When we noticed Carl Casper’s 1951 Chevy called the Empress being featured at the 2019 Detroit Autorama last week it was like deja vous all over again. Here was this famous car from back in the day being honored again here at the world greatest hot rod show, the Detroit Autorama.
It was like stepping back in time. The Empress, Carl Casper’s 1951 Chevy, is the top show car of all time. It has won more major car shows than any other car. In fact, it won here in Detroit in 1961. And this year it won the Detroit Autorama Preservation Award. We caught up with Carl on the last day of the show. Here is an interview that you have to see just for the historic value. This is one of the top lead sleds in our time.
For the record, the Empress still looks fantastic. This is the car that won Best of Show at the first Cobo Hall show for the Michigan Hot Rod Association here in 1961. That was the award which preceded the Ridler Award at the Detroit Autorama.
Back in high school in Flint, Michigan, Carl found out Chevrolet was coming out with the new 283 engine. This was one of the first 283 fuelies produced. He traded for an injection system for the six two-barrel carbs, made some ram tube induction horns in the ’60s. The engine is the same one he had in the car in 1961 when he won at Detroit.
It has ’58 Lincoln canted headlights, custom tube grille, louvered hood, chopped three inches, and converted the sedan into a 2-door hardtop. The back end custom tail lights, sculpture trunk lid. It was all done in lead.
Here is a slide show of Carl Casper’s 1951 Chevy called the Empress as we saw it in Detroit this year.
Carl restored the car to its former show quality to show it here in Detroit again. He says it is now the premier car in his collection. He is one of the few TV and movie car builders who has every car he ever built in his private collection.
Having been taught to sew upholstery when he was just twelve years old, Carl Casper is one of the top custom interior designers in hot rod history. His early success in Detroit paved the way for a stunning career in custom car building. In 1965 he won the America’s Most Beautiful Roadster award with Casper’s Ghost, a space age looking T-Bucket. Somehow Carl became involved with promoting car shows and soon found himself building famous customs such as the Popcorn Wagon, the Pinball Wizard and the Paddy Wagon. They were big draws for car show fans.
Carl has some of his creations still in his collection. He built the “Batman Returns” Batmobile (often called the Keaton Batmobile) when Tim Burton directed the movie. He said he built it in 90 days. They built three of them for the movie. Carl also built the General Lee for the TV show “Dukes of Hazzard,” K.I.T.T., the talking Trans Am from the “Knightrider” TV show, and the “A-Team” van. He even has his own car show in Louisville every year.
Follow this link to read Cars-On-Line’s coverage of the 2019 Detroit Autorama with this year’s Ridler Award winner.