If Northern California is ground zero for custom cars on the West Coast, then the Sacramento Autorama is at the epicenter of this high octane, metal flaked, megatron bomb. A kaleidoscope of metal benders, builders, benefactors, pinstripers and painters all unveiling their kustom delights for the crowds.
Now in its 66th year, the Sacramento Autorama attracts roughly 35,000 visitors and hundreds of cars. There were several big West Coast intros and many cool cars lurking in most every corner and crevice of the massive Cal Expo Fairgrounds. If you’ve never made the pilgrimage, make sure you’re well rested and have a have a quad latte, because there are so many cars, spread out over such a big area, you’ll need some gumption to see everything in this kustom kar wonderland.
We were there, and we’ll give you a wrap up of the stand out automotive eye candy and the current state of the kustom kar scene. Here were some our favorites, in no particular order.
H.A. Bagdasarian – World’s Most Beautiful Custom
From the full fender skirts, meticulous metal bending, and custom one-off wheels, Rob Ida Concept's 1940 Merc ups the ante.
The big news this year was the debut of Rob Ida’s 1940 Mercury built for Rob Keily. Hot off winning SEMA Best of Show Trophy late last year, this was the first time folks on the west coast were able to see this thing in person.
Publicity shy, New Jersey native Ida is a master metal bender/fabricator and the work and details on this car raises the bar in the custom hobby forever. The days when a chopped car with candy apple paint could win “America’s Most Beautiful Custom” are essentially a thing of the past. Not only is this car radically restyled with a nod to Delahayes of the past, but every piece and part has either been fabricated or massaged to an unbelievable zenith.
Underneath the shapely sheet metal is just as impressive. The woven orange cloth spark plug leads and Ardun rocker covers give the car a vintage look, but hides a 5.8-liter supercharged V-8, snicked from a Shelby GT500 Mustang packing 660 hp.
The rivalry between “rich guys” hiring famous builders to build them a car and guys who build the rods in their garage is a fierce as ever and one could easily dismiss this car by saying “If I had a million dollars, I could build a car like that…” Maybe, but when you see this sled up close, it will become apparent that Mr. Ida’s talent is what is on display here, not big money.
2016 West Coast Kustoms Outstanding Nostalgia Award
Scott and Holly Roberts 1954 Merc built by Altissimo.
We’re huge fans of Brandon Penserini and his custom car factory Altissimo. He came to Sacramento with this sweet 1954 Mercury built for So-Cal couple Scott and Holly Roberts. Low and mild with early small block Ford V-8 power with no doo-dads to spoil the lines. Aside from Penserini’s body and paint workmanship – which is s absolutely breathtaking, the metallic lime green color with a touch of gold, friggin’ nailed it.
Master seamster Bill Plant sewed a very cool pea green interior (and trunk) with silver metallic piping inserts and vintage fabric.
Wow. That's a big Cadillac. Watch your head getting in...
Richard Zocchi was at it again with this crazy 1958 Cadillac he built for his wife. Heavily chopped and shaved with ’61 Buick taillights, custom grille and foot deep, pink paint with deftly added highlights. Some devout soul spent a long time sanding and noodling this huge car into the laser straight, cotton candy sled you see here. If you dig big Cadillacs, here you go.
Period perfect, Blue Bayou Roadster with all the right stuff.
What’s a kustom kar show without early Fords? Check out Chris Evan’s, Hemi powered,1931 Model A dubbed “Blue Bayou.” Robin’s egg blue paint with six Strombergs, open headers, wide whites and steelies, it twinkled flawlessly under the lights. Built by Charley’s Garage in Mesa, Arizona this little roadster was a dazzler.
2016 AMBR Winner
Hollenbeck's drab, military green '32 wowed 'em at GNRS.
Speaking of roadsters, Darryl Hollenbeck’s ’32 Roadster was the alter ego of the “Blue Bayou.” If a noted kustom kar impresario whipped out a crappy, green-brown paint chip and said “I will win “America’s Most Beautiful Roadster” with a rod painted this hue,” no one would have believed it. Well, Hollenbeck did just that and walked off with AMBR at the 2016 Grand National Roadster Show. Oh, and the color rocked. He’s drives it too. The big, tall black steelies with white letter, Firestone tires killed.
Best Custom and ’60 Cadillac, 2016 King of Kustoms
You might have watched the build of this 1960 Caddy on Dave Kindig's reality show, but in person this thing is off the charts.
The Dave Kindig of Kindigit Design brought a trio of beauties this year. The now famous reality TV show personality and kustom kar guru showed a 1960 Copper Cadillac, 1959 Buick and 1950 Pontiac Convertible all sporting his signature design language. Killer paint, heavily tweaked bodywork, modern chassis, GM LS power, Kindig one-off wheels and gigantic white wall tires. Each was fantastic but we have soft spot for’59 Buicks and this one was awful pretty in blue and white with baseball glove color interior. Nonetheless, the ’50 Pontiac won big.
1974 Resto Rod 1974 Road Runner
We love Mopars and Lucky 7 Customs and we got both with this 1974 Plymouth Road Runner. Equipped with late model Hemi, and 17” re-pop Chrysler mags is a text book example of how to resuscitate a ‘70’s smog motor Mopar. For folks of a certain age, these swan song, muscle Mopars are just as pretty as golden-era models and it’s a treat to see forgotten cars brought back to life. Mark Worman would approve.
As usual, a big turn out of '69 Camaros. This stock one was exercise in factory originality.
Sometimes the most fun is checking out the average Joes (and Janes) rides outside at the “Drive In” on Saturdays. Check out this guy’s cool 1969 Camaro. Orange with orange houndstooth interior and enough stickers, Protect-O-Plates, Mulroney stickers and other ephemera to sink a ship. We love stone stock too and this one was is a good representation of how these cars really looked at a dealership back in the day.
The “Suede Pavilion” is where the rat rods live and there were some cool ones for sure. One of our favorites was this “as found” field car displayed in all its rusty patina. You can almost smell the mohair, mold and cow manure. Or is this a slight of hand illusion? Either way, the presentation was spot on. Cool cars can come from anywhere and real or not, as the stockpile of original cars and barn finds dwindles down, seeing these old warriors as they might have been found, is good fun.
Real or fabricated patina? This 1949 Ford was allegedly found in a field in Caruthers, CA.
Last but not least, we liked these pedal cars. Both Barris Batmobile-esque, they were small palettes with big ideas and a good example of the automotive diversity on display. Most anything with wheels was fair game here.
We’ve added a big gallery of photos for your perusal and will give you a nice cross section of the show’s cars. Kudos to Rod Shows for another great Autorama. For a list of all the winners go here. See you next year…