six months — for fun.

“When I was a kid, I worked at a bicycle shop and have always been a bicycle fan. Building the bicycle was just a fun way to put something in Autorama without having to bring (my) car,” Rigby said.

Rigby said that Autorama used to have a large category just for bicycles, but this year the category was eliminated.

“I built the bike and then found out afterwards they’re not doing a big bicycle display as they’ve done in the past,” Rigby said. However, the Silver Bullet will appear in the show.

Another Detroit Autorama feature is the live flame burn-out demonstration of the AA Fuel Altered Dragster named “Pure Hell”  at 11:45 a.m. March 6, at the corner of Washington Boulevard and Jefferson in front of Cobo Hall.

From the event’s first-ever sock hop and dance competition  at 7:30 p.m. March 6 to the Autorama Student Career Day, there are many sights to see during the event, which culminates with the presentation of the Ridler Award, the most coveted award in hot rodding. For 52 years, the award has been presented to the most outstanding new custom car shown for the first time in Detroit.

Auto contestants vie for awards and prizes in the Summit Racing Equipment Show Car Series, which is featured throughout the country. The series competition awards a check for $1,000 each to the Pirelli Great 8, who represent the best of the best among the field. One of the great eight is named winner of the Ridler Award, sponsored by Chevrolet Performance. The winner receives $10,000 in cash plus a custom trophy and a jacket.

Toundas said the show just keeps continuing to reach higher heights.

“It is becoming a national phenomenon,” he said. “We have car builders coming in from every part of the country to compete, which is unbelievable with this being a custom car and hot rod venue. We probably have every top builder in the country coming.”

The first Detroit Autorama took place 63 years ago at the University of Detroit Field House as a fundraiser for the Michigan Hot Rod Association’s efforts to build the Detroit Dragway. Over the years, it moved to the Michigan State Fairgrounds and the Detroit Artillery Armory before coming to Cobo Center as its first paid public show in 1961, according to a press release.

The show 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. Autorama is produced by Championship Auto Shows Inc. and by the Michigan Hot Rod Association. General admission is $19, children 6-12 years old attend for $6, and children 5 and younger get in for free. Discount tickets are available at O’Reilly Auto Parts.

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