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
*** 2015 Ridler Award Winner!!! ***
Don and Elma Voth, Abbotsford, BC 1965 Chevrolet Impala
Written by Brian Brennan from Street Rodder Magazine on March 8, 2015
This 1965 Chevy Impala is not what it appears the theme for this build is the concept of what if Chevrolet’s Corvette studio modeled a muscle car in 1965 as well as the two-seater sporty car that is an American icon. The Imposter is not the original cruiser it once was but something that may have surfaced from the Chevrolet Division—Corvette. The Corvette is stretched 7-5/8 inches and wrapped up in a 14 inches shorter body.
Let’s begin with the bumpers that are handmade, as is so much of this hot rod, and fitted and tucked neatly into the body. The roof is 1-1/4 inches lower and 8 inches shorter and in so doing the windshield is laidback 2-1/2 inches while the decklid is 7 inches shorter. Another is more distinctive on a second generation Corvette than the twin round taillights. Reminiscent of possibly a ‘50s Pontiac taillight these Corvette units are distinctive and often used or copied. Note there are three while no factory Corvette came out with three, but rather two, the triple taillight treatment was a popular custom treatment back in the day. The Impala-Corvette taillights feature custom-built bezels to hold the lenses in place.
Onto one of the many sheetmetal mods: The rear wheel wells are raised 2 inches and pull forward 7 inches. This necessitated handmade steel quarter panel extensions that are welded in place eliminating the original pot metal pieces. Finishing out the rear sheetmetal the factory decklid now extends down an additional 2 inches to fit the bumper eliminating the stock aluminum trim above the bumper. The rear bumper is much narrower and handmade to feel more like mid-year Corvette styling. The lower rear body extends under the bumper all the way to the wheel arches for a continued bellypan across the bottom of the car. While they are called waste gates, sometimes these openings are referred to as “ducts”, that were added to the front fender to pick up Corvette styling cues. Mesh and chrome accents add to the styling details.
The side glass is prototyped and built with curves to fit its new application and tempered to last in the real world when the time comes to cruise down the highway. Individual compartments allow storage trays behind the twin Corvette bucket seats hold the removable quarter glass for an open-hard-top theme.
The interior, while using numerous items from a C6, still was hand sculpted in clay mold with carbon fiber and epoxy parts and leather wrap to fit inside the custom body. The new interior maintains a few of the cool details of the Impala interior for a nice blend of both cars and eras. The front and mimics the egg crate grills of midyear Corvettes and carries the headlamps and custom built aluminum buckets that are bolted to a hand fabricated core support.
Congratulations to Don and Elma Voth of Canada for taking home the Don Ridler Memorial Award from the 2015 Detroit Autorama but also thanks for sharing with the rest of us an amazing car.
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.
Don Ridler was the first professional promoter hired by the Michigan Hot Rod Association 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 forty-nine years the award has evolved to better conform to new ideas, changing designs and concepts. Today it emphasizes creativity, engineering and workmanship. Anyone building a vehicle for Ridler competition should post these words on their garage wall. The vehicle that best represents these three areas will win the Ridler Award.
In addition to the above 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 at any indoor or outdoor show or any unique part of the entry, i.e. frame, engine or body, will make it ineligible for the competition. Please feel free to contact us with any questions about eligibility.
Realizing that car owners and builders may need some form of exposure to develop interest or to gain sponsorship, vehicles contending for the Ridler Award may have limited exposure as follows: Magazines or video of the building process are allowed, only of individual components such as chassis only, engine only, body panels being built, but not assembled. Photos, internet, magazine, TV coverage or video of the entry in its completed form, with or without paint, interior or engine are not permitted. If the coverage of the entry gives the appearance of a total or completed car, painted or not, the vehicle entry will be disqualified from the Ridler Award competition. Additionally, no articles may be written about the build project; allowable coverage is limited to photos with captions only.
The vehicle must prove to be minimally operable. It must start, 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 to a state that they can be evaluated fairly. The Pirelli Tire Great 8 Finalists are notified 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 Pirelli Tire Great 8 Ridler Contenders meeting Saturday evening 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.
If you have any questions, please feel free to call (586) 771-7110 between the hours of 9am-5pm EST or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Detroit Autorama is one event produced annually by Championship Auto Shows, Inc., North America’s largest producer of indoor hot rod shows. The Detroit Autorama is hosted by the Michigan Hot Rod Association.
These creative minds and craftsman are past recipients of the Ridler Award. Those appearing with asterisks are deceased.