9 of Our Favorite Customs From Detroit Autorama 2024

Buzz Saw 2.0 rides on a full air suspension and hunkers over a set of genuine Cragar SS wheels. Nadir Ali

The Detroit Autorama may be known for the Don Ridler Memorial Award, the Nobel Prize of indoor hot-rod shows, but to define the event by its highest award misses the point. The hundreds of builders, owners, and owner-builders who travel to the Motor City each spring are gathering to celebrate what they love and to share it with the public. No hot rod is built to be hidden.

If you haven’t checked out our story on the 2024 Ridler winner, click here. To see the finalists, chosen the day before and nicknamed The Great Eight, click here. To read about the diversity of the vehicles attending, click here.

And if you’re still hungry for more, read on! We might have been walking around the show all weekend, but each of these nine builds stopped us in our tracks, and we couldn’t wait to share them with you.

Buzz Saw 2.0

This chop-top, pinked-out van isn’t the first one that Ken McCarl has built. But it’s definitely better than the one he built when he was 23, says the Ontario native. “It was my last big build I wanted to do—nothing spared.” A mechanic by trade, and the owner of an auto repair shop, he relished the challenge of doing his own bodywork: “It’s almost like my happy place.”

The toughest part of the build? “The windshield,” McCarl says, not missing a beat. “That’s number 13.” The glass just kept breaking when cut by traditional methods; water jetting, a new-school method, did the trick. “I refer to that as my $3000 windshield.”

Chrysler 1000X

1959 Chrysler 300E 1000X front three quarter
We love the contrast of the finishes—glossy next to brushed—in an otherwise understated color palette.Nadir Ali

One of the eight Ridler finalists, 1000X caught our eye because of its mix of old and new—which era of Chrysler was it celebrating? Both, read the plaque beside the vehicle, owned by Randy Kohltfarber and built by American Legends: “Our goal was to rebuild the iconic Chrysler 300 with modern-day muscle.” We’ll give you three guesses at what’s under the hood, and two don’t count: A 1000-hp Hellcat V-8.


One of the most head-turning builds—it occupied a prime spot near the entrance—at Autorama 2024 is also one of the oldest. Uncertain-T debuted in 1965 to great acclaim but has been lost to the public for the past 50 years. The fiberglass-bodied, Nailhead-powered coupe was rediscovered just this year and awaits a restoration by Galpin Motors’ Beau Boeckmann and Dave Shuten.

’39 Ford COE

1939 Ford COE by Tim Humpert at 2024 Detroit Autorama
Nadir Ali

A heavy truck mechanic by trade, Tim Humpert of Frankenmuth, Michigan, built this head-turning cab-over from a 1939 Ford COE that spent its life at an airport in Wichita, Kansas. All the work, except the paint, is his own, done over 10 years of nights and weekends. The fenders he pulled from a ’31 Ford and stretched to fit. He used styrofoam to model the dead-straight sides of the bed. One of our favorite details is the bed liner: Not the typical hardwood drenched in glossy lacquer, but no-nonsense diamond-tread stainless steel.

“I wanted something unique, and something to drive,” Humpert says. This is his first build … and his first Detroit Autorama. Hats off to you, Tim!

1939 Ford COE by Tim Humpert at 2024 Detroit Autorama
Nadir Ali

Imperial Evolution

Imperial Speedster 2024 Detroit Autorama
The car was unveiled here, in 2011, the result of 10,000 estimated man-hours of work.Nadir Ali

If you recognize this heavily modified 1959 Imperial Crown Custom, you’ll know that it was originally a four-door, and you also probably know that it has racked up the miles in Hot Rod magazine’s grueling Power Tour—twice. In 2018, it received a makeover, ditching its champagne and orange for a pearly sage green over a rich brown. Billet wheels wrapped in ultra-thin goldline tires complete its show-car vibe. Want to read more? Check out our feature on owner Murray Pfaff and his Imperial Speedster.

Deuce of Hearts

Deuce of Hearts vintage period hot rod 2024 Detroit Autorama Choma
Channeled, zee’d, and chromed beyond belief … this vintage build has still got it.Nadir Ali

If you were uncertain that period hot rods had a home at Autorama, The Deuce of Hearts will convince you otherwise. Built in 1958 by George Choma, this ’32 Ford Coupe hails from New England. Owner Rich Hallam has been vigilant to preserve the patina of the Coupe, and the slight imperfections of the chrome bear witness to the rich, long history of hot-rodding—and the enduring glamour of Choma’s build.

Oma’s SS

oma's ss mickey york autorama 2024 detroit 1962 Impala SS
Under the hood is a 525-hp LS3 with 650 lb-ft of torque, backed by a GM 6L80-E transmission.Cruis'n Media

Several cars were unveiled at Autorama, but few struck the personal note that this 1962 Impala SS did for Detroit sports reporter Mickey York. This is the second time York has unveiled this car, which belonged to his grandmother, at Autorama: Leading up to the 2018 event, the Impala underwent a three-year restoration. But in 2021, the reborn car was totaled in an accident. “I couldn’t let the car go,” said York, who tracked down the car, which his grandmother owned from new, in 2009. True to his word, York refused to “let this horrific crash be the end of its story”: Here is Oma’s SS, reborn for the second time, wearing her favorite color scheme of white over red.

The Frankenboss

Frankenboss by Duncan Brothers custom Mustang Boss 302
The brothers even custom-made the “coils” that cord off the Mustang. Sanding the springs was not fun.Nadir Ali

If your brain is shorting out, as you try to date this Mustang, then you’ve got a good eye; The Frankenboss is an amalgamation not only of different eras of Mustang, but of Detroit muscle. The Duncan Brothers envisioned a restomodded 1970 Mustang, but they decided to execute the idea backwards, starting with a 2012 Boss 302 Laguna Seca and grafting on a mix of 1969 and 1970 panels (each extensively modified). Then, they thought, why not look outside Ford?

Why not, indeed? The hood is made of parts from four different cars: The underside is 2012 Mustang, the top and peak are 1969 Mustang, and the center—purists, steel yourselves—is from a 1968–70 GTO. Because Ram Air scoops and that devilish widow’s peak at the nose, that’s why.

“My Type”

My Type custom E-Type Jaguar widebody at 2024 Detroit Autorama
“My Type” was built by Mike Clarahan.Nadir Ali

Your author is firm in the belief that wider is better. A widebody E-Type? That’s up there with Greenwood Corvettes. Based on a 1967 E-Type, this Jag has a Chevrolet powerplant, in fact: a Chevy V-8 topped with two four-barrel carburetors, a package that will be replaced by a Jaguar V-12. The rest of the build reads like a bucket list of racy add-ons: Dive planes, hood scoops, side exhaust, big wing, black wheels.


Check out the Hagerty Media homepage so you don’t miss a single story, or better yet, bookmark it. To get our best stories delivered right to your inbox, subscribe to our newsletters.

Click below for more about
Read next Up next: It’s Safety Fast for the Aston Martin Vantage


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *