Contact theSOPAbout theSOPSupport theSOPWritersEditorsManaging Editors
theSOP logo
Published:March 10th, 2008 15:19 EST
AutoRama cruised its way to the Motor City

AutoRama cruised its way to the Motor City

By Garrett Godwin

People are getting their engines running, where Cobo Center is packed this weekend for the 56th Annual Autorama. From Friday afternoon to Sunday night at 8pm, everyone from Novi to New York to Europe is there to showcase their ride in front of a sold-out crowd.

It took Jeff Pursey eighteen months to build his 2001 Chevrolet Camaro Z28, with has the license plate "WLDSIDE" - name after Wild Side Racing Company, which he has been the owner for the last three years. Working on the Camaro was a "lot of time, money, and effort", he states. The car is in the Drag Radial class, meaning it can be driven on the streets as long as it has legal tires. Like the rest, this is Pursey's first time here at the Autorama, where whoever has the best car receives the Ridder Award.

On the television series Nash Bridges, Don Johnson cleans up the streets of San Francisco with the help of a 1971 Plymouth Barracuda, which like the Dodge Challenger, is a "true E-body", according to Duane J. Walczak. He is one of the six representatives at Autorama from the Michigan Mopar Muscle. Formed in 2004, president and founder Leeroy Simpson claimed that they're also "The Friendly Car Club" - with the main belief that though muscle cars like the 'Cuda are indeed classics, both the owners and its members are what make them rare.

Walczak's Hemi 'Cuda has a 426 adult engine that can automatic without the car being shifted manually; a 727-slapstick automatic with a 411 horsepower that is fuel-injected as well as a three-engine exhaust. After building the 'Cuda for a decade, why does the license plate is stated "CUDAHHH"? Because, according to Walczak, it is the satisfaction of having it.

1929 was the beginning of the Great Depression - a time when people strive to make ends meet for themselves and their families. But it was the year of the Ford Road, which, due to poor roads, could only go 60 miles an hour - with 45 as its cruising speed. "60 miles an hour is flat-out" said Garnet Rhame, a first-time exhibitor at Autorama. After 8 years with a friend, Rhame changed the Road from a 1920s automobile into an Alter Street Roadster. Now with the roads even better, it can cruise at 100 miles. Rhame has been supporting Autorama for twenty years, and it can't compare to any other event.

"Autorama is one of the best shows in the world" states the Palmeston, Ontario native. "Period"

Besides muscle cars and hot rods, Lightning McQueen from the 2006 Disney movie Cars, and Bumblebee from last summer's blockbuster Transformers make their debut at Autorama, with pictures for $5 each. Also at Autorama is Nickelodeon's Spongebob SquarePants.

Named as this year's "Builder of the Year", Gene Winfield has been the "go-to" guy for Hollywood over the last four decades of furnishing cars and vehicles for both the big and small screen. For instance, director Ridney Scott's 1982 sci-fi classic Blade Runner, which recently celebrated its 25th anniversary on DVD. Winfield calls it the film his hardest job due to the fact of making 25 various vehicles. However, two were destroyed in a shop fire the day before delivery.

His "Reactor" car, which was built in 1993, was featured in sci-fi and fantasy episodic television like Star Trek, Bewitched, and the campy yet classic Batman. "I wanted to create a custom car and paint job to out do any cars at that time."

There are plenty of activities taking place at Autorama such as the X-tream Simulator with a $5 admission, in where the audience have the feeling like they're in the 2001 car classic The Fast and the Furious, and RC Stock Car Racing, with a $3 admission, with a 12-lap race, the winner plays free, and the limit is up five wins per race. There is also a charity auction featuring artists all over the world donating their works, and the money completely goes to the Rescue One Fire Safety for Kids (

People can even take their memories of Autorama with buying memorabilia of model cars such as the General Lee from both the film and television versions of The Dukes of Hazzard; comic books; action figures of Batman and Star Wars characters; basketball cards, and much more.

The general admission is $16; for children between the ages six and twelve, $5, but children under the age of 5 can get in free. For those with a discount from Murphy's Auto Stores, advance tickets are $14 while children ages 6-12 cost $4.

Like her seven-year-son Blake, Alicia feels like a kid going to a candy store when at Autorama. "It has lots of selections" she said. "[Autorama] is well-organized and very cool."