Brian Miller, of Farmington Hills, will show off his black 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle that he purchased in the 1980s during this year’s Meguiar’s Detroit Autorama.

Brian Miller, of Farmington Hills, will show off his black 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle that he purchased in the 1980s during this year’s Meguiar’s Detroit Autorama.

Photo provided by Brian Miller

Custom car fans rev up for Autorama on tap at Cobo Center

By: Sherri Kolade | Farmington Press | Published February 26, 2019


FARMINGTON HILLS — Auto enthusiasts from across the region will be rolling into Cobo Center the first three days of March for this year’s Autorama, billed as “America’s Greatest Hot Rod Show.”

Now in its 67th year, the show — properly known as Meguiar’s Detroit Autorama, presented by O’Reilly Auto Parts — will feature around 800 hot rods and custom cars, including many from the metro Detroit area.

There will also be a pinch of celebrity star power, including NASCAR driver Tony Stewart and the Hanson Brothers from the movie “Slap Shot,” as well as iconic cars like the Batmobile from the film “Batman Returns,” and the original Trans Am from “Smokey and the Bandit,” complete with a Burt Reynolds look-alike.

But arguably the real stars of the show are the ordinary people who share their beloved rides — and the passion and insight that comes with them.

Brian Miller, of Farmington Hills, will show off his black 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle.

Miller is part of the Chevelle Club of Michigan, which meets at different car shows, and he will participate in Autorama with a group of members. This is his first time bringing a vehicle to the show.

The classic car enthusiast said that the Chevelle model was first produced by Chevrolet in 1964.

“We have a couple of those in the club,” Miller said, adding that the car is perfect, “just everything the American muscle car should be: midsize car that you can put a lot of power to.”

Miller said he uses his Chevelle as a weekend car, and he acquired it at a small Pontiac dealership for $2,800 in 1986 — he said it could sell for at least $25,000 now.

“Would I ever sell it?” he mused when asked if he’d thought about it. “That is a tough question. I’ve had it for a long time.”

He said he would only sell it to move on to another classic car.

At Autorama, he hopes to see a lot of his other classic car friends in the show. Car enthusiasts are “typically nice guys,” he said.

“For instance, if there is a hot rod pulled over to the side of the road, another car guy would help them, without a doubt,” he said.

Dwayne Hoyer, of Keego Harbor, will show off his black 2014 Cadillac CTS Wagon.

“This will be my first year going — I’m actually going with a group of people … so we can go and check it out,” he said of visiting Autorama. “I’m hoping to see some really nice driving, and (I’m) happy to display mine for everybody to see.”

Hoyer is the vehicle’s second owner. He bought it from someone who had used it as a collectors’ item and kept it stored, primarily.

“We trailered it up from Indiana and purchased it off him, and (I’ve) been in love ever since,” he said, adding that his vehicle has an ebony interior and Recaro seats.

While Hoyer has not been in a car show before, he does show off his vehicle at local car gathering hubs throughout metro Detroit.

The Cadillac is a weekend car he drives during the summer.

He said that his first car was a 1990 Mitsubishi Eclipse, and when it comes to picking out cars, “it’s gotta be what you want in a vehicle.”

“Do you want performance? Do you want styling? Is there something you want?” he said. “Research it,” he said, adding that he probably spent over a year and a half researching before he purchased his vehicle.


So much to see
While Detroit may be best known for the North American International Auto Show, which highlights industry trends, Autorama is more about vehicles that are no longer on the market, and that have been altered to be one of a kind.  

The Smokey and the Bandit Roadshow exhibit is expected to feature cars and other memorabilia from the movie. There will also be a Burt Reynolds look-alike.

“It’s just pure fun,” Autorama spokeswoman Linda Ashley said. “We always like to salute iconic cars — movie cars, race cars and wonderful custom cars.”

To that end, there will also be an exhibit featuring Carl Casper, renowned in the hot rod world, including one of his most iconic creations, the Batmobile from “Batman Returns,” as well as his famous “Young American” dragster and the Empress — a custom 1951 Chevy that was his teenage car and won Best in Show at the first Autorama in the early ’60s. He will be at the show meeting fans and signing autographs for all three days.

There will also be celebrity appearances by WWE superstar Seth Rollins on March 1, 6-8 p.m.; Tony Stewart, of NASCAR fame, on March 2 from noon to 2 p.m.; Dave Kindig, of Kindig It Designs and Velocity TV’s “Bitchin’ Rides,” on March 2, 4-8 p.m.; the Hanson Brothers, from the movie “Slap Shot,” on March 3, 1-4 p.m.; and Horny Mike and the Roadshow Rig, from the History Channel’s “Counting Cars,” all weekend.

This year’s Autorama will also feature a new event called the Lowrider Invitational — a special exhibit of 14 low-rider vehicles.

“It’s one of the fastest-growing segments of the custom car enthusiast world, with cars from across the region,” Ashley said. “It’s really about the hydraulics of the car, how they go up and down. They shake; they often have murals on them; and they have huge batteries. The thrill of the builders is to be as creative as possible.”

While the low-riders won’t be running in Cobo Center itself, they will be configured in different positions so guests can see how they operate, and there will be videos showing them in action.

“I just think what’s most exciting about Autorama is the creativity of everyone there, ranging from some of the most well-known builders in the country to Michiganders who are putting together, with their own heart and soul, these cars from their own garages. Each is a work of art, and nothing like you’d see in a normal car. I like to call it ‘Hot Wheels: Grown Up.’

“It’s just so much fun to see the cars up close and personal, and to talk to the builders who are so proud of their work,” she said. “It’s a wonderful way to see there can be an artist in each of us, expressing ourselves — in this case, through cars.”

Show hours for Autorama are Friday, March 1, from noon to 10 p.m.; Saturday, March 2, from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sunday, March 3, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Admission at the gate costs $21 for adults, $8 for children ages 6-12, and is free for children ages 5 and younger. Discount tickets are available at O’Reilly Auto Parts, at a rate of $19 for adults and $7 for children ages 6-12.

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