The 2023 Ridler Winner Blends Nostalgia with Modernity

2023 detroit autorama
Here’s Your 2023 Detroit Autorama WinnerWesley Wren
  • The 2023 Detroit Autorama Ridler Award goes to the 1950 Mercury owned by Luigi Deriggi.

  • Deriggi’s Mercury is the second straight car to win the title from Pro-Comp Custom, who built last year’s Ridler-winning 1931 Chevrolet.

  • The show also celebrated Detroit’s Alexander Brothers with a display of a few of their creations.

Indoor car shows do seem counterintuitive. You take your car, park it inside a convention center, and you wait around for a weekend until you’re told to get out. Though, in the cold winter months in the Midwest, indoor car shows became a way for folks to get their custom car fixes without dealing with frigid temps, ice storms, or anything else winter throws their way.

One of the premier Midwestern shows became Detroit’s Autorama, where the Don Ridler Memorial Award became one of the most sought-after triumphs for a car owner or builder to add to their resume. This year’s winner: Luigi Deriggi’s 1950 Mercury dubbed “Maximus.”

Built by Pro-Comp Custom, this Mercury is stuffed full of radical changes. Gone is that standard Mercury chassis—in its place is hardware from the legendary Art Morrison. The Merc’s 255 CID flathead V8 has been replaced with a more modern Ford 5.0-liter Coyote mill.

Topping that engine is a stack injection induction system from Borla and custom cam covers. Custom wheels, which feature the more modern Mercury logo, are from Chris Boyd. The fine stitchwork comes from Paul Atkins. Wrapping it all together is the incredible candy root beer paint that’s full of subtle graphics. If Pro-Comp Custom sounds familiar, they were also the team responsible for last year’s winner.

2023 detroit autorama
Under the hood of “Maximus,” you can see some hidden graphics, the Borla stack injection and the obvious attention to detail.Wesley Wren

Of course, the Autorama is more than just a competition to crown the top radical custom in the country. It’s also a way for folks to show off their own less competitive machines and display historically significant cars for fans to enjoy. This year, the Autorama leaned strongly to its heritage with a large display of cars built by Alexander Brothers, who helped put the Detroit custom car world on the map with famous rides like the Deora. You might be most familiar with the ’32 Ford built for Clarence Catallo that graced the cover of the Beach Boys’ “Little Deuce Coupe.”

While Catallo’s coupe didn’t make an appearance, the A-Bros popular 1960 Pontiac “Golden Indian” was flanked by a clone of Bill Whetstone’s 1960 Ford known best as “Adonis.” The Alexander Brothers’ Model A Truck was also on display, alongside Dave Jenkin’s 1957 Chevrolet and the 1958 Ford known as “Perfidia.

2023 detroit autorama
The Alexander Brothers’ display showed off some of the finest work from Detroit’s custom car icons.Wesley Wren

Also on the main floor, there was a celebration of one of the largest figures in custom car culture: Ed Roth, whose wacky creations were also proudly on display. Autorama goers could see a recreation of his wild Mysterion, a restored version of his Orbitron show car, and Roth’s personal Honda Civic. Also on the display was Roth’s Tweedy Pie.

While the main features make for good advertising and draw people into Cobo Hall Huntington Place, there’s much more. The Autorama proudly displays collector cars from every niche, spectrum, and style. There’s no shortage of hot rods, custom cars, and trucks that fall within essentially every aspect of the hobby. Ranging from high-dollar professionally built vehicles to local Michigan cruisers, you can see a handful in the gallery above.

From crowning the Ridler award winner to giving car enthusiasts a refuge from the brutal Michigan winter, the Detroit Autorama is a must for car enthusiasts or folks who just want something fun to do on a cold winter in Michigan. You missed this year, but you can always fix that by making your way to next year’s show.

Have you ever been to the Autorama? Tell us about it below.