WIDELY regarded as the world’s most prestigious custom car show, the Detroit Autorama consistently draws astoundingly finished rides.
First held in 1953 by the newly formed Michigan Hot Rod Association, the event soon took on former NFL player Don Ridler as a promoter. Under his tutelage, the Autorama grew rapidly, necessitating several moves to larger venues. When Ridler died prematurely in 1963, the Best in Show award was renamed the Don Ridler Memorial Award to honour the man who helped make the Autorama what it is today.
This year’s honour was claimed by a stunning two-door ’63 Chevy wagon dubbed ‘Impressive’, built and owned by Brad Ranweiler and his sons Brady and Cory of Show Cars Automotive in Minnesota.
“We started building this car almost 10 years ago, but the idea goes back 35 years,” said Brady Ranweiler at the award ceremony.
“Dad used to show a black ’63 Impala when we were kids. Life got in the way of that, but he always said that he’d like to build a car to compete with the Ridler winners one day. Twenty-five years later, we started to build it.”
The wagon started life as a four-door and is the result of almost 10 years’ work, primarily by father and sons.
The body mods are legion: Besides the two-door conversion, the Chev has been chopped three inches, the B-pillar moved rearwards and the rear sail panel totally recreated. The front sheet metal was welded in to form a one-piece front end. Both the forward-opening bonnet and the incredible Impala-style, one-piece tailgate are power operated.
To power the Chev, the Ranweilers stretched a 409 W-motor out to 509 cubes with Hilborn EFI, matched to a 4L80E transmission. There are 112 custom pieces attached to the motor alone, and the only visible wires in the engine bay are the sparkplug leads.
The body was channelled over an Art Morrison-sourced chassis, with a replacement floorpan bearing factory-style stampings. EVOD Industries created one-off trim and wheels, which sit over 14-inch Wilwood disc brakes. The PPG paintwork was laid down by the Ranweilers themselves, while the interior features a ’60 Chev dash and four heavily modified ’59 Eldorado buckets, all adorned with red leather courtesy of M&M Hot Rod Interiors.