There is a statue of the great boxer Joe Louis in the lobby of Cobo Hall in downtown Detroit. The larger-than-life heavyweight champ stands by the main doors like he's trying to tell everybody, "Get ready to be knocked out."

There's stuff going on all year long at Cobo Hall, but to hot rodders, the place is associated with the Detroit Autorama, which rolls in every February, filling acre after indoor acre with knockout iron. It's like a 1,000-ring automotive circus, with the world's best-looking race cars, concept cars, show cars, popular TV show cars, street rods, hot rods, customs, and more '32 Fords than you can believe, all competing for attention and awards. Add every heavyweight car builder in the country, a crowd of big-name pinstripers and painters, an annoying assortment of media guys, and an elbow-to-elbow sea of spectators, and you've got the Detroit Autorama.

For the second year in a row, Championship Auto Shows and the Michigan Hot Rod Association opened up Cobo's downstairs exhibit hall for Autorama Extreme, reserved specifically for traditionally-styled hot rods and customs, with another area for tuner imports. Don't write off these (mostly) homebuilt hot rods as rat rods. We didn't spot a rat in the house, and many of these rods were so amazingly built that, with some bigger wheels, shinier paint and maybe a few floor mirrors, they could've held their own up on the main floor. We know one multiple Ridler winner (does the name Foose ring a bell?), who had cars on display upstairs and downstairs. Guess which one made a bigger splash?

The Great 8
The big prize at the Detroit Autorama is the Ridler Award. The first step toward winning the Ridler is having your never-before-displayed street rod or custom selected into the octet of contenders known as the Great 8. Here are the finalists from this year.