Top ten builds at SEMA 2017

Looking back on our favourite builds from the 2017 SEMA show

Photographers: Alastair Ritchie

The world’s automotive aftermarket gathers in Vegas to showcase their wares (and hit the cans). This year SEMA will partner with MotorEx, to be held in Melbourne, so lets take a look back at our top ten cars from the SEMA 2017 show

IT HAS been a quite a while since I’ve made the pilgrimage to the SEMA Show at the Las Vegas Convention Centre, but I was ready for a big one. The event is a trade show rather than a public car show, so you’ll need to be a member of the auto industry in some form to nab an invite. That said, there is plenty to see outside the halls if you just show up as a tourist, including hundreds of show cars, drift demonstrations and – on the final day – the SEMA Ignited outdoor extravaganza.

V12 Chev at SEMAFor first-timers from overseas, SEMA can be overwhelming – especially when daytime trips to the show are followed by a full immersion in the temptations of the Vegas strip after dark. The craziness is only exacerbated by the fact that SEMA invariably coincides with Halloween, a holiday the Seppos embrace with much gusto. We observed one guy who rode a mobility scooter down a giant flight of stairs outside a casino and managed not to destroy himself or the scooter – all while dressed as a ghost.

Video: Haltech and V12 LS at SEMA

Not only that, but the show often coincides with the NHRA Nationals at the fabulous Las Vegas Motor Speedway – a must-see for any visiting drag racing fan, as the scale, organisation and crowd participation is something to behold. The SEMA Show itself is all about business, with aftermarket manufacturers showing off their new wares and retailers searching for the latest and greatest goodies to sell. With 2400 exhibitors trying to nab the attention of 140,000 visitors, competition for eyeballs is tough – which is where the show cars come in. Each year, literally hundreds, if not thousands, of new builds are debuted at SEMA to help bring attention to whatever stand those cars are on. Make no mistake, the SEMA Show is a feast for the eyes.

SEMA 2017The other main outlet for grabbing attention is the New Products Showcase, with 3000 new parts on show in air-conditioned comfort. If you can imagine Aladdin was into collecting giant centrifugal superchargers and other high-performance gear in his cave instead of gold and gems, then you get the picture.

And while you can come to SEMA purely to drool over automotive excellence and excess, there is a lot of other great stuff on offer, including seminars, an international outreach program to assist companies wanting to do business overseas and an unparalleled opportunity for networking.

SEMA as an organisation has been active in Australia for a long time, but in 2018 they are stepping things up and partnering with the revamped MotorEx Show, which this year is being held in Melbourne, 26-27 May. We’re looking forward to seeing what the marriage between our biggest indoor show and the SEMA folks will bring!

1. ‘7 UP!

ls-powered Mazda RX-7
“I pretty much just wanted to build a nasty street car,” says Sam Morris of his LS-powered 1993 Mazda RX-7. We reckon he got what he wanted – Sam’s hoping to see 1200hp from the combination, with a stick-shift!

Under the bonnet is a 408ci LQ9 iron-block motor, pumped up by an 80mm BorgWarner turbo, Shaun’s Custom Alloy intake manifold, two Turbosmart wastegates, a Turbosmart blow-off valve and a Haltech ECU. How cool is it to see lots of Aussie speed equipment being used on this – and many other – horn cars at SEMA! The driveline consists of a Spec 25 road/ race Muncie four-speed gearbox (a highly modified version of the old favourite GM Rock Crusher) and an 8.8in Ford diff.

A Rocket Bunny kit adds the visual girth and the Bergmeister rims measure up at 18×15.5in at the rear and 18×11.5in up front. Brakes are Wilwood and the factory IRS has been tossed for a four-link. Badness!

Sam – who runs Gooichi Motorsports in Florida – took home the Super Street Best of Show Award at SEMA.


Chev c105 at SEMAThere are a lot of very delectable Chev C10s at SEMA, but the Unruly ’66 built by Lakeside Rods & Rides for Randy Marston was near the top of our list.

The truck sits on a Roadster Shop chassis that is stepped front and rear. The front end is the usual Roadster Shop IFS deal with rack-and-pinion steering, but out back is a very trick cantilever rear suspension. Check out the super-neat bridge cover! All that, combined with airbags front and rear, allows Randy to sit the sills on the deck when the car is parked.

The C10 is powered by a Kenne Bell-blown LS7 and backed by a Bowler Performance 4L80E. Rims are 19in Schott Mach Vs, fitted over Wilwood 14in discs all ’round. Bodymods are extensive, including a flush-fit windscreen, filled cowl vent, Jeep headlights, a 1969 Camaro front bumper, custom bonnet, guards and grille – and shaved everything. Inside you’ve got a hand-built dash, 2016 Chev Silverado console, 2016 Cadillac Escalade door cards, heavily modified Dodge Intrepid seats, leather trim and cool Ironworks switchgear.


Rambler American wagon at SEMAStraight off the bat on day one, Suzie Bauter’s Rambler American wagon shot into our Top 10 cars for the 2017 SEMA Show. Built at home for both autocross and street duties, this oddball weapon ticks all the boxes. Suzie followed her husband into the world of autocross racing and decided on the 1963 Ramber wagon as her weapon of choice. Under the bonnet is a 5.3L LS motor, with a TH700R auto transmission behind. Suspension up front is based on a firstgeneration Camaro, with a fifth-generationCamaro IRS at the back.

And while the car has been built with a very specific purpose in mind, it is brimming with stylish detail inside and out.


Chev Corvair at SEMAStove-hot cars come from all over the world for SEMA, including France! This insane second-generation Chev Corvair lowrider was built back in 2012 by Romain Roulleau’s NewRide shop in Norges-la-Ville, France. The car was originally assembled in GM’s Swiss factory in 1968. Mods include suicide doors, shaved door handles, hydraulic suspension and that insane House Of Kolor candy duco. The engine is a 161ci air-cooled boxer six, detailed and chromed to the max.

5. SWEDISH CHEF Rohan Eriksson runs a custom car shop in central Sweden, and over the past decade he has been working to turn an iconic ’68 Dodge Charger into a one-of-a-kind masterpiece, the Charger RT/R.

The body has been heavily customised to emphasise the fat stance and massive custom billet wheels. According to Johan, almost every part of the car has been massaged, broadened, cropped, tilted, sectioned, or modified in another way. Underneath it runs a custom chassis, with bespoke independent airbagged suspension front and rear.

Brakes are a blend of monstrous Bentley 420mm carbon-ceramic discs with eight-piston calipers up front and Corvette ZR1 units at the rear.

Under the bonnet is a beautifully detailed Viper V10 engine boosted by a pair of BorgWarner turbos. It’s built for big power too, running Callies rods, custom JE pistons, T&D roller rockers, LSM cam and Manley valve springs. It’s backed up by a six-speed Tremec manual gearbox.

Inside, the Charger RT/R has been completely customised, with virtually zero factory Mopar remaining. All of the aluminium details have been milled out of around 6500lb of raw materials, while the rollcage has been hand-stitched in leather.


 We dug Parke Bishop’s all-wheeldrive 1968 Chevy Nova, created at his Bishop Built Rides shop in Elverson, Pennsylvania. Parke grabbed a 2005 Chev Trailblazer to donate the all-wheel-drive running gear, which was narrowed to suit and fitted to a full tube chassis, with a Watt’s three-link rear suspension set-up. Sitting high in the engine bay is a blown LS2 donk, which puts the power down through an overdrive auto trans and beefed-up Eaton differentials.


AMC Javelin at SEMARingbrothers unveiled three cars at SEMA this year, but the one that stole the show was a 1972 AMC Javelin AMX they built for coolant manufacturer Prestone. And while it was a corporate deal, the car has a personal connection for Mike and Jim Ring, who drooled over the Jav in the 70s, when it was a regular customer at their dad’s Wisconsin gas station. The owner – Gary Liegel – put the car on the shelf way back in 1977 and when he finally decided to sell, Mike and Jim had the first option to buy.

As with most Ringbrothers builds, the AMX features a host of body mods, including allnew panels in carbonfibre from the A-pillar forward, which stretches the car’s wheelbase and reduces the front overhang. There are pumped guards, a ’Cuda-esque grille and a ton of bespoke trim pieces.

Rather than stick with the factory 401 V8, the boys went for a 6.2L Hellcat V8, further pumped up with a Whipple blower. Behind that is a Bowler automatic trans and a 12-bolt Chev rear end. Underneath is a Detroit Speed & Engineering subframe, with four-link rear suspension and sixpiston brakes.

The car sits on 20in HRE rims with 285/30 and 335/30 tyres.


Tucker at SEMARob Ida builds insane rods, customs and concept cars from his Rob Ida Concepts shop in New Jersey, alongside his dad Bob, who is a killer machinist. The kicker here is that Bob’s dad Joe was a Tucker dealer back in the day. That didn’t last long, but the love of Preston Tucker’s dream has stuck through the generations in the Ida family, so much so that Rob has now made four Tucker 48 replicas, the latest of which we see here, powered by a midengined Caddy Northstar V8, with twin turbos for good measure.

Rob is also working on a Tucker Torpedo – a concept car that was never built that features an aluminium body, centre driving position and much more.


VW Rabbit at SEMAOne of our favourite rides was 23-year-old Connor Hofford’s 1984 VW Rabbit – otherwise known as a MkI Golf. 80s Volkswagens with BBS rims are a classic combination, but not usually with this much rubber!

Connor has ditched the factory frontwheel-drive set-up – and most of pretty much everything else bar the body shell! The rearwheel-drive conversion is based on a tube chassis with integral rollcage. At the pointy end is a Mustang II front end, with a parallel four-link out back. Shocks are QA1 coil-overs and there are Wilwood brakes fore and aft. Under the bonnet is a built 370ci iron-block LS motor, with ported LS3 heads and intake and a FAST ECU. The power goes down by a Muncie four-speed (are they making a comeback?) and a narrowed 9in diff from a Ford Galaxie.

Inside, the dash has been smoothed over completely, with a Racepak IQ3 dash mounted to the rollcage and an exposed aluminium transmission tunnel.

Connor won a Top 40 spot in the SEMA Battle Of The Builders and a Top 10 spot in the Young Guns division – well-deserved, we reckon! Connor’s day job is at Quality Custom Rides in Lancaster, Pennsylvania – the dudes behind the chopped Camaro powered by the Aussiebuilt V12 LS1 donk (SM, Feb ’17).


1969 Charger at SEMAThe Defector ’69 Charger is a lot tamer than most Ringbrothers builds, but we dug it! At a quick glance the car looks kinda factory, but as you get closer you notice first that the rims aren’t stockies – they’re custom-made 19in HRE numbers with trick removable hubcaps. Factory-esque paint, a vinyl roof and a splash of woodgrain in the interior help maintain the illusion, but pop the bonnet and you’ll find a 6.4L late-model Hemi.

Underneath is DSE chassis gear with RideTech shocks and six-piston Baer stoppers all ’round. The rear sheet metal has been shortened through the boot area and the front wheels have been moved forward, increasing the wheelbase by 3in –which meant extending the sill panels and quarter panels.

Feature: Ringbrothers reveal carbon-bodied ’65 Mustang with LS7 at SEMA 2015

Inside are a pair of cut-down Toyota Camry seats, trimmed to look like factory buckets. Why Defector? Because the owner – Silent D – is taking the car back home to England!