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The 2015 Ridler Award winner, The Imposter. A 1965 Chevy Impala that thinks it's a Corvette.

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2015 Detroit Maguire's Autorama, Cobo Convention Center
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The Detroit Maguire’s Autorama is nothing if not a good old fashioned Rod ’n Custom show. Sure, you’ll find a fine mix of restored muscle cars, pick-ups, ex-comp cars, bikes, and some late model special interest vehicles on the show floor, but as soon as you set foot through the main entrance of Cobo Hall’s upper exhibit space, there is no doubt as to what this show is all about.

The first group of vehicles that greet visitors are the “Great 8” Ridler competitors. It becomes fairly evident from the amount of attention surrounding it that this year’s leading contender for the Ridler trophy is the Chip Foose creation owned by Don and Elma Voth of Abbottsford, B.C. It takes something special to win the Ridler, and as usual, the competition this year was stiff. On Sunday night, when the dust had settled, it was indeed the heavily altered, signature Foose two-tone paint schemed, 1965 Chevy Impala that took home the Ridler.

This is the second year in a row that the Ridler winner was the end result of a full-size hunk of GM bodywork laboriously sculpted to sit on a modern Corvette chassis. From the forward opening hood, to the fender air extractors, to the Corvette-influenced interior, to the six ‘Vette taillights, this creation lives up to its appellation “The Imposter.” An interesting visual aid employed in this year’s winner’s display was a second vehicle. This very clean, bone-stock ’65 Impala SS was marked up to indicate exactly where the sheet metal was sectioned, chopped and otherwise removed to convince a 1965 Impala body that it belonged on a Corvette frame.

Chip Foose and a few of the Foose Crew were in attendance to help with the extra work of presenting two cars in this one display. We're guessing that more than one vehicle per display is not forbidden by Ridler rules, but the other competitors must have been thinking foul. Even though this category is a juried affair, the extra Impala did add to the showmanship  and atmosphere of the display. A multi-level presentation can't be too far in the future for Ridler exhibits.

Pickups seem to be gaining popularity, especially restored examples of the currently popular breed. Chevy/GMC brands seem to slightly dominate, but older examples of makes like Studebaker and even Hudson are being brought back to life and lovingly restored or customized. Commercial or special duty trucks like the very nice Dodge Power Wagon and several sky-high off-road 4x4s found on the main floor have been popular crowd pleasers for many years.

There seemed to be a large number of '56 Chevys entered this year, and by their absence, first gen Camaros were noticed. Of course, when it comes to classic hot rods, the Ford Deuce Coupe is still king once again this year.

But when it comes to hard core, vintage hot rod iron contemplation, spectators were required to go the extra distance and ride the escalators down to the Michigan Room below the main show floor. This area, known as Autorama Extreme, is really a second show in Cobo, and worth the extra effort to visit. The cars aren't as flashy, with lots of rat rod and vintage patina action on display. Harleys and Schwinns are also scattered in and among the  4-wheeled exhibitors. Fancy ropes, carpets, and stanchions are not a mandatory part of the display tradition in the basement. Bare metal and even rust can be found here. but this all ads to the charm and distinct ambiance of Autorama Extreme.

What would late winter in Detroit be without Autorama? Something like a summer without the Woodward Dream Cruise I'd imagine. We'd live through it, but the anticipation and enjoyment of the season would not be the same. Motown needs a tradition like Autorama to drag its butt out of February and point its nose to the summer show season not too far off.

'65 Impala hangs around to remind The Imposter of how it got its start.

Part of the Chevy Performance display is this very capable Z28 Camaro.

Not all Deuce Coupes are from Dearborn. This is the Flint entry.

1933 Plymouth rumble seat coupe.

Fully restored '37 Ford stakebed provides encouragement to a future '32 Ford coupe hot rod.

Very nice '49 Ford Tudor custom.

1955 Chevrolet Cameo Carrier with non-standard chrome wheels.

A tribute to NASCAR superstar Glen “Fireballˆ Roberts.

From the Cavalcade of Customs display, a 1956 Pontiac Safari.

From the Autorama Extreme show, a quintessential '32 Ford 5-window coupe.

The '59 Rambler American station wagon that some thought a very real contender for the Ridler Award.

Direct from your local KOA circa 1962, comes this camper trailer scene.

Speaking of 1962, here is the actual Chrysler 300H entered in the Pure Oil Economy & Performance Trials of that year.

The Grasshopper is a 1915 Ford turtle deck roadster.

Completely hand crafted and powered by a 2005 Honda engine, this custom trike showed very nicely.

Heavily modified 2005 Saturn Ion dressed in shocking yellow.

This custom creation is called the Bugnaughty. Wide and low is the show here.

One of several car clubs displaying at Autorama was the Mill Winders.

A couple of old school Harleys in the Autorama Extreme show.

Five actual screen cars from the Fast and Furious franchise of movies.