Custom Car Chronicle
In Memoriam

RIP Blackie Gejeian




Blackie Gejeian, long Time Fresno Autorama Promoter passed away on the morning of SeptemberĀ 2 – 2016.

Michael Gejeian (born 1926), nicknamed “Blackie”, is a race car driver, race car builder, and hot rod enthusiast. Considered an “Industry Legend”. Blackie was best known as the the organizer of the Fresno Autorama, one of the largest custom car shows in North America, held annually in Fresno, California. His roadster, nick named “Shish Kebob” with complete chrome undercarriage was awarded with many awards in the early 1950’s including the prestigious Most Beautiful Roadster award at the Oakland Grand National Roadster Show. And above all Blackie was always around at the California Car shows, greeting people, telling the most fantastic stories, and signing whatever people wanted him to sign.

Blackie Gejeian passed away on SeptemberĀ 2nd, 2016.
Our sincere condolence go out to his family and friends.
May he rest in peace. He will be missed.

CCC-rip-blackie-01Blackie at the 2009 Sacramento Autorama.

CCC-rip-blackie-gejeian-Shish-KebobGejeian roadster originally built in 1945 and named “Blackie” because of the black paint. After a rebuilt it was named renamed it “Shish Kebob”.

Michael “Blackie” Gejeian, an Armenian by descent, was born in 1926 in Easton, California, near Fresno.Ā His family, including his extended family, were farmers who lived together in one farm ranch. Gejeian later recalled:Ā Seventeen of us lived in that one farm house. And you’ve never seen such happy people. My dad played the violin. One uncle the clarinet. Another uncle the tambourine. At nights they would play, and my mother and aunts would dance in a circle, the old Armenian dances, holding hands.

After Gejeian graduated high school, he enlisted in the United States Navy and participated in World War II. Returning from the war, Gejeian desired to build the fastest hot rod in Fresno. His first car was built in 1945 and became the fastest in Fresno. Painted in black, he called this first car “Blackie”, which would ultimately earn him his nickname. However, this car would ultimately crash in a race in 1948. Gejeian rebuilt the roadster as a show car and renamed it “Shish Kebob”. The undercarriage of the car was the first undercarriage completely chrome plated, and Blackie often put the car on its side to show this of at the shows he displayed his car, hence the nicknameĀ Shish Kebob. He also started the tradition of placing a mirror beneath the car when showcased. In 1955, it was named World’s Most Beautiful Roadster by the Oakland Grand National Roadster Show.

He became of promoter at Clovis speedway for over two decades from 1960 to 1980. The Clovis speedway, which was in a dire situation, became more and more popular with Gejeian’s promotion. Through Gejeian’s effort, the Clovis speedway became “most epic dirt tracks in the country.” Gejeian was also the owner of the Fresno Dragway 18 years.


Blackie Gejeian began the Autorama car show in 1958. Since then, Autorama has been held annually in Fresno. The Autorama “drew some of the finest examples of automotive ingenuity.” In its 50th anniversary in 2008, the Autorama showcased over 250 cars. However, with the retirement of Gejeian, the Autorama car show ceased from occurring. Throughout its history, the Autorama car show took place once a year for 51 years, the last show being held in 2010.

(Source WikiPedia)

CCC-rip-blackie-gejeian-george-jackSherm Porter captured Blackie with his friends George Barris (middle) and Jack Stewart (left). Sadly all three have now passed away.


An episode of My Classic Car with an extended interview with Blackie.



Rik Hoving

Rik is the CCC editor in chief. As a custom car historian he is researching custom car history for many years. In 2004 he started the Custom Car Photo Archive that has become a place of joy for many custom car enthousiasts. Here at CCC Rik will bring you inspiring articles on the history of custom cars and builders. Like a true photo detective he will show us what's going on in all those amazing photos. He will write stories about everything you want to know in the realm of customizing. In daily life Rik is a Graphic Designer. He is married to the CCC webmaster and the father of a 10 year old son (they are both very happy with his excellent cooking skills)

6 thoughts on “RIP Blackie Gejeian

  • Well me and Daisy are very thankful for the time we spent with him at Gary Chopit’s reception. He was a very kind hearted man and full of great history and memories of the good old days. Blackie always had time for everybody. He was a true gentleman and we will miss him dearly.

  • one time in pomona at a fathers day show he went by in his scooter seen us the night prowlers an made a u turn came back and introduced him self told us he liked our cars shows what kind of guy he was r,i,p, blackie,

  • Something that everyone may not know, Blackie’s show was invitation only. He traveled to other car shows all year long and personally picked and invited his participants. He picked all new cars every year unless a car had been radically changed. I had the honor of Blackie picking my car at the 1980 Oakland Show. He also gave some of the nicest Trophys of any show!

  • Blackie, knew how to have fun with life. When he came to the SEMA show we would go and play crap at night at the Hilton. He’d get the whole table going and having fun. The best point was “5” He would always call it out in Spanish, Tres, Duce I was at the show this year and was throwing the dice and i yelled the number tres/duce and the pit boss asked me if I knew Blackie. Miss him, R.I.P., Blackie
    Mike Thermos

Leave a Reply