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Taking it all in – a closer look at some of the vehicles from last week’s SEMA Convention

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N100001, the first Camaro built on the pilot assembly line, displayed in the GM booth. Photos by author.

Though it was conceived as an industry trade show to support the automotive aftermarket performance parts business, the annual SEMA Convention in Las Vegas has evolved into a sort of mecca for car enthusiasts. This was the 50th year of the big show, and the number of featured vehicles was staggering. From the cars and trucks placed in various booths throughout the Convention Center’s expansive halls, to those positioned along the walkways and pavilions surrounding the buildings and the ones displayed in attractions in the parking lots adjacent to the facility, there was a lot to see.

We spent last week at the SEMA show and took in as much as we could process, gathering photos and details along the way. We presented some of that material while the show was still going on, but now that we’ve had a chance to digest more of the images, notes and promotional materials accumulated, we thought we’d provide another look at vehicles that caught our eye, this time accompanied by more detail.

2017 Camaro Drag Race Development Concept, built by Chevrolet Performance

2017 Chevrolet Camaro

General Motors always has a large presence at the SEMA show, with a sizable floor space filled with vehicles and crate engines. One of the first to catch our eye was this late-model Camaro covered in the kind of camouflage normally used for factory test mules. Turns out it’s a test car of another kind, serving a group of engineers who are working on putting together a drag-race oriented package for the Camaro SS. The track-dedicated car has the 6.2-liter LT1 engine with a Chevrolet Performance cylinder-head and camshaft upgrade, the paddle-shifted eight-speed automatic, and a differential, driveshaft and half-shafts from the Camaro ZL1. With slicks, it has so far run a best ET in the mid 10-second range at 125 MPH.


1969 Chevelle “Slammer” Concept, built by Chevrolet Performance

Chevelle "Slammer" concept

In support of its crate engine and transmission programs, Chevrolet Performance has been building vintage vehicles to highlight its drivetrain packages in recent years. This Chevelle is the latest, featuring the LT376 engine, a crate version of the 2017 Camaro’s LT1. In this trim, the engine is rated for 535 hp and is backed by a Chevrolet Performance 4L75E four-speed automatic transmission. The engine and transmission are both electronically managed with “stand-alone” control units also from CP. Wheels are 18-inch in front and 20 in the rear for a radical stance that can be maximized with the adjustable air suspension.


1975 Dodge Dart Sport “Project Yankee,” built by Mike Garrett

Dodge Dart Sport

We’re long-time fans of Chrysler’s A-body models, but you don’t often see them highlighted at big events like SEMA, where ‘Cudas, Challengers and Chargers tend to take the spotlight. So it was surprising to see this one, which isn’t even a Duster—it’s a later Dart Sport, the name used to replace the Demon moniker for Dodge’s fastback variant starting in ’73. This one was intriguing because of its obvious Japanese-influenced cues, which we’re told come from the kyusha-style cars popular in Japan. Kyusha is most simply defined as a style of modified vintage car, though we get that there’s more to it. Owner Mike Garrett, a regular contributor to the Speedhunters website, also drew influence from ‘70s-era American circle-track cars, particularly since Chrysler actually offered kits to build Darts, Dusters and the like into weekend warrior stock cars. Garrett’s project started as a means of building a fun car to recall a Duster he’d had back in the ‘80s, and morphed into a showcase for Mopar Performance’s new 345 HEMI crate engine, the 5.7-liter version of the Gen III HEMI V-8 making 383 hp. It’s backed with an old-school Chrysler four-speed—one of the overdrive versions—and feeds power to an 8-3/4 axle that had been fitted to the car before Garrett got it. Full Hotchkis suspension and Baer brakes update those areas, and Volk Racing TE37 wheels tie the look to the Japanese tuner world. The finish is reminiscent of Plum Crazy but is actually a vinyl wrap.


1971 Plymouth ‘Cuda, built by Mopar Performance and Graveyard Carz

1971 Plymouth 'Cuda

1971 Plymouth 'Cuda

Another featured vehicle in FCA’s Mopar area was this ’71 ‘Cuda, which we learned is a personal vehicle of Mark Worman, the lead wrench on Velocity’s Graveyard Carz TV show. Worman’s restoration shop specializes in muscle-era Mopars, and this ‘Cuda was a ground-up project from what we’re told. In addition to utilizing lots of Mopar-licensed restoration parts, the car features another Mopar crate engine, this one the 392 HEMI, based on the 6.4-liter version of the Gen III V-8. The 485-hp engine was backed by a Tremec T-56 six-speed and, though it wore a Shaker hood, is also electronically controlled using a Mopar swap harness and ECU. The only external clue that there were modern driveline upgrades happening here was the “392” in the factory-style “billboard” graphics.


1967 Shelby G.T. 500 “Eleanor” replica, built by Classic Recreations, and 1966 Shelby G.T. 350 replica, built by Revology

1967 Ford Mustang

This pair of interpretations on iconic Shelby Mustangs were seen in the Ford Motor Company booth, each with significant alterations from their respective originals. The ’67 G.T. 500 was built by Classic Recreations of Yukon, Oklahoma, and featured the unconventional choice of a new Ford EcoBoost V-6 engine, backed by a Tremec manual five-speed. The new, reproduction body was underpinned with a Detroit Speed suspension and Wilwood six-pistons brakes all around. The ’66 G.T. 350 was also based on a new reproduction body, using a Total Cost Involved suspension to support the Ford Racing 5.0-liter “Coyote” V-8 crate engine and T-56 six-speed manual transmission. It was built by Revology Cars in Orlando, Florida.


1986 Porsche 930 Turbo, built by Rob Ida and Ida Automotive

Porsche 930

Ida Automotive in Morganville, New Jersey has long been known for its custom work and tuning, though most often in dealing with American hot rods and muscle cars. The team of Bob and Rob Ida (father and son) also recreated the famed Tucker automobile some years back, and has built several road-going examples since. The recent trend of modifying Porsche’s classic 911 in a factory racer style in the “Outlaw” or “R Gruppe” fashion has been gaining popularity, evidenced by the selection of examples at the SEMA show. Not surprising then that the Rob Ida would build his own, starting with a real 930 Turbo. The most radical departure is the front bumper and valence pan below, both created by Rob to alleviate the original U.S.-spec 5 MPH bumper that tends to make these cars look heavy. The rake comes from staggered Fuchs-style wheels—15-inch in front and 16 in the rear. The finish uses Spies Hecker products in a shade called Blau Grau Hell (Light Blue Gray, for those who don’t speak German). There are some other touches that give the car the look of an earlier model, tweaked for the track, and the factory engine has also been mildly massaged to produce in the range of 500 hp.


1976 Ford LTD, built and owned by Rudy Sandoval

1976 Ford LTD

We don’t do much on lowriders, but the paint on this one was so intricate, we couldn’t ignore it. The ’76 LTD isn’t the usual choice for one of these cruisers, but the bodystyle and the colors, metalflake and scheme just seemed perfect. Danny D of Baldwin Park, California is responsible for laying down the colors for owner/builder Rudy Sandoval, using Cromax Hot Hues Candy Colors, sealed under Cromax “Premium Appearance Clearcoat.”


1955 Imperial convertible and 1947 Chrysler Town & Country, built by Mike Rutter and Rutterz Rods

1955 Imperial

1955 Imperial

These two vintage Mopars were built by the same shop, but for different clients. The ’55 Imperial is something of a phantom, as there was no production factory convertible for the Imperial in that year. Chrysler Corp had built one when the model was new in its engineering department specially for company chairman K.T. Keller, based on a ’55 New Yorker convertible. Builder Mike Rutter went the same route to create this one by using a New Yorker along with Imperial items, and mounting the whole works to a frame that was modified with an Art Morrison front clip. A glance beneath the hood shows what appears to be a period Hemi engine, but closer inspection reveals that it is actually a late-model Gen III HEMI disguised with Gen I Hemi pieces and some fabrication. The new engine appropriately displaces 392 cubic-inches (yes, we know that displacement didn’t arrive until ’57) and is backed by a Chrysler five-speed automatic. The finished project is owned by Wayne Davis.

1947 Chrysler Town & Country

1947 Chrysler Town & Country

The ’47 Chrysler Town & Country looked largely like a restoration, save for the larger-diameter later-style wire wheels. But, again, under the hood is had what appeared to be an early Hemi, that was actually a Gen III Chrysler Hemi with electronic fuel injection and so on. Even the early Hemi would have been a retro-fit in a ’47 model, but the Gen III made gave it a modern hot rod vibe. This one is owned by Jay Allison of Frisco, Texas.


1970 Dodge Challenger R/T Hemi, owned by Reggie Jackson

1970 Dodge Challenger R/T Hemi

This is said to be a numbers-matching Hemi Challenger from the Reggie Jackson collection, with a four-speed, 15×7 steel wheels, and Shaker hood. Jackson has become almost as well known for his penchant for muscle cars as he is for baseball, having been actively involved with collecting since the 1980s. More recently, the Hall of Famer started his own muscle car parts business,, a venture he’s been working on for some time. But, he also maintains a relationship with Classic Industries, and often shows up in the company’s SEMA booth, where the Challenger was prominently displayed this year.


1962 Dodge D-100, built by DCM Classics

1962 Dodge D-100

The crew from DCM Classics of Michigan is all about vintage trucks, and Dodges are a specialty. This one, a ’62 D-100, was assembled for the SEMA show with an interesting twist under the hood. The original Slant Six was jettisoned, and in its place went a Cummins diesel. The Cummins swap has become quite popular for old trucks, but it almost always involves an inline six taken from a later Dodge. But here, the Cummins in question was a 4BT—a four-cylinder, taken from a “1980s bread van.” The automatic it was paired with was relived of duty and replaced with a manual five-speed from a 1994 Dodge 3500. The truck’s mostly original patina concealed a chassis that had been heavily reworked. The frame was original, but the beam front axle was swapped for a Scotts independent front suspension with rack-and-pinion steering while out back, a Speedmaster TDS 9-inch with aluminum housing is mounted with a four-link suspension; an air-spring system allows it to drop to the ground.


1969 Chevrolet Camaro RS, owned by Comp Cams and built by V8 Speed & Resto Shop

1969 Chevrolet Camaro RS

1969 Chevrolet Camaro RS

Back in the mid-‘70s, Paul “Scooter” Brothers was a drag racer running a 1969 Camaro convertible in the NHRA’s Super Stock ranks. It was a competitive car that saw some success, but like many race cars, it was eventually sold off as other endeavors arose. Years later, after Scooter had risen to become one of the principles at Comp Cams, the company elected to build a car for Power Tour as a tribute to Scooter’s old racer. Another ’69 Camaro RS convertible was located and finished in white, as per the original. It featured a GM SB2 small-block engine, as once used in NASCAR, along with custom suspension and other mods. The car went on a number of Power Tours from the late ‘90s up to around 2011, and then wound up in storage. Finally, Comp Cams decided to resurrect the Camaro, and enlisted the help of V8 Speed & Resto Shop in Red Bud, Illinois. There, a plan was formulated for an updated paint scheme, interior, drivetrain, suspension and wheels and tires. The result maintains the vibe of the original racer but with contemporary cues. Power comes from a GM-style LS engine using an RHS (a Comp Cams subsidiary) tall-deck block to create a, built by Butler Performance and backed by a TCI (another Comp division) six-speed automatic. The front subframe was replaced with a new one from Heidt’s, and a Heidt’s four-link rear suspension now hangs the same Currie 9-inch the car has been using since the previous build. Wilwood brakes work with a Hydratech Hydroboost system and mount behind CCW wheels. Even before the SEMA show, the car successfully covered about 250 road miles from the V8 Speed shop back to Comp’s headquarters in Memphis.


1965 Ford “Vapor Mustang,” built by The Roadster Shop

1965 Mustang

1965 Mustang

The Roadster Shop has gotten a lot of attention in recent years for its muscle car creations that add very contemporary style and modern chassis and drivetrain hardware. This Mustang had been fitted with a late-model 5.0-liter Ford Racing “Coyote” V-8, topped with one of Edelbrock’s E-Force supercharger systems. The E-Force supercharger is based around Eaton’s TVS Technology, a highly efficient twisted-lobe design. The car was being featured in the Eaton booth, and also had an Eaton Truetrac limited-slip differential. The color is a Porsche hue dubbed Sport Classic Gray; it was one of many vehicles sporting non-metallic gray finishes at the show.