Few car shows have creative range, or the confidence to pull together a varied menu of raw and rusted V8s next to trailer queen custom domestics that cost more than your Lamborghini or Ferrari...not to mention low riders, rat rods, and perfectly preserved land yachts from the American 50's, 60's and 70's. The Autorama, is a once a year celebration of rodding and customizing domestic automotive creations. Some are created in the spotless, could eat off the floor garages of custom build houses while others have been labored over on weekends by their owner in small cramped garages.
This year was the 66th Sacramento Autorama, and it delivered plenty of good stuff for those who made the pilgrimage as we did. We began our day at So-Cal Speed Shop. They had started lining cars up on Del Paso Blvd. at 9:00 am in order to get attending gearhead's Autorama buzz started. We were there pretty early in the program, but there were just enough cars staged to give us our first fix. So-Cal is a great place for the hot rodder and poser alike. Their shop is full of vintage and reproduction equipment (and literature) for car builders and some of the best looking clothing designs swag we've ever seen. If you've never been, you should stop in and patronize a homegrown CA business and car industry institution.
After shooting the bull and a few hundred pictures, it was off to CalExpo for the main event. We were greeted inside the gate by jaw-droppingly gorgeous convertible 61 Lincoln Continental. Every day should start like that! We then moved to the concrete exhibition buildings for a bit of an unexpected treat. Several low-rider groups filled multiple buildings with some of the most outstanding (and loud) rolling artwork we've ever seen at an Autorama (or anywhere). The most impressive thing about this genre of car culture is that these folks are the real heart of the 'Built Not Bought" movement....and they always have been. Everything on these cars is fabricated, refinished, striped, airbrushed and plumbed from scratch and each clearly conceived by a uniquely spirited builder of builders. And frankly, nobody takes the execution of detail more seriously than this crowd. There was hand crafted detail everywhere on some of these cars and we mean everywhere...chased silver door handles, air brushed everything, chrome and nickle plating enough to blind you and enough switches to make an electrician nervous (that's a joke). Kudos to the clubs that showed up in great number and the same to the promoters who provided the real estate for these folks to come and blow the minds of those not familiar with both low riders and the people who create and drive them.
The next portion of our afternoon was spent outside in some uncharacteristically beautiful February T-shirt weather, outside the exhibition buildings at Cal Expo. The first stop was a medium-sized field of dreams of lengthy American icons. The sheer tonnage of 50s-70s stock and customized Cadillacs, Rivieras, Impalas and other American sedans almost certainly threw off the earth's normally predictable orbit around the sun for a few days. And God bless their owners for keeping these luxurious cruisers on the road. (the refrain, "they sure don't make em like that anymore" being the most oft repeated phrase heard among the gathered behemoths)
After the land yachts, we proceeded toward the show queens and high dollar offerings through a field of cars driven in to be displayed on the fairgrounds in the open air. And what a field it was. This collection alone would have been worth the price of admission. The primer and rust....the big metallic flake...bagged suspensions...open (and short) pipes..period proper restos and just former barn finds were all around, and it was glorious. It was the kind of stuff that gets you thinking that you might want to plunk down some cash and give this car customization thing a whirl! Luckily and most prudently, as our quasi motto states, "We've perfected standing around staring at cars," not buying them (and then footing the bill for legal representation for the divorce).
After the stroll through reality, it was on to the surreal...two big buildings full of the most beautiful and fantastic hot rods and customs from some of the most talented builders on the planet. Paint so good it looks ten feet thick, features so trick, we're pretty certain the dark arts were employed and engines more beautiful than the crown jewels. Even the examples of cars we don't care for were built so beautifully we couldn't help but stare and drool.
We spend our fair share of time leering and lusting after high-end European sports cars and attempting to mingle with the elites of the car world (we typically fail). Autorama is a history lesson, an exhibition of self-taught engineering, an art show, an insane race for homegrown garage horsepower, but most of all its a gathering of individuals and families as diverse as any crowd one could find in the world coming together to share a common passion. Autorama remains a laid back and fun event that has built a reputation for the serious connoisseur while at the same time being the perfect gateway drug for the first timer.