Our top 10 cars from the 2021 SEMA Show

Here are the 10 best cars to be unveiled at this year’s SEMA Show – according to us


AFTER a year off due to COVID-19, this year’s SEMA Show was down on numbers but had a great vibe, with exhibitors and buyers alike glad to be back at the biggest aftermarket automotive trade event on earth.

The lay-off also allowed several builders extra time to work up to the show with a little extra polish and finesse, bringing some of SEMA’s cleanest offerings in recent years. Here are 10 of our favourite builds from the event.

1. It’s fantastic when a concept comes to life, which is exactly the case for the ’72 Plymouth Scamp built by Steve Strope from Pure Vision Design. The concept was originally drawn up as a sketch for Hot Rod magazine by illustrator Eric Brockmeyer, and that’s all it was intended to be until Bob Florine from ARP decided he wanted the real thing.

Strope found himself commissioned to develop the air-grabber bonnet, doing it in such a way as to make it seem that it had been there since day dot.

The rest of the body stayed largely unmodified, with the fully functional air-grabber feeding a stroked 360 Mopar punched out to 418 cubes.

2. Have you ever done something just to prove someone wrong? That’s exactly what Bryce Yeager from Street Aero did when he swapped a Toyota 2JZ turbo into a Lamborghini Gallardo.

While he did bolt the 2JZ to the original Gallardo six-speed manual, the rest of the conversion wasn’t exactly straightforward. Despite replacing a V10, the six-cylinder 2JZ created so much of a clearance headache that the whole car had to be extended by over four inches to make the Toyota donk fit. The 2JZ is a 1500hp-capable mill, using a monster 85mm hairdryer and exposed rear wheels to let you know this thing means business.

3. Hot rodder Gordon Tronson opted for the double cheeseburger option when building his GT-SSC SuperSuperCar, which is based on a C5 Corvette. Under the new body sits a pair of supercharged LT4 crate engines used in the C7 Z06, mounted behind the front seats.

Both the mills feed their power to a single 4L60E transmission, but require their own ECUs to keep everything under control, which is hard to do when you have a combined 1300hp on tap.

4. Salvage To Savage’s 1985 Chevy C10 is probably the most radical EV of the year. It’s constructed around a C5 Corvette IFS and Tesla Model S IRS, with the perimeter frame surrounding a Model 3 battery pack as well. A Model S AWD powertrain has been used, too, with the front and rear motors powering all four wheels.

From there, the body was draped over the new chassis, and then 3D-scanned for the one-off composite flares. The idea is that with the high-angle steering up front and bulldog stance, it’ll be a rowdy drift machine with the brutal torque of those Tesla motors.

5. Dayton Jacobson’s Chevy S10 pick-up slides between old-school mini-trucking and modern street machine with its burly turbo LS under the bonnet. Unlike many SEMA builds that are last-minute purchases built in the year or two ahead of their reveal, Jacobson’s S10 started off modestly enough as his personal project.

The exterior incorporates pieces like the classic Cadillac DeVille tail-lights frenched into the bed corners, a Pontiac G6 folding-glass-panel sunroof, and a CTS-V extractor bonnet scoop. Those drag radials poking out under the rear guards offer a small hint of the wallop under the bonnet.

Jacobson won top honours in SEMA’s Young Guns category, and was one of a dozen other builders who made it through to the Top 12 Finalists for Battle of the Builders.

6. SpeedKore’s mid-engined, Hemi-under-glass Charger may have been created for the movies, but there aren’t any fake special effects in its implementation. The result is one of the craziest Mopar builds in recent memory.

Designed for the recent Fast 9 flick, the Charger stood as Dom Toretto’s hero car in the film. The mid-mounted Hellcat V8 directs torque through a Lamborghini Gallardo transaxle, complete with gated shifter, eventually putting that power to the ground through custom 18×10.5 and 18×12.5 HRE ‘Hellacious’ wheels. Beneath the matte-black paint is an all carbonfibre widebody that exaggerates the Charger’s original character lines in order to wrap the guards around those streamrollers.

Underneath that glass cover, the mid-mount Hemi is mechanical art, with the headers rising up and over the engine bay in symmetry with the notorious ‘waffle-iron’ supercharger of the 6.2-litre Hellcat motor.

7. Supras weren’t uncommon at SEMA this year, but beneath the bonnet of this carbon-covered unit is a LeMans legend. Ryan Tuerck is known for wildcard engine swaps like the ‘GT4586’ Toyota GT86 with a Ferrari 458 motor, and to raise the bar further, Tuerck dug up a Judd GV4 V10 for this Supra.

With its roots growing from Formula One, the 4.0-litre V10 found its home in endurance racing, notably in LMP1. Tuerck was inspired by hillclimb attack cars that also used the engine, with the 11,000rpm banshee scream through the trees leaving a mark on him.

That chaos is channelled through a Holinger sequential six-speed manual ahead of a Ford 8.8-inch centre. This new car isn’t strictly a drift car, either, set up as something of a do-all road/race machine.

8. Brian Rogers’s twin-turbo, 7.3-litre Power Stroke-powered Ford 8N tractor is bonkers, in no small part due to the 28x16in wheels out back. Some 70-odd years ago, this tractor rolled out of the factory with a bit over 20hp, and they were already hairy enough chugging along at their top speed of roughly 40km/h – can’t imagine spooling this up in high-range.

9. This 1965 Chevelle built by Tim Strange from Strange Motion Rod & Custom is a father-son project, a tribute to the Chevelle Tim had when he was 14. Sadly, that car is long gone, but luckily Strange’s childhood friend had this damaged ’65 Chevelle that was the perfect base for Tim and his father to build their dream machine.

The pair of them built a car with a big set of meats and a killer stance, using a carby-fed big-block Chev to create one heck of a tribute.

10. Creative Rod & Kustom’s 1930 Model A is an exercise in subtlety, with no single element standing out among the pile of custom touches. The Model A is the quintessential hot rod, so differentiating them comes down to being devilish about the details.

The earthy green and bronze colour scheme, complemented by the cream and brown interior, pulls you in with the monolithic draw of a mahogany liquor cabinet. It’s not trying hard for your attention by shouting loudly at its surface, instead directing the eye to the details throughout.

The body was channelled and then chopped 4.25 inches – the right amount to bring the car’s profile down to the horizon without being comically tough to see out of. What wasn’t entirely expected by most was the attention to detail under the bonnet, with a one-off intake arrangement catching the eye of many.