We’ve been featuring some of the things to expect on the 64th Annual Meguiar’s Detroit Autorama for quite some time now. We shared personal stories behind some of the 800 cars that were featured since Friday until Sunday, February 26 to 28. Beyond the stories they share, lies a common thread of a secret, heart-felt wish: to be included in the Pirelli Great 8 and the chance to win the most coveted prize of all, the icon of automotive awards – Autorama’s Don Ridler Memorial Award.

The Ridler (as it’s referred) is an award that recognizes more than just an owner, builder, or even the car, it includes the desire, sacrifice, and will that competition demands to succeed at the highest levels. There’s a sports axiom: preparation, persistence, patience, perspiration will lead you to your goal. And such is the road heavily travelled but rarely conquered on the way to the Ridler. According to all involved in the promotion and administration of the Detroit Autorama, when you win the Ridler it’s proclaimed, “There’s nothing finer sitting on four wheels.” That’s a powerful statement.

Before there can be a Ridler winner there must be eight of the finest taken from dozens of entries. It is not easy task rounding up the ‘Great 8’, especially if you’re selecting from an ever growing batch of likely potentials. To be included in the list is already an honor, and being proclaimed as the winner is a dream come true. Before we share this year’s winner, let’s take a look on the other finalists that made it to the Great 8. Photos and descriptions are courtesy of

1961 Chevy Bubble Top

Joe Horish from Wilmington, Delaware with his 1961 Chevy Bubble Top turned wagon and named “Double Bubble”

1941 Ford pickup

Richard Broyles from Jonesborough, Tennessee with his 1941 Ford pickup.

1938 Graham

Michael and Patricia Markin from Eau Claire, Wisconsin with their 1938 Graham.

1937 Ford coupe

Kenny Welch from Boise, Idaho with his 1937 Ford coupe

1940 Willys

Greg Malvaso from Murfreesboro, Tennessee with his 1940 Willys.

1976 Falcon

Chris and Colleen Bitmead of Orange Grove, Western Australia with their 1976 Falcon (similar to a U.S. Torino from that era).

1939 Olds convertible

This year’s recipient of the Detroit Autorama Ridler Award: Billy Thomas from Georgetown, Texas with his 1939 Olds convertible.

And finally, this year’s Ridler Award goes to Billy Thomas of Georgetown, Texas with his immaculate 1939 Oldsmobile Convertible. It was worth the wait, since the Oldsmobile has been a long time in the making under the care of Harold Chapman and his team from Customs & Hot Rods of Anice, located north of Austin near Georgetown, Texas.

The 1939 Olds ‘vert is a handbuilt piece of art whose styling cues where taken from a ’39 Olds ‘vert Model 60. The body rests on an Art Morrison Enterprise chassis, while the one-off wheels are wrapped with Pirelli rubber, and comes equipped with a RideTech suspension system. This one-off sheetmetal hot rod is painted in a custom blend from PPG named Kona Brown and sprayed over the massaged bodywork aptly handled by the painting master himself Charley Hutton Color Studio out of Boise, Idaho.

Power for this ’39 Oldsmobile ‘vert comes from a Joe Mondello prepped 455-inch Olds, that features a Wilson Racing one-off intake topped with Don Cherry EFI and valve covers with Bowler Performance Transmission.

Unique one-off gauges were provided by Classic Instruments, while Sherm’s Custom Plating and Jon Wright’s Custom Chrome Plating provided all of the chrome and polished stainless steel. Other partners worthy of mentioned for being instrumental to the success of the Oldsmobile ‘vert are: Triple T Machining, Dan’s Driveline, Clay Cook, The Car Shop, Rolling Oaks Glass & Doors, Greening Auto Company, and Not Stock Photography who handled the pair of build books.

Reference and photo credits:

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