NCR Reporter John McCoy-Lancaster has just returned from a trip to Detroit in the USA where he attended the annual Autorama and Ridler awards…here is his report
The Autorama held there annually has been going for 65 years now and they had a great array of the Ridler cars from the last 65 years on display. The attention to detail and workmanship on the top cars is simply breathtaking. And again, it was the hearty folks in Detroit who brought together the most amazing show and one that it was great to be back at.
I’ve written about the Ridler award in previous years and it never ceases to amaze me how much this award means to those who strive to achieve it. There are many sacrifices so that the best rolling artworks in the world can be put on show. Years of hard yakka transform dreams into reality. The Detroit Autorama show is the true beginning and end of indoor car shows in America, and it certainly brought out the stars at the show this year. The show is so diverse, with so many aspects of the scene all together in one place. Here, you are likely to see the most creative craftsman complete true masterpieces and they won’t be far away from a nut and bolt restoration vehicle, which is also a few steps away from a rat-rod (themselves being engineering marvels and great avenues for innovation).
The crowd were certainly happy to see the Great Eight on show, along with all the other cars, and the event kept running all weekend. It was interesting to hear that this was Dave Kindig’s first Detroit Autorama experience. I don’t think he was disappointed. The inspiration that he has now is to go back and build a Ridler car for a client – and it’s a fire that is burning deep inside him. He has so many ideas and he has a great team around him, so it will be great to see what comes about in the coming years and if he too can achieve his dream.
The Ridler winner for 2017 was Nancy and Buddy Jordan in Renaissance Roadster, a scratch-built 1930s-style roadster built in Portland by Steve’s Auto Restorations. Steve said that they took three-and-a-half years to build the car based on a design by Chris Ito and Steve Frisbie.
It’s interesting to note that Charley Hutton had a significant impact on one of the Great 8 cars. Charley has won four of these awards in the last six years and this year again made it to the Great 8 on Friday night, with the judges working late and hard to get it all done and find the big winner. Charley shared with me that the car was only finishing up paint on February 7, then it was a very tight schedule to get it to the show in time. The judging at the Ridler is based on strict criteria and it takes a special judging crew to ask the right questions, check the details and get the best answer. Butch, the head judge, stated again that every year it is a challenge, but the judges love a challenge.
What also amazes me about the show is the grouping together of all the flavours at Detroit. I always find it interesting to see what the younger members of the scene do when they can customise a bicycle, or a bowling pin. There are a lot of cool cars that are on display and Detroit is also a true celebration of the past, present and future all mixed in together. To see all the cars that have won the Ridler over the past 65 years was recognition that the passion has not stopped, slowed or even dulled – instead, I feel it has only got bigger. The people who attend these events as spectators are always in awe when seeing the masters’ great work.
As the years have passed, there have been many new tools and techniques, many new technologies (in paints, performance parts and in sound systems) but it is when you see the simple executed well, the design and function of the top customised cars in the world, and the owner’s joy for just having their pride and joy on display, then you can really see the positive energy that keeps it all going. One of the great Masters there in 2017 was Gene Winfield. Here is a man who has been customising cars since the 1940s. He will turn 90 in June this year, and yet there he was, cutting a roof off a car and having a ball. He is known for metal fabrication and he often leaves behind many who are half his age or younger.
One of the very positive things that occurred was an increase in attendance from the public. So many people I spoke with have been saying that 2017 is shaping up to be a great year. There are so many new dreams being dreamt, and so many new cars being built, both in the USA and in Australia.