World Of Wheels: Over 50 Years Of Spectacular Auto Shows

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For over 50 years the World of Wheels auto shows have been traveling around this great nation of ours to put on display some of the most radical customs, hot rods, street rods and bikes that could be brought under one roof. Run by Championship Auto Shows, these guys know what it takes to get car enthusiasts excited. For this reason, back in March, we had to make a stop in the Windy City to get our motor running and over-indulge ourselves with a whole lot of horsepower and chrome.

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According to Larry Way, Public Relations Director for Championship Auto Shows, they were expecting between 35k-45k people to walk through the door over the weekend, which they exceeded from all previous years. Once inside you were privy to see over 700 one-of-a-kind cars, trucks and bikes. There were also plenty of vendors on hand for you to get the latest in equipment for your next project.

There were plenty of vendors displaying new technologies and cool products.

Massive crowds would congregate deep in order to have the opportunity to bid on these one-of-a-kind pieces of pinstriped art. Knowing all the artists volunteered their time and all proceeds went to the Ronald McDonald Houses kept people lining up for more.

One of the vendors on hand was Tremec Transmissions. We took a moment to talk to Chuck Engelbrecht, who gave us a little insight into the new technologies they are offering to the public. If you have that hot rod you’ve always wanted, but you’re afraid to drive it down the highway, the solution is Tremec’s new Double Overdrive 6-Speed Transmission. This will get you down the road just like your daily driver, only better. The cool thing about these guys being at the show was they had a technician on hand to help get you just the right set-up for your needs.

There were many highlights and specialty areas that you definitely wouldn’t want to miss, such as Chicago Brushmasters Pinstriping Auction. Bob Behounek started this organization back in 2007 in order to help raise money for the Ronald McDonald Houses charity and many have joined the cause along the way.

If you can, imagine bringing together about 100 of the region’s best pinstripers, having them donate their time and talents for 3 days in order for them to create some incredible art on anything you can possibly think of, and then auction it all off for charity. To date the Brushmasters have raised over $350,000 for local Ronald McDonald Houses in the Chicagoland area.

As we made our way around the massive Donald E. Stephens Convention Center we were able to find the three famous Batmobiles, and a few other famous movie vehicles, a monster, a couple of alcohol drag cars and a whole lot crazy paint and designs. Each of the different categories were in their own sections and as we walked through the musclecar area, we were absolutely amazed by the quality of every car on display. The owners of these cars not only spent a few dollars to get them to the level they were, but also spent many hours meticulously tending to every small detail.

It doesn't matter what you're in the mood for, you are bound to find something you like here.

Most of the cars we checked out were radical customs, whether it was to the body and paint or the pumped up engines, this place got our hearts beating.

One of the areas that caught our eye and attention was called the Motorama, which is almost like a show within the show. The Motorama is sponsored by the Voodoo Kings of Northern Illinois and features traditional customs and rats. This is an area where you can get up close and personal with the cars on display, most of which have custom old school paint, scallops, some incredible pinstriping or just a great patina finish.

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 You’ll find many young hot rodders attracted to this area due the ease of getting a hold of one of these old cars and slowly putting them together as you drive. On Saturday night of the show you can hang out here to the rockabilly sounds of Lil’ Red and the Howling Wolves.

Now one thing that people were attracted to the whole weekend inside the Motorama, was watching the legendary car builder, Gene Winfield, chop a 1950 Chevy 2 door with Voodoo Larry and a whole lot of other very talented builders. Voodoo Larry told us he had been trying to get this together with Gene and the World of Wheels people for several years and it finally all came together. And by the looks of the big crowds around the area, it was a definite success for the show.

It was incredible to see all this talent at one area. Even though Gene is getting a little older, he hasn’t begun to slow down. He will be chopping 9 cars in 9 different cities for car shows across the country, as well as a couple in the land Down Under. “People ask me all the time, ‘When are you going to retire?’ and I tell them, when they put me in the grave,” Gene shared with us.

Opening his first shop in 1946, Gene openly welcomes all the changes that have come through the years. One thing that absolutely makes him happy is to see all the young people getting involved in the custom scene. He conducts workshops all over the world for them. “It’s beautiful to see these kids eager to learn about customizing,” says Winfield.

One of the big attractions of the weekend was watching legendary builder Gene Winfield, Voodoo Larry, and a bunch of very talented builders chop Phil and Tami Fransen's 1950 Chevy. Gene told us one thing that excites him more than actually working on cars is seeing the younger generation get excited about customs.

As we continued to make our way around this massive facility, we stopped by a booth that was filled with everything Rat Fink. From jackets to model cars, this place had anything you could imagine with a little Fink on it. Now you might be asking yourself, ‘What’s so special about that? We see those at every show.’ Well although all the merchandise was cool, the guy running the booth was a big surprise to us. His name is Cody Braithwaite and you might not recognize his name, but I guarantee you have definitely have heard of his father.

Cody is one of Ed Roth’s sons. He, his wife, and three children now travel the country going to shows such as this to help carry on the legacy of his father. “It’s phenomenal to see the resurgence of the Rat Fink culture,” Cody shared with us.

“I grew up seeing the influence my dad had in the car world,” Cody said. As we talked with him we could see the passion in his eyes for all the people who loved and cared about his father. He told us he has seen young kids running to his booth yelling, ‘Dad look, it’s the Rat Fink!’ I’m sure if Big Daddy were here now he would definitely be proud.

We didn't see Batman all weekend, but luckily for us, his sexy counterpart Batgirl stopped by.

When the weekend was over we definitely felt like we got our fill of cool cars (at least for the week). It is one show that we would recommend several times over. If you think Chicago is too far for you to travel, don’t worry.

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These guys hold 25 shows throughout the country and the spectacular thing about that is they are all between January and April. So when you are getting that itch during the Winter and Spring, this is the place that will scratch that itch for you, make sure to check out at least one or two of them – you definitely won’t be disappointed!

For more exclusive Rod Authority photos, check out the GALLERY below:

About the author

Robert Mills

Growing up with his parents owning a photography studio, it was only natural for Robert Mills to pick up a camera and begin capturing the world around him and after spending time watching his uncle run his front-engine dragster down the quarter Robert started getting the hot rod fever. He is a self proclaimed "Traditional Rockabilly Rebel" and enjoys combining his two passions in life to help share not only the cool kustoms he comes across, but also the people who bring the kulture to life.
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