Before you write that heated email calling me a traitor, take a deep breath. I'm not switching teams, I assure you. This years trip to SEMA was chock full of countless meetings and greetings that fell between gathering Honda content and trying to catch my breath, but none of that has ever stopped me from browsing the non-Honda displays as I trot from hall to hall.
Truth be told, I'm a die-hard Honda fanatic, but I have an appreciation for all types of cars, especially hot rods and custom one-off builds like the ones that pepper the red carpet each and every year at the Las Vegas convention center. Ideas and concepts applied to these vehicles are often adapted to cars in our community and I see it as a positive influence.
Rather than just gawking at these awesome pieces of massaged machinery, I snapped a few photos, put together a few words and here you have it, my personal non-Honda favorites from this years SEMA...
In the 10 years that I've been making the trip to Nevada for the big show, there have been some incredibly well built cars that have done a great job of standing out and as a result, really stuck with me; cars that blew me away with incredible engine bays, immaculate exteriors, or a mix of both. But this year, well, this year was a bit different. Brace yourself for this next statement because it sounded a little weird when I mumbled it as I tried to wrap my head around this beauty. George Poteet's 1969 Ford Talladega Torino by Rad Rides is the best build I've ever seen in my entire life. Now, having said that, and feeling that maybe I'd jumped the gun after ogling over the car for an extended amount of time, I returned the next day and spent some more time revisiting the car, halfway thinking that maybe it was just lust at first sight and that maybe, possibly, it might wear off the second time around. Yeah, nope, that wasn't a fluke. I found little bits and details the second time around that I hadn't even noticed on that first encounter - further driving home the point that this was the one that stood above all of the rest.
1969 Ford Talladega Torino "GPT Special"
Before SEMA, I'd actually viewed this car online as it was posted on Facebook by Falken Tire. At that time however, it was completely void of any paint or finished surfaces. Nevertheless, it looked amazing and if it had just been clear coated that way and brought to SEMA, I would probably still be buzzing about it. However, the body was expertly sprayed in BASF's Glasurit 90-Line Tennessee Whisky Gold gloss. The color seems to pull bits of gold and champagne and looks right at home on the lengthy body. Up top, a Satin Daytona Sand hue was used for a bit of contrast and the two-tone look is fortified by its use throughout other parts of the car for a uniform appearance.
The modified exterior features fully functional rear brake cooling scoops, extended rockers, and side-exit exhaust openings. Up front, the fenders were cut back by 3in and the wheel arches were formed to match that of the rear. Sloped fenders match a custom front lip and the inner driving lights are fitted with custom ducting.
Complimenting the impeccable paint are Billet Specialties 18x10 front and 20x12 rear wheels with a classic GT40 flair, but the details continue, even on the rollers that sport powder coated centers with brushed aluminum lips and wire-anchored spinners.
The interior was fabricated using an array of oval punched custom pieces, a completely custom dash and roll bar, as well as aluminum seats that looked to be made by hand. In order for the body to be removed for paint after fabrication, the entire interior was created to be completely detachable.
Under the hood lies a Boss 429 powerhouse converted to digital fuel injection and relying on a Tremek TKO 600 5-speed manual transmission and Mark Williams Ultimate 9in rear end. When all is said and done, approximately 750hp gallop under a custom built aluminum hood and scoop. Rad Rides' very own custom rivets and Tri-Wing fasteners swarm the bay, securing various shrouds and covers as well as the tinted lexan windows.
3 years, countless man-hours and some serious outside the box thinking having created what I consider the greatest build I've ever witnessed, hands down.
1967 Chevy Camaro
Another show stealer positioned in the BASF booth is this Ultimate Auto built '67 Camaro dubbed "Ultimate Sixty Seven." Right off the bat, I noticed the body had been reworked extensively for a more a aggressive look. The rear fenders were undoubtedly widened while up front, a custom grill was fabricated, both bumpers refined as well as a custom made front lower valence. The sexy curves were then treated to a healthy slathering of BASF R-M Carizzma "Ruthless Red." A hand laid carbon roof delicately adds some mild contrast and most passerbys might not have even noticed it until they got right next to the car - a direct result of the luscious deep red paint that almost steals your attention from anything else. Under the custom arches sit carbon fiber-lipped 20x9 front and 21x13 rear wheels by Vellano KS Wheels. Inside the cabin, a mix of 2013 Camaro pieces and rich Italian leather are accompanied by a rather sizeable JL Audio system.
With so much in the appearance department, one would expect some grunt under the hood and the Sixty Seven delivers with a supercharged LS9 mated to a Tremec T-56 trans and the Borla exhaust system that is routed through hand-built side skirts. With the hood open, a custom sculpted carbon fiber and aluminum engine bay cover is revealed and just about every spectator leaned in for a closer look. The color, the subtle carbon bits, and the overall body modification of this '67 were absolutely flawless.
Ok, these next two cars aren't really imports, but they don't really fall into the domestics hot rod or muscle car territory either. These are custom designed concepts that have come to reality, and are available through private companies that have done an amazing job of taking their concepts, combining them with cars that you can find in your local junkyard, and building the ultimate sports car.
Bauer Ltd "Catfish"
This sleek and slender body is no doubt exotic looking, but what you don't see is the very affordable suspension and engine that powers the vehicle. The Catfish tube frame and panels fit perfectly atop a 1990-2005 Mazda Miata donor car.
So the basic premise is that you can purchase an old, beat up Miata in good running condition for a very low price these days, then lose the cute little Miata body in exchange for the sultry Catfish. At just 1,500lbs, the car will scoot just fine under factory Mazda power, but you do have the option to add forced induction and Bauer even left enough space for an LS3 swap if you're crazy enough. Also, the website mentions Honda's F20C engine as a viable candidate. The base price is only $13,900 and if you have hunt around enough, you can probably find a Miata donor car for as low as a few grand, granting you supercar power to weight without the heavy price. I spotted the car in a booth last year during SEMA and it looked very good in bright white on red wheels. At this years show, the car was parked in the lobby with a slick silver/orange/black paint scheme and looked even better this time around. I can't express to you just how badly I want to drive a Bauer Ltd Catfish.
Factory Five 818S
The world's largest manufacturer of component car kits, Factory Five, displayed their 818S (street) model in the Wilwood booth at SEMA and turned everyone's head. Similar to the concept of the Catfish, the 818S and R models are essentially a frame and body that can be dropped onto a donor car's suspension and powerplant - in this case, a 2002-2007 Subaru WRX or Impreza. Due to weight and space constraints, the vehicle relies on a RWD, mid-engine platform and as suggested by its name, weighs in at a scant 818kg (1,800lbs). Seamless gel-coated composite body panels give the car a sophisticated look but the pricing is pretty remarkable. Estimated at less than 10 grand for the kit, Factory Five says that you can complete the entire process in your garage for just $15,000. When you consider the massive aftermarket support for both the Subie's Boxer engine and its suspension, the options are really limitless in terms of progressing the vehicle.