Relive fond memories of youth at Autorama

Hot rod show returns to Cobo Center Feb. 24-26

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published February 7, 2017


ST. CLAIR SHORES — Peter Sapiano says he can’t remember a time in his life when his father didn’t own his 1973 Harley-Davidson Sportster XL.

“Before I could even remember, this bike’s been in my life,” said the St. Clair Shores resident. 

His father, Joseph, completely disassembled the bike when Sapiano was 7 years old, customizing it for shows. 

“We would travel all through Canada and the United States and we would show the bike,” he said. “It’s all custom: paint job, custom chrome, handmade and welded handlebars, we did our own design on the fenders and ... some of the bracket work. Did the drilling and welding ourselves ... added horsepower to it.”

His father brought the bike to Autorama in 2010.

“Probably 1980, he originally did the bike and then, just every winter, he would take it apart and go through everything and put it back together again and add something or take something off,” Sapiano said. “It’s been mine for the last year, and I’m just starting ... putting a little bit of time into it now.”

Joseph Sapiano died Jan. 25, 2016, so now the torch has been passed along to his son.

“I’m showing the bike as a tribute to my dad,” he said. “You can see the added chrome, the added details. It’s won numerous shows — we used to have a small room of trophies.

“I can’t even make the words for it. It’s going to be an honor to walk in his footsteps, to do what he loved to do.”

The 65th annual Meguiar’s Detroit Autorama, presented by O’Reilly Auto Parts at Cobo Center in Detroit, will be open noon-10 p.m. Feb. 24, 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Feb. 25 and 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Feb. 26. There will be more than 800 hot rods, custom vehicles, trucks and motorcycles from across the country and the world, including the Batmobile and the Little Deuce Coupe, and the weekend kicks off with the Hazzard County Stunt Show, featuring the “Flying General Lee.”

“It is so exciting to be celebrating the 65th anniversary of Detroit Autorama, and we thought there was no better way to mark the occasion than to hold a reunion of the most famous cars ever seen at Autorama, together in one place and at one time,” said Peter Toundas, president and owner of Championship Auto Shows Inc., the producers of Autorama, in a press release.

Don Halas, of St. Clair Shores, will also be bringing automotive history to life at this year’s show with his 1966 Sears Allstate red motorcycle.

“It came out of a Sears catalog,” he said, remarking that every newspaper boy at that time coveted the bike. He even has a copy of the catalog page that would have been used to order the bike.

Halas is also bringing a Triumph Chopper from the 1970s. He said working with bikes is his forte, and he enjoys bringing back fond memories for those who come to the show, which he attends every year.

“Everybody looks at the bikes, has a smile,” he said. “It’s like the Fountain of Youth, back when they didn’t have the pressures of everyday living.”

Halas does all his own work and said tinkering with bikes is his hobby, since he doesn’t golf or get into sports.

“I used to work on them when I was younger, and it’s still the same stuff. It brings back good memories,” he said. 

Autorama is different from a car show, he said, because there are “edgy” designs and “wild, crazy stuff.”

This year’s Autorama will also include Autorama Extreme, with hot rods, customs and bobber bikes inspired by the 1950s; one-of-a-kind vehicles; and Autorama Student Career Day, when more than 3,000 high school students get to come to the event to learn about careers in the field of auto customization. 

There will also be appearances by Catherine Bach and Tom Wopat, of the “Dukes of Hazzard”; WWE Superstar AJ Styles; Rick Harrison, from “Pawn Stars” on the History Channel; Danny “The Count” Koker, from “Counting Cars”; and Skai Jackson, from the Disney Channel’s “Bunk’d” and “Jessie.”

For a complete schedule and more information, call (248) 373-1700 or visit 

Tickets cost $20 for adults and $7 for children 6-12 years old at the door, or $18 and $6, respectively, in advance at O’Reilly Auto Parts. Children 5 and younger get in free.