2024 Ridler Winner: Dave and Tracey Maxwell’s “TwelveAir” ’53 Corvette Corvair Concept

Nadir Ali

Every year since 1964, hot-rod builders travel to Michigan to celebrate their craft at the Detroit Autorama. The three-day event is home to the Don Memorial Ridler Award, “the Nobel Prize of hot-rodding.” Any Autorama participant is eligible, as long as the vehicle is operable and has never appeared at any other show. The winner, announced on Sunday, is chosen from eight finalists, announced the day before and known as The Great Eight. You can read about the 2024 finalists here.

The Chevrolet Corvette was first introduced at the 1953 General Motors Motorama show at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City. The following year, a fastback Corvette concept called the Corvair, a name Chevy would later recycle for its ill-fated compact car, became one of the stars of the Motorama. Chevrolet, however, never put a fastback version of the first-generation Corvette into production. The winner of the 2024 Don Ridler Memorial Award, “the Nobel Prize of hot-rodding,” was inspired by that never-realized concept.

1953 Corvette Coupe TwelveAir 2024 Ridler winner side
Nadir Ali

Dave and Tracey Maxwell, of Saltsburg, Pennsylvania, describe “TwelveAir” as being “loosely” based on that Motorama Corvair. Loosely is an appropriate characterization: The original concept had a fiberglass body on a ladder frame and was powered by an inline “Blue Flame” six-cylinder engine, driving through a two-speed Powerglide automatic transmission. TwelveAir has a bespoke, hand-formed aluminum unibody and is powered by a 9.2-liter V-12 engine, based on GM’s LS V-8 architecture plus an aluminum block and heads, which drives the wheels through an eight-speed automatic transaxle sourced from a C7 Corvette.

Ridler Winner Engine
Ronnie Schreiber

The car was built by Kindig It Design, owned by Dave Kindig, in Salt Lake City, Utah. Kindig has had a hand in designing prior finalists (aka The Great Eight) for the Ridler, but TwelveAir is his first Ridler winner. While Kindig sees the award as the culmination of 25 years of work, he won’t be resting on his laurels. At the ceremony, held during the Detroit Autorama at Huntington Place, his team members already were asking, “What’s in the shop next?”

When asked what winning the award meant to him, the owner of the car, Dave Maxwell, who runs a construction company and also owns car and boat dealerships, said: “Oh my, it’s over the top. I mean … I’m so happy for the builder and the guys who built the car. I let them do their thing. I gave them some ideas that I’d like to see, and just let them go and they hit everything right on! It’s the guys. It’s all about the guys.”

Maxwell says TwelveAir is going to be a driver. “Dave Kindig knows, like with the truck he built me, and my wife’s Volkswagens, and stuff like that… they all think I’m crazy, but after we’re done showing it then it becomes a driver. We’ll change the wheels from show wheels. The disc brakes are [polished, rather than chromed] stainless steel, so we’re good.”

When asked how much he has invested in TwelveAir, Maxwell chuckled and said, “Quite a bit.”

It’s not unusual for a Ridler build to cost seven figures. TwelveAir took four and a half years to build, so it also represents a significant investment in time.

1953 Corvette Coupe TwelveAir 2024 Ridler winner side
Nadir Ali

One of TwelveAir’s notable design features is an almost Zagato-like bubble roof, with a concave character line running from the backlight into the top of the windshield. Putting a crease in a glass windshield like that must also have cost quite a bit, but it is the ambition and execution of those kinds of features that make up a Ridler winner.

Tracey Maxwell said, “What does this mean to me? For him [gesturing to her husband]… I am just so happy for him. He deserves it, the team deserves it. We couldn’t have been here without them.”

2024 Ridler Award trophy detail
Nadir Ali


Paint: AzkoNobel sprayed by Kindig
Engine: Race Cast Engineering, all alloy 9.2-liter naturally aspirated V-12
Transmission: GM 8L90E eight-speed automatic
Exhaust: Handbuilt stainless steel with three into two, two into one headers and custom 4-inch exhaust
Body: Hand-formed unibody made of 3003T0 and 6061 aluminum
Suspension: Indycar-inspired single lateral coilover cantilever pushrod
Interior: Sienna leather done by JS Custom Interiors; 3D printed dash, console, and door inserts.
Electronics: Haltec Nexux VCU with CANBus
Wheels: Kindig-designed 8×20 front, 12×21 rear
Brakes: Wilwood Aero6 calipers front, Aero4 rear; custom brake hats; hand-polished, slotted and drilled stainless-steel rotors


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    Amazing car. The amount of money and work was amazing. I saw much on TV on Dave’s show.

    To have a business like this that has customers that are willing to pay to help you create the cars you like is a blessing.

    The car is beautiful and Dave K. and crew do great work for sure! The award is, I think, more prestigious for the shop that builds it than it is for the owner.

    It’s to bad that these type of cars will never see the road and to be only admired in shows. A waste to not drive them for the shear pleasure of the driving experience. Don’t open the box!

    It’s not the photographer’s fault. The hood was down during the award ceremony. Even when the hood was up on Friday, it was hard to get a good view of the engine without some kind of stepladder. I’ve been covering the Autorama for years and it’s not always easy to get closeup shots of engines, even for credentialed media and photographers. You can’t just go into the displays to get photos of the interior or engine bay. You have to be at the display when an owner or builder is there to let you in. There are eight finalists and there’s some scrambling around so you’re not likely to get all of the views you’d ideally like for all of the cars.

    In the case of TwelveAir, it was particularly difficult to get a good view of the engine when the hood was up during judging on Friday. To begin with, the engine sits low in the car and the car was on stands so it was sitting about 18″ off of the ground. Sight lines to the engine were poor. Going over my own photos of the car, at most you could see the velocity stacks and about half of one valve cover, barely enough to sort of make out “TwelveAir” on it. We’ll be adding that photo to the post.

    Sorry I confused this with the V8 car made with the same kind of body. It was the V8 Carbon car he built first.

    Dave Kindig said that they kept the car a secret. One competitor was a bit unhappy with the selection of TwelveAir as a finalist, saying that all Kindig did was put a roof on something he was already making, but as you pointed out, that was carbon fiber. TwelveAir has a one-off aluminum tub and body.

    If it had been featured in his TV show it wouldn’t have been eligible for Ridler competition. Hopefully we’ll see the build in the next season.

    The reason that I subscried to your publicatio was to sell my 1967 corvette the whole thing was a total waste of time

    Dave Kindig can come off as kind of smug, as does Chip Foose, but they are both immensely talented and their shops certainly don’t skimp on craftsmanship. They’ve earned the right to be proud of their accomplishments. At any rate, TwelveAir was my favorite of the Great Eight. Glad it won.

    I’ve met Dave in person at auctions. He is an incredibly down to earth guy. His show can be campy and the amount of money spent is mind boggling, but his people are loyal for a reason.

    He seems to be a great guy, from my research on him he does a lot for the community where he lives, very private in his private life. Arrogant builders like Richard Rawlings & Boyd Coddington shows are the ones I don’t like, I do enjoy Bitchin Rides.

    It says the car will be a driver, with the wheels to be replaced with more roadworthy wheels. I’d REALLY like to see that. I think this car has potential to look even better than it does now.

    Right now my eyes can only see a gorgeous body sitting atop sparkly chrome propellers, so my brain doesn’t want to think of it as a “car” as much as an “art piece”.

    Beautiful car! A real show stopper!
    I’m curious how much $$$$$$$ the builder sunk into this creation. I would imagine several hundred thousand at least if the car took 4-1/2 years to complete and has a unique V12 engine.

    CadMad was said to be $2 million ++ if that gives you an idea. Sold for $300k at BJ. The whole exercise is grotesque imo.

    Agreed. I don’t get the point of the Ridler award garbage. I have a Hagerty #3 condition ’73 Nova that runs and drives all day long, any day, on any road (well, except in the Winter in Ontario) and it is fun! Owning one of these Ridler things just doesn’t compute. If you at least made a profit from opening your wallet to buy the Ridler award that might make sense. In the case of Cadmad the owner died before the award and his heirs lost SO much money when they dumped it. Pretty sad for all concerned.

    I’ve spoken to a few Ridler finalists and winners and the owners of the 7 figure “checkbook customs” aren’t doing it to make money, they’re doing it because they’re patrons of the art of making custom cars. They’ve done well in life and they can afford to advance their hobby. Also, there are usually a couple of owner-built cars, usually by someone who owns some kind of body or custom shop – even building a Great 8 finalist will do a lot of good for a business, let alone a Ridler winner.

    Nobody really cares what us lowly peasants think, but here goes: The car is magnificent, but the huge Conestoga Wagon wheels with O-ring tires just don’t suit it. The tires and wheel wells should be concentric, but instead, the upper wheel well cuts through the tire and wheel, like the suspension just collapsed. It jars the eyes. I’ll be so glad when this obsession with 22+ inch wheels finally fades away.

    This is an amazing build, but it looks awkward to me. I know it’s slammed, and might look better at a driveable height, but the wheels seem too “tucked in“ for my taste. Also, it’s hard to tell from the photos, but the roofline looks like it doesn’t reach all the way back to the rear like the original (I know – “inspired by”).

    But what do I know?

    Riddler Award is the anthesis of Pebble Beach and recreating factory mistakes.

    Both are extremes and the center is wide and well populated. Enjoy what YOU have.

    I’ve been to the Louvre, it was what it was. A celebration of art for the sake of art. I did #2 in the toilet there too. Take art for what it is (man’s need to create) and what it isn’t (reality). The Riddler is the same, only with a different medium.

    If I had enough money to sink in a single car that’s too nice to drive, I’d rather have 10 hot rods I can thrash in anger with enough left over to fix them.

    I’m with you on this. But, money (like children and spouses) doesn’t come with instructions. At least we know that some very skilled folks are making a living building custom cars.

    Wow, like the French and Italian craftsman of the mid-20th century, it is amazing to see that level of design and build innovation. Beautiful car, so cool to hear that it will get driven. Glad the winner gets $10K, that’s a real incentive to build one of these. Love Kindig’s work, always wondered how deep are the pockets for one of his builds?

    Corvettes haven’t been fibreglass since the C3 was retired. All production Corvette bodies are composite plastic (the same as the Fiero, Saturn, etc.), not fibreglass as the plastic is cheaper, easier to work with, easier to repair and has a far superior finish.

    I attended the show and watched the video they had playing next to the car. It focused on the build and the craftsmanship was fantastic! Panels hand formed, much like Italian builders of the 50s and 60s. Hopefully the video will be shared on the TV show for everyone to see. I had to move out of the way when Dave and his team came out for photos. Huge crowd!

    No the Riddler has always been a prestige award, it hasn’t been about the prize money for decades. It is very much like a Nobel prize. There is a shop in my Province of British Columbia that built a Riddler first place car a number of years ago and they still get billed as a Riddler award winning shop. The prize money for a business is the advertising draw.

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