For the indoor car show, presentation is everything. At the Detroit Autorama, which delivers a professionally run, top-of-the-line event, hot rodders were represented like no other show can do.

Even though Cobo Hall, the facility in downtown Detroit that has housed the Autorama since its infancy, is basically a massive 800,000-square-foot single room, space is at a premium. More than 800 car spaces were set aside for rodders to display their rides, and more than 80 20x20-foot spaces were also organized for those wanting to go “all out.” That amount doubles what a “regular” Detroit show would produce, and it indicates how serious both the promoters of the show and the builders and owners of the cars feel about having a car at this show. To have a car debut at the Autorama means you’ve arrived, but a 20x20 display means you’re making a statement.

And though the Autorama hands out dozens of awards in various categories, all competitors have their eye on the grand prize: the Don Ridler Memorial Award—a car of any make, model, or year that requires the winner to be shown for the first time at this show.

Couple one of the country’s top awards with the show celebrating a landmark 60 years, and you get a perfect storm of high-quality cars all converging at one time in one place. The benefactors in all this, of course, are the spectators who flood through the doors, and this year the aisles were packed for all three days.

Besides the cars, the Autorama is famous for the entertainment its provides, whether it be a life-sized Spongebob Squarepants running around for the kiddies or, for the middle-aged auto enthusiast, the chance to meet one of the dozen hot rodding legends who are at the show for autograph sessions.

And then, when you leave the huge upstairs and travel down to the basement, a whole other show is going on: the Autorama Extreme. Filled with traditional hot rods and customs in many build styles (from rough rat rod to finely finished and gloss painted), the cars are a backdrop for a sub-culture lifestyle and the artwork and music that accompanies it. Rockabilly bands played on a stage where a pin-up calendar girl contest would be held later.

With a show that is 60 years old, history itself plays a major part, and the show’s lineage is presented in several ways. On Saturday morning the Circle of Champions inducts new associates into its prestigious membership and remembers those who have contributed to the show’s success over the year. The keynote speaker at the function this year was Jim Farley, the Group Vice President, Global Marketing, Sales, and Service of Ford Motor Company (and it turns out he’s a hot rodder, too).

The Cavalcade of Customs display always brings together a group of custom cars that look like they rolled right out of the ’50s and ’60s, and Drag City USA showcases new and old drag cars—something close to the heart of the Michigan Hot Rod Association, who first started the Detroit Autorama in 1953 as a way to finance a local dragstrip for the association’s club members.

Any way you slice it, the Detroit Autorama is a happening every hot rodder should experience. And next year the show will highlight 50 years of the Don Ridler Memorial Award, and that is sure to bring out the best of the best and thereby push the car show bar even higher—something the Detroit Autorama has been doing consistently since 1953.