66th Sacramento Autorama continues its three-day run at Cal Expo

Do you like yours chopped, scooped or pancaked?

You can do any of those things to food or cars. If the latter is your cup of tea, Sacramento is the place to be this weekend.

The 66th Sacramento Autorama, featuring some of the West’s top automotive detailers and hundreds of colorful customized cars, kicked off its three-day run Friday at Cal Expo.

Billed as one of the longest-running indoor car shows in the world, this year’s event will spotlight more than 500 custom cars, hot rods, classics, motorcycles and specialty vehicles from across the nation. Those vehicles will compete for dozens of awards in various classifications.

The theme of this year’s show is “Nifty 50s,” with cars and participants reflecting the post-World War II car-craze era, which began in earnest in the Golden State.

Live music, celebrity appearances, vendor booths and special exhibits will be set up throughout Cal Expo.

In addition to the 500 competing for awards, hundreds more cars will be on display in the Butch Gardner Clubhouse at the Cal Expo Pavilion building and the outdoor Autorama Drive-In near Building A on Saturday and Sunday.

Numerous awards – including the 8-foot-tall H.A. Bagdasarian World’s Most Beautiful Custom award – will be handed out at 4 p.m. Sunday. The decisions will be made by certified judges.

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 hosting a show to settle friendly arguments over the merits of their customized cars. The initial show, held at a downtown Sacramento auto dealership, had 22 entries.

Bagdasarian promoted subsequent shows, which steadily grew in participation and attendance. Bagdasarian died in October 2014 at age 91.

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

Besides the massive Bagdasarian trophy, the show’s “Big B” awards pay homage to the Sacramento area’s 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 post-World War II California custom-car craze. George Barris died in November at age 89.

▪ The Joe Bailon Award recognizes Joe “Candy Apple Red” Bailon, the Northern California customizer who created the color that became synonymous with his name.

▪ The Dick Bertolucci Automotive Excellence Award – 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 and 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.

66th Sacramento Autorama

Where: Cal Expo, 1600 Exposition Blvd., Sacramento.

When: Noon to 8 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday. Award presentations begin at 4 p.m. Sunday.

Admission: $20 for ages 13 and up, $10 for ages 6 to 12 and children ages 5 and under are admitted free when accompanied by an adult; discounted tickets available at participating O’Reilly Auto Parts stores. Parking costs $10 on the Cal Expo grounds.

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