A Short History of the Sacramento Autorama – Part 1

I am very excited to attend this year’s Sacramento Autorama. I hope a lot you can come by and see me at my booth in Building A. I will be next to my friend Art Wong from Maita Motorsports.

As a lifelong Sacramento resident, I thought it would be fun, as this year’s show approaches, to learn a little about the history of the Sacramento Autorama. My Dad took me to my first Autorama when I was a teenager in the 70’s and I have attended most for the last 25 or 30 years. I remember being impressed with the mirrors on the floor so you could see the under side of some of these custom cars. They were and are works of art! If you have any stories or memories that you would like to share please contact me at tnewey@norcalcarculture.com.

Here is a poster of the first auto show courtesy of Ed Gardner:

Sacremento AutoramaThe first Sacramento Autorama was called the Capitol Auto Club’s First Annual Auto Show. It was held on November 4th and 5th, 1950 at the Capitol Chevrolet dealership on the corner of 13th and K Street in Downtown Sacramento. It wasn’t called the Autorama until 1953. Harold “Baggy” Bagdasarian, President of the Capitol Auto Club, the “Thunderbolts”, had an idea to hold a little car show to win bragging rights for the quality of the custom cars in their Car Club. The first winner of the Best Custom Car trophy was Leroy Semas and his 1937 Chevy Coupe. The winner of the Best Rod trophy was Burton Davis and his 31 Ford Roadster.

Here is the winner of the Best Custom Car trophy, a 1937 Chevy Coupe that belonged to Leroy Semas and was restyled by Harry Westergard. There is a great article on this car at CustomChronicle.com. 1937 Chevy CoupeThe second show was moved to the Newton A. Cope Buick dealership at 15th and K Streets. It wasn’t held until April 19th and 20th of 1952. The program featured a picture of Bud Crackbon’s Roadster which was judged “America’s Most Beautiful Roadster at the Oakland Auto Show earlier in 1952. Here is the program cover of the second “Autorama”. The Best Custom trophy that year went to Joe Bailon and his beautiful 1941 Chevy.

Second Annual Auto ShowBy 1953, the members of the Capitol Auto Club were hesitant to continue the promotion of the Auto Show so Baggy decided to find a new location and go for it. He eventually settled on the Memorial Auditorium and renamed the show the Sacramento Autorama. Attendance was growing every year and after 2 years at the Auditorium, Baggy rented the Old Fairgrounds on Stockton Blvd. That was in 1955 and it kept growing every year until in 1970 when the Autorama was moved to it’s present location at the Cal Expo Fairgrounds.

Here is an article from the January 1951 issue of Hot Rod Magazine on the first Autorama:

Hot Rod Magazine Jan. 1951In the late 1980’s Baggy was joined by Don Tognotti as a promoter of the Sacramento Autorama. Dan Cyr purchased and promoted it in the early 2000’s. Then in 2005, John Buck and Rod Shows Inc. took over promotion of one of the longest running indoor Car Shows in the country, the Kustom Capital of the World. John has done an excellent job of growing and expanding the event while at the same time honoring and preserving the 72 years of history of the Sacramento Autorama.

1966 AwardThere are several very prestigious awards given out each year including the Custom D’Elegance and the Big “B” Awards. The Custom D’Elegance award traces it’s roots to the Car of Elegance award first presented in 1953 to the legendary Joe Bailon.

The 2014 Custom D’Elegance Award winner was James Hetfield and his beautiful coachbuilt 1948 Jaguar named “Black Pearl.”! The first of the Big “B” Awards is the H.A. Bagdasarian Memorial Award, the World’s Most Beautiful Custom. It was started in 1991 to honor founder Baggy Bagdasarian and is still chosen by the family.

The 2020 winner of the  World’s Most Beautiful Custom, H.A. Bagdasarian Memorial Award was Bob Dron and his stunning 1948 Chevy Fleetline.2020 Baggy Award WinnerNext is the Sam Barris Memorial Award was started in 1968 after his passing and is also chosen by members of the Barris family. It is an award for body and paint work on an all metal bodied car.

1962 Autorama ProgramThe Candy Apple Joe Bailon Memorial Award was started by Joe Bailon himself in 1992 and goes to the best Candy paint job.

In 2020, the “Candy Apple” Joe Bailon Trophy went to Calvin Fisk and his wild 1953 Ford F-100!“Candy Apple” Joe Bailon TrophyThe Dick Bertolucci Automotive Excellance Award honors excellence in craftsmanship. in 2000, the Bertolucci award took over what was originally the Harry Bradley Design Achievement Award.

In 2017, the winner of the Dick Bertolucci Automotive Excellence Award was Michael McAuliffe and his 1940 Ford Sedan called ‘The Second Time Around’.

Dick Bertolucci Automotive Excellence Award A list of all the past award winners can be found on the new Autorama Website Here.  Check out Part 2 next week with lots of photos and memories of some legends of the Sacramento Autorama!

Weekly Giveaway Winners

I thought since we are doing the Weekly Giveaways all year long it might be interesting and fun to keep track of who the winners are and where they are from.

If you would like to be entered in our Weekly Giveaways you just have to subscribe to our weekly email newsletters. It’s only $25 a year and you can pay online here, mail a check to NorCal Car Culture at 7975 Auburn Blvd, Citrus Heights, CA 95610 or stop by our store in person.

We sure appreciate the generous donations from our sponsors and advertisers! We couldn’t do this newsletter without them.

June 15: Alfredo Saldana from Sacramento, CA won a $100 Gift Certificate to Sacramento Vintage Ford courtesy of Darold and Lynne Kahout.

June 8: Harry Weldin from Anderson won a Premium Wine Package from our friends at Di Stasio Vineyards. Jerry Johnson from Sacramento won a $100 Cash in Memory of Jane San Filippo courtesy of her husband Gary San Filippo.

June 1: Michael Cady from San Jose won the $100 Visa Gift Card from Rich Newey at Route 40 Classics in Citrus Heights, CA.

May 25: Dennis Amaral from Pilot Hill won some custom Metal Signs from my friend Steve at Reedyville Goods in Loomis, CA .

May 18: Bob Moore of Shingle Springs won the $100 Gift Certificate to Sacramento Vintage Ford in Rancho Cordova, CA .

May 11: Marc Pinnell from Redding won the package of Premium Wine from Di Stasio Vineyards in Plymouth, CA.

May 4: Pete Vella from Roseville won the $100 Visa Gift Card from Rich Newey at Route 40 Classics in Citrus Heights, CA.

April 27: Mark Brogden from Chico won some cool metal signs from Reedyville Goods in Lincoln, CA.  Josie Harvey of Citrus Heights won free tickets to the 71st Sacramento Autorama.

April 20: Sue Hendricks from San Carlos won a $100 Gift Certificate to Sacramento Vintage Ford courtesy of Darold and Lynne Kahout.  Bob Christensen from Grizzly Flats won a 4-Pack of tickets to the Sacramento Autorama.

April 13: Peter Bedegi from Pleasanton won a Premium Wine Package from our friends at Di Stasio VineyardsDarrell Henkel won a 4-Pack of tickets to the Sacramento Autorama.

April 6: Carolyn Johnson from Elk Grove won a $100 Visa Gift Card courtesy of Rich Newey at Route 40 Classics.  Craig Kramer from Sacramento won a 4-Pack of tickets to the Sacramento Autorama.

March 30: Scotty Ross from Moraga won a prize package from our Hot Rod Bookstore.

March 23: Thomas Wheeler from Georgetown won a couple of cool metal signs from Reedyville Goods.

March 16: Leo Silva from Fairfield won a $100 Gift Certificate to Sacramento Vintage Ford.

March 9: Jim Aruta from Roseville was the winner of a premium wine package from Di Stasio Vineyards in Plymouth, CA.

Di Stasio WineMarch 2: Sandy McCullar was the winner of a $100 Visa Gift Card courtesy of Route 40 Classics.

February 23: Robert Strate from Orangevale was the winner of a Custom Metal Sign from Reedyville Goods.

February 16: Gary Schultz from Rancho Cordova won a $100 Gift Certificate to Sacramento Vintage Ford.

February 9: Eddie Hinman from Vallejo won a premium wine package from Di Stasio Vineyards in Plymouth, CA.

February 2: Lonnie Patterson from Rancho Cordova was the winner of the $100 Visa Gift Card courtesy of Route 40 Classics.

Lonnie spent his $100 Gift Card at our Hot Rod Bookstore!

January 26: Bob Burrows from Fairfield won another 4-pack of VIP tickets to the Grand National Roadster Show. Kevin Myers from Roseville won a $100 Gift Certificate to Sacramento Vintage Ford.

Kevin Myers
Kevin Myers Beautiful Cobra!

January 19: Dale James from Tracy and Robert Milner from Manteca each won a 4-pack of VIP tickets to the Grand National Roadster Show.

Robert MilnerJanuary 12: Lyle Duncan from San Mateo won a package of wine from Di Stasio Vineyards.

January 5: Ron Barbosa from Tracy won a Visa Gift Card from Route 40 Classics.

Ron BarbosaDecember 29: Mike Hodson from Carmichael won 2 Metal Signs from Reedyville Goods.

December 22: Ralph Halford from Vallejo won a 4 pack of tickets from the National Automobile Museum in Reno.

December 15: Bill Mann from Palm Desert won a package from the Hot Rod Bookstore.

Bill MannDecember 8: Steve Douglas from Gilroy won a wine package from Di Stasio Vineyards.

Steve DouglasDecember 1: Kristel Ingemansson from Hidden Valley Lake won a Visa Gift Card from Route 40 Classics.

If you would like to be entered in our Weekly Giveaways you just have to subscribe to our weekly email newsletters. It’s only $25 a year and you can pay online here, mail a check to NorCal Car Culture at 7975 Auburn Blvd, Citrus Heights, CA 95610 or stop by our store in person.

 

Thanks to Tim and Di Stasio Vineyards

 

First off, I want to thank Tim for his weekly emails, it’s a lot of work, and also thank the Di Stasio Winery for their sponsorship of Nor Cal Car Culture and the donation of wine. I was totally surprised to win two bottles of wine.

I’m in west Gilroy, known for garlic, but now is mostly houses and vineyards, we still have country living like where I grew up, on a big ranch in Walnut Creek. I lived for years in Santa Cruz, upon retirement went back to country life. I have always been a car guy, raised around cars, learned from my dad, worked in gas stations, bought and sold $200 cars for a “big profit”, and counted my labor at about $.25/hour the typical things boys did back then.

I started with VWs right after high school, and that morphed into the 356 Porsche, a Bug and $300 got me the 59 coupe, on Friday December 13th 1968. It was sitting in the back of a car lot in Concord, that I passed most days going to DVC (Jr College). I still have that Porsche, 53 years and about 260,000 miles later it’s still my favorite fun car, getting in it feels like “home”.

Being involved in the 356 clubs for all these years has become a huge part of my life, many friends, some of 50+ years, the memories of events and trips, and the enjoyment of having a car that wants to be driven, tinkered with and of course loved, it has never let me down, I have always made it home. I went into 60’s Corvettes for a while, had a 65 Malibu that my son now has, and several more VW’s but always had the 356 as my constant driver.

In 2014 my wife said she wanted a newer Porsche for longer club drives, with A/C and comfort, so we got a 968, which is wonderful, fairly rare and was owned by a long time friend. Plenty of room, not real fast by today’s standards, but still a car that is appreciating in value rapidly. It was always a rumor that if you get two cars of the same brand in the garage for any length of time they will start a family, it must be true because a ’96 911 came along. Now with three Porsches it may be time to down size, but which one? I can’t buy any more cars as we only have a 5 car garage/shop, got my eye on a ’66 Mustang that has been sitting for 18 years,
so….
Again thanks to Tim
Steve Douglas