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SEMA Concludes Online Search for Top Young Builders

By Richard Hail

Young Guns
(L-R) Thomas Dickerson’s ’67 Ford Shelby GT350, Dayton
Jacobsen’s ’00 Chevrolet S10, Cole Marten’s ’91 Nissan Skyline
R32 GT-R.

Three aspiring young builders have been awarded Golden Tickets in the 2021 SEMA Battle of the Builders Young Guns virtual regional qualifier events.

With former Battle of the Builders competitors Eddie Pettus, Muzzy Yousefi, Randy Borcherding, Jeremiah Profitt and Kyle Kuhnhausen serving as judges for the virtual corrals, competitors represented a diverse group of applicants from across North America. Judges interviewed each builder with in-depth questions about their vehicles, from paint and body work, to powertrain setup to custom fabrication and more.

Thomas Dickerson of Athens, Georgia, received the first Golden Ticket with his ’67 Ford Shelby GT350 Mustang. Dickerson fabricated and 3D-printed multiple components and parts for this project. He rebuilt the small block, TREMEC five-speed transmission and the differential. Body work was handled by this Young Gun and he painted the pony car as well. Modern touches introduced to this classic include power locks and windows and a push-button start.

The second Golden Ticket was awarded to Dayton Jacobsen of Burnsville, Minnesota. The amount of fabrication Jacobson has done on his ’00 Chevrolet S10 is nothing short of amazing. He welded in a panoramic sunroof from a Pontiac G6, a hood vent from a Cadillac CTS-V and hand-formed the front bumper, grille and tailgate. The rear frame was back-halved to accommodate the Watts Link, 9-in. rear-end and the 335/30/19 tires.

Cole Marten of Penticton, British Columbia, received the final Golden Ticket for his ’91 Nissan Skyline R32 GT-R. Starting with the world’s first left-hand-drive conversion, the list of mods Marten has executed are endless. This R32 features both a 1,000 hp 2JZ engine conversion along with a changeover to AWD requiring a custom front diff, transmission tunnel and adaptor. A widebody kit was molded in to make the 6-in. wide body increase look seamless. The interior features enhancements, such as a custom LHD Dash and touchscreen display that allows for tuning on the fly.

Each of these young vehicle builders (age 27 and under) will compete in the coveted SEMA Battle of the Builders competition alongside hundreds of established vehicle builders. As part of the prize package, they will receive paid transportation for their winning vehicle to the SEMA Show, a designated feature vehicle spot at the Show and all-expenses-paid for two to Las Vegas for the event. The builders will also have the opportunity to meet and network with more than 1,600 manufacturers on the SEMA Show floor and attend any of the educational programs.

The Battle of the Builders competition celebrates the amazing craftsmanship and talents of people who create and build some of the most unique cars in the world. With the exception of the Young Guns Regional winners, the competition is open exclusively to builders with vehicles on display at the SEMA Show, thereby representing the top builders in the world. The “Young Guns” classification highlights up-and-coming builders that are under 27 years old who have performed the majority of the work on their vehicles. This category allows the builders entrance into the competition as they don’t have the manufacturer relationships to otherwise get their vehicle into the competition.

For more information about the SEMA Battle of the Builders competition or the SEMA Young Guns program, visit or