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.