Cobo Center in downtown Detroit will be bustling with wide-eyed car buffs as the 67th Detroit Autorama returns with more than 800 modified and custom rides featured on display.

Cobo Center in downtown Detroit will be bustling with wide-eyed car buffs as the 67th Detroit Autorama returns with more than 800 modified and custom rides featured on display.

Photo provided by Meguiar’s Detroit Autorama

Harrison Township resident vying for Ridler Award at Autorama

Annual hot rod show hits Cobo March 1-3

By: Andy Kozlowski, Julie Snyder | Mount Clemens - Clinton - Harrison Journal | Published February 21, 2019

 Clinton Township resident John Marecki’s tuxedo black 1967 Chevrolet Chevelle shines in the outdoors.

Clinton Township resident John Marecki’s tuxedo black 1967 Chevrolet Chevelle shines in the outdoors.

Photo provided by John Marecki


HARRISON TOWNSHIP — When Patrick Moran purchased his 1969 Chevy Camaro six years ago, he was able to mark a goal off his bucket list.

Now, after an almost total modification, he’ll be revealing the victory red, 6.2-liter supercharged beauty during the 2019 Meguiar’s Detroit Autorama as he vies for the show’s coveted top prize, the Ridler Award.

“My team did the body work and the paint work,” said Moran, owner of Moran Chevrolet. “The car is stunning. You can brush your teeth in the paint.”

Just how stunning won’t be known until Autorama, which is coming to Cobo Center in Detroit March 1-3. The Don Ridler Memorial Award is given to the best vehicle shown for the first time, and it emphasizes creativity, engineering and quality workmanship.

Moran’s Camaro is a unique hybrid of the old and the new. The former subframe body was transformed into a full frame, new sheet metal was added, the roof was chopped, and a high-end Cadillac CTS engine was installed. After Moran found a totalled 2012 Camaro convertible, the “new” part of the rehab project commenced. The interior of the ’69 was completely redone with the interior of the ’12, including the dash and electronics system, as well as the vehicle’s rear taillights and door handles.

The interior is black with an intricate, red houndstooth edging thanks to Willy’s Workshop in Port Huron. 

Moran said the three-year project to customize the Camaro was a group effort by Willy’s and his dealership team.

“I’m so proud of my team and my guys at the dealership,” he said. “What’s unusual about this is most of the cars (in Autorama or vying for the Ridler Award) are built and finished at places that specialize in (car customization).

“I don’t know if I’ll win anything, but it was a fun bucket list car.”


Meguiar’s Detroit Autorama

The 67th Autorama, presented by O’Reilly Auto Parts, will feature around 800 hot rods and custom cars, with many, like Moran’s, 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.”  

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.

While Detroit is 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. 

“It’s just pure fun,” said Linda Ashley, spokesperson for Autorama. “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 1960s. He will be at the show meeting fans and signing autographs all three days.

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

This year’s Autorama also will feature a new event called the Lowrider Invitational — a special exhibit of 14 lowrider 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 lowriders 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 noon to 10 p.m. Friday, March 1; 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, March 2; and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday, March 3. Admission at the gate costs $21 for adults, $8 for children ages 6-12, and it 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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