Day one of our coverage of the Aussie assault on the Detroit Autorama’s Ridler Award

Photographers: Jordan Leist

THE Street Machine team hit the ground running in Detroit this morning, where we were greeted with bracing zero-degree temperatures. We are here to cheer on Chris Bitmead from Western Australia, as he pits an XB Falcon hardtop against some of the world’s top car builders in the Ridler Award at the Detroit Autorama this weekend. It will be a great thing if the Falcon – dubbed XBOSS – makes the Great Eight, but if it wins the Ridler, it will be the automotive version of Australia II winning the America’s Cup.

Our first port of call was the American Speed Company, where Chris and his crew are preparing the car. While trying to find the shop, we spotted a couple of cool old pick-ups out the front of a building. Turns out it was Vanguard Motor Sales, and when we went into their showroom there were at least 60 cars – double-stacked – ranging from cool old hot rods to matching-numbers muscle cars.

After getting distracted for an hour or so, we asked for directions to ASC and went and met up with Chris and the boys to see where they were up to. Once again we were distracted by the gorgeous machinery in the ASC showroom, but once we headed into the workshop we could see XBOSS up on the hoist at the back of the shop with Greg Maskell and Mark Allen busily working away, wet-sanding and buffing parts of the floor under the car. “No dramas, we’ve still got two days, heaps of time,” Mark joked.

The good news is, the car is pretty much ready to go. It just needs to be cleaned, which, when it comes to being a Ridler contender, means a little more than a bucket of water and a chamois. There’s an entire toolkit of cotton buds, all different shapes and sizes, to help you get to every nook and cranny of the car. Chris even threw a torch to Jordan and I so we could get under the car and point out any spots that needed tidying up. It’s not often a car owner will ask you to be critical of his pride and joy, but that’s the kind of attitude you have to have. Just having a fresh pair of eyes looking at the car helps to pick up any minor imperfections that more jaded eyes might have missed. Obviously there’s not much to pick on this car, but even the smallest patch of paint that hasn’t been buffed out properly needs to be pointed out. After all, if I can see it, I’m sure an experienced show judge will pick it up in no time!

We also had the pleasure of meeting Mark Trostle, the owner of ASC, and he’s a car guy through and through. Mark’s day job is as the head of automotive design at Roush Industries, so it’s no surprise the cars in the ASC workshop are all so tastefully done. They’ve got a really nice Speed33 and an absolutely killer ’64 Compact Fairlane in the build, but they’re both entered for a future Ridler, so we can’t show you photos of them yet.

Tomorrow will be another full-on day of cleaning and buffing for the XBOSS team, and then it’s off to the Autorama for set-up on Wednesday.