SEMA is to gearheads like Christmas is to a 6-year-old. For those lucky guys and gals who get to make the yearly pilgrimage to Las Vegas, it's the high point of the year. The only downside is that there is so much crap to sort through, it's easy to miss the really good stuff. Fortunately, we had our radar tuned in to the kind of gear hot rodders and g-Machiners want. We skipped the bling and scooped up the trick parts, making sure GM, Ford, and Mopar owners were well represented. Here's a baker's dozen of the coolest things we discovered.
Red Devil Titanium Brakes
We first discovered these on Bob Johnson's outrageous '71 'Cuda, which was displayed in the Popular Hot Rodding booth. Although adapted for the Mopar, they come in kit form for Corvette, Viper, CTS-V, Impala SS, and Mercury Marauder. On a C5 Corvette, the unsprung weight reduction is 33 pounds on the front axle alone and stopping distance from 60 mph is reduced to a mere 90 feet. The ceramic-impregnated titanium rotors weigh next to nothing--we thought they were paper mache mock-ups at first. The complete kits aren't cheap though; to outfit the front and rear axle, the price for calipers (6-piston and 4-piston, respectively) and rotors runs between $7,600 and $11,000. If it's any consolation, life expectancy on the rotors is well over 100,000 miles.
B&M Composite X Black Diamond Shifter
Face it, chrome and polished billet are out, and carbon fiber and brushed aluminum are in. The new Black Diamond shifter from B&M addresses this look and brings your g-Machine into the 21st century. The Black Diamond ratchet-type shifter is made of real carbon fiber, holds two standard 2 1/16-inch gauges and a momentary contact switch (for line-lock or nitrous), and works with most common automatic transmissions (GM TH-400, 350, 250, 200, 700R4, 200-4R, Ford C4, C6, AOD, Mopar TF-727 & 904). Get a great look with no missed shifts in a package that costs around $410.
ERL Performance 500-cid LS2
If you thought the new 427-cube LS7 was the big dog on the block, think again. ERL Performance now offers 500 cubic-inch short blocks in crate form or as kits. ERL starts with an LS2 block and fits it with "Superdeck" deck plates to arrive at a 10.2-inch deck height. The Superdeck system employs integrated bore sleeves for long rods and plenty of stroke--up to 4.5 inches. These short-blocks are built to order, so a multitude of combos are possible; rod size (Carillo) ranges from 6.600- to 6.800-inch, bore (Wiseco pistons) ranges from 4.155- to 4.205-inch, and stroke (a Lunati forging) starts at 4.250 inches. ERL even developed it's own big-bore MLS gaskets with Cometic, a leader in the field. Add ERL's intake port spacers to your heads and over 1,000 hp is possible. One of these will set you back about $10K.
Keisler Engineering Perfect Fit
We like to shift our own gears and we like overdrive for the highway, so Keisler's Perfect Fit overdrive transmission kit is on our to-do list. Keisler takes a brand new Tremec 5-speed (TKO 500 or 600) and combines it with all the parts you need to swap it into your early GM, Ford, or Mopar musclecar. Typical applications exist for '64-'73 Mustang, first- and second-gen Camaro, '70-'74 Mopar E-body, '62-'76 Mopar A-body, '62-'74 Mopar B-body, C3 and C4 Corvette, '64-'72 GM A-body and others. Recent technology breakthroughs in Keisler Perfect Fit kits include hydraulic clutch actuators, proprietary aluminum bellhousings (you'll want to check out Keisler's redesigned 621 GM can), crossmembers, and shifters. A typical kit price for an automatic-to-stick conversion is around $4,000 and includes every nut and bolt you need to make it complete.
Hotchkis Performance First-Gen Camaro Suspension
First-gen Camaro/Firebird owners are familiar with most companies peddling bolt-on front suspension parts, but until now, Hotchkis hasn't been one of them. Strange, since proprietor Jon Hotchkis is such a well-traveled Camaro wheelman. The Hotchkis Total Vehicle System (TVS) now encompasses '67 - '69 Camaros and Firebirds with a selection of upper and lower control arms, sway bar, front springs, tie-rod sleeves, subframe connectors, and its previously existing line of rear suspension parts. Both big- and small-block cars are covered; parts can be purchased a la carte, or as TVS kits. We added up the cost for the whole front-end enchilada, and came up with around $2,350, but Hotchkis is currently offering a $150 rebate through its Web site, so don't wait another minute.
Stainless Steel Brake Corporation V8 Calipers
What's meaty enough to stop a Ford F-350 truck with 26-inch dubs, but trim enough to fit in most g-Machines? Try SSBC's new line of V8 8-piston brake calipers. We're still a little hazy on exactly which kits the V8 caliper will be available with, but we're told there will be a bunch for classic musclecars. Eight pistons deliver the clamping force over a broader area, so pad wear is more even, braking is more consistent, and heat is dissipated more quickly. Front axle kits featuring the V8 caliper cost around $2,500 and include everything--from rotors and calipers, to brackets, hoses, and hardware.
Mopar B/E-body Rack & Pinion Steering Conversion
For too many years, Mopars have been on the bottom of the list when it comes to developing and selling high-performance handling products. Now Maval Manufacturing is doing something about it with its rack-and-pinion Unisteer conversion kit. Thanks to Maval, glacial handling, poor steering response, and excess weight can now be a thing of the past. Maval uses a 17:1 hydraulic rack and packages it with all the necessary brackets, steering pump, hardware, and hoses. The kit costs around $1,000. The manufacturer claims the kit is a simple bolt-on and requires no major modification.