By Jeff Gilbert

by Jeff Gilbert
WWJ AutoBeat Reporter

Cobo Center is being transformed into “Hot Rod Heaven” for this weekend’s Autorama.

“We’re the oldest show in the country, 59 years old,” said Steve Novasel, who’s one of Autorama’s co-chairs.” Novasel says car enthusiasts come to Detroit from all over the country to show their vehicles, and compete for the prestigious Ridler trophy, which comes with a ten thousand dollar cash prize.

It can cost much more than ten thousand dollars to restore these vehicles. It’s often a long, expensive process.

“The people down here are true car enthusiasts,” Novasel said. “They’ll skip lunch for a week to buy that part for their car.”

Organizers of Autorama were worried that the recession would cut into their attendance. That didn’t happen last year. Customizers say business hasn’t been great, but it’s been steady.

“Quality always sells,” said Todd Lewis, who runs a restoration shop in Rhode Island. “Good quality cars will always keep moving. It’s not the same as it was five years ago, when anything went.”

img 2340 Autorama Brings Hot Rod Lovers To CoboPeople show their vehicles for a number of reasons. Joe Tassone works for a restoration shop in Ontario. They brought a completely restored, customized Jaguar. It’s their first Autorama

“We keep hearing it’s the super bowl of car shows,” Tassone said. “We decided to check it out, go for the Ridler, see what happens.”

Autorama opens Friday afternoon, and runs through Sunday.

Cars that were used in a film or TV show are always a big draw. This year there are seven of them, including the “Monkeemobile” and the vehicle used in the ‘80’s film “Ghostbusters.” All of the cars, for the first time, are gathered in one place.

“Individual people have purchased these cars and own them,” said co-chair Novasel. “They all got together and brought their seven cars to Autorama. We have them all in one big collage, and it’s really a great display to have them look at.”

Follow Jeff Gilbert on Twitter @jefferygilbert


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