Find or Sell any Parts for Your Vehicle in USA

AutoRama: Hot-rodding, chrome and speed return

Fri, 06 Mar 2009

Chop, drop and roll--that's the unofficial motto at AutoRama, the 57th-annual festival of hot rods and custom cars in Detroit.

Chop--as in slice the roof off your speedster with some unnatural surgery to the A- and C-pillars. Drop--as in drop the biggest motor you can find under the hood. And of course, roll--duh, make it go fast!

Shows such as AutoRama are the perfect antidote to the dismal times the world is slogging through. AutoRama runs through this weekend at Cobo Center, the site of the Detroit auto show. The awards, including the coveted Riddler prize--which comes with $10,000 cash, a General Motors Performance Parts engine and a custom trophy and jacket--are given out Sunday evening.

If you're in the Motor City this weekend, it's a must-see event for car guys and gals. The displays run the gamut from race cars--Jeg Coughlin Jr.'s 2002 Pro Stock champion Chevrolet Cavalier is here--to pace cars, such as the 1972 Hurst Oldsmobile that led that year's Indy 500.

The car celebrities show up, too. Most notably, designer and TV personality Chip Foose has a nice display, including his P-32--an airplane-themed rod that looks like its ready to take off. It's designed for the World War II fighter pilot who missed his wings--and the adrenaline kick they provided after the war ended.

"The military is what really trained these guys to know how to make 'em [hot rods] faster," he told AutoWeek as he munched crackers and sipped a soda in the exhibitors' lounge.

Foose is no novice to AutoRama--he's won the Riddler award three times. Now more than ever, he says the show (and others, such as the Grand National Roadster Show in California), are important for enthusiasts.

"This show is 100 percent passion-driven," he said. "As bad as the economy is, it's good to see the love affair with the automobile is still alive."

A classic Mustang wearing an electric blue paint job and plenty of chrome is at the Detroit AutoRama.

Nowhere is that purer than a show where it's all about chrome, wheels and monster engines. Celebrities aside, there are plenty of cool cars to check out. The 1932 Ford Deuce Coupe, as well as Chevy two-doors from that Al Capone era, are fantastic and among the most popular canvasses for customizers. Mid-1950s Chevy Bel-Airs, Ford Mustangs from the 1960s and late '60s Mopar muscle also check in, as well as the 2010 Camaro, vintage milk trucks, and of course, Big Foot (the truck, not the sasquatch).

That just scratches the surface. There are bubbletops (cars), a bikini contest (girls), food and beer. Admission is $18 for adults and $5 for children ages six to 12. Children five and younger get in free. Discounted tickets are available at hardware stores and Murray's and O'Reilly's auto-parts stores.

This is all play and no work. Bring a camera and walking shoes.

The best approach was overheard at a display of a 1961 Thunderbird customized to look like an early '60s view of future cars. After ogling the sleek machine, a middle-aged man in jeans and a yellow hat said with emotion: "That's sweet! Let's go around and get some pictures."


By Greg Migliore