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!

Sign Up for Free Weekly Car Show Reminders

 Free Weekly Car Show Reminders

New Company Behind the Auction Block for Hot August Nights

Motorsports Auction Group


Motorsport Auction Group Announces Business Launch


RENO, Nev. (November 2, 2015)—A new company will be spearheading the auction and exhibition portions of Hot August Nights (HAN), launching in 2016 for the popular classic car event’s 30th anniversary. Reno-based Motorsport Auction Group (MAG) will not only take hold of the auction gavel for the first time between August 4 and 6, 2016, but they’ll also present an array of automobiles and product vendors in the Reno-Sparks Convention Center.

In addition to the indoor car auction with a multitude of automotive-related vendors and exhibitors, the new auction company will produce and promote a three-day event in conjunction with Hot August Nights that will feature cars crossing the block every few minutes. From street rods and classics to special interest and exotic vehicles, gearheads will find an exhilarating automotive array at the new auction, including memorabilia.

“We’re looking forward to working with MAG to build an even bigger and better auction for our participants, and one that’s locally based so our economy is directly impacted,” asserted Hot August Nights Executive Director Mike Whan.

Motorsport Auction Group is comprised of four partners, eager to put their decades of experience in various facets of the automotive industry to work with the new endeavor.

Husband and wife team Sandy and Mike Oberle have more than 30 years in the automotive industry, and a strong passion for classic cars and memorabilia. Their experience owning car dealerships in three western states, working with collector car auctions across the country, as well as in restoration, sales, service, appraisals, transport and customer service will poise them for success working on MAG’s logistics, contracts and leading the staff.

Hailing from Cincinnati, Ohio and currently residing in central Texas, Larry Gayhart—MAG’s strategy and finance director—has been collecting and fixing up classic cars since he was 14 years old. Owner of A & E Classic Cars near San Antonio, Texas, Gayhart has two prized classics of his own, one award-winning, and frequents car auctions around the country.

MAG Partner and Marketing Director Frank Yaksitch is also chief executive officer and founder of Frank’s Classic Cars, an automobile dealership in Mansfield, Texas, where he has created national partnerships in more than 20 states. Retired from Albertsons, with over 30 years experience as VP of Operations and continued success in personal business, Frank will bring his executive leadership, strategic and operations expertise to the group.

“We look forward to partnering with Hot August Nights to put on an auction and exhibit that their participants will enjoy for years to come. I’ve been attending Hot August Nights and its past auctions as a spectator and consigner for over 25 years, and am looking forward to bringing the positive relationships we’ve built personally and professionally across the country to northern Nevada,” stated Motorsport Auction Group Partner and Spokesperson Mike Oberle. “As a team, MAG will strive to cater to our customers’ needs, and to provide a quality auction for them to buy and sell their classic cars and enjoy the overall nostalgic feel of the event. Our team is 110 percent behind the total success of Hot August Nights.”

For people interested in selling their cars at the auction, MAG is looking forward to making it a simple process. From purchasing a lot number to checking their car into the auction office, MAG’s team will work diligently to meet the seller’s needs. Bidders will also benefit from the superior customer service that MAG offers, which will hopefully lead to the successful purchase of the bidder’s next dream car.

For more information, visit MotorsportAuctionGroup.com or call 775-997-8885. To stay connected with MAG, find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MAGAuction or Twitter @MAGAuction.