Henry Ruiz, of Warren, will display his 1968 Plymouth Road Runner at Autorama this year. Ruiz, 70, has wanted a Road Runner since he was in high school.

Henry Ruiz, of Warren, will display his 1968 Plymouth Road Runner at Autorama this year. Ruiz, 70, has wanted a Road Runner since he was in high school.

Photo by Maria Allard

Warren residents featured in Autorama

By: Maria Allard | Warren Weekly | Published February 17, 2023


DETROIT/WARREN — Honk your horns: This year’s annual Detroit Autorama is celebrating a milestone.

The famed car show will commemorate its 70th anniversary when it kicks into gear Feb. 24-26 at Detroit’s Huntington Place. Throughout the weekend, more than 800 custom-built cars and trucks, hotrods and motorcycles from the U.S. and around the world, including New Zealand, will be showcased.

Autorama is produced by Championship Auto Shows, hosted by the Michigan Hot Rod Association, sponsored by Meguiar’s and presented by O’Reilly Auto Parts.

“We are so thrilled to be celebrating the big 70th anniversary of Detroit Autorama this year. Detroit’s Autorama was the first and is the most revered hot rod custom car show in the country,” said Peter Toundas, president and owner of Championship Auto Shows Inc., producer of Autorama, in a prepared statement.

“We are so proud that it all started in Detroit and getting to a milestone like the 70th year is a real reason to celebrate,” Toundas continued. “Autorama attracts a significant amount of national attention to the Motor City and spotlights the important historic role Detroit has played in the world of custom cars and hot rodding.”

There is no time to sit idle because so many activities are planned, including the 30th Annual Toy-A-Rama, the Master Builder Award presented by Steele Rubber Products, and the Motor City Mavens 2023 Auto Art Panel Jam and Charity Auction to benefit Leader Dogs for the Blind.

Spectators can meet television’s “Bitchin’ Rides” Dave Kindig from 6 to 9 p.m. Feb. 24; and hip-hop star Flavor Flav from 5 to 8 p.m. Feb. 26. It’s time to say “Ayy!” as “Happy Days” fans can also mingle with Henry “The Fonz” Winkler, who will be at Autorama all weekend long.

The auto tech school Drive One, located in Roseville, will have a special display featuring six cars they have customized and shown over the years in Autorama. Students from the school as well as the Tregembo Family, which owns Drive One, will be on site.


‘It was a dream from high school’
Several Warren gearheads will display their vintage vehicles in the show, including Henry Ruiz. The 70-year-old is showcasing his 1968 Plymouth Road Runner at Autorama’s Grundy Insurance booth.

Ruiz, who works as a union stagehand and assistant sound engineer at the Detroit Opera House, purchased the two-door Plymouth in 2006 from a gentleman who lived in Maryland.

“It was in pieces when I first saw it, but it had a lot of potential. It was a totally incomplete race car project,” Ruiz said. “We had a vision. We wanted to build a Hot Wheels-themed vehicle, so it looks like a kid’s toy. It was a six-year project.

“It was a dream from high school,” Ruiz said of owning a Road Runner. “We used to go drag racing on Telegraph (Road). My dad’s friend bought a 1968 Hemi Road Runner. I’ve wanted one ever since.”

Everything on the Road Runner is hand-fabricated. The color of the Road Runner is known as Tangerine Twist.

“When the sun hits it, it just sizzles,” Ruiz said.

The car has no backseats, and Ruiz said he “just had the interior done.”

“It has electronic fuel injection like the modern cars,” Ruiz said. “It’s powered by 1,600 horsepower. It has a vinyl top.”

This will be the second time Ruiz’s Road Runner has been in Autorama. The first time was 10 years ago.

“It’s fun. It’s a blast,” Ruiz said. “It attracts a crowd.”

The Road Runner can drive up to 161 mph. Because of that, a parachute is attached to the back fender.

Ruiz takes his prized possession to all the local car shows and cruises, including the Woodward Dream Cruise and the annual Shorewood Kiwanis Club of St. Clair Shores Harper Charity Cruise. In 2014, he attended EyesOn Design at the Ford House in Grosse Pointe Shores. And he’s OK with kids starting up the engine to hear it roar.

Over the years, the Road Runner has won countless trophies at different car shows. There was a time in which Ruiz had the opportunity to sell the Road Runner, but he changed his mind.

“I couldn’t bring myself to do it. It’s a part of me. Everyone knows me and everyone knows this car,” he said. “Cars get into your blood. The car community is very tightknit. People that build stuff with their hands, they tend to migrate together. They’re great guys. There’s definitely women involved also.”

The following Warren residents and their vehicles are scheduled to be in Meguiar’s Detroit Autorama:

Joe Abinader — Toyota Supra.

Bill Amsdill — Oldsmobile Cutlass.

Gregory Austin —  2019 custom Corvette.

Robert Phillips — Chevy pickup.

Brennen Schwartz — Chevy Townsman.

Edward Sobczyk — Pontiac GTO.

Autorama will be held from noon to 10 p.m. Feb. 24; from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Feb. 25; and from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Feb. 26. For ticket information and a complete list of events, visit autorama.com. Discount tickets are available at O’Reilly Auto Parts stores.Huntington Place is located at 1 Washington Blvd., in Detroit.