Locals try their luck at Autorama

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published February 17, 2016

 Brown holds a picture of himself when the family got the car. He was 12 years old. He later received the car in 1972 as a graduation gift.

Brown holds a picture of himself when the family got the car. He was 12 years old. He later received the car in 1972 as a graduation gift.

Photo by Donna Agusti


ST. CLAIR SHORES — While the North American International Auto Show has wrapped up, auto enthusiasts don’t have to hide out in the garage, waiting for summer cruises — Autorama is just around the corner.

Meguiar’s Detroit Autorama comes to Cobo Center Feb. 26-28. The show is one of the oldest hot rod and custom car shows in the country and now is in its 64th year. Linda Ashley, a spokeswoman for the show, said there will be more than 800 cars at Autorama from around the world.

“One of the cars coming this year is actually from Australia, being shipped across the ocean,” she said. “I don’t believe we’ve ever had a car from Australia.”

She said there is an exciting array of cars vying for this year’s Ridler Award for the best vehicle to be shown for the first time, which has a $10,000 cash prize, plus a custom trophy and jacket. And this year, she said there will be a display featuring the history of concept cars built for the NAIAS by Ford, General Motors and Chrysler throughout the years. 

Three locals are bringing vehicles to the show as well. St. Clair Shores residents Walter Boelstier, Chester Brown and Mike Porzondek will have historic and new vehicles at Autorama this year.

For Brown, heading to Autorama with his burgundy 1966 Chevrolet Nova II Super Sport is an event decades in the making. The car, he said, was the first brand-new car that his father bought for his mother; it arrived at their home on April 25, 1967.

“This is the actual car. I had it put away in a garage. It sat there for years and years,” he said. 

The car became Brown’s when he graduated from high school in 1972, and he has owned it ever since. He made the decision in 2005 to have work begun to bring the vehicle back to its glory days.

“My brother and I, we always had a bucket list of, one of these days we’d have a car in Autorama,” he said. 

That’s Minor Customs in Clinton Township has been working on the vehicle, he said, restoring it while leaving touches like the original hubcaps in place and even a parking sticker on the back window from when they used to drive his sister to Alma College.

“Just little things like that, I tried to keep as much as I could for authenticity,” he said. “It’s got a lot of good memories in it.”

Porzondek is bringing a completely different type of vehicle to the show — a trike created by he and a friend at his welding company, BOSSfab. 

“It’s got go-cart tires in the back and a 26-inch ... tire in the front, so it looks like a Big Wheel for adults,” he said. 

He and John Frederick, of Warren, finished up two prototypes of the gas bike in August and rode them through the 2015 Harper Charity Cruise. They have been working since then to create the finished product, which Porzondek is bringing to Autorama.

“The concept, I’ve been talking about doing it for a couple years and finally did it,” he said. “I’ve been going to Autorama for quite a few years, and I’ve never seen anything like it there. I’m really excited.”

Meguiar’s Detroit Autorama is open from noon to 10 p.m. Feb. 26, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Feb. 27 and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Feb. 28 at Cobo Center in Detroit. The event will feature a live concert at 7 p.m. Feb. 27 with Danny “The Count” Koker and the Count’s 77 band, and kicks off at 11:45 a.m. Feb. 26 in front of Cobo Center with a live burnout and wheel stand demonstration by the Farmtruck and AZN’s Vehicles from “Street Outlaws” on Discovery TV.

Tickets cost $19 for adults and $6 for children 6-12 years old. Discount tickets for $17 and $5 are available at O’Reilly Auto Parts stores.

For more information, visit www.autorama.com.

Staff Writer Sarah Wojcik contributed to this report.