The 61st Anniversary Meguiar’s Detroit Autorama, March 8 - 10, at Cobo Center in Detroit will be one for the ages, when America’s greatest hot rod show celebrates the 50th Anniversary of the Ridler Award, the most coveted award in hot rodding. For 50 years the auspicious award has been presented to the most outstanding new custom car, shown for the first time anywhere. Named after the first promoter of Detroit Autorama, Don Ridler, the Ridler Award is the calling card of the Detroit event, attracting the finest custom car builders in North America to unveil their amazing vehicles for the first time at the famous show. Detroit Autorama is the largest and oldest show of customized cars, trucks, vans motorcycles and hot rods in North America.
To commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Ridler Award, the Detroit Autorama organizers have invited all of the 50 past winners to bring their vehicles back to Autorama to show for this once in a lifetime occasion. This means that the most beautiful and creative custom cars in history will be gathered for one time only at Autorama on “Ridler’s Row.”
Take a look at some of the past winners below.
Don Ridler was a man with a very competitive spirit excelling in athletics in high school and later at Michigan State University. His achievements landed him in the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame. After college, Don coached Lawrence Tech’s basketball team and served as Athletic Director in the 40’s. After games, Don would contract entertainment such as Tommy Dorsey and Glen Miller for dances. During this period, Don also produced the Michigan State Fair Grandstand shows and handled public relations for horse tracks in the Detroit area
In the 1950’s, the producers of Autorama decided they needed promotional help to take the event to the next level and turned to Don Ridler. With the help of Don’s creativity and professionalism, car enthusiasts flocked to the Coliseum at the Michigan State Fairgrounds to see some of the wildest hot rods that cruised the streets of the Motor City and were entertained by acts such as Little Anthony and the Imperials and the Big Bopper.
Don Ridler passed away in 1963 at the age of 54. It was immediately decided to create an award to honor his memory. Don’s forté had always been his creativity. Therefore, it was decided the award would honor individuals who are equally creative in building cars. The award, geared to honor new creations, is only eligible to cars shown for the first time.