While it’s kind of hard to dispute that hot rodding was born and raised on the streets and dried up lakebeds of Southern California, the same can’t really be said for customs. However, when it comes to Sacramento laying claim that it’s the Custom Capital, I can’t and won’t argue that. With a lineage dating back to one of the earliest recognized customizers, Harry Westergard—who helped light the lead torch flame of Dick Bertolucci and George Barris—that still continues to this day with Paul Garland (Garland’s Sacramento) and Scott Mugford (Blue Collar Customs), among others, they’re not saying it just because it’s the state’s capital as well. And for the last six decades, the venue in which this has been showcased—and now highly honored—is the one and only Sacramento Autorama, where custom car owners and builders go for the gold … or sterling silver, whichever the gorgeous awards are made out of.
Regardless of the competition it was up against at the 68th Annual Sacramento Autorama, the 1941 Buick Sedanette—Dillinger—crafted by Marcos Garcia and his crew at Lucky 7 Customs for Clifford Mattis was, in my eyes, the clear winner from the get go … and the judges seemed to agree, bestowing it not only the 2018 H.A. Bagdasarian Memorial World’s Most Beautiful Custom award, but the cherished Custom D’Elegance award. Now, I may be a bit biased, what having personally known Garcia for the better part of the past 25 years, but I also know a drop-dead gorgeous custom when I see it—and Dillinger is it, hands down. From every aspect, Lucky 7 nailed it: from the exterior makeover (chopped with a sectioned deck, frenched 1941 Chevy headlights, narrowed 1941 Cad bumpers, flush-fit skirts, and Garcia’s signature stunning paintwork, in this case a tri-stage pearl olive) to the interior (leather and print fabric upholstery by Gabe’s with a mix of period touches, such as a reduced-diameter 1946 Buick steering wheel, 1951 Merc speaker grille integrated into the package tray) and especially the stance (modern IFS with air-assist and one-off 16-inch Buick-inspired wheels carved by EVOD and wrapped in Firestone bias-ply rubber). In other words, they served up a full-course custom which, in turn, quite deservedly earned it top honors this weekend in Sacramento.
Beyond the top honors, what really made this year’s show rich with custom heritage was a not-so-little display devoted to the one organization and its members solely responsible for keeping customs and cruising alive and well in all of California since 1992: Rich and Penny Pichette’s West Coast Kustoms. WCK’s Cruisin’ Nationals, a name which at one time was synonymous with Paso Robles, California, is unquestionably the nation’s largest gathering of custom cars from its peak years in Paso clear to this day, where it’s now held just south in Santa Maria. This year’s Autorama honorably paid tribute to Penny et al who’ve made the organization what it is today with the West Coast Kustoms Gathering—a 30-car display featuring WCK members’ cars from up and down the coast on the floor of Cal Expo Building C. Thank you, Penny, for continuing to do what you do for the past 35-plus years—and thank you John Buck/Rod Shows for acknowledging those tireless efforts accordingly. (In 2014, Penny was inducted into the GNRS Hall of Fame; Rich was inducted back in 1995.)