Business & Real Estate

Customized cars compete for prizes at 65th Sacramento Autorama

Attendees review the lineup of custom cars at a previous Sacramento Autorama at Cal Expo.
Attendees review the lineup of custom cars at a previous Sacramento Autorama at Cal Expo. Sacramento Bee file

The 65th Sacramento Autorama, featuring some of the West’s top automotive detailers and hundreds of wildly colorful customized cars, kicks off its three-day run Saturday at Cal Expo, 1600 Exposition Blvd.

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 “The Great Gatsby,” with cars and participants reflecting the 1920s style of the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel.

Live music, celebrity appearances, vendor booths and special exhibits will be set up throughout the Cal Expo grounds. The show’s title sponsor is O’Reilly Auto Parts, the chain operated by O’Reilly Automotive Inc. and based in Springfield, Mo.

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.

Show hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Monday, Presidents Day. Tickets are $20 for ages 13 and older and $10 for ages 6 to 12. There is no charge for children ages 5 and under accompanied by an adult. Discounted tickets are available at local O’Reilly Auto Parts stores. Parking is $10.

Numerous awards – including the 8-foot-tall H.A. Bagdasarian World’s Most Beautiful Custom award – will be handed out at 4 p.m. Monday. The judging is done by certified car 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 respective customized cars. The initial show, held at a downtown Sacramento auto dealership, had 22 entries.

Bagdasarian promoted subsequent shows, which steadily grew in car enthusiasts’ participation and general attendance. Bagdasarian died last October 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 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 post-World War II 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 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.

Call The Bee’s Mark Glover, (916) 321-1184.

65th Sacramento Autorama

Where: Cal Expo, 1600 Exposition Blvd., Sacramento

When: 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday through Monday

At the door: $20 for adults, $10 for ages 6-12 and children under 5 free; admissions discounted if you buy tickets at any O’Reilly Auto Parts store