Cutting edge custom cars: The 2016 Autorama Great 8

The Detroit Autorama epitomizes custom vehicle innovation and every year eight finalists compete for the Autorama’s ultimate award: the Ridler. Like each year prior, this year’s field challenged the judges to select the single vehicle that represents custom cars’ pinnacle.

To understand the Ridler award, you must understand the man behind its name. Don Ridler was a promotional genius with a competitive spirit.  And, in the 1950s, Autorama’s producers turned to him for his creativity to help promote the event. With Ridler on their side, Autorama’s popularity exploded, and in the ‘60s it was moved to its present location at the Cobo Center, Detroit, Mich. Ridler was so cherished by the event’s producers, that when he passed away unexpectedly, Autorama honored his contribution by awarding a Ridler award annually to the best vehicle shown for the first time.

Over the last 53 years the award has evolved along with the cars to better embrace ever-changing technology and concepts —inspiring new creations was and is the goal, and inspire it does. Every year, builders from all over the world who have not yet revealed their creation submit their entry for a chance to become the top eight finalists — otherwise known as the Great 8 —  for the Ridler Award. A cash reward of $1,000 is paid to each Great 8 finalist, and a $10,000 reward is paid to the Ridler Award winner. But considering how much time, expense and knowledge goes into each of these customs, it’s not about the cash; bearing in mind what the competition amounts to, it’s truly an honor to finish atop these creative master-minds. Following is this year’s Autorama Great 8 lineup:

  • Joe Horish from Wilmington, Delaware came with his 1961 Chevrolet Bubble Top that now leads a luxurious life as a wagon, otherwise known as “Double Bubble”.
    1961 Chevy Bubble Top

  • Michael and Patricia Markin from Eau Claire, Wisconsin presented their gracefully executed 1938 Graham, the “Shark”.
    1938 Graham

  • Richard Broyles from Jonesborough, Tennessee displayed his 1941 Ford pickup appropriately named “Mirage”.
    1941 Ford Pickup

  • Mark Gooden from Marshall, Missouri used Autorama as the opportunity to reveal his mouth-watering creation based on a 1952 Mercedes originally owned by his father.
    1952 Mercedes

  • Kenny Welch from Boise, Idaho rolled in with his all-steel 1937 Ford coupe, the Ford that Henry should have made.
    1937 Ford Coupe

  • Greg Malvaso traveled from Murfreesboro, Tennessee to share his radical red 1940 Willys with the crowd.
    1940 Willys

  • Chris and Colleen Bitmead of Orange Grove, Western Australia, mixed it up a bit with their pleasantly purple 1976 Ford Falcon, a model never sold in the United States.
    1976 Ford Falcon

  • Finally, Billy Thomas from Georgetown, Texas won the 2016 Ridler Award with his elegant 1939 Oldsmobile convertible.
    1939 Olds convertible

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