There’s a basement at Cobo Hall and it is here where the Detroit Autorama began decades ago. For many years the basement sat empty and dark until the idea was hatched to hold something special. How about a place where traditional hot rods could have a show within a show, a place that they could show off their cars and have their awards? (The basement trophies, which Brennan and Geisert handed out, were designed and crafted by artist Keith Coleman.) It’s just an escalator ride away from upstairs and all of the “bling” associated with high-profile car shows. Well, it has proven to be a success. This year the basement cars were referred to as the Autorama World of Wheels Extreme sponsored by Ol’ Skool Rodz.
Street Rodder has enjoyed the good fortune to be involved with the award presentation since the first year but recently SR’s presence has blossomed into two awards; both are Editor’s Choice, one handed out by Street Rodder Editorial Director and Editor Brian Brennan, and; a second presented by Street Rodder Senior Editor Eric Geisert.
First up was the ’41 Ford pickup belonging to Jerry Warnack of St. Claire Shore, Michigan. His Editor’s Choice was presented by Brennan for his pickup that features a modified hood to accept ’39 Ford trim, has a stroked small-block Chevy sporting 383 inches, a TH350 tranny, and a 3.42 posi-equipped Ford 9-inch rearend.
The interior sports black and white vinyl over a Glide Engineering bench seat with 3 inches cut out of the riser—giving more of a “down low” ride for Warnack. The stock dash maintains factory gauges restored by Classic Instruments and converted to the obligatory 12 V while a tilt steering column from Flaming River finished off the interior.
The Lobeck chassis sports a disc (front) and drum (rear) braking along with a Mustang II IFS, and the rear is outfitted with coilover shocks and Pete & Jakes ladder bars.
Next on the Editor’s Choice award list was the channeled ’31 Ford Model A coupe belonging to Jeff Knudsen of Holland, Michigan. Presenting Jeff’s award was Street Rodder Senior Editor Eric Geisert.
Knudsen has enjoyed modified cars of all types for 30-plus years but his interests usually center on vintage sports cars. You wouldn’t know that by looking at his channeled ’31 Model A—his first American hot rod with a Z’d frame (4 inches in front and 8 inches in the rear) coupled with a no-chop profile.
Jeff’s Ford is powered by a ’57 265-inch Chevy bored 0.060 over and topped with an ultra-rare Nicson 2x2 manifold and a pair of Rochesters. Inside a leather interior greets the driver as does a boat steering wheel and seats from a ’58 Alfa (now how many hot rodders can say that!?).
As prestigious and well known a car show award as there is, the Alexander Brothers award (for Larry and Mike Alexander legendary customizers from the Detroit area) is given to a custom that best typifies how the A-Bros. work would translate today. (Mike is finalizing his Magnus Opus for next year’s Detroit Autorama to be in competition for the coveted Don Ridler Memorial Award; which both he and his brother have won in the past.)
This year Mike selected a black and gray ’70 Buick Riviera belonging to Keith Dupuie of Leonard, Michigan. Paul and Carl Arft handled the fabrication while all mechanics were trusted to James Elsarelli.
The car sports the original body trim, upholstery, and engine—a 455ci monster. On the custom side—let’s face it, it’s a custom—the top was chopped 3 inches, ’52 Buick grille mounted upside down, shaved tail, custom air suspension, and custom exhaust.