"It was great just to be nominated" is a phrase you hear a lot when they hand out awards for the movies or TV shows, but that's how every attendee feels after showing their ride at Blackie Gejeian's Fresno Autorama. Gejeian, 84, has spent the past five decades culling the best of the best show cars from different venues around the country to make up the guest list for the annual Fresno Autorama.

Only if you attend every show in the country would you have the chance to see the list of impressive show winners that attend the Fresno show. It is not uncommon to see the current America's Most Beautiful Roadster winner across the aisle from this year's Ridler recipient, which is shown just a few feet from a top show contender from the Midwest. But even Blackie says he "was surprised this year by the quality of workmanship," and that's saying something considering his 50th show last year was a high-water mark for him.

Blackie was so impressed with a few of the folks who took the time to restore their shop and/or push trucks from decades ago that he gave four of them a special spot in the middle of the Nostalgia Room. Only a former dirt track owner and racer such as Blackie would think of showcasing those types of hot rods at a high-end indoor car show.

Another unique aspect of the Fresno Autorama is there are only two "Best" trophies handed out for the show: Best Rod and Best Custom-there is no second place or "Best Use of Rock Salt" awards. Best Custom was given to Gene and Earlene Elpers from Evansville, Indiana, for their mint-green '46 Chevy pickup and Best Rod went to Jerry Magnuson for his '32 Muroc roadster. Blackie also surprised a few folks when he announced he would take 2011 off from producing the Fresno Autorama to address some nagging health issues, but plans to be back in 2012. Concerning the 2010 show, Gejeian understated the fact when he said he "was happy with the way it turned out," and so was everyone else.

The 58th Detroit Autorama
The Detroit Autorama (or, simply "Detroit" to those who attend regularly) is, all at once, a spectacle, a sensory-inducing event, and a little bit of circus thrown in for good measure. Now in its 58th year, the show attracts the very best builders in the country in the hopes of not just winning a First Place trophy for their particular class, but perhaps to be picked as one of the eight contenders (collectively known as the Pirelli Great 8) for the show's top prize: The Don Ridler Memorial Award, given to a car owner whose first-time-shown car exhibits creativity along with a masterful attention to detail

For the spectators, there were nearly 1,000 vehicles on display at the show, with entries coming from 22 states and 2 Canadian provinces. Being Detroit based, the show leans a little more towards the performance side when speaking about the show cars, so you'll find more show-'n'-go vehicles featured than you'd find on a West Coast-based event.

In another area of the show a 70th anniversary exhibit of the '40 Ford showcased many examples of the venerable vehicle, from truck to coupe. Another facet of the show is the Detroit Autorama Extreme, a show-within-a-show located in the 100,000-square-foot basement of Cobo Center. Now in its sixth year, the Extreme features more traditional hot rods along with a good helping of the outrageous rat rod type of car.

Though some have wondered, with the nation's economy the way that it is, if attendance fell or the quality of the cars suffered at one of the country's premier indoor car shows, but we saw no evidence of either, and everyone is looking forward as the Detroit Autorama marches on towards its 60th anniversary in 2012.

  • «
  • |
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • View Full Article