• Ridler Award
  • Detroit AutoramaThe Ridler Award


Thank you for your interest in the Ridler Award. This page briefly summarizes the man behind the award’s name, lists past winners and includes a general guideline for those interested in competing for the award.

The Detroit Autorama Ridler Award is Presented By

Sponsored by Meguiar's

*** 2017 Ridler Award Winner!!! ***

Buddy & Nancy Jordan – Portland, OR – 1933 Ford Roadster

“Renaissance Roadster”

2017 Detroit Autorama 1933 Ford Roadster Wins Ridler

Written by Brian Brennan from Street Rodder Magazine on February 26, 2017

It’s the talk of the show from set up until the winner is announced but yearly the talk of the industry is who take will home the Don Ridler Memorial Award for excellence in building. What lucky owner will get the trophy, the jacket and the check to remind him, or her, of what they just accomplished?

The 2017 65th Annual Meguiar’s Detroit Autorama held in Cobo Hall in downtown Detroit has once again wrapped up another successful and truly amazing show and presentation of the industry’s greatest works of art. While there’re any number of awards that truly showcase our hobby there’s no getting around that the Ridler award captures everyone’s attention. And this year was no different.

Taking home the honors were owners Buddy Jordan and Steve Frisbie of Steve’s Auto Restoration out of Portland, Oregon. Their fendered and removable hardtop 1933 Ford roadster, actually comprised of many handmade panels (.063 out of 3003 aluminum), is called the Renaissance Roadster…meaning rebirth or to be reborn. The design for the car came from the pen and paper of Chris Ito with additional inspiration from Steve himself and then built at Steve’s shop. We would have to agree that ol’ Henry Ford never had anything like this in mind when he first crafted the 1933-34 roadster.

The roadster was born from the ground up using aluminum and steel shaped from flat metal stock. To this tubing and billet were added and in between copious amounts of talent in the form of design and craftsmanship were added to yield what you see in front of you. There was also a collection of off the shelf parts utilized but these too underwent some form of modification before being pressed into service.

The frame, of course hand-formed, was made from 3/16-inch steel with 1 ½-inch diameter chrome moly tubing. S.A.R. designed and built their own IFS based on a split tube axle, remote shocks with custom machined ends along with CNC machined aluminum hairpins all working with rack and pinion steering.

The IRS is based on CNC machined A-arms, uprights and halfshafts again with remote shocks utilizing CNC machined rockers and links. A Mustang IRS third member is used but it too has undergone a great deal of detail work in the way of smoothing the casting surface and then fitted with CNC machined axle stubs. Braking is a combination of four-wheel Wilwood disc brakes; CNC machined backing plates with directional openings, caliper covers, and steering arms. Resting at the corners are four custom one-off wheels, again, CNC machined with directional openings, custom enameled center cap emblems.

The engine is a big-block Chevy from Chevrolet Performance but that’s where it stops. It is based on an anniversary edition 427 (#029) that features an aluminum block and heads. The block was sanded until smooth and features a CNC machined oil pan, valve covers, air cleaner, a beltless water pump, and alternator housing. A custom Autotrend EFI tri-power with S.A.R. modified Edelbrock intake manifold. The exhaust is a custom stainless steel system with CNC machined tips. Cooling chores fall to CNC machined aluminum tanks, outlets, and fan shroud. Shifting is the priority of a 4L60 with a smoothed case and CNC machined pan and tapered aluminum driveshaft.

The headlights are interesting as they started life as 1934 Chrysler lenses and from there S.A.R. then went to work with lots of handformed buckets and cast bezels fitted with HID lighting and custom accent halo lighting.

Another touch of custom handformed work comes in the way of the bumpers with the custom shaped rear bumper fitted with LED lighting, hand-shaped and fitted lenses while the front bumper is CNC machined.

The interior wraps around the centerpiece which is a 1930 Nash instrument cluster housing a full set of custom Classic Instruments followed with handformed aluminum console and switch panel. The shift linkage is more handbuilt with cast shift lever. Another “go-to” accent of the interior is the handformed removable hardtop with CNC machined window frames while the dome lighting comes by way of a 1931 Cadillac. The bucket seats and door panels are more custom work covered in leather and cloth.

Well, there you have it a quick walk around this year’s Meguiar’s Detroit Autorama Don Ridler Memorial Award winner…the Renaissance Roadster built at the hands of the craftsman at Steve’s Auto Restoration. Sit back and enjoy the photos and video on this piece of jewelry turned hot rod.



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 and 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.


Detroit Autorama Ridler AwardDon 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.

Realizing that car owners and builders may need some form of exposure to develop interest or to obtain sponsorships, vehicles contending for the Meguiar’s Ridler Award may have limited media exposure prior to competing for the award at the Detroit Autorama. This limited exposure is defined as: magazine photos or video depicting the building process, but only revealing individual components such as engine, chassis, body panels or interior. 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 minimally operable. It must start, stop, move forward and backward under its own power, turn left and right and stop using the brake pedal, before it can be placed on the floor for display. 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 Pirelli Tire Great 8. 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 Pirelli Tire Great 8 Finalists are announced Friday morning and introduced at the Ridler’s Ball on Friday evening.

If an entry is selected as a Pirelli Tire Great 8 Ridler Finalist, the car will not be eligible for any Autorama awards involving class judging and special awards. Each of the Pirelli Tire Great 8 will, however, receive a cash award of $1,000 paid on Friday evening at the Ridler’s Ball.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 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 cash prize of $10,000 at this year’s Detroit Autorama.

Click Here to Purchase Tickets for the 2014 Ridler's BallThe talented artists and craftsmen that build Ridler contenders strive for perfection while Meguiar’s mission is to be recognized as the leader among the professional car care arena. With this joint passion in common, it was natural that in 2010, Chevrolet Performance became the sponsor of the indoor custom car show industry’s most prestigious award, The Ridler Award. The one-of-a-kind trophy, cash prize and jacket proudly carries the Chevrolet Performance logo. The winner will carry the title of “Ridler Winner” for the year, along with a cash prize of $10,000, special jacket, special accolades in the lobby of Cobo Center and the winning car will be featured on all 1st place trophies the following year. The winning builder will receive a 1/3 scale Ridler trophy.

If you have any questions, please feel free to call (586) 771-7110 between the hours of 9am-5pm EST or email michhotrod@aol.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.

Winner Archive

These creative minds and craftsman are past recipients of the Ridler Award. Those appearing with asterisks are deceased.

2010’s | 2000’s | 1990’s | 1980’s | 1970’s | 1960’s

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