Billy Thomas’s 1939 Olds takes out the 2016 Ridler Award

Photographers: Chris Thorogood, Jordan Leist

IT WASN’T the news we were hoping for, but the winner of the 2016 Don Ridler Memorial Award at the Detroit Autorama is the 1939 ‘Olds Cool’ Oldsmobile of Billy and Debbie Thomas (above). Built by Customs & Hot Rods of Andice in Texas, the car is a stunner.

The body is scratch-built, with PPG Kona Brown paint by Charley Hutton. The rims are one-offs, the chassis is from Art Morrison and the whole deal is powered by a 455ci Oldsmobile running EFI and a custom intake.

Ridler Award 2016 16 NwWinner: Billy Thomas’s ’39 Oldsmobile

They reckon the only parts of the car that are actually 1939 Oldsmobile are the tops of the doors and the cowl!

The Aussie contingent of Chris Bitmead and his XBOSS team didn’t come away empty-handed though – besides a spot in the Great Eight, an incredible achievement on its own, their XB Falcon also won the Outstanding Car of Show award. And more importantly, the car and team won the hearts of the crowd.

Ridler Award 2016 12 Nw“The reception of XBOSS has been amazing,” Street Machine photographer Jordan Leist said. “The car is one of the favourites – if not the favourite – of the show; it has been surrounded by crowds all weekend. The amount of positive comments about the car is endless. Locals have seen it on the news and heard about it and came particularly to see it. People love the fact that it is different, the fact that it is a muscle car and has a punchy colour scheme. It has really connected with people, despite it being an unfamiliar car with the steering wheel on the wrong side!”

Chris and the XBOSS team were impressed by Olds Cool. “It is an awesome car,” Chris said. “The detail is amazing and it is a very deserving winner. In the four years since we last attended the Autorama, the quality has stepped up. The reception we got to our car was amazing; all weekend we had other entrants and members of the public thanking us for bringing the car to Detroit – that was so cool. Now we’ll pack the car up, get it ready for the photoshoot and then I’d say we’ll have a few beers!”

XBOSS paint guru Greg Maskell: “The Olds is a car that deserved to win. It was my pick for the Ridler, though the ’37 Ford was my favourite car. The reaction to XBOSS was insane, I’ve never seen anything like it. For most of the weekend, the crowd was six-to-eight-people deep around the car. Because the newspapers and TV stations latched onto the Falcon, it brought people in to see it specifically. I met a group of guys from Florida who flew up for the day, just to see XBOSS.

“The fact that most people didn’t know what the car was didn’t seem to be a problem. A lot of them did think it was a Torino, but others knew what it was because of Mad Max. The most intriguing aspect of the car to the Americans was the way the boot and bonnet opened up, we talked to heaps of people about how we did that.

“The other thing that blows them away is how restricted we are by what we need to do to engineer a car to be legal to drive them on a road. They couldn’t understand why we didn’t bolt it onto a chassis, for example. It is totally foreign to them and it is the one thing that that restricts us when entering an award like the Ridler. The Ridler is judged on quality, engineering and creativity and having an Aussie road-legal car makes it tough on the creative side, right down to things like the seatbelts.

“We’ve had a lot of fun, met lots of cool people and we’ve learnt a lot. There is a lot of product that we’ve never heard of that some of the shops here are using routinely, that could make our jobs a lot easier. We’re stoked to be in the Great Eight; that is a massive achievement in itself. I’m so proud to be a part of this team.”

Next step for XBOSS is an all-night photoshoot with the Street Machine team, then it will be heading back to Australia. The car will make its first appearance on Australian soil at the WA Hot Rod & Street Machine spectacular, 18-19 June. It will then head to Melbourne for Meguiar’s MotorEx, 16-17 July.