Who’d a thunk that “winter” would have lasted two years? Yes, it’s been a wild ride, but for custom car fans, happy days are here again. Although outdoor events such as concerts, sporting events, and car shows might have a lingering touch of “Long Covid,” the 71st Sacramento Autorama was well attended and just what the doctor ordered.
Not only that, this author is gonna go out on a limb here and declare the Sacramento Autorama my favorite car show in the country. Sure, there are other shows that are every bit as relevant, but this “wailing wall” of custom cars in the River City has a soft spot in our hearts. The trifecta of machines, culture, and the Cal Expo venue is unbeatable.
As always, impresario John Buck and the gang at RodShows put on a terrific event. NorCal is the epicenter of custom cars in the country, even more so than SoCal in this author’s humble opinion. That’s why if one wants to take the temperature of the custom car hobby, the Sacramento Autorama is the place to be when Spring begins to bloom.
Cal Expo is a treat to behold as well. Opened in 1968 with Ronald Reagan officiating the ceremony, the fairground has a horse racing track, a water park, and a groovy little monorail. The coolest part of wandering the grounds is that either through lack of state funds or a sympathetic curator, this architectural gem of Sacramento County is largely untouched. The energy from a thousand events is palpable as you stroll the grounds. Lastly, if there was a remake of the TV show “Space: 1999” it could easily be shot at Cal Expo with little alteration. The ticket booth could easily stand in as an intergalactic teleport station.
There was something for everyone at the show. Lowriders, muscle cars, and trucks galore. The Drive-In was extended to Sunday as well as Saturday, and the turnout was impressive. We always contend that you never know where the coolest car at the show will be, and many times it’s outdoors at the more informal part of the Autorama.
Over 500 world-class vehicles were on display and 400 individual trophies were handed out during the awards ceremony on Sunday. Let’s zoom in close and see who hit the jackpot on the six big awards at the show.
“Big B” WINNER: Sam Barris Memorial Award AND Custom d’Elegance Award 2022 – Jeffrey Hess’ 1956 Oldsmobile “OLDSSLED,” Mike Filion/ProDesign, Builder
Jeff Hess has won a bevy of awards with his radical 1956 Olds 98 and he scored big again in Sacramento. Not only did he win the Custom d’Elegance, the most prestigious Autorama award (with $5000 prize money courtesy of ARP,) but he took home the Sam Barris Memorial Award as well.
With the help of Mike Filion, owner of ProDesign Hot Rods out of Santa Ana, California, they brought Jeff’s vision to life. Powered by an early HEMI with a six-carb intake, the underhood was dressed to the hilt. The sectioned body, stretched rear fenders, and Carson top makes this thing look even lower and longer than it already is. Be sure and check out the huge, reimagined OEM spinner wheels, the cyclops instrument panel, and all the exterior jewelry.
“Big B” WINNER: The Joe “Candy Apple Red” Bailon Award 2022 – 1963 Impala Convertible, Joe Ortega, Owner/Boinotts Custom Body and Paint, Builder
Joe Ortega’s 1963 Chevy was a block long with a paint job that looked so slick and deep, that it made us want to dive in. The big convertible was powered by a 350 small block and was laid out on AirRide with big Billet “Chicayne” rims. Inside were yards of putty-colored leather swathed on every surface. This award is a nod to a great paint job, so a special shout out to builder Boinott Custom Body and Paint for the killer finish.
“Big B” WINNER: The Dick Bertolucci Automotive Excellence Award 2022 – Pat Gauntt’s 1932 Ford Coupe/Troy Ladd’s Hollywood Hot Rods, Builder
This steampunk 1932 Ford is on quite a winning streak. Fresh off taking the Al Slonaker award at the 2022 Grand National Roadster Show in Pomona, California earlier this year, owner Pat Gauntt can add another feather to his cap. Sporting Cadillac V8 power and dripping with custom, bespoke jewelry, it is an amazing achievement. Check out the wild elements like the front suspension and the quick-release brass door hinges, just to name a few. Troy Ladd has gained wide accolades in the custom car scene and this ’32 is a new high watermark for his shop, Hollywood Hot Rods.
“Big B” WINNER: H.A. Bagdasarian Memorial/World’s Most Beautiful Custom 2022 – 1941 Packard Convertible- Jerry Logan, Owner/Oz Welch, Builder
For 2022, the “Baggie” award went to Jerry Logan and his 1941 Packard Convertible. Although designed by John d’Agostino, the real star here is metal man Oz Welch. We dig his work and consider him one of the best builders ever, in our humble opinion. The metalwork on the car is sublime, especially because there isn’t a straight line on it. To shape this gigantic car into voluptuous perfection required enormous talent. This big open car captures the romance of the pre-war era yet distills it into razor-sharp focus.
King of Kustoms 2022: 1947 Buick Sedanette – Dave Ceccanti, Owner/Lucky 7 Customs, Builder
This 1947 Buick was smooth as silk and cut a very sleek figure under the lights. Lucky 7 Customs seems to hit one out of the park every show season and this Buick is no exception. We know many nips and tucks were done to the body, but it’s hard to pinpoint all the changes. We do know the top was chopped and putting a huge fastback under the knife is not for the faint of heart. Any missteps are hard to hide but there is nothing to catch your eye and distract you from this big, fat-fendered beauty.
Street Muscle’s “2022 Best Of Show”: 1963 1/2 Ford Galaxy XL Fastback – Richard Fors and Family/Total Performance Motorsports, Builder
It would be tough to be a judge at the Autorama as there are so many killer builds on display. Everybody walks away from a car show with one car that stood out in their mind and for us, it was the Fors family’s 1963 1/2 Ford Galaxy built by Total Perfromance Motorsports out of Salina, California. Dubbed “The Crow,” it had meticulous bodywork and paint and sat just right on bespoke Schott wheels and low-profile tires. For us here at Street Muscle, it was our favorite of the 2022 Sacramento Autorama.
So for now, we say goodbye to Sacramento and look forward to the custom confections await us when we return in 2023. Thanks to RodShows for another fantastic show and a job well done.