They say trade shows are excellent indications of the health of the market they represent. The bigger and more active the attendance from vendors, shops, and buyers, the better that niche of the economy should be fairing. We're no market analysts, but according to turnout at this year's annual hot rodding extravaganza known as SEMA (the Specialty Equipment Marketing Association), the hot rodding world is headed upward into a bright recovery.
It's not just by our hopeful eye either; we've got hard facts to prove it. While final attendance figures are still being audited, SEMA reported that more than 126,000 credentials were issued prior to the show, with thousands more processed onsite. Those numbers represented a 7 percent increase over the previous year, and the highest in SEMA Show history. That's really saying something considering the size of the SEMA show.
On the show floor were 2,381 exhibiting companies, representing all facets of the automotive specialty equipment market. Stuff like accessory and appearance products, performance products, wheels, tires, and suspension are designed to personalize more than 200 million cars, trucks, SUVs, and power-sport vehicles on and off the road. Representing mostly small businesses, the exhibitors turn to the SEMA Show to connect with more than 60,000 buyers from throughout the world. We've never been so happy to be shoulder to shoulder with thousands of strangers.
On top of that, hot rod shops and builders rolled out an impressive number of custom cars and trucks that represented their best workmanship. The big guys were there with their latest and greatest: Troy Trepanier, The Ringbrothers, Pure Vision Design, Goolsby Customs, D&Z Customs, Chris Holstrom Concepts, to name a few. But what we were most excited to see was a large turnout of small and new shops with cars that put those household hot rodding names on notice. Some cars even represented a first foray into the world of high-end building, which means they'll be on our radar.
With that in mind, we tore through the thousands of beautiful cars in attendance to bring you our top 17 muscle cars. A few of them are established builders with reputations for quality and lasting style, but there are just as many from small shops looking to show the world that they're the next players. SEMA is where dreams are born, and we're proud to report that there's a bright future for our hobby.
Builder: Wild Wes Paintworks
The Mercury Cougar was intended from the very beginning to embrace the idea of a "gentleman's muscle car." The chassis was shared with the Mustang, but everything else was Cougar-specific and intended to be a step above in both quality and comfort. All the options that were considered upgrades on Mustangs were standard on most Cougars, including four-barrel V-8 engines, deluxe interior, consoles, power steering, and power disc brakes. Power options were plentiful with all of the standard Mustang engines, plus the Cougar is the only FoMoCo muscle to ever have a factory option for the 427 side-oiler.
That history, plus the fact that they still remain off the mainstream radar, are what inspired "Wild Wes" Adkins of Wild Wes Paintworks to choose one for his project. In its original dark green form, the Cougar served as a daily driver and occasional weekend racer for Wes for a few years as he built his business. In 2012, though, he decided it was time to not only build his dream car, but also one that could showcase his talent for customization, fabrication, and of course paintwork. Combining his nickname with the one tossed about affectionately by Cougar fans, the Wildcat project was born.
Adkins' plan from the beginning was to stay true to the Cougar's original intent: luxury combined with power. So everything including the color palette, custom leather interior, custom grille and headlights, and high-end sound system was chosen to maintain that feel. In homage to the top-dog engine FE big-block that the W-code Cougars packed, the Wildcat also houses a 427ci in the form of a Dart-based Windsor. This one packs far more punch though, thanks to twin TorqStorm superchargers that create about 800 hp with only an 8-psi breeze. Watch for a full feature on the Wildcat in an upcoming issue!
By The Numbers
Engine: Dart-based 427ci Windsor with forged Scat crank and rods, Trick Flow 225cc heads, Crane cam and valvetrain, dual TorqStorm superchargers, and Edelbrock EFI
Trans: Cyclone F5 6-speed with 3,500-stall, billet input, and intermediate shafts
Suspension/Chassis: DSE Aluma-Frame with tubular control arms, Detroit Tuned rack-and-pinion, JRi aluminum coilovers in front, DSE QuadraLink with JRi coilovers in the rear, Moser nodular rearend with Detroit Truetrac diff
Brakes: SSBC with 13-inch rotors and SSBC vacuum pump and billet master cylinder
Wheels & Tires: 17x9.5 and 17x11 Vintage Wheel Works GT-40 wheels with 275/40 and 315/35 Mickey Thompson Street Comp tires
Contact: Wild Wes Paintworks; 330-323-4949; WildWesPaintworks.com
1966 Chrysler Imperial
Builder: HPI Customs/Tyler Scarfe
The essence of a Pro Touring machine is power and performance wrapped in an elegantly updated and modernized classic vehicle. In general, though, the selection of cars will be from the more standard level of transportation: muscle cars and the like. For those who seek a more commanding and well-appointed presence, Grand Touring is one step up the ladder. The term Grand Tour actually originates from the traditional extended trip through Europe undertaken by wealthy upper-class European young men of means as a rite of passage. These young men traveled only in the finest style, so to build a Grand Touring car you must start with a luxury-oriented vehicle and add power and performance. Think of it as creating a vintage version of a Bentley Continental GT. Case in point: The Tyrant.
The Tyrant is a 1966 Chrysler Imperial that has taken power to excess (see what they did there?) with an infusion of a third-gen Viper V-10 force fed by a Paxton supercharger. Underneath is a custom suspension designed for exceptional high-speed handling. But all that is nothing without style in Grand Touring, so HPI Customs has invested over 3,500 hours to design and build the subtle body mods including a hand-fabbed grille, spoiler, fender vent body lines, hood extractor scoops, firewall, and underhood sheetmetal and tunnel. The interior is appropriately sumptuous with full leather and suede over Dodge SRT8 seats and a modern Challenger console by Sew Fine. The dash is hand-fabbed, and up front are custom LED DRL headlights and HIDs. Top it off with roughly 150 hours of CNC machine work to create details such as the fender vents, gauge cluster, dash inserts, airbox lid, master cylinder mounts, interior trim, shifter, and hoodpin bosses, and you have an Imperial ready to rule the roads.
By The Numbers
Engine: Gen III Viper motor with Paxton supercharger (air-to-water intercooled) and Snow Performance water/methanol injection
Trans: paddle-shifted TCI 6X transmission
Suspension/Chassis: HPI Customs chassis incorporating Speedtech Performance front suspension clip with ATS AFX spindles, Speedtech-based rear torque arm with tubular chromoly centerlink and HPI Watt's link, Speedtech Chicayne full-floater 9-inch with ZR1 hubs and Strange aluminum center section
Brakes: Wilwood WS6/WS4 brake package
Wheels & Tires: 19x9 and 20x11 Schott Vector three-piece wheels with 255/40R19 and 315/35R20 Nitto Invo tires
Contact: HPI Customs; 204-268-4746; HPICustoms.com
1971 DeTomaso Pantera
Regular readers will remember this very unique 1971 Pantera from our last Pro Projects issue. For a refresher, the Ringbrothers took it upon themselves to help Randy Brickle's widow, Cheryl, bring Randy's dream to fruition after a bout with cancer cut his restoration short. The car was quite rough and unfortunately had some poor workmanship performed at a previous shop, but Cheryl made a promise and it would be kept. She gave them a budget cap, and mandated that the finished color be yellow, but other than that Mike and Jim Ring had free reign.
Mike and Jim took that freedom to create their vision of what a Pantera should have looked like. Usually, modified cars look like just that: improved versions of themselves. Instead of that, Ringbrothers sought to create a car that looked and felt like it was built that way originally. We've heard that line before, and we've seen some great builds, but this Pantera is among the very best. If you aren't familiar with these cars, you'd have a very hard time picking out all the perfectly integrated body mods. For instance, the entire front end of the car, including the grille and headlights, are one-off custom fabrications. But the lines work so well that the final result is something that appears like DeTomaso installed it. And we dare say it's better than the original. A few other subtle touches that improve the Pantera include larger wheel flares, custom rocker panels with brake cooling ducts, relocated door handles, a flush-fit windshield, and a roof scoop that feeds the transplanted LS3.
By The Numbers
Engine: 600hp Wegner Automotive LS3 with Holley Dominator EFI
Trans & Rearend: Bowler ZF transaxle with custom adapter plate
Suspension: Roadster Shop IRS with Porsche driveshafts, C6 spindles, Roadster Shop custom tubular control arms, coilovers
Brakes: 14- and 15-inch rotors with Baer 6S six-piston calipers
Wheels & Tires: 19x9 and 19x12 HRE wheels with 275/30 and 345/30 Nitto Invo tires
Contact: Ringbrothers; 608-588-7399; Ringbrothers.com
The Ringbrothers actually have two spots on our list of top SEMA cars this year since they wowed us with their perfected Pantera as well as this understated 1965 Mustang fastback known as "Blizzard." Snowy conditions aren't the realm of high-power muscle cars, so what's that name? Owners Dominic and Becky Farbo say, "The car is white, light, and has high horsepower—700 hp. Blizzards are often unexpected and there are a lot of unexpected things on the car—carbon roof, hood, trunk, and composite doors. Also, there is a NASCAR motor that one would not expect to find in a Pro Touring car. Blizzards are a frequent occurrence in our geography. We are from Buffalo, New York."
A blizzard also tends to stop progress when it arrives, and this one certainly did at SEMA. Everyone who walked by stopped in his tracks to look over the refreshingly clean Mustang. There are far more mods to the car than we could possibly mention here, but they are all presented with restraint and with respect to the original design. That seems to be a theme for the Ringbrothers this year. Though the car is a real fastback, most of the body panels have been replaced with Ringbrothers' own carbon-fiber parts, but other than the exposed roof, you'd be hard pressed to notice them as they're presented in stock fashion. Even the front air dam, the most radical part of the bodywork, is strongly reminiscent of a GT350 and doesn't look out of place.
By The Numbers
Engine: Wegner Automotive 427ci NASCAR V-8
Trans: Tremec five-speed overdrive
Suspension/Chassis: DSE Aluma-Frame with tubular control arms, Detroit Tuned rack-and-pinion, JRi aluminum coilovers in front, DSE QuadraLink with JRi coilovers in the rear, John's Industries 9-inch rearend
Brakes: 14- and 15-inch rotors with Baer six-piston calipers
Wheels & Tires: 18x9.5 and 19x12 HRE 560R rims with Nitto Invo tires
Contact: Ringbrothers; 608-588-7399; Ringbrothers.com
The past few years the Goodguys Rod & Custom Association, or just "Goodguys" to hot rodders, has championed the concept of adding life and motion to the traditional car show by encouraging people to get into their cars and drive them. The harder the better. That's an idea we're all about as well, which is why you see regular coverage of the Goodguys autocross series here in the pages of PHR. Despite having become perhaps the most recognized autocross venue in the country, and being responsible for introducing the sport to thousands of people, Goodguys didn't have their own warrior present for cone carving. Marc Meaders, son of Goodguys founders Gary and Marilyn Meadors, decided it was high time for that to change.
Gary's bright yellow 1932 Ford Sedan has been the face of Goodguys for almost three decades and racked up 200K miles going on cruises and to various events. It's certainly not going to be retired, but with the proposition of another car becoming heavily associated with Goodguys, it had to be the right vehicle. Marc's personal favorite muscle car, and one of the most popular to build, is a 1969 Camaro. With the recent full embrace of muscle cars into all Goodguys events, Camaros have shown up in spades, so it was the logical choice. Brett Voelkel and his crew at RideTech were tapped for the build. Two things were firm from the beginning: It had to be an excellent autocross contender, and it had to be yellow. After 17 months of building at RideTech, the finished Camaro debuted at SEMA. The specs are impressive, we can't wait to see it action!
By The Numbers
Engine: Chevrolet Performance supercharged LSA
Trans: Tremec T56 Magnum six-speed
Suspension/Chassis: RideTech coilover suspension and TigerCage, Moser rearend
Brakes: Baer Racing 14-inch rotors with six-piston calipers
Wheels & Tires: 18-inch Forgeline wheels with BFGoodrich tires
Contact: RideTech; RideTech.com
1955 Chevy 210
Builder: Precision Designs
They may not be center stage in the hot rodding hobby anymore, but all those throngs of Pro Street cars built in the 1980s and 1990s are still out there. Sadly, far too many of them (we'd go so far as to say the majority of them) were built with an emphasis on style way before function and driveability, which leaves them very much out of the modern movement toward usable hot rods. So what do you do with an ol' out-of-date Pro Streeter with tons of time and work poured into already? We like to call it Pro Street 2.0.
Case in point here is the 1955 Chevy 210 by Precision Designs. This Tri-Five was one of those pretty fairground dwellers that wasn't all that powerful, didn't drive particularly well, and just felt dated by today's standards. Rather than reinvent the wheel, Precision Designs decided to embrace the big rear wheels, but bring everything 20 years forward in terms of parts choice, power, and interior. The suspension parts were swapped out for bits with better geometry, and rack-and-pinion steering. RideTech ShockWaves gave it stance and a smooth ride, while 19- and 20-inch Intro wheels kept the breadth of rubber, but with modern tire technology. The interior went full street rod comfy with leather and A/C, but to maintain the well-preserved Tri-Five's original identity, much of the original paint was retained and buffed out. Pro Street 2.0 still embraces a big engine with a blower through the hood, but far better driveability is expected now, so the roots-blown stoker Hemi runs modern EFI engine management. So what do you think hot rodders? Do you like the idea of Pro Streeters that are ready for touring?
By The Numbers
Engine: 572ci Chrysler Hemi with 8-71 blower and Hilborn EFI
Trans: Richmond six-speed with McLeod clutch and QuickTime scattersheild
Suspension/Chassis: Heidts tubular control arms, RideTech ShockWaves, front; 9-inch rearend on ladder bars with RideTech ShockWaves in the rear
Brakes: 14-inch Wilwood
Wheels & Tires: 19x8 and 20x15 Intro wheels with Mickey Thompson tires
Contact: Precision Designs; 720-982-4092; PrecisionDesignsFabrication.com
1968 Dodge Charger
Builder: Pure Vision Design
When car companies are set to release an important new model, or even more importantly a redesign of an already important marque, making a positive impression with the audience they're relying on to buy it is paramount. We still see it today, though mostly with enthusiast-driven cars like Mustangs, Camaros, and Chargers. The question Steve Strope at Pure Vision Design asked for this project is this: "What would a promo and testing campaign for the redesigned 1968 Charger have looked like if Mopar had seriously courted the drag racers that they needed to love the redesign?"
In his vision, this Charger would be an early development prototype mule that still had bits pulled from the previous generation Charger as details were still being finalized. Externally, the Charger would be mostly production ready, but widened wheel tubs to pack in Super Stock size rubber, and a 1967 Dodge W023 Coronet hoodscoop modified to fit the '68 Charger hood, because you know it would be making exhibition passes at local dragstrips.
Inside is an even bigger mixture of parts with a "what if" interior based on the idea that Dodge was thinking of keeping the four bucket seats and full-length console from the previous generation Charger interior. We sure wish they would have. Also, Pure Vision modified the stock instrument cluster by reconfiguring the gauge layout to now have the speedometer and tachometer centered above the steering wheel instead of off to the left side. The four small auxiliary gauges that were once on the right, now flank two each on the outside of the speedo and tach. It looks as if the factory did it this way, and it's a major improvement in our book.
By The Numbers
Engine: 572ci Gen II Hemi assembled by Hawaii Racing, Mopar cast-iron block, Edelbrock aluminum heads, FAST EZ-EFI 2.0
Trans: Passon Performance Hemi overdrive four-speed with American Powertrain Hydramax internal clutch slave system for 18-spline/Passon four-speed, Street Slayer clutch kit with 10.75-inch cheater pressure plate, Street Slayer sprung hub, and Feramic disc rated for 645 lb-ft
Suspension/Chassis: front: Reilly Motorsports AlterKation tubular K-frame, rear: Street-Lynx triangulated four-bar modified by Pure Vision with Strange Dana 60, JRi shocks all around
Brakes: Wilwood 12- and 11-inch discs with four-piston calipers
Wheels & Tires: 15x5.5 and 15x10 Real Rodders Wheels with EZ Care polished magnesium finish, 26x7.5R15 and 29x12.5R15 Hoosier Pro Street Radials
Contact: Pure Vision Design; 805-522-2232; PureVisionDesign.com
1972 Plymouth Duster
Builder: Classic Industries/Chop Cut Rebuild
Mopars of any creed are always thinner in number than FoMoCo or GM products at SEMA, and even less represented are the A-Body cars. Seriously, we think there were just a handful at SEMA out of the thousands of cars present. We know scarcity isn't the issue; hundreds of thousands were built and there are plenty still out there to be found. Historically, it may have been due to a lack of restoration parts available and a very limited supply of good original bits. Classic Industries changed all that a couple years back with the introduction of their line of Mopar restoration parts. Suddenly you could have a nice slick A-Body again without scouring the globe and paying a mint for parts. To showcase the possibilities, Classic Industries partnered with SPEED TV's Chop Cut Rebuild a while back to save this 1972 that was on its way to the crusher.
Now it's been recycled in a different way, thanks to a modern driveline, suspension, brakes, and fresh materials inside; it's a comfortable daily driver or tourer. And from what we hear, it's logged quite a few miles since. We think this was a long overdue addition to the aftermarket and this Duster represents how sharp they can be with the right choice of wheels, paint, and graphics. With the skyrocketing prices of B- and E-Body cars, Mopar lovers are increasingly turning to the A-Bodies since they are still affordable, and now they don't have to feel like the ill-favored offspring.
By The Numbers
Engine: 426ci third-gen Hemi
Trans: TCI 6X six-speed with EZ-TCU controller and MasterShift push-button shifter
Suspension/Chassis: front: Reilly Motorsports AlterKation tubular K-frame, Rear: Street-Lynx triangulated four-bar
Brakes: Wilwood 13-inch discs
Wheels & Tires: 17x8 and 17x9 American Racing Salt Flats with 225/45 and 245/45 BFGoodrich tires
Contact: Classic Industries; 800-854-1280; ClassicIndustries.com
From Podcast to RaceTrack
Builder: Jeff Allison
This 1964 Chevelle has been a part of Rob Kibbe's life since the first day it was sold. It was the car that his mom bought as daily transport while his father was away in the Navy. By the time Rob was old enough to start taking an interest in cars, it was nothing but a "mashed-up pile of rust," in his words, but it was the first car he fell in love with. Later during his high school years, Rob and his dad restored the Chevelle. Since then it's been present at every major event in his life, including his wedding, the birth of his kids, and even some tough goodbyes. "I've loved it since I can remember," Rob says. "It's practically a time capsule of my family, and to me, it's more like a dog than a car. It's my four-wheeled pal!"
Based on his love of muscle cars, and that Chevelle in particular, Rob started The Muscle Car Place Podcast Network and quickly gained a loyal worldwide audience. A couple years back one of those listeners, custom car builder Jeff Allison, emailed Rob with a thank you and proposal. Through Rob's encouragement to always follow your dreams, Jeff made the bold step to open the shop he had wanted for 25 years. As a thank you to Rob for the courage, Jeff offered his shop and services to build the Chevelle at no cost, just bring the car and the parts. Rob was blown away, but gladly accepted the chance to turn his favorite car into the track-bred vision he had for it. Between Jeff's talent and Street Metal Concepts in Orlando, Florida (for body and paintwork), the Chevelle has been reborn once again and is ready to create a whole new set of memories for Rob and his family.
By The Numbers
Engine: L93/LS3 hybrid with COMP Cams cam and valvetrain
Trans: Hurst Driveline Conversions Tremec T56 Magnum
Suspension/Chassis: Detroit Speed & Engineering upper and lower control arms, DSE coilovers front and rear
Brakes: 14-inch Wilwood brakes
Wheels: 18x8.5 and 18x10.5 Grip Equipped Rebel wheels with 245/40 and 295/35 BFGoodrich Rival tires
Contact: Jeff Allison; AllisonCustomsOnline.com
1964 Chevy Corvair
Builder: Strange Motion Rod & Custom Construction
Corvairs are neat cars, but it's not often we run across one that really catches our eye. Of course it's not often you run across a Periwinkle one with killer stance set on top of 18- and 20-inch Budnik wheels. And is that a grille we see? Indeed it is, a scaled-down custom version of a 1959 Chevy grille was cut into the previously sealed off nose of the Corvair by Strange Motion Rod & Custom Construction. That one detail dramatically changed the look of the car and wiped away our least favorite part of the original design. Beyond style, the grille was a necessary addition since this Corvair is no longer air-cooled or rear engined—yet it's also not powered by what you might be expecting.
Under the custom C2 427 Corvette-style hood is not a V-8 transplant, but a 4.3L V-6. Not only was the little six-banger ideal from a fitment standpoint, it also added less weight to the little car, and is easy on fuel. That's ideal since as we understand it Tim Strange's wife, Carrie, intends to drive the Corvair regularly. "I told her that I think she picked this color because it would make the car hard to sell," Tim told us with a laugh.
One other 1959 Chevy addition that we love is the 6-inch shortened dash. Despite being five years older than the car, the styling works perfectly, better than the original Corvair dash even. But forget the custom chassis and wheels; if Chevy had built front-engine Corvairs that looked like this, we think you'd see a lot more of them at shows.
By The Numbers
Engine: 4.3L GM V-6
Trans: Phoenix Transmission 200-R4 four-speed automatic overdrive
Suspension/Chassis: Strange Motion frame with Fat Man Fabrication front clip and RideTech coilovers, Dutchman 9-inch Ford rearend
Brakes: 14-inch Wilwood rotors with six-piston calipers
Wheels & Tires: 18x7 and 20x10 Budnik Tungsten with 255/40 and 255/35 BFGoodrich g-Force Sport Comp 2 tires
Contact: Strange Motion; 615-852-8110; StrangeMotion.com
1969 Ford Torino Talladega
Builder: Rad Rides By Troy
The cars that George Poteet commissions are typically the product of some image that has been germinating in his mind for years. When he feels he has it flushed out, he'll turn to his go-to hot rod shop, Rad Rides By Troy, to make it a reality. "We haven't done a hard-core street machine lately, so I was excited when George called on us to do a 1969 Torino Talladega that could be driven on the street," Troy Trepanier said. "George was looking for Blowfish features (Poteet's Bonneville Salt Flat race car) with a strong NASCAR theme consistent with the Holman Moody Ford stock cars of the late 1960s. As much as he liked the 1969 Talladega, he longed to tweak the Torino's proportions for better aesthetic balance." Essentially, George wanted a car that had a visceral race-bred nature, but with exquisite street car execution.
To capture some of the Talladega's NASCAR glory days of the 1960s and early 1970s, wrap it up with the beautiful modern race-spec fabrication created for Blowfish, but then to enhance it with modern features and body modifications was quite a tall order, but Trepanier's crew pulled it off. The GPT (George Poteet Torino) is imbued with period-inspired race parts, a full rollcage, bare floors, and Lexan windows all around, but manages to pull it off with an elegance that subdues everything so perfectly that one would struggle to think of the GPT as race ready. Make no mistake, however, Poteet likes to drive his cars hard and fast and there has already been plenty of discussion regarding appropriate venues for wringing out the Talladega. First on the list is the Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational.
By The Numbers
Engine: 750hp Jon Kaase racing Boss 429 with converted Ford experimental Hilborn EFI intake
Trans: Tremec TKO 600 five-speed by Bowler Transmissions with period-correct Hurst shifter and Holman Moody wood shift knob
Suspension/Chassis: custom Art Morrison chassis built with 2x3-inch rails front and rear, and 4x4-inch perimeter rails, Art Morrison C5 Corvette front suspension with rack-and-pinion, four-link rear suspension with Rad Rides Watt's link, Mark Williams Ultimate 9-inch Ford rearend with 3.70 gears and Detroit Locker
Brakes: Wilwood, 14-inch rotors with six-piston front calipers, four-piston rear calipers
Wheels & Tires: 18x10 and 20x12 Billet Specialties one-off GT40 with Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires
Contact: Rad Rides By Troy; 815-468-2590; RadRides.com
Builder: Goolsby Customs
Goolsby Customs specializes in creating very refined versions of vintage cars. When a European customer approached them looking for a 1967 Chevelle that had a very clean and modern sport cars feel to it, they knew it was right in line with their design philosophy. The customer loved a charcoal Chevelle that Goolsby had built a few years back and wanted one similar, but of course not an exact copy.
To give a chrome-covered 1960s American sedan a modern European feel requires a great deal of simplification on all fronts. To stay true to its identity, Goolsby wanted to keep all the body lines on a stock Chevelle, which meant they needed to be very choosy with the modifications, and perhaps most importantly the color palate, to hit their goal. The goal eventually flushed itself out as a Chevelle that felt like it had been built by a Ferrari or Porsche enthusiast. The tucked body-color bumpers, shaved trim and driprails, matte black grille and window trim, along with the Lokar/Goolsby Customs Signature Series door handles go a long way toward modernizing without losing the Chevelle appeal. The gorgeous yet understated custom interior by M&M Hot Rod Interiors has red and yellow Dakota Digital gauges that really drove the theme home for us.
Of course the Ferrari feel is nothing if the handling is more boatlike, so to ensure the big Chevelle would be fun to run through winding roads in the European countryside, Goolsby set it atop a Roadster Shop Fast Track chassis with independent rear suspension.
By The Numbers
Engine: 710hp Turn Key Engine Supply LS3 with Kenne Bell supercharger and Holley HP EFI
Trans: GM 4L85E four-speed automatic overdrive
Suspension/Chassis: Roadster Shop Fast Track chassis with independent rear suspension
Brakes: 14-inch Wilwood six-piston front, 13-inch Wilwood four-piston rear
Wheels & Tires: 19x10 and 20x12 NuTek Wheels with 255/35 and 335/30 Michele Pilot Super Sport tires
Contact: Goolsby Customs; 205-428-2169; GoolsbyCustoms.com
Builder: D&Z Customs
Despite a year passing between shows, SEMA project vehicles are notorious for being pushed to the very last possible minute. This Citrus Green Camaro known as "Envious" from D&Z Customs is no exception, but you'd never know it by looking at it. With an approximate start to finish time of four months, the latest in-house project for Randy Johnson at D&Z Customs is actually designed to be a testbed for parts and modifications. Using what he learned from his seat time in other in-house second-gen Camaros, Johnson sought to bring a higher level of performance to this car without radical body modifications.
"We're essentially pushing a brick through the air," Johnson told us. "At 140, 150 mph on Road America, the front end gets extremely light on the orange car." To combat that, he added a large front chin spoiler and splitter, as well as an air extraction hood to relieve pressure. The rear received a tall lip-style spoiler to push the rear down.
Johnson had zero test time on the car at SEMA, but he got to see how well his modifications worked when the car was invited to the Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational. According to him, there was a very noticeable improvement in stability and control on the long straightaway where the 700-horse LS7 easily got the car in the 130-plus range. That's great news for D&Z, but also for anyone building a second-gen Camaro with track day intentions; versions of many of the parts will be available through D&Z as bolt-ons.
By The Numbers
Engine: 441ci LS7 with Dailey Engineering dry-sump pan, FAST LSXR intake
Trans: Tremec T56, Centerforce DYAD clutch
Suspension/Chassis: Heidts Pro-G front subframe with D&Z custom cantilever actuated RideTech triple-adjustable coilovers, Heidts Pro-G IRS in the rear
Brakes: 14-inch Wilwood with six-piston calipers, front; 10.5-inch Wilwood with four-piston, rear
Wheels & Tires: 18x10 and 19x12 Forgeline DE3C centerlock wheels with 295/35 and 335/30 Nitto NT-05 tires
Contact: D&Z Customs; 262-347-9741; and DandZCustoms.com
1967 Chevy Nova
Builder: Chris Holstrom Concepts
When it first came to Chris Holstrom Concepts (CHC) in the spring of 2011, this 1967 Nova for customer Phil Mitchell was an unfinished project, but it already had one of the most surprising elements installed: one of the first crate LS9 engines from Chevrolet. So it had an amazing engine, but that was really about all. The Nova was just a stripped roller with no doors or front sheetmetal when it rolled off the trailer at CHC. Originally the plan was to order an Art Morrison frame to set the body on, but after a thorough assessment showed the Nova to be exceptionally rust-free, Chris Holstrom couldn't bear to cut the factory floors out. Instead, he turned to Detroit Speed & Engineering (DSE) for their new front subframe and QuadraLink rear suspension.
Despite all that, the plan was to keep the body, trim, and interior very Nova appropriate, though far finer finished than they ever were originally. We were quite impressed with the level of finish and craftsmanship all over the car, but perhaps most by the flat hood. Care was taken to ensure the LS9 would fit under a stock-style carbon-fiber hood from Anvil Auto, so there's absolutely no external indication that such a beast lurks within such a small car. We never saw it coming.
Apparently Goodguys and Sony were equally mesmerized, as the Nova was not only awarded the Goodguys Gold award at SEMA, but it was also chosen as the Gran Turismo Best in Show winner and will be included as a playable vehicle in a future game release.
By The Numbers
Engine: 700hp supercharged GM LS9
Trans: Tremec T56 Magnum
Suspension/Chassis: DSE front subframe, DSE QuadraLink rear
Brakes: 14-inch Baer six-piston
Wheels & Tires: 18x9 and 19x11 RB3C Forgeline, Continental Contisport tires
Contact: Chris Holstrom Concepts; 253-435-5385; ChrisHolstromConcepts.com
1970 Dodge Charger
Builder: Z Rods & Customs/ Competition Fabrications
Sometimes you have to make sacrifices to get a new shop up and on its legs, and this 1970 Charger is a perfect example of such a sacrifice. Built by Z Rods & Customs of Knox, Indiana, in collaboration with Competition Fabrications of Maple Park, Illinois, the project is known as "Street Shaker." The car, in a twist of fate, was originally sold to fund the beginning of Z Rods & Customs, who then ended up being commissioned to build the car as the shop's first project. The current owner of the Charger, Dalton Davis, wanted a Hemi and the PPG paint color named Bad Penny—everything else was on the table for Z Rods to build however it saw fit. It's hard to ask for anything more than that for a new shop looking to make a name!
Lots of metalworking time was spent crafting the flush bumpers and hand-fabricating the hood with a well-integrated 'Cuda Shaker hoodscoop to feed twin FAST throttle bodies. Other subtle touches include the reliefs atop the front fenders that mimic the door indentations, the 1968 Corvette door handles, the functional rear brake cooling scoops on the quarter-panel made from a GTO hood, and the custom tailpanel and rear spoiler. The interior of the car was treated to carbon-fiber work done by Z Rods & Customs and Competition Fabrications, while the microsuede was stitched by Creative Auto Tops and Interiors of Oswego, Illinois. For their first time out, Z Rods stirred up quite a lot of positive attention at SEMA, we're interested to see project number two!
By The Numbers
Engine: Wegner Automotive 800hp aluminum 572ci Hemi, CNC-ported Indy Cylinder Heads, twin throttle-body FAST EFI
Trans: Tremec TKO five-speed
Suspension/Chassis: custom tube chassis up front with coilovers, four-link rear with coilovers, Strange 9-inch with 3.55 gears
Brakes: 14-inch Wilwood 4-piston calipers, front and rear
Wheels & Tires: 18x10 and 20x12 Billet Specialties Velocity Wheels with 245/45 and 335/35 Michelin Pilot Sport Tires
Contact: Z Rods & Customs/Competition Specialties; 630-365-5408; FranticFueler.com
Paint It Red
Builder: Robb & Robbie McIntosh
While all of the other cars on our list were built by accomplished hot rod shops, this 1971 Chevelle has a different story. It was a father-and-son project for Robb and Robbie McIntosh as a tribute to Rob's late wife, Colleen. While Colleen was battling cancer, she told Robb that he should go find himself a project car to have something to tinker on and take his mind off of things. Robb pondered the idea and decided to go ahead and find something. He had built a 1969 Camaro with his son years before and knew his tall frame didn't fit well inside it, so it needed to be larger. And speaking of frames, he wanted a car that had a full frame. After searching around, he decided upon a clean 1971 Chevelle. He picked it up, made some plans, turned a few bolts, but mostly it just sat, as his attention was too focused elsewhere. Toward the end, Robb asked Colleen what color she would like the Chevelle to be. She responded "red," and so the project entered a new phase.
Robb and Robbie really did need something to get their mind off of things now, so they dug into the Chevelle, further ignited by the drive to turn it into a tribute for Colleen that she would be proud of. We'd say they hit the mark: Not only did it catch our eye at SEMA, but it was also given a place of honor near the Meguiar's Car Crazy stage. It was good therapy overall, but Robb told us one of the best parts was getting to spend some quality wrenching time with his son again.
By The Numbers
Engine: 502hp Chevy Performance Parts ZZ502
Trans: 700-R4 four-speed automatic overdrive by Remac Transmissions
Suspension/Chassis: CPP tubular upper arms with Global West lower arms, QA1 adjustable shocks, lowering springs
Brakes: CPP big-brake kit with 13- and 12-inch rotors
Wheels & Tires: 19x8 and 20x10 Budnik G10 wheels with 255/40 and 295/35 Nitto Invo tires
1980 Trans Am
Builder: Westbend Dyno Tuning
Don't let the Turbo TA hood deceive you, this car is blown, but it's not what you expect. Back in high school when Brad Riekkoff of Westbend Dyno Tuning bought the 1980 Trans Am from the corral at a local car show, it was sporting a 455ci Poncho and a really bad header leak. Once Brad and his dad got the TA home and replaced the gaskets, they discovered that the leak was something worse: a bad rod knock. So that's when the project really began.
Over his four years of high school, Brad swapped in several engines as the budget would allow. After graduating in 1992 though, the TA sat in his dad's garage while Brad went out to make his way in the world. Round about 2008, Brad opened Westbend Dyno Tuning and decided to bring the TA out of hibernation. Unfortunately, 16 years of sitting had not been kind to the engine and the TA was in need of another swap. Now with plenty of experience and more funds, Brad decided to build something that would be a great in-house shop car, which for a dyno shop, of course, meant lots of power.
Rather than another Pontiac, Brad went with a Wegner Automotive LS3 topped by LS9 heads and a massive 3.3L Lysholm supercharger that belts out 950 hp without effort. To clear the big Lysholm, Brad fabricated a wider and taller factory-style Turbo TA scoop. It's a slick car overall, but that one touch, along with the unique alternative to the standard screaming chicken on the hood, really caught our attention.
By The Numbers
Engine: 950hp 416ci Wegner Automotive LS3 with ported LS9 heads, Callies crank and rods, MAHLE pistons, 3.3L Lysholm supercharger, Dailey Engineering dry sump
Trans: Tremec T56
Suspension/Chassis: Heidts front subframe, four-link rear, Afco triple-adjustable shocks all four corners
Brakes: 14-inch Wilwood with six-piston calipers front, 13-inch with four-piston rear
Wheels & Tires: 18x10 and 18x12 Formula 43 wheels with 295/35 and 335/30 BFGoodrich Rival tires
Contact: Westbend Dyno Tuning; 262-692-9035; WestBendDyno.com