Autorama sets the year of coming hot rod shows

Getting ready for Autorama, the late-winter show for conversions and specialty vehicles here in the Motor City, is frequently a family affair.

And the 2015 expo – the 63rd Detroit Autorama — was no exception.

Rob Young of Royal Oak, Mich., entered his 1963 Continental under his teenage son’s name, explaining that he had picked out the car and would someday own it. Delaware resident Dr. Kenneth Hollingsworth was showing the 1963-1/2 Ford Galaxie 500 that originally belonged to his father. Locals Ed and Mark Wisneski had their recently completed Synergin green 2015 Camaro dragster in Cobo Center, and John and Marlene Bauer of Southgate, Mich. were standing in as “family” for their friend who had entered his 1963 Ford Fairlane Sport Coupe.

View photos: 2015 Autorama

Young was busy cleaning splash marks off the ’63 Continental the evening before Autorama opened to the public. He had taken a chance and driven the two-tone luxury car to downtown Detroit from his home in nearby Royal Oak. Young admitted to using the car as an incentive to his 16-year-old son to complete his education.

“When he graduates from college, I’ll give him the keys,” Young said.

Robert, his son, had a fascination with rear-hinged rear doors and together they found the two-tone Lincoln, with 430-inch engine, on a college tour trip in Illinois a year earlier.

Kenneth Hollingsworth grew up with his dad’s 1963 Ford Galaxie 500 XL, a car he said was the fastest in the Raeford, N.C. area.

Now a University of North Carolina blue, the Galaxie sat for years. Hollingsworth said he got it started in 1980 but did not focus on a restoration until 2003. Ed Denkenberger had charge of the body and paint work. It is powered by a 427-inch engine.

“I’ve been showing it since 2005, but this is the first time I’ve brought it to Detroit,” said Hollingsworth, who now lives in Wyoming, Del.

The Wisneski family has high hopes for its 2015 Camaro dragster with carbon fiber body and 748 Chevy racing engine.

“We bought the 2015 Camaro last spring. Everything about it is new and aftermarket,” said Mark Wisneski, of Macomb, Mich.

Wisneski said one of the most difficult aspects of creating a car like his dragster is choosing the right companies as suppliers. The carbon fiber components are created in molds by specialists and everything must come together perfectly.

The Camaro has yet to face its first track test. “We should be able to do a 1/8 mile in 3.90 seconds,” he said. “Top speed should be 190 miles per hour.”

Another speed demon, the 2013 Streamliner shown by Dennis Mariani Sr. of Manteno, Ill., was accompanied by a sign proclaiming Mariani’s goal to make Steamliner the first naturally aspirated small block to go 400 miles per hour.

Streamliner had a front-row position at Autorama – an area often reserved for vehicles competing for the Ridler Award: an honor given to the best vehicle shown for the first time.

George Poteet’s 1956 Chevrolet also was on the front row. It was cared in the hands of Steve Legens of Legens Hot Rod in Martin, Tenn. Not a Ridler contender, the Poteet Chevy, Legens said, was built to drive on a tour from California to Texas late last summer. It was completed in September and trucked to California for the 30-car event. He said it rained most of the tour.

Legens said Poteet found the ’56 Chevy in Mississippi in 2013. Legens gave it a ’64 Impala interior and put a LS-3 Corvette engine under the hood.

“It gets in the high 20s miles per gallon and has a top speed of 120 miles per hour,” Legens said.

Brian Wolff’s 1963 Ford Fairlane Sport Coupe with 302 V-8 was not designed for that kind of speed, but it looked good enough to Wolff of Southgate, Mich. that he traded his 1977 Monte Carlo for the Fairlane in January and trailered it back from Wisconsin in spite of winter.

When Wolff took ill the week of Autorama, friends John and Marlene Bauer  (also of Southgate) volunteered to chaperone the Fairlane – a.k.a. Baby Blue – at Autorama. John had been involved in retrieving the car from Wisconsin. He said its exterior hasn’t been altered, but headliner and door panels were replaced prior to the show.

He handled any engine issues while Marlene had polishing duty prior to showtime.

Nearby a classic black Packard with Dietrich body owned by Bruce Blevins looked out of place until visitors stopped to talk with Mary Anne Demo.

Demo was at Autorama to generate interest in the Packard Proving Grounds in Shelby Township. In recent years the late-twenties buildings at the site have been improved as the historic spot prepares to increase its services. This year beginning in April it will host not only car shows but some 55 wedding receptions.

The car season gets under way Sunday, April 26 when members of the North Oakland Mopar Muscle club meet at the proving ground. It is followed June 14 by Cars R Stars, Demo said. Both events were a perfect fit with Autorama exhibitors and visitors.

View photos: 2015 Autorama