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Autorama Ridler Award goes to a woman for the first time

Mon, 01 Mar 2010 00:00:00 -0800

For the first time in the history of the Ridler Award, the trophy was won by a woman. The 1933 Ford Phaeton, named Gold Digger, owned by Tammy Ray of Dahlonega, Ga., was judged the best of the Great Eight at the Detroit Autorama on Feb. 28.

“We've tried before, but it goes to show if you keep trying, you will succeed,” said a teary-eyed Ray.

Working with Ted Thomas of T & T Customs in Canton, Ga., it took three years to get the car ready to show.

First, there were months of planning and rendering. Then Thomas took the reins and spent the next two years building the car.

“In my shop we used one to three guys, pretty much every day for two years,” said Thomas.

This was an emotional win for Thomas, too. This was the seventh time one of his cars made the Great Eight, but the first to win.

Gold Digger almost made it to last year's Autorama to compete against Doug Cooper and Alan Johnson's winning '32 Ford. Thomas said they were close to making the deadline, but he didn't want to compete until the car was absolutely perfect.

The Ray-and-Thomas partnership almost never came to be. Ray first met Thomas on the show circuit, when she was competing against his '32 Ford T-Bucket.

“I figured, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em,” said Ray.

Next for Gold Digger, according to Thomas, is possibly the Legends Cup at the Chicago World of Wheels show in early March. It will hit the entire show circuit next year.

By Jake Lingeman