All the cool kids were in Nor Cal the weekend of February 14th for the 64th Annual O’Reilly’s Autorama at the Cal Expo Fairgrounds in Sacramento. This kustom kar lollapalooza was like a tractor beam pulling in the greatest builders and car owners from all over the country.

P1000954With over 550 cars in 12 buildings, it continues to be the longest running indoor auto show in the world. Add another 150 cars that arrived on Sunday for the outdoor “Drive In” and Sacramento became the kustom kar Mecca of the world for three days.

Cal Expo is a cool venue as well. Not only is it HUGE at 350 acres, it also has a horse racing track, a water slide park and an elevated monorail, kinda like what you’d get if you crossed a county fairground with Disneyland. With live music and pinup girls, it was the place to be for muscle cars, customs and the latest in hot rod threads from modern day “Elvises and Betty Pages”.

We were there, and we bring you full coverage along with some favorites that caught our eye. Some of our picks matched the judges, some didn’t. Either way, it’s a tough gig to pick the top dog cars among the best in the world, but somebody’s got to do it, so here we go…

T H E   K U S T O M S

Cadillac fans got a real treat with Brandon Penserini debuting his Altissimo built 1955 Cadillac dubbed the “Bronze God”. This thing is chopped, shaved and de-badged, distilling Harley Earl’s big daddy cruiser to its essence and then turning the dial up to “11”. Acres of laser straight sheet metal dipped in foot deep bronze paint. Magnificent. Lucky 7’s ’54 Cadillac “Capone” was a big “inspiration” for this car. SLTV Favorite.

P1000915Although Metallica hasn’t had a chart topper in years, guitarist James Hatfield has a big hit with this custom bodied cruiser “The Black Pearl”, built by Rick Dore. The aluminum and steel body by Marcel is a perfect foundation for Daryl Hollenbeck’s glassy black paint and swoopy gold trim. A lot of time spent on English wheel here. Won big with 2014 Custom D’Elegance Award, Sam Barris Memorial Award, and Manuel Arteche Memorial Award. “Enter Sandman”, your car is waiting.

1950 Chev Jerry Logan Qwner Don Lowe Builder aka Vanilla Shake

Jerry Logan’s Vanilla Shake

Builder Donn Lowe is at it again with Jerry Logan’s “Vanilla Shake”. A killer Bowtie with ’53 Chevy surround and custom grille, frenched headlights, ’52 Ford front fender flares, tapered quarter-panels, wedge-sectioned deck lid, inverted ’51 Frazer taillights, front/rear splash pans molded in and on and on…New Tri-Power set up with ribbed goodies under the hood too. Vanilla with butterscotch scallops is a very tasty combo.

John D’Augustino was the featured builder this year and he brought along Mike and Rita Garner’s metal flaked Caddy coupe dubbed “Conquistador II”. Although not much more than a two tone paint job, off the rack wheels with bullet centers and Vogue tires, it still killed. Radio Bob in Van Nuys laid down the gold and silver paint extra thick with Chicklet sized flakes. Didn’t thrill the judges, but who cares? Superfly meets George Barris is a cool mash-up.

Top - Hetfield's 1948 Jaguar/The Black Pearl and D'Augustino's 1970 Eldorado/Conquistador II. Bottom - More Kustom lovlies...

W H I T E   C O L L A R   R O D S

Charlie Matus brought his 1927 Ford Roadster “Chocolate Rose” by Cal Expo again and if you haven’t seen it, prepare for a rolling definition of the term anal retentive attention to detail. Sporting a full dress Flatty and dripping with cool jewelry, it takes awhile to acclimate to this big hit of awesome sauce. Dreamed up by Charlie and builder Dave May, kudos to Genesis Fabrication for putting this little hot rod together. Won “Best Dressed Flathead” at last GNRS and Won 2014 Autorama Best Rod. Fantastic.

Charlie and Karen Matus aka Chocolate Rose 3If you like full fendered Fords with just the right rake and stance, then feast your eyes on the Pyramid Street Rod built “Low Boy”, an olive drab ’32 Five Window Coupe. No flames or devil’s heads, just the right formula from owner Jerry Logan, chopped 4.5”, channeled 2” and rear wheel wells raised 2”. A stroked 351W is topped with Borla cross ram injection and fulfills mission of “Speak softly and carry a big stick”. SLTV FAVORITE.

Geoff and Sharon  Haegar 1926 Buick OriginalNeed something to clear the palate of ’32 Fords and ’69 Camaros? Check out Geoff and Sharon Haegar’s 1926 Buick Sedan. Big car, big motor and big chop is the ticket. Nailhead power with nice stance on wide whites with dog dish caps. Late to a “Godfather” wedding? Not in this version of Flint’s finest.

Last but not least, check out John Thompson’s awesome 1936 Ford Roadster. Anthracite gray over black leather with super sano materials and build. Running a 347 Ford V8 and T-5 manual, this is quite an example of Colleti Speed Shop’s expertise in rod building. Winner 2014 Autorama Dick Bertolucci Automotive Excellence Award.

Top - '32 Five Window coupe a.k.a. Low Boy, 1936 Ford Roadster. Bottom - More, more, more...How do you like it?

B L U E   C O L L A R   R O D S

If Roger Rabbit crossed over to the dark side, (With Dickies, flannel shirt and a pompadour) this is the rod he’d drive. This “Hot Rod From Toon Town Hell” was ridiculous and fantastic all at the same time. When the top of the cheater slicks sit at roof level you know you’ve got the stance juuuust right. Nice mill with skyscraper blower too. We loved it. SLTV Favorite.

Hot Tod From HellTim Keeney’s 1931 Ford roadster is what hot rodding looked like after WWII. No mail order parts or $100K budgets, just an old farm car with all the heavy stuff thrown overboard and tarted up Flathead mill. For you youngsters that think hot rodding began with Civics in the Eighties, a rolling history lesson begins here.

sacramento_autorama_2014_Suede_palace_-18No one gets out of here alive…But, you can leave behind an artifact proving you existed. That’s what this barn find 1932 Ford Model B Roadster is, a time capsule from another dimension. If you dig “Patina Queens” just as they left the River Rouge factory F.O.B. Detroit, owner Deret Kahlet brought a real nice example. Squint and you can almost see Clyde Barrow behind the wheel.

Last but not least, check out Rafael Jimenez’s ’29 Ford Roadster. Nice and low with perfect channel and tri-power small block. Merc caps with gold steelies add nice pop to this rat. Party continues with J.C. Whitney steering wheel and Crown Royal shifter boot in a bare bones, all business interior.

Top - 1932 Ford Barn Find, 1929 Ford Rat Speedster. Bottom - More Suede Parade.

T H E   M U S C L E   C A R S

Mopar muscle roolz and if big black B-bodies turn your crank, check out Jerry Cowan’s damn near perfect 1967 Dodge R/T. Big cube V-8, perfect sheet metal, big diameter repro Magnum 500s and low profile gumballs do the trick. If you want see how black paint is done, gaze into the flawless black void. Too bad judges didn’t agree.We loved it. SLTV FAVORITE.

Dick Cowing 1967  Dodge RT 4More Mopar mania comin’ atcha with Darius Baker’s 1970 Plymouth GTX with Modern LX body guts. Best of both worlds with 5.7 HEMI, modern running gear and sprayed our favorite old school Mopar blue. Crazy how late model Magnum dash fits perfectly in old Plymo. Great fabrication work by Dean Rockwell from PRD.

I say 69 10Changing channels, check out this black ’69 Camaro ” I Say 69″ with 710 HP, blown 427 LS3. Owner Joseph Augusto commissioned builder Gearhead Garage to build him one of the baddest F-Body on the planet, and they hit the bullseye. Awesome black paint with red stripes by DB Customs. Won Best in Class “Conservative Hardtop” 67-69.

Orphaned muscle cars were present, too, with Stewart Hess bringing his meticulously restored 1963 Supercharged Avanti.Forget Avanti “IIs” in harvest gold with shag carpet interiors, this car is how God and Raymond Loewy intended the plastic Studebaker to be, with rake intact and the most killer orange leather interior on record. 

Top - 1970 GTX/Magnum, 1963 Supercharged Avanti. Bottom: Some pretty cool Thrill Mills

As the show winded down after the awards ceremony at around 6:00 pm on Sunday, the cars rumbled to life and slowly trickled out of Cal Expo to return to their garages scattered around the country. The show is not for the faint of heart on many levels. It’s so cool, so friggin’ fantastic, that its almost sensory overload. No worries though as we can’t think of a better way of spending an afternoon drifting from one automotive Da Vinci to the next. Still, get a good night’s sleep, take your vitamins and be prepared to be wowed.

For First Time Show Goers, Here’s Some Tips for Next Years Show

With horse racing, concerts, car shows and late sixties modern architecture, Cal Expo’s where it’s at. Photo via

Wear your walking shoes! The grounds are gigantic! Fairground food is abundant but if you’re not a corn dog and elephant ear fan, you might want to bring some edibles of your own in a backpack.While your at it, throw in chapstick, bottle of water, 5 Hour Energy, crazy pills, etc., as it’s A LONG WAY back to parking lot. Coffee and beer kiosks are abundant so no worries there. Bring money too. $20 admission per person and $10 to park.

The 12 buildings chosen to house the cars are arranged in no particular order and are situated among other buildings that weren’t open to the public. Be sure and get a program as it has a map of the grounds, your gonna need it! We had to ask the helpful show personnel where the rest of the cars were on several occasions. Ultimately, it WAS quite an adventure wandering though seemingly dormant fairgrounds and round a corner and find yourself in a whole other hall full of twinkling kandy koated kars…

Finally, kudos to for delivering a GREAT SHOW! Till next year!

Go here for list of all the winners