February 15, 2013

Autorama opens Friday at Cal Expo

If you like your one-of-a-kind cars chopped, shaved, rolled, nosed, pancaked, pinched or scooped, this is your weekend at Cal Expo.

If you like your one-of-a-kind cars chopped, shaved, rolled, nosed, pancaked, pinched or scooped, this is your weekend at Cal Expo.

The 63rd Sacramento Autorama, featuring some of the West's top automotive craftspersons and hundreds of colorful cars, kicks off its three-day run today at the sprawling Sacramento venue.

Billed as one of the longest-running indoor car shows in the world, this year's event will spotlight more than 450 custom cars, hot rods, classics, motorcycles and specialty vehicles from across the nation.

Those vehicles will compete for dozens of awards in various classifications.

Hundreds more cars will be part of the show's exterior Clubhouse and Autorama Drive-In venues on Saturday and Sunday.

Live music, celebrity appearances, vendor booths and special exhibits also are set up in Cal Expo Buildings A-D, the Pavilion and all eight buildings of the Expo Center. This year's show theme is "Aloha!" and entrants have been encouraged to decorate cars and exhibits appropriately.

The show's title sponsor is O'Reilly Auto Parts, the chain operated by O'Reilly Automotive Inc. of Springfield, Mo.

Numerous awards – including the 8-foot-high H.A. Bagdasarian World's Most Beautiful Custom Award – will be handed out at 4 p.m. Sunday.

This year's show also will recognize Sacramento's Gearhead Garage as the 2013 Builder of the Year. Business co-owners Jason and Robyn Walroth specialize in creating high-performance automotive upgrades, car restoration and repairs. A special Gearhead Garage exhibit is in Cal Expo's Building C.

Autorama was started by Sacramento businessman Harold Bagdasarian in 1950. While serving as president of the local Capitol City Auto Club Thunderbolts, he talked club members into having a show to settle friendly arguments over the merits of their respective customized cars.

The initial show had 22 entries at a downtown Sacramento auto dealership.

Show ownership has changed hands multiple times over the years. Rancho Cucamonga businessman John Buck took over in 2005 and now runs it and other automotive gatherings under the business name Rod Shows.

"We're looking forward to another great event. Sacramento is the custom capital of the world," Buck said.

Besides the massive Bagdasarian trophy, the show's "Big B" awards pay homage to the Sacramento area's rich custom car history:

The Sam Barris Memorial Award is a tribute to the late customizing wizard. Along with brother George Barris – maker of numerous handcrafted autos appearing in movies and TV series – the Illinois natives moved to Roseville and helped set off the California custom car craze.

The Joe Bailon Award recognizes Joe "Candy Apple Red" Bailon, the Northern California customizer who created the signature red color that became synonymous with his name.

The Dick Bertolucci Award of Excellence – presented to the car with the best craftsmanship in assembly, fit, finish and detail – is a tribute to the longtime owner of Bertolucci's Body & Fender Shop in Sacramento. Decades ago, Bertolucci established a national reputation as a top-tier car restorer, and his personal car collection is considered world-class.

Car customizing spread quickly throughout California after World War II, driven by a large group of devoted cruisers and gearheads.

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