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‘Dillinger,’ a 1941 Buick Sedanette, takes Custom d’Elegance honors at Sacramento Autorama

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Dillinger, the ’41 Buick sedanette owned by Clifford Mattis. Photos courtesy Kahn Media and the Sacramento Autorama.

John Dillinger, gunned down in July 1934 by Melvin Purvis and his FBI colleagues, probably wouldn’t have won any beauty contests. A custom 1941 Buick sedanette named for the notorious gangster, on the other hand, just scored a pair of automotive equivalents, taking home both the Custom d’Elegance Award and the World’s Most Beautiful Custom Award, presented last Sunday at the 68th-annual Sacramento Autorama in Sacramento, California.

1941 Buick sedanette

Built by Lucky 7 Customs in Antioch, California, and owned by Clifford Mattis, Dillinger wears a chopped and channeled prewar Buick body, though power comes from a small block Chevy V-8 (wearing, oddly enough, vintage Oldsmobile valve covers) instead of the original Buick Fireball 8 straight-eight. Sunday wasn’t Dillinger’s first time in the spotlight, either; at last month’s Grand National Roadster Show, Mattis’ Buick took home the 2018 Steve’s Auto Restorations Award.

1941 Buick sedanette

In a show that featured more than 900 vehicles on display — including bikes, boats, muscle cars, hot rods, customs, and trucks — Dillinger beat out five other finalists to earn the Custom d’Elegance Award, presented to the best hand-built custom from 1935-’48 that “embodies the spirit of a true classic custom.” Previous notable builders who’ve taken top honors include Gene Winfield, George Barris, Joe “Candy Apple Red” Bailon, and John D’Agostino.

1941 Buick sedanette

Marcos Garcia (L) of Lucky 7 Customs with Clifford Mattis.

1941 Buick sedanette 1941 Buick sedanette 1941 Buick sedanette

The World’s Most Beautiful Custom Award, also presented to Dillinger, is given annually to the judges’ favorite custom — from 1936 to present day — that “incorporates a silhouette change including chop, channel, or section.” Created to honor the founder of Autorama, H.A. Bagdasarian, the 8-foot-tall trophy is a “perpetual award,” meaning that winner Mattis will have his name enshrined alongside past recipients.

Other awards of note included:

1958 Continental Mk III

King of the Kustoms, presented to Maybellene, a 1958 Continental Mk III owned by Sue and Tad Leach and built by Dave Kindig and Kindig-It Design. For this annual award, presented to the best 1935-’64 custom, judges focus on design and flow of the finished build, also taking into consideration the car’s interior, color, and paint design.

1965 VW Bus

The Sam Barris Memorial Award, chosen by the Barris family, went to Surf Seeker, a 1965 Volkswagen Bus built and owned by Ron Berry. This annual award honors the best metal work, panel fit, and paint work seen on the show floor.

1950 Mercury

The Joe “Candy Apple Red” Bailon Award was presented to American Dream, a 1950 Mercury owned by Mike and Rita Garner and built by Richie Valles of Unique Twist. The award was designed by the inventor of candy paint, and until his death in September 2017, winners were selected by Bailon as well.

1957 Chevrolet Corvette

The Dick Bertolucci Automotive Excellence Award, presented to Family Affair, a 1957 Chevrolet Corvette owned by Richard and Bonnie Cox and built by Kindig-It Design. The award is given to a pre-1973 vehicle, chosen by Bertolucci, that demonstrates the best assembly, fit and finish, and attention to detail.

For more on the 2018 Sacramento Autorama, including a complete list of award-winners, visit