The 58th annual Sacramento Autorama - Heart of Custom Country
Expanded for Web
From the February, 2009 issue of Rod & Custom
By Tim Bernsau
Photography by Tim Bernsau
We were still buzzed from the Grand National Roadster Show a couple weekends earlier. The sensory bombardment of seven-or was it eight?-buildings stuffed with the country's best rods and customs doesn't shake off quickly. Now we were at the Cal Expo fairgrounds in Sacramento geared up to repeat the experience. Except now there were 10 or 11-or was it 12?-buildings jam-packed with more extraordinary rides of every description.
The Sacramento Autorama is the nation's second oldest indoor hot rod show, a year younger than the GNRS. Northern California is custom country and the H.A. Bagdasarian World's Most Beautiful Custom award-named for the man who started this show back in 1950-is the big prize here. This year, 14 entries competed for the WMBC title. When the judging was done, the honor (along with a huge trophy) was given to Mercules, Bruno Gianoncelli's '50 Mercury high-tech hardtop.
We spent a lot of time in Building D, temporarily dubbed the Suede Pavilion. Alex "Axle" Idzardi, of the Shifters car club, helped organize this show within a show, dedicated to nostalgic, traditionally built hot rods and customs. It wasn't all suede in the Suede Pavilion; in fact, painted cars were in the majority, and several could've held their own in the "regular" Autorama. Of course, that would've meant missing the live rockabilly, honky-tonk, and surf bands that played throughout the weekend, not to mention the crowd of pinstripers who kept their brushes busy at the panel jam organized by T.J. Pagano. On Sunday, all of the pinstriped panels and other custom-painted objects of art were auctioned off, raising several thousand dollars for the UC Davis Children's Hospital. Makes you proud.
The photos give you some idea of the variety and quality of customs and rods at this year's Sacramento Autorama. More cars are featured in the expanded coverage at www.rodandcustommagazine.com, and even more are currently under construction for 2009's show. We plan on being there to see them in person. How 'bout you?
There's no bad angle on the...
There's no bad angle on the '63 Thunderbird built at Oz Kustoms by Oz Welch and his son, Kyle "Coyote" Welch. A 6-inch chop, extended side spears, and airbags add to the low and long look. The drivetrain is original T-bird, and paint is House of Kolor Candy Persimmon with variegated leaf trim. Oz Kustoms had 15 or 16 customs on display in Sacramento.
Oz Welch (right), was named...
Oz Welch (right), was named the 2008 Builder of the Year, and also received the Joe "Candy Apple Red" Bailon Award, presented by Bailon himself.
After years of driving it,...
After years of driving it, Charlie Runnels let Gary Howard turn his '51 Merc into a ground-scraping 'sled. The original Flathead runs six 97s, and the original seats wear Vernon McKean's hand-created upholstery. The long list of custom mods includes mostly Merc or Lincoln parts. John D'Agostino gave the car the Kustom d'Elegance Award.
It didn't win the WMBC prize,...
It didn't win the WMBC prize, but Matt and Colleen Beckdolt's '54 Chevy, built by Roseville Rod & Custom, earned awards for Undercarriage, Paint, Engine, and Detail. Small details like the curved B-pillars, and big ones like the injected Bill Mitchell 572, the two-tone paintjob, and Art Morrison chassis are secrets of its success.
The World's Most Beautiful...
The World's Most Beautiful Custom award for 2008 went to Mercules, this two-tone four-seater '50 Merc, owned by Bruno Gianoncelli from Perth, Australia. The Mercury has generated a great reaction with its blown 6.8L V-10 engine, 18- and 20-inch Bonspeed rims, chop, paint, and Mercedes headlights.
The legendary Dick Dean Kustoms...
The legendary Dick Dean Kustoms combined a '40 Merc coupe with a Corvette chassis to create Mervet, for Bob Ehnisz. The body has been chopped, channeled, sectioned, stretched, widened, and radically reworked in front. Another WMBC entry, it won the Gene Winfield Coolest Custom Award.
A wicked chop, '57 Studebaker...
A wicked chop, '57 Studebaker fins, HOK Pagan Gold, and lots of pinstriping set off this '57 Coupe de Ville, entered in the WMBC class. Brian Nieri is the designer, builder, and owner of the Cadillac, and did it wild without going cartoonish. Willie Taitano of Willie's Place gets credit for the great paint, and T.J. Pagano pulled the 'stripes.
Bob and Doreen Barton added...
Bob and Doreen Barton added some Thunderbird style to this WBMC-contender '51 Ford, notably with the '60 T-bird chopped and extended top, '68 buckets, and look-alike wraparound rear seat. It also features '54 Merc headlights, original '49 Cadillac hubcaps, and '53 Ford dash and gauges, plus a 302 under the hood.
Similar in style to the red...
Similar in style to the red and white '51 Merc that won the WMBC award in 2007, Frank and Demi Hinmon's green and black '49 wears Buick side trim and a DeSoto grille. The top was chopped and the B-pillar was lost to create a hardtop. A 500ci Cadillac fills the engine compartment.
Bet you didn't recognize the...
Bet you didn't recognize the '96 Chrysler top on Rick Robbins' WMBC class '53 Bel Air, did you? Other exterior mods are '56 Olds headlights, '55 Chrysler taillights, plenty of massaged sheetmetal, and who knows how many shades of violet. Bob Honstein did the fabricating on this Chevy.
The bright white on the lengthened...
The bright white on the lengthened Deuce 'rails, '57 392 Hemi with six 97s, period pearl-white upholstery, and extensive pinstriping sure got our attention. Tracy Ledford built the '31 five-window from an old drag car body, modifying just about every part of the coupe.
Duane and Pam Balogh made...
Duane and Pam Balogh made just enough mods-shaved sheetmetal, custom grille, lowered stance, Billet Specialties rims, leather interior, dressed-up small-block-to turn their '57 Chevy pickup into a nice contemporary custom without obliterating any of the truck's original personality.