by Erik Steidl

The world of any self-respecting lifelong car enthusiast (in other words, Car Idiot) would not be truly complete without experiencing the Summit Racing Equipment I-X Piston Powered Auto-Rama at the International Exposition (I-X) Center in Cleveland, Ohio. 

And it truly is an experience.

photo courtesy of the Piston Powered Auto-Rama FB page

Although the Auto-Rama is now coming up on its 54th year, in the past few years, there has been an intense amount of event growth.  In 2011, the show had roughly 11,000 attendees.  This year, over 55,000 people came to see the cars, shows and exhibits. So, in the past 9 years, attendance at the event has increased over by over 44,000 people.  Talk about putting the pedal to the metal!

I think that it is fair to address several misconceptions as they relate to what exactly the Auto-Rama is.  Most people would assume that it’s just a car show.  Well, it is a car show . . . but it’s so much more.  According to Steve Legerski, the show manager for going on ten years, “The cars are the stars of the show, but it’s more.  It’s motorcycles, tractors, planes, monster trucks, boats and outboard motors, HUGE historical trucks and construction and military equipment.”  He adds, “Each year, the weekend-long event fills more than one million square feet of space with over 1,200 vehicles.  In fact, the show’s tagline describes all the possibilities:  ‘If a piston makes it go, it’s in the show!’ ”

Yes, there is much more to do at the Auto-Rama than simply walk around and look at cars.  Each show begins with singing the National Anthem, a personal favorite of Legerski’s.  Then the craziness begins.  For example, every year on the Saturday night of the show, there is a Pin-Up Contest in which participants dress up in garb from the 1940s and ‘50s.  Winners are chosen based on best and most accurately dressed. The group even has their own Facebook page, archiving the contest going back for years.  Then there are exhibitions, demonstrations and competitions going all day, Friday through Sunday.

photo courtesy of

Another misconception might be that since this show is in Cleveland at the I-X Center, it is somehow inferior to the Detroit Auto-Rama.  Ha.  In fact, the I-X Piston Powered Auto-Rama is actually the largest in the world . . . and it’s only growing and getting better!  Says Legerski about going from one year to the next, “The ongoing success of the show and the creative process to create a new show every year makes it exciting. That starts on Monday morning, the day after the show ends.”

It’s not uncommon for there to be celebrity sightings at the shows, too.  2019 featured appearances by Jeff Lutz, Ryan Martin, Voodoo Larry, Justin Nichols and more.  Organizers are mum about who’s coming next March, so stay tuned.

And the Auto-Rama is not just for adults.  We’ve talked in past blog posts about the need to engage the next generation in the love of cars.  Well, the Auto-Rama surely does its part to introduce students to the aftermarket hot rod industry.  On Friday before the show actually starts, there is an entire Student Career Day. High school, vocational and college students can build a pedal car for competition or compete in the Hot Rodders of Tomorrow Engine Challenge. There’s nothing like a little high-octane competition to churn up interest!

photo courtesy of the Piston Powered Auto-Rama FB page

As Legerski emphasizes, the Auto-Rama takes a lot of preparation . . . preparation that begins the day after the show ends. Right now, we are about half-way between the 2019 show (March 15-17, 2019) and the 2020 show (March 13-15, 2020).  It’s an all new theme for 2020: March Motor Mania,” says Legerski.  “In 2019 we added a whole new genre of vehicles to the show and a partnership with the Fatman's Invasion in the South Hall featuring Euros, imports, sport compacts, modern American muscles and low riders.  This will be year two for these new features, and what we have learned is that they take a little to build, but once they grab some traction, they take off.  Like our Hot Rod Asylum.  [For 2020,] add in another 35 car clubs and 35 feature displays, and there is LOT to see and do at the show.  Bring walking shoes!”

Well, if you’re are a Car Idiot Forever . . . er, we mean a lifetime car enthusiast . . . you won’t want to miss the experience that is the 2020 Summit Racing Equipment I-X Piston Powered Auto-Rama.  There is something for everyone.  Just remember:  If a piston makes it go, it’s in this show!

Want to learn more?  Check out:

If a Piston Makes it Go, It’s in This Show!

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