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Best of SEMA 2015

More hot stuff from SEMA '15 comin' your way!

Apr 12, 2016
Photographer: SS Staff

This year, SEMA showcased 1,500+ cars, so we did our best to select 20 more significant cars that aren't featured elsewhere in this issue. There might be a few wildcards that aren't your typical Super Street material, but just goes to show the diversity that makes up everything cool about SEMA.

Best Honda
RC's Garage Civic

Mike Schietroma's EM1 never should have made its way to the red carpet of the Las Vegas Convention Center. Just a month prior to its debut, the car's builder, RC Chacon of RC's Garage, lost his entire tool arsenal after his shop was broken into. Not giving up on the opportunity to grace the Hondata booth at the big show, RC found a way to get the car finished and, as usual, took no shortcuts.

Once a mildly modified, Spoon-certified Si from Mike's high school days, the Civic coupe received a K24 swap, anchored by Hasport mounts, topped off with a JDL turbo kit to replace the factory B16 mill. Anything under the hood deemed unnecessary was promptly deleted, and much like the interior, the factory metal was reworked and smoothed prior to iKandy Paintworks applying a fresh coat of Automotive Art in the factory hue. Downstar hardware, Vibrant Vanjen clamps, and an All-In fab center-feed intake manifold and radiator/intercooler combo finish off the spotless bay. 16x8" Volk Racing CE28s wrapped hide Project Mu brakes and are tucked neatly under the factory fenders thanks to D2 air suspension and Specialty Suspension seamless tanks. Exterior mods remain simple with a Backyard Special front bumper, Spoon mirrors, and brand-new OEM moldings and plastics for one of the best restomod 6th-gen Civics we've ever come across.

Deep Thoughts from Honda Tuning's former EIC

Though large, the Honda booth at this year's SEMA event wasn't what most have come to expect. Having done away with the group builds that typically sit within the confines of the "Honda corner" and have included various Civic and Fit generations, the CR-Z and a host of others over the years, Honda instead opted for just a few HR-Vs by the likes of Tjin Edition and Bisimoto. While interesting, the HR-V doesn't really resonate with Honda's enthusiast circle. The new NSX on display certainly raised some eyebrows, but the debate of whether it's too much money and entirely too late remains a thorn in the side of what should be an incredibly exciting display. Honda's new off-road venture that includes a twin-turbo, V-6-powered Unlimited Ridgeline race truck was a surprise to most, but again, not in line with the hard-core street and track enthusiast market. And while the new Civic made an appearance, it wasn't the Si that many are longing for, nor the upcoming Type R that has Honda fans foaming at the mouth, and bloggers on high alert every time a new rumor or announcement surfaces.

It's really no surprise that there weren't a ton of Honda builds peppered throughout the halls of the convention center, but with cars like Rywire's Type R and the RC'sGarage coupe, the presence is still there and the overwhelming amount of fan interest in these "little old Hondas" is stronger than ever. And while that doesn't translate into the wheeling and dealing aspect of what the event was created for, the impact is real, and it could be felt throughout the entire week. The one question on every Honda fan's mind: Will Honda make a strong push at next year's show with the new Si, long-awaited Civic Type R, and even longer-delayed NSX? We're keeping our fingers crossed... - Rodrez

Best JDM
Kaizen Tuning/HKS USA GT-R

Best of sema 2015 kaizen tuning hks usa gtr Photo 5/47   |   Best Of Sema 2015 Kaizen Tuning Hks Usa Gtr

Built by Kaizen Tuning in Massachusetts, we couldn't help but feel a little tingly inside when we saw a Nissan GT-R dressed in recognizable HKS livery. The R35 features HKS's 4.1L stroker, GT1000 turbo kit, GR6 tranny, plus a Varis widebody. If you're into JDM shit, you gotta love this one!

Best Makeover
Six Sigma Autodesign NSX

Best of sema 2015 six sigma autodesign nsx Photo 6/47   |   Best Of Sema 2015 Six Sigma Autodesign Nsx

The '92 Acura NSX broke necks in the Nitto Tire booth a year ago when it debuted with the first and only Rocket Bunny conversion in North America wrapped in blue chrome. The Gruppe M supercharged Bunny has since been featured in our JDM Supercar issue only a couple months ago. But little did we know, the owner Robert Chew would be giving his baby a makeover, ripping off the wrap for a complete white paint job and switching out the Enkei wheels to the timeless Volk Racing TE37s. Perfection!

Best Van
Sienna R-Tuned concept

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Best of sema 2015 sienna r tuned concept Photo 8/47   |   Best Of Sema 2015 Sienna R Tuned Concept

Bisimoto shocked the world when he built a tire-shredding 1,000+hp Honda Odyssey minivan at SEMA '13. This time around, Toyota took a similar yet different approach with its Toyota Sienna. The van's been outfitted with everything you can think of—new wheels, stickier tires, performance brake pads, adjustable shocks, springs, and diff. Slide open the passenger doors and you'll notice the interior is fully gutted (700 pounds lighter), then outfitted with a rollcage and bucket seats. What's impressive is the Sienna's 3.5L V-6 and six-speed automatic remain unmolested. Would it still be powerful enough? You're damn right! Toyota tested its R-Tuned concept at Streets of Willow clocking a 1:27 lap—that's 1 full second faster than the latest Camaro SS!

Best Electric
Omead Moine's Corolla

The vinyl design confused us at first, then we walked closer and noticed this wasn't your average '86 Toyota Corolla. The car has been set up for drift; however, behind its bucket seats was an entire trunk full of batteries equivalent to 275 volts, while under the hood rested a 170kW motor. We still have a lot of questions looming with this EV86, but we promise to bring you more info soon!

Best Wild
Mayumi Special Q45

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Best of sema 2015 mayumi special q45 Photo 13/47   |   Best Of Sema 2015 Mayumi Special Q45

There's possibly no car/truck/van/wagon that's as wild as Fumihiro Takeda's Infiniti Q45. Nicknamed the "Mayumi Special," this isn't the first time I've seen the Q.

Best of sema 2015 mayumi special q45 Photo 14/47   |   Best Of Sema 2015 Mayumi Special Q45

It stopped me in my tracks at the '12 Tokyo Auto Salon. Three years later, Takeda-san has shipped his creation to Las Vegas for all of America to see. According to Takeda-san, he's spent more than $260,000 USD customizing the Q45, which includes an audio female doll in the passenger seat. There are literally speakers and monitors everywhere you look inside the car, just don't mind the dildo door handles...

Best Z (non-Datsun)
Steven Wiggin's 370Z

Best of sema 2015 steven wiggins 370z Photo 15/47   |   Best Of Sema 2015 Steven Wiggins 370Z

You would think it takes a whole lotta effort to make a Nissan 350Z/370Z stand out these days, but we were caught by surprise when we ran into Kentucky resident Steve Wiggin's Z34 in the Mackin Industries booth. There's nothing but high-quality parts used in the build, such as the Advan GT Premium wheels in Hyper gold, Brembo GT brakes, Bride seats, Accuair suspension, and Powerhouse Amuse kit. It's the right combination of parts, plus a solid color scheme, that make Steve's 370Z timeless.

Best Mazda
Autofashion's Mazda6

Best of sema 2015 autofashion mazda6 Photo 16/47   |   Best Of Sema 2015 Autofashion Mazda6
Best of sema 2015 autofashion mazda6 Photo 17/47   |   Best Of Sema 2015 Autofashion Mazda6

While there were a handful of new MX-5s as well as a couple of RX-7s that caught our attention, no Mazda really surprised us more than this Mazda6. Wait, a Mazda6? Yes! Despite the Mazda's midsize family sedan persona, the boys at Autofashion in San Diego have managed to transform one of the sleekest 6s we've seen with a J-uNit body kit from Japan, plus AirREX suspension and Leon Hardiritt wheels. So clean, it almost makes us want to daily something like this!

Best Guy Named Mike
Mad Mike

Best of sema 2015 mad mike Photo 18/47   |   Best Of Sema 2015 Mad Mike
Best of sema 2015 mad mike Photo 19/47   |   Best Of Sema 2015 Mad Mike

After a five-year hiatus from Formula Drift, Mad Mike returned for the '15 season. He missed the first round in Long Beach, but that didn't stop him from being the most entertaining guy to watch in the series. He's been a worldwide crowd favorite, especially with his RX-7 and RX-8 drift cars; however, his four-rotor, twin-turbo, 1,000+hp Mazda MX-5 was equally, if not more wicked to watch in competition. Mike's best finish was at Irwindale in the Top 8, where he lost to the current champ, Frederic Aasbo, but we're looking forward to seeing him bounce back and become a serious contender for the '16 season.

Best Model
Magda Angel

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It's always a dream come true to reconnect with Magda, our cover girl for the November '14 issue. Don't forget to follow her on Instagram at @magdaangel, and also be warned... her amazing charm, Colombian beauty, and Spanish accent will leave you melting.

Best Old School
OS Giken's 240Z

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Best of sema 2015 os giken 240z Photo 23/47   |   Best Of Sema 2015 Os Giken 240Z

This year's show featured tons of old-school Japanese cars, but it was OS Giken's '71 240Z that was perhaps the most overlooked yet awesome one of them all. Under the hood was one of OS Giken's original TC24-B1Zs—the first conversion done in North America. It's considered the unicorn of Nissan's L-Series motors and was built around high power and high rpms in mind, based around a twin-cam crossflow head with gear-driven timing. The setup was built back in the day but refreshed for better efficiency and reliability. Don't be surprised to see this engine spin up to 10,000 rpm! This particular Z also featured 50mm Solex carbs, OS Giken's triple-plate clutch, and R180 LSD, plus Panasport C8 wheels.

Best S2000
Tom Syhachack's AP2

Best of sema 2015 tom syhachack ap2 s2000 Photo 24/47   |   Best Of Sema 2015 Tom Syhachack Ap2 S2000
Best of sema 2015 tom syhachack ap2 s2000 Photo 25/47   |   Best Of Sema 2015 Tom Syhachack Ap2 S2000

We're always pleased to see hard-core enthusiast builds appear at SEMA, especially those who have had to travel 1,000+ miles just to be at the show. Tom's '06 S2000 is one such example, featured in the Meguiar's Car Crazy booth. He lives in Texas and has built one of the cleanest S2Ks in recent years with an immaculate shaved bay—one of the best we've seen on an S2000.

Best BRZ/FR-S
Garrett Jarboe's BRZ

Best of sema 2015 garret jarboe brz Photo 26/47   |   Best Of Sema 2015 Garret Jarboe Brz
Best of sema 2015 garret jarboe brz Photo 27/47   |   Best Of Sema 2015 Garret Jarboe Brz

After a few years of "everything Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ" at SEMA, we've finally seen the number of them dialed down. This meant quality over quantity, right? While the exterior of this particular '15 BRZ might not be everyone's cup of tea, we've seen this Subie go through more transformations than we can count. But we can appreciate builder Garrett Jarboe's dedication and thick skin when the Internet comes a-hatin'. The outside features a mixture of Aimgain and Rocket Bunny parts, which was then painted a Lamborghini Verde Scandal color. The color is a bit obnoxious, but it's muscle under the hood that backs up the loud exterior—LS3 swap with a Vortech blower.

Best Badass
WelderUp's Diesel Rod

I'm a sucker for slammed rat rods, and this old '28 Dodge simply stopped my heart. While it's not a new build by any means (it's been to its fair share of SEMA shows), this diesel rod from the WelderUp camp is an engineering masterpiece and goes to show the scope of what SEMA covers. Besides its hard appearance, the powerplant is a twin-turbo Cummins diesel with 1,000+hp and 2,000+ lb-ft of torque—that's not including its massive nitrous setup!

Best Weird
Valyrian Steel

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This "metal thing" looks like something straight out of a Mad Max movie, or an art piece you might see roaming around Burning Man. Builder Henry Chang calls it the "Valyrian Steel." Henry and his team spent more than 2,000 hours creating the three-seated contraption. It's made up of 99 percent 304 and 316 stainless steel, measured 27 feet long, and is powered by a '15 Ford 5.0L Coyote engine. Whether you thought it was cool or not, it had everyone wondering WTF for days...

Best Legend
Ludacris' Legend

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OK, we're talking about an Acura Legend, the only Legend at SEMA, let alone the only Legend we've probably seen in a few years. But quite frankly, we dig its story. The owner of this 22-year-old, 240,000-mile car is rapper and Fast & Furious star Ludacris. This is the exact car he owned when he wrote his first four albums. It's also showcased on the cover of his most recent album Ludaversal. There was no doubt it held a very special place in his heart. Unfortunately, the car was involved in an accident shortly after the last album's photo shoot. Acura's R&D department saw what happened, approached Luda, and brought the Legend back to near-OEM quality with a handful of upgrades along the way (Gram Lights 57Xtreme wheels, Pioneer head unit with Apple CarPlay, Alpine sound system, H&R springs, upgraded brakes). It's no showstopper, but we gotta give Ludacris props for cherishing such a dope car.

Best (and only) Tank
Mishimoto Tank

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We're not sure what a tank was doing at SEMA or how it relates to Mishimoto radiators, but SEMA does bring out some random stuff. We'll forgive them though because we love Janey.

Best ND
MX-5 Speedster

Best of sema 2015 mazda mx5 speedster Photo 34/47   |   Best Of Sema 2015 Mazda Mx5 Speedster

OK, there wasn't a whole lot in the new Mazda MX-5 department. A pity because we think it's one of the best driver's cars around in the market today. But this Speedster built by Mazda is decently cool. It took on a open-top '50s sports car feel with the modern addition of 16" Gram Lights wheels, coilovers, Racing Beat center-mount exhaust, carbon Mu-Len Delta seats, alcantara interior, plus carbon doors. Mazda tells us the Speedster shed more than 250 pounds, pretty gnarly considering the MX-5 is already extremely nimble to begin with.

Best Non-Show Car
Brandon Wicknick's S13

Best of sema 2015 brandon wicknick s13 Photo 35/47   |   Best Of Sema 2015 Brandon Wicknick S13

It's not your typical SEMA car—a beat-up Nissan 240SX with primo real estate in the NS Wheels booth. But this car is campaigned by Brandon Wicknick—'15 Formula Drift rookie who's been winning over fans with his 800+hp 2JZ-powered S13. The Utah native reached the Top 32 four times last season, and he's looking to break out this year. Keep an eye out!

Best Mustang
Selected by Muscle Mustangs and Fast Fords

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"This drop-top New Edge Mustang was chock-full of carbon fiber and plenty of aero mods to make it fly in more than one sense. If the Sonic blue paint wasn't enough to make you do a double take, the aggressive fender flares (similar to a set of Bushwhacker fender flares on lifted trucks) and wide stance were sure to make you stop and stare. You just can't help it. It's like finding a naked clown juggling on a unicycle—you just gotta look. It is certainly different from the drag cars I'm used to seeing, but dare I say it, I actually thought it was pretty cool! I will never admit to it in person or amongst a group of hard-core Fox-body guys, but it definitely piqued my curiosity. Hey, what can I say? Variety is the spice of life!" - Agustin Jimenez, technical editor

Scion Tuner Challenge
Illest vs. Crooks & Castles

We can't express how humblessed we were to be part of the Scion Tuner Challenge in '14, building our ITB'd, widebody, Release Series 1.0-inspired FR-S. Last year, Scion took a different approach, giving two of its latest iM hatchbacks to lifestyle fashion brands Illest and Crooks & Castles. Both cars were on display in the Toyo Treadpass, but the winners were decided at the L.A. Auto Show only a few weeks after.

Best of sema 2015 illest fatlace scion im Photo 37/47   |   Best Of Sema 2015 Illest Fatlace Scion Im
Best of sema 2015 crooks and castles scion im Photo 38/47   |   Best Of Sema 2015 Crooks And Castles Scion Im

As one of this year's judges, it was a tough competition between the two vehicles, but in the end, Mark Arcenal of Illest/Fatlace really stepped up the game with a clean VIP approach and near-perfect execution. Congrats to Mark and also Rob Panlilio of Crooks for two great STC builds!

Best of sema 2015 honda soiree Photo 39/47   |   Best Of Sema 2015 Honda Soiree

Must Try #1 - Honda Soiree
For the last several years, our friends at Honda have put on the best Tuesday night party to kick off SEMA. This year's event at Hakkasan at MGM Grand was no exception! hondasoiree.com

Best of sema 2015 district one Photo 40/47   |   Best Of Sema 2015 District One

Must Try #2 - District One
You won't find a better place for Vietnamese food in Vegas. Try the oxtail pho, lobster pho, spring rolls, oysters... The list goes on and on! Have a shot of Fernet for us while you're waiting. districtonelv.com

Best of sema 2015 noodle pot Photo 41/47   |   Best Of Sema 2015 Noodle Pot

Must Try #3 - Noodle Pot
For Taiwanese food lovers, sometimes you need a meal that's quick and easy. Check out this spot for a solid bowl of beef noodle soup. The dumplings aren't bad, either.

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Must Try #4 - Spearmint Rhino
I don't care what the taxi driver says, don't go to Little Darlings. For the best in "adult" entertainment, look no further than behind the Trump Hotel off S. Highland Drive. spearmintrhinolv.com

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Must Try #5 - Jinya Ramen
We realize it's a chain restaurant, but for a bomb ramen joint that's clean, usually has no wait, and has a large menu to order from, Jinya is your spot. For a more authentic flavor, though, we recommend Monta Ramen a little further from the Strip. jinya-ramenbar.com

Best of sema 2015 encore beach club Photo 44/47   |   Best Of Sema 2015 Encore Beach Club

Must Try #6 - Encore Beach Club
If you catch yourself in Vegas during the summer, don't waste your weekends huddled up in air conditioning inside the casino. Make your way to Encore Beach Club for the best day parties Vegas has to offer. encorebeachclub.com

Best of sema 2015 the cosmo Photo 45/47   |   Best Of Sema 2015 The Cosmo

Must Try #7 - The Cosmo
I've stayed at every hotel possible. There are certainly nicer rooms and amenities at other hotels, but if you're looking for an overall great package of great restaurants, nightlife, room quality, and location, the Cosmopolitan is your spot. cosmopolitanlasvegas.com

Best of sema 2015 mastro Photo 46/47   |   Best Of Sema 2015 Mastro

Must Try #8 - Mastro's
Every hotel and casino in Vegas has an amazing steakhouse. I've had good experiences at all of them, but for some reason, I always gravitate to Mastro's Ocean Club inside the Shops at Crystals. mastrosrestaurants.com

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Must Try #9 - Shake Shack
Now you don't have to visit New York, Chicago, Florida, or Georgia to have your favorite burger and custard. Just outside the New York New York hotel is this tasty place. shakeshack.com

Sam Du
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