DETROIT, MI — It was a truly historic moment. A little teary eyed and incredibly grateful for the honor, Rob Cizek accepted the Don Ridler Memorial Trophy as owner of the car that had just been voted the “best” custom street rod in the country. The car called “Checkered Past” is a 1940 Ford Coupe entered in the Radical Custom Rod Coupe category here at the Detroit Autorama. Rob told us it took three-and-a-half years to build. It is virtually flawless in detail and paint. This was the 50th Anniversary of the Ridler Award and the competition was brutal this year.
All eyes were on Rob and Deb Cizek of Bennington, Nebraska as the winner was announced in the Cobo Center ballroom. A little dazed by the announcement, the couple broke out in a laugh of relief and hugged one another as they realized they had just won the coveted Ridler Trophy with their exquisitely designed 1940 Ford Coupe.
“I was just numb,” Ron told us. “I couldn’t believe it. I started this car as a project that I was gonna’ build by myself,” he explained. Then he met Andy Leach, a local Omaha chassis fabricator who showed genuine talent as a builder. With Andy’s help and skill at design and construction they were on their way to making this more than a backyard project. “Andy showed so much talent at building street rods that we decided to open a shop in Omaha. This is the first car we’ve done complete from project to finished show car,” Cizek said. Cizek’s rod shop is called Cal Automotive Creations.
Cal Automotive Creations may have massaged the 1940 Ford with spectacular attention to detail, but it is the paint that makes this car the winning show rod that it is. The spectacular PPG paint was done by none other than Charley Hutton at his Color Studio. He used a blend of three Envirobase colors, Checkered Red, Madysen Gold and Tonic Brown.
The bodywork was flawless and the unique three-staged paint job will be copied by hot rodders for decades to come.
The engine builder is a young man named Erik Hansen who joined the Cal Automotive Creations team in Omaha. Cizek tells us he is a “wizard with Ford flatheads.” Hansen said he chose a Ford AB Flathead to be the base engine for the car. He built it up, added some digital injection and topped it with a custom fabricated intake. Ad a Bowler transmission and Ride Tech suspension and you have the basis for this incredible ride. Leach said he modified a Heidts rear suspension give it the right ride height in the back.
Some of our Facebook fans noted the gold annodized custom made wheels with Ford V8 centers. They match the intake and custom “hat” on the injection system. It is all designed to give it an elegant and clean look.
From talking to him you get the impression that Cizek is genuinely appreciative of the honor and humbled to have won it against the quality of competition that showed up this year.