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Fresno Autorama: Custom hot rods, trucks for all to see

This is the year of milestones for the Fresno Autorama.

This weekend's car show at the Fresno Convention Center is the 50th annual production for promoter Blackie Gejeian.

Merced's main entrant in the show, body shop owner Dan Franks, also marks 30 years in the business Saturday.

Gejeian is doubling the number of cars on display this year, expanding to Valdez Hall as well as the Exhibit Hall at the downtown convention center. About 250 hot rods, custom cars, street rods, muscle cars and trucks will be showcased along with about two dozen tricked-out motorcycles.

The longtime show promoter, car collector-builder, grower and former race car driver, Gejeian said he's proud of the longevity of his show and believes he's the only producer to do 50 straight shows. Entries this year will come from all over the United States including Hawaii, Maine, New York and Florida. People from Germany and Sweden also are expected.

Franks also is excited to be part of the Fresno Autorama. He is entering a 1935 Chevrolet Grand Master Sedan that took him and his two sons three years to build. It's been on the road for about a year now.

"He (Gejeian) puts on a terrific show," Franks said. "I am really excited and I feel privileged to be picked."

Franks' vintage Chevy has a two-inch chopped top, 450-horsepower Chevrolet V-8 engine, one-off Budnik wheels and is painted DuPont Hot Hues colors of wild mint and platinum pearl, accented with graphics.

Gejeian is equally glowing about the Fresno Autorama. He will have nine of his own cars exhibited, the first time they have ever been shown together.

"No one will ever top this show," Gejeian said. "It's absolutely unreal. I am very fortunate," the 83-year-old promoter said. Gejeian hand-picks all the vehicles invited to his show.

Gary "Chopit" Fioto of New Smyrna, Fla., is the "Builder of the Year" for the Autorama and is bringing three radical customs to Fresno. Designer-builder and television star Chip Foose also is displaying three of his creations.

Showgoers can check out the nation's top car show winners. Six winners of the prestigious Ridler Award given at the Detroit Autorama will be in Fresno, along with at least seven "America's Most Beautiful Roadster" titlists and a half-dozen top customs winners from across the country.

The last custom car built by the late Boyd Coddington, a stylized 1939 Delahaye called The French Connection, is entered. Both the Ala Kart and the Emperor, famous custom cars from 1958-60, will be shown side by side for the first time ever.

Fresno Autorama

WHERE: Fresno Convention Center, downtown Fresno

HOURS: 1 to 10 p.m. today, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.

TICKETS: General admission is $18; those 60 and over $16; and aged 6-12 for $8. Children under 6 are free.