2023 Ridler Award Winner
Luigi Deriggi – New Jersey – 1950 Mercury
The 2023 Don Ridler Memorial Award Winner
New Jersey’s Luigi Deriggi found his ’50 Merc for sale online in Wisconsin and brought it home in 2013. But before he was to start working on it he needed some paint work done on another project: a ’68 Mustang. That work was being done by Bruce Harvey of Pro Comp Custom in Glenshaw, PA, who happened to be building what would become the 2022 Ridler winner: a chopped red ’31 Chevy Coupe called ShoBird.
Pro Comp started on Luigi’s Mercury with the addition of an Art Morrison chassis before chopping the top 5.5 inches, reshaping the nose and wheel arches, and adding Mercedes headlights. The drivetrain consists of a Coyote engine regulated by a Holley computer setup and a Borla stack injection system that runs back to a polished and chromed Winters quickchange (because Luigi was tired of always seeing Ford 9-inch rearends).
Custom valve covers, a handmade grille, and one-off door hinges were also made, and big HRBB billet wheels (20×10 and 22×10) are found on each corner. After Harvey created a more contemporary dash, Paul Atkins was called upon to finish the bucket seats and the rest of the interior in different shades of tan leather.
Since its debut at the 1964 Detroit Autorama, the Ridler is one of the country’s most prestigious automotive awards that concerns custom and hot rod car owners and builders. Given annually to an exceptional vehicle that falls under strict “never been shown before” guidelines, the folks who win this prize become members of a very elite group.
About Don Ridler
Don Ridler was a man with a very competitive spirit, excelling in athletics in high school and later at Michigan State University. His many achievements eventually landed him in the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame. After college, Don coached Lawrence Tech’s basketball team and served as Athletic Director in the 40’s. After games, Don would contract entertainment such as Tommy Dorsey and Glen Miller for dances. During this period, Don also produced the Michigan State Fair Grandstand shows and handled public relations for horse tracks in the Detroit area. In the 1950’s, the producers of Autorama decided they needed promotional help to take the event to the next level, and turned to Don Ridler. With the help of Don’s creativity and professionalism, car enthusiasts flocked to the Coliseum at the Michigan State Fairgrounds to see some of the wildest hot rods that cruised the streets of the Motor City, and were entertained by acts such as Little Anthony, The Imperials, and The Big Bopper. Don Ridler passed away in 1963 at the age of 54. It was immediately decided that an award be created to honor his memory. Don’s forté had always been his creativity. Therefore, it was decided that the award would honor individuals who are equally creative in building cars. The award, geared to honor new creations, is only eligible to cars shown for the first time.
Don Ridler was the first professional promoter hired by the MHRA to assist them with the fledgling Autorama in the Fifties. With Don’s creativity and professional approach in promoting, Autorama was able to grow tremendously and eventually move to its present home at Cobo Center in 1961. In 1963, Autorama decided to honor Don Ridler, who had prematurely passed away, with an award given in his name.
Originally, the award was given to the Best Vehicle shown for the first time. Over the last fifty plus years, the award has evolved to better conform to new ideas, changing designs and concepts. Today it emphasizes creativity, engineering and quality workmanship. Anyone building a vehicle for Ridler competition should post these words on their garage wall. The vehicle that best represents those three areas will win the Ridler Award Sponsored by Meguiar’s.
In addition to those judging guidelines, there are a few hard and fast rules, with no exceptions:
The vehicle must make its first public showing at the Detroit Autorama. Showing the vehicle (or any unique part of the entry, i.e. frame, engine or body) at any indoor or outdoor show will make it ineligible for contention. Please feel free to contact us with questions about eligibility.
Except as otherwise set forth below, no photos or comments of the contending vehicle are to be posted on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, Tik Tok, LinkedIn, MySpace or any other social media website or internet comment board or blog or sent via text message or email. Friends, family and other third parties with access to the vehicle must be advised of the above statement and Meguiar’s Ridler Award Qualifications.
Photos, artist renderings or videos showing the vehicle in a completed state or in finish color are not allowed, and will result in disqualification. All decisions concerning prior exposure and eligibility for the Ridler Award will be determined by the Michigan Hot Rod Association and Championship Auto Shows, Inc.
The vehicle must prove to be operable. It must start, stop, move forward and backward under its own power, turn left and right and stop using the brake pedal, and be driven to its display spot on the floor. Keep in mind that these guidelines are minimum qualifiers. Operational functionality is something the judges will look at.
Once the final Ridler Contenders have been determined, the field will be narrowed to eight finalists, which will be referred to as the BASF Great 8 Finalists. Because of the number of entries contending, the process of elimination will begin on Thursday evening after move-in has been completed. Entries do not need to be 100% set-up, but should be at a state that they can be evaluated fairly. The BASF Great 8 Finalists are announced Friday morning and introduced at the Ridler’s Ball on Friday evening.
If an entry is selected as a BASF Great 8 Ridler Finalist, the car will not be eligible for any Autorama awards involving class judging and special awards. Owners and builders should also keep in mind that they will be asked during the weekend to open and close their vehicle to be checked for fit and finish, and to make sure everything is operational.
There will be a BASF Great 8 Ridler Contenders’ meeting for the builders and owners. This meeting is an opportunity to meet the other finalists, the judging staff and ask questions on how your car will be judged.
Meguiar’s sponsors the Ridler Award, the most prestigious award in the indoor custom car show industry, and presents the Ridler Award winner with a prize of $10,000 at this year’s Detroit Autorama.
If you have any questions, please feel free to call (586) 771-7110 between the hours of 9am-5pm EST or email email@example.com.
The Meguiar’s Detroit Autorama is one event produced annually by Championship Auto Shows, Inc., North America’s largest producer of indoor hot rod shows. The Meguiar’s Detroit Autorama is hosted by the Michigan Hot Rod Association.