Utah Autorama 2023

5 minutes, 5 seconds Read

Rick Bairett, 6 Mar 2023

SANDY — The 48th annual O’Reilly Auto Parts Autorama took place March 3rd – 5th, at the Mountain America Expo Center. Was it worth it to drive to Sandy and spend $23 per ticket—their website doesn’t tell you that’s just for a single day—to see a car show, especially when one can attend any number of Utah car shows for free? The short answer: yes it was. 

The four hours this reporter spent at the Autorama went by quickly, and I could have easily stayed another hour or two. This show is ISCA (International Show Car Association) sanctioned, meaning some of the most amazing cars, trucks, motorcycles and other vehicles, from Utah and elsewhere in the western U.S., are on display and competing for national-level points. The amount and quality of workmanship that has gone into these vehicles is astounding. 

Further, the Autorama featured various activities (e.g. RC drifting), events, and reality show celebrity appearances. The outstanding pro-BMX show, repeated throughout the weekend, was almost worth the price of admission by itself. Finally this early-season show is indoors: a huge plus when it’s cold, breezy, and potentially wet outside. 

I quickly discovered that the people behind the beautiful street machines are at least as fascinating as their vehicles. Joe Andersen, for instance, has some serious fiberglass molding skills, which he used to convert a 1997 Camaro convertible into an eye-catching, scaled-down 1957 Chevy Bel-Air-like car. And he finished a matching motorcycle just in time for the show. 

Ken Frailey’s “Cadatak” pickup is beyond impressive. He inserted a ‘76 Cadillac transmission and big-block engine into a 1959 GMC, swapped front and rear bumpers for those from a ‘63 and ‘68 Corvette, respectively, and added suicide doors as well as tail lights from an ‘86 Cadillac. His supercharger “only” pushes 8 psi, resulting in over 800 horsepower. Ken said he could easily re-gear the “blower” for 22 psi and 1200-plus horsepower, but since pickups are inherently light in the rear, even his 18-inch wide tires wouldn’t hold the pavement with that much power. 

Incidentally, John Szwarc seems to have solved that problem by converting the engine compartment of his 1969 Chevrolet C-10 truck into a luggage bay, and mounting a big-block engine ahead of the rear axle in the bed. Both trucks were Utah’s Top 10 award winners. 

Speaking of Chevy C-10s, Robert Lantis’s truck restoration story is fascinating. He purchased it after it sat in a field for 40 years…with only 3.7 original miles. Apparently a dealer in Pierce, Nebraska refused to sell any vehicle that wasn’t the latest model. So any remaining inventory, when new models arrived, got shoved outdoors. 

When Robert purchased the truck, in the famous “Lambrecht Field of Dreams” auction, the interior was shot, the front grill missing, and the left side of the truck bed torn. In short, it was a rust-bucket. Looking at his meticulously restored C-10 in its current immaculate showroom condition, one would never guess its past. In fact the truck regularly wins the “best restored” award in shows…unless a certain 1969 Dodge Daytona shows up to compete, which it had. 

Of course I had to see this rare Mopar—produced in limited numbers so Dodge could win NASCAR events back when contenders had to race actual production cars. The Daytona is a modified ‘69 Charger, with a big-block hemi engine, an extended aerodynamic nose, and a wing spoiler so big it makes a Subaru WRX STi wing look conservative. This particular Daytona is bright green, and is so clean that–as with many show cars–there is not a bit of grit, dirt, or even dust on the undercarriage, in the engine compartment, or anywhere else. 

The Daytona’s owners, Larry Snow and Janice Sutherland, explained that only a handful of cars can compete for “best restored” in a car show, because it is challenging and expensive to find parts and materials to fully restore and maintain a vehicle in original condition. More often restored cars compete as “restomods,” where the exterior is largely original, but modern parts and technology are incorporated because they are easier to find, less expensive, and may improve vehicle characteristics. 

Snow and Sutherland will take the ‘69 Daytona to several major car shows to earn ISCA points in hopes of competing in the national finals. The Utah Autorama was a middle stop in a multi-show trip. They will attend two more shows enroute to their Northern California home, where they will take a short break before hitting the show circuit again. They did take the “best restored” prize at the Utah show, so are on their way to building coveted ISCA show points.

With about 330 entries, the above is just a sample of the many machines, owners, and builders present, and there is a fun story behind every one of them. Many vehicles received awards, and some of the most prestigious are listed below. Congratulations to the winners! 

Utah’s Top 10 Award Winners:

Ron Evans, 1967 Ford Mustang

Max Guillen, 1987 Chevrolet S-10 Pickup

Mark Platt, 1968 Ford Mustang Convertible

Alex Short, 1932 Ford Roadster

Dave Kindig, 1953 Chevrolet Corvette

Scott Wall, 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air

Daniel Brown, 1950 Chevrolet 3100 Truck

Kelly Hardy, 1932 Ford Coupe

Derek Ekins, 1966 Chevrolet Truck

Karree Larson, 1965 Ford Mustang

Winners qualifying for ISCA points:

Outstanding Custom: Scott Wall, 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air

Outstanding Sports/Sports Compact: Matthew Maass, 2007 Chevrolet Corvette Z06

Outstanding Full/Radical/Handbuild Custom: Steve Eastes, 2018 Factory Five GTM

Outstanding Truck: Derek Ekins, 1966 Chevrolet Truck

Outstanding Full/Radical/Handbuild Truck: Ken & Audrey Frailey, 1959 GMC Pickup

Outstanding Competition: Mark Pittman, 2018 Dodge Challenger Hellcat SRT

Outstanding Street Rod: Alex Short, 1932 Ford Roadster

Outstanding Custom Rod: Wayne Mills, 1937 Chevrolet Coupe

Outstanding Street Machine: Carolyn & Ralph Roll, 1964 Ford Falcon

Outstanding Restored: Robert Helber, 1955 Chevrolet 210 Del Ray

Best Restored: Janice Sutherland & Larry Snow, 1969 Dodge Daytona

Best Rod: Tim Frey, 1936 Ford Club Cabriolet

Best Street Machine Competition: Ron Evans, 1967 Ford Mustang

Best Truck: Bret Hunsaker, 2000 Ford Ranger

Best Custom: Jeffrey Hess, 1956 Oldsmobile 98

For the full list of awards and recognitions, see https://www.theisca.com/awards/salt-lake-city-ut/.

To follow and like us:

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *