By Steve Campbell
2015 Battle of the Builders
First Look at the Early Entries
The finals of the 2015 SEMA Battle of the Builders will take place Friday, November 6, at the SEMA Show in Las Vegas, but master craftsmen and vehicle owners were queued up well in advance to sign up for a chance to claim the winner’s trophy. Entries began to be posted at the official SEMA Ignited website (www.SEMAignited.com) in August, and while the determination of final status was also dependent on each entry landing a spot as a display, feature or booth vehicle at the Show, early indications pointed to another strong field.
Editors from leading automotive industry publications will review and winnow the field to the top 10 at the SEMA Show, and then the competitors themselves will vote on the ultimate champion. Velocity Channel will once again produce a television program that will track the action from the builds’ early days to the culminating ceremony and will telecast a show based on the competition in early 2016. The winner could well come from this list of preliminary entrants. Take a look to see if you can pick out that special builder and his or her vehicle.
Gilbert Losi, ’56 Plymouth Convertible (Photo by Eric Geisert)
Booth: Axalta, 22391
Gilbert Losi’s cars are award winners. His ’61 Chevrolet bubble top, built by Steve Cook Creations, was featured in Street Rodder and won honors at the 2013 Ridler as well as a best in class at the Grand National Roadster Show. His ’67 Buick Riviera, also built by Cook, was a finalist for the Goodguys Custom Rod of the Year and was featured in Custom Rodder. His ’60 Ford convertible, re-built by Charlie Hutton, was featured in Hot Rod and Street Rodder. And now, this 1956 Plymouth convertible, yet another build by Cook, is his Battle of the Builders entry.
It was a Great 8 finalist in this year’s Ridler competition and was a Custom Rod of the Year finalist in this year’s Goodguys show in Del Mar. Gabe Lopez of San Bernardino did the interior, and the custom wheels are from Mike Curtis on a Foose design. The 6.1 Hemi engine and five-speed transmission combo features electronics by Imaginate, and the paint color is Burning Brick by Axalta.
Alan Banuelos, ’77 Pontiac Trans Am
With years of experience and having received awards and turned a few heads, Alan Banuelos knows he’s doing something right. His ambition is to one day be as good as Chip Foose. “My ’77 T/A will show fabrication work of all kinds and will be a monster on the road,” he said. The Pontiac features a wide-body kit, a 650hp LS1 engine, a six-speed transmission and jet-black paint to show off the bodywork.
For the interior, he’s going for a touch of factory combined with some custom sheetmetal and is including an almost dirt-style rollbar. He’s also hoping to do a boat-style speaker system.
Brian Moat, ’71 Plymouth Barracuda
All Speed Customs has built several vehicles with worldwide popularity, including the Josh Kalis ’69 Camaro and the ’70 Firebird Blackhawk that were displayed at past SEMA Shows. The company specializes in Pro-Touring-style vehicles with an unlimited amount of modifications and performance. The group’s 2015 Battle of the Builders car is a fully customized ’71 Plymouth Barracuda called Medusa.
It is built on a custom chassis that carries a 750hp Viper engine, and the body features many modifications and carbon-fiber panels. The interior is also completely custom and is fitted with modern amenities as well as an iPad that controls all of the systems.
Bisi Ezerioha, Ford Mustang Eco Boost
Booth: Ford, 22200
After participating in last year’s 2014 SEMA Ignited and Battle of the Builders, Bisi Ezerioha and his group are ready for another bout. The team previously built a 1,029hp ’14 Honda Odyssey that was featured on the History Channel’s “Top Gear,” and a 1,004hp Hyundai Genesis that currently holds the title for the world’s fastest Hyundai.
This year, they’re building a 720hp Hyundai Tucson as well as a 998hp Ford Mustang Eco Boost (shown). Versatility, it seems, is a specialty.
Caleb Luce, ’64 Ford Thunderbird
Booth: Martin Senour Paints/NAPA, 10627
At the age of 20, Caleb Luce has had multiple features in local magazines and shows, including two features at the NAPA expo at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. He will be debuting this Pro-Touring ’64 Ford Thunderbird just after he turns 21 and is the only builder involved in the project.
The T-bird rides on a ’00 Corvette chassis and includes a rear-mounted transmission. The top has been permanently removed, turning the car into a roadster. An offset stripe will wrap the entire car.
Chris Lange, ’85 Chevrolet C-10 Pickup
This will be Chris Lange’s third vehicle appearance at the SEMA Show. He and his two-man team are striving to be one of Canada’s top builders. They hope to make waves while showing off their skills and talents.
His Battle of the Builders entry is a ’85 square body that features a full Porterbuilt chassis, CPP big brakes, Boyd Coddington wheels and custom paint supplied by Matrix Systems.
Craig Simonian, Nissan Z
The modifications to Craig Simonian’s latest project, this classic Nissan Z car, include the complete engine, trans, rear differential assembly, brakes and fuel system from a ’90s-era 300ZX. It features a Nissan Silvia S15 rear subframe assembly grafted into the rear of the classic Z, replacing the original rear suspension layout.
The engine is race prepped and is currently tuned to 600 hp, and the entire chassis went through a complete frame-off restoration. There are extensive handmade aluminum aerodynamic modifications that Craig said set this car apart from any other Z.
Chris Holstrom, ’56 Chevy Bel Air
Booth: Rancho/Dynomax, 25133
Chris Holstrom Concepts is a small shop in Washington state that has built a reputation on clean, ultra-high-performance Pro-Touring musclecars with classic style and modern performance. The company’s builds have won two Builder’s Choice Awards at the Goodguys Pacific Northwest Nationals. For this year’s Battle of the Builders, the team is completing a ’56 Chevy Bel Air.
The ’56 hardtop was located an hour from the shop as an unfinished project. It now rides on an Art Morrison Sport GT full chassis with Baer brakes and Forgeline wheels. The drivetrain includes a new LS3 conservatively rated at 480 hp and backed by an overdrive automatic. It will also have a custom interior by McFarland Custom Upholstery.
Cody Turner, ’08 Jeep JK Unlimited Four-Door
Cody Turner is part of a family-operated business with his brothers and mom. They have been building trucks for the better part of a decade, including the installation of lifts, wheels, tires, performance parts and more. Their diesel and car shop has been in business for more than 34 years, but they wanted to get into customizing because they felt that they have the capability of building a beast of a project.
Their Battle of the Builders vehicle is Cody’s personal matte black and red ’08 Jeep JK Unlimited four-door. He has gradually progressed to a 6-in. long-arm kit, added a 3-in. coil spacer and installed 43-in. military tires. He re-geared and built both axles and is in the process of swapping in a Cummins diesel, pushing for 350–400 hp.
Curt Curtiss, ’56 Corvette
Curt Curtiss has been building custom C1 and C2 Corvettes for several years, including a Pink Floyd-themed restomod ’60 Corvette in 2012. For the 2015 Battle of the Builders, he is doing a complete ground-up project right out of his home garage, including all paint work. The car will ride on a Street Shops chassis fitted with a late-model independent Corvette suspension.
The LS6 engine is equipped with Holley EFI and is mated to a Tremac five-speed transmission, and the interior will feature Vintage Air A/C. “The goal of my project was to make it look old school and almost correct but have all modern technology to make it drive awesomely with an enjoyable ride,” Curt said.
Darin Smith, Custom GTO
Darin Smith has been a numbers-matching, nuts-and-bolts GTO restoration guy for years, so this car is quite a departure for him. “We took a rusty car that needed floors, a trunk, quarter panels and tubs and repaired and mounted it to an Art Morrison one-off custom chassis,” Smith said.
The chassis was fitted with a Strange independent rearend, Corvette front suspension and Wildwood brakes. The polished-aluminum Dart engine features Hilborn EFI and is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. It’s a convertible, making it even more different, and it includes custom touches throughout.
David Crook, ’69 Pontiac Grand Prix Concept Car
A winner of multiple awards, including the Grand National Roadster Show Al Slonaker Most Innovative Vehicle, the Goodguys Street Rod of the Year, a Boyd Coddington Pros Pick and a Charlie Hutton Builders Choice Award (just to name a few), David Crook will bring a ’69 Pontiac Grand Prix Concept Car to the 2015 Battle of the Builders.
The car is a tribute to Bill Mitchell (former vice president of General Motors and head of the design staff) and was designed by former GM designer Harry Bradley and Crook, who is himself a former Fisher Body and Cadillac field service engineer.
Doug Gonzales, ’29 Ford Roadster Pickup
Doug Gonzales is another winner of prestigious builder awards, including the 2014 Goodguys Truck of the Year Early, first in class at the 2015 Grand National Roadster Show, first in class at the 2015 Sacramento Autorama, and many others. The ’29 Ford roadster pickup that he’s bringing to the Battle of the Builders competition features a handbuilt cab and bed, bent zebra-wood floors and a handmade windshield.
All of the bright work was done in bright nickel by D&D Bright Works. The cooling system runs through the framerails, and the truck is fitted with Wilwood brakes, Coker tires and bright nickel-plated Dayton wire wheels. Wilwood is currently using this truck in its magazine advertising.
Eddie Potestio, ’67/’70 Thunderbird
Booth: Painless Performance, 23055
Eddie Potestio built SEMA Show booth cars in 1999, 2002, 2005, 2007 and 2012 and had a hand in numerous others. His Eddie’s Rods and Customs vehicles have been featured in dozens of national and international publications, and the vehicle his team is building now is based on a Steve Stanford personal design exercise.
It combines a ’67 Thunderbird and a ’70 Thunderbird fastback, and the theme is reminiscent of the old Ford Car Caravan concept cars of the ’60s. It features Painless Performance wiring, an ididit steering column, an E-Stopp emergency brake, Wheel Smith wire wheels, Vintage Air A/C, Classic Instruments gauges, a Con2r steering wheel, PPG custom-mixed paint applied by Alternative Automotive Design, and a custom white leather interior with Android-operated start and switches.
Greg Higgs, Legend 2.0
Booth: Fab Fours, 35113
As founder and CEO of Fab Fours, Greg Higgs is adamant about pushing the envelope of design ingenuity. The first Legend custom 4x4 made appearances all over the country, including the “Jay Leno’s Garage” television show. Building off the enormous response of that project, Higgs decided to go back to the drawing board and create a more radical version—hence, Legend 2.Woah was born.
The custom off-road machine features a crate GM Performance LS3 engine, an AW580 Mercedes transmission, a chopped Smittybuilt JK fiberglass top, MOPAR hard half doors, Pro-Rock 80 axles, American Force wheels, 46-in. Mickey Thompson tires, a myriad of custom Fab Fours steel body armaments and much more.
Gary Wescott, Ford F-550
Booth: Hellwig Products, 20571
The Turtle V Ford F-550 with a custom European-style camper has been exhibited at the SEMA Show off and on since 2000. Gary and Monika Wescott recently completed a 40,000-mile/two-year/26-country expedition around the world in it, thanks to the sponsorships of more than 50 SEMA-member companies.
The Turtle V is the result of 40 years of experience in building and designing overland travel vehicles. Each product is carefully selected for its reliability and quality. Sponsoring companies include Ford, Michelin, Hellwig, Rancho, PIAA, McGuard, Covercraft, HiLift Jack, Buckstop, Yakima, Grote, Extreme Outback, Odyssey Batteries, ATS Performance, Transfer Flow, Recaro, Bosch, K&N, MagnaFlow, Amsoil, Auto Meter and many more.
Gary Hagar, ’73 Pontiac Trans Am
The Hack Shack Inc. under Gary Hagar has had feature vehicles on display at the SEMA Show for the past five years. They had an FFR ’33 hot rod and a ’29 custom Ford truck featured on Spike’s “Powerblock,” and they built a ’41 Ford truck that was scheduled to appear on “Powerblock” in September. The company’s ’69 Camaro was a finalist for the Goodguys Muscle Machine of the Year, but for the 2015 Battle of the Builders, they’re bringing a ’73 Trans Am that is powered by a Mast Motorsports LS7.
The car has been cut and channeled to fit on a RoadsterShop frame with IRS, and it has been flared at all four corners to house Forgeline 19x12 and 18x10 wheels. The body features shaved doors and a split rear bumper with center exhaust.
Janet Fujimoto, ’70 Toyota Crown
Longtime car enthusiast and builder Janet Fujimoto became interested in cars as a child while watching famed drag racer Shirley Muldowney with her dad. “As a teenager in the ’70s, I was probably the only girl with a lowered car and loved going to the street races every weekend. Fast forward 27 years, and I’m working at Toyota Motor Sales headquarters in Torrance with two grown kids, allowing me to get back into car restoration and building as well as attending shows and track events. I am highly recognized and awarded in the Japanese import world.”
Her most recent restoration and Battle of the Builders entry is a rare ’70 Toyota Crown. It was built Japanese hot-rod style and recently took the Best in Show award at the 400-vehicle Toyota Owner’s and Restorer’s 20th anniversary event and Best Old School at the Showoff/Stance Nation 290-vehicle event.
James Torrez, ’00 Chevrolet Silverado
James and his three sons do everything in-house at their shop, from the building of the frame to the final color sand and buff. He and his oldest son were recently part of the A-team on three episodes of “Overhaulin’,” and one of the cars James painted received a House of Kolor award at the 2013 SEMA Show. He and his sons are now building a ’00 Chevrolet Silverado from the frame up.
It will be fitted with all tubular airbag suspension and will be equipped with a 750hp Edelbrock Eforce supercharged LS3, a 4l80E transmission from Hughes Performance and a Moser rearend. It will be custom painted with full hot-rod-style flames from front to rear and will have a race-inspired interior and an audio setup provided by Kicker.
Jefferson Bryant, ’62 Mercury Comet Wagon
Booth: Heatshield Products, 23629
This will be the third year in a row that Jefferson Bryant’s shop, Red Dirt Rodz, has displayed a vehicle at the SEMA Show. In 2013, the shop’s ’69 Road Runner was selected as one the top five MOPARs of the Show by MOPAR Muscle magazine and was featured on numerous websites and TV shows. Its 2014 project, a ’66 Corvette Coupe, was chosen by Yahoo Autos as one of its Top Ten Hottest Hot Rods of the SEMA Show.
The shop’s project this year is a rare ’62 Mercury Comet wagon that has been converted to independent rear suspension. It’s powered by a twin-turbo 347ci stroker engine with twin throttle-body EFI. The engine is mated to a six-speed auto trans with paddle shift. The body will be semi-gloss black under an Axalta Hot Hues Midori Sour Green roof, with green metal-flake graphics and white pearl accents. The Merc was designed to be a street-driven road racer.
Jesse Osborne, ’59 Cadillac
Booth: Meguiar’s Car Crazy, 61004
For his rookie season at the SEMA Show last year, Jesse Osborne built a ’60 Cadillac and matching furniture for the House of Kolor booth, but he believes that his new car is going to blow people’s minds. The 31-year-old loves building cars and being in the automotive lifestyle, but he focuses on one car a year. “That way, I know it’s going to be the best,” he said. “I have a small shop, but that doesn’t mean I can’t produce a product like the big shops!”
His custom ’59 features AccuAir air ride, disc brakes and Curtis Speed 22-in. red-anodized custom rims. The smoothed engine bay is home to a modified 390ci engine with a custom air cleaner and valve covers. The interior features a full surround-sound Kicker audio system, a fiberglass center console, bucket seats and custom leather interior. The paint is a custom House of Kolor candy fade throughout. Other sponsors include Bendtsen’s, Hardcore Customs, Roach Custom Pinstriping & Lettering, AVS, Original Parts Group, 3M, Toyo Tires, Scott’s Garage, Haley Upholstery, Adrenaline Customs, Eastwood and Paint by Shane.
Jesse Greening, ’27 Ford Roadster
Booth: Baer Inc., 23127
Jesse Greening has been building cars professionally for 16 years. He has received two Ridler awards, three GM SEMA Design awards, numerous Pros Picks, four top fives with Goodguys, a Goodguys Trendsetter award and several magazine features, including six covers over the years. His car for the 2015 Battle of the Builders is a reproduction steel ’27 Ford roadster. “I wanted to have a traditional look to the car while also using modern components and materials,” he said.
“We have chosen a list of notable suppliers for the parts to make this build safe, easy and pleasurable to drive. I have used an incredible amount of design and engineering on the lighting, suspension, wheel design and overall design. We have employed the new technology of 3D printing metal parts for the car.”
John Wargo, ’70 Porsche 911T
Booth: Prospray Automotive Finishes, 10851
You could call John Wargo, owner of The Custom Shop, a customizing veteran. He’s been building projects for the SEMA Show for 16 years and has had 46 of them on display at the event. He’s been in business for 27 years and won International Show Car Association championships, been featured in 194 feature articles with 22 covers, has competed for the Ridler Award twice, been in the top 25 at the Street Machine nationals five times, and won Best of Show four years in a row at the Slamology Nationals.
For the 2015 Battle of the Builders, he’s putting together a ’70 Porsche 918 RSR/LS3 wide body with a rear-engine LS3 stacked injected Corvette engine, a custom 996 six-speed transmission, a custom suspension system with coil-overs, big brakes and ForgeLine three-piece wheels. The custom Brandywine paint job will be complemented by a tan leather interior that will feature a Sony audio system and a rollcage. The overall effect will be Resto Muscle with a European twist.
JC Fisher, Retrobuilt ’67 Shelby Mustang
Booth: Procharger, 23819
Top 10 Billboard artist The Texas Tenors, known from the 2009 season of “America’s Got Talent” and their PBS Special “You Should Dream,” often take a modern approach to singing the Classics. In 2015, JC Fisher of The Texas Tenors will take a similar approach to the automotive industry by transforming his ’11 Mustang into a ’67 Shelby Mustang. Taking on the transformation challenge is Retrobuilt, a private company in Nixa, Missouri, whose lineup also includes the Retrobuilt ’69 Shelby GT500CS and the Retrobuilt ’69 Mustang fastback. The idea of building a new Mustang to resemble the vintage classic was so impressive that even Carroll Shelby took notice before his passing in 2012.
The new exterior uses original ’67 fenders, Sport Slats and bumpers but requires complete customization of the body molding, since the chassis of a modern Mustang is 4 in. wider than the original ’67 chassis. The hood, front fenders, doors, quarters and rear deck lid are all made of fiberglass, leaving the windshield and roof as the only original exterior parts on the car. On the inside, a custom deluxe leather interior with vertical inserts will cover the power bucket seats and custom upholstery. Footwell lighting along with Shelby panels and insignias will be added as the finishing touches. The stock 5.0L Coyote engine will be boosted with the help of a ProCharger supercharger, MagnaFlow exhaust, custom headers by Stainless and a performance chip upgrade. The results speak for themselves, increasing power to an impressive 750 hp.
Jesus Aguiniga, ’13 Jeep Wrangler JK Unlimited Four-Door
Booth: Bolt Lock, 35133
Jesus Aguiniga strives for quality in building any vehicle. He built a ’10 Toyota Tundra from the ground up and participated in multiple shows with it for two years, including the SEMA Show, and was also featured in USA Today, Street Trucks and Truck Trends. His project for the 2015 Battle of the Builders—as well as the 2015 show season—is a ’13 Jeep Wrangler JK Unlimited Four-Door.
It will feature Bolt one-key locks, 3M vinyl wrap done by OC Wraps, BDS suspension, Fox shocks, Katzkin leather, Factor 55 Pro Link, Line-X body armor, S-Pod, Rugged Ridge products, Bedrug Bedtred, Wurton Lighting, Viair OBA, a Bestop soft top, Amp Research steps, R-1 Concepts brakes and rotors, and Centerline Wheels wrapped in Atturo tires.
Mike Haig, ’82 F-150
Booth: Rennen International, 47018
“I’ve been building vehicles and attending the SEMA Show for the past 15 years,” said Mike Haig. “This year, I have the opportunity to assemble the most extensive build in my career and finally have a booth spot to showcase it. Being part of the build-off would be a lifetime accomplishment.”
Haig’s Battle of the Builders entry started as a ’82 F-150. The suspension was swapped to a Mustang II IFS front with air ride, and the rear is a Watts-link-style four link. The engine is a ’15 Ford Racing Aluminator with 9.5:1 compression to accommodate Hellion twin turbos. The transmission is a modified T56 Magnum Xl, and the wheels are Rennen 24x15 rears and 20x10s up front. The interior is a
fully customized package with an integrated iPad.
Premier Performance Products, ’46 Dodge
Booth: Premier Performance Products, 21451
Premier Performance Products is an aftermarket wholesale distributor, and it was awarded the SEMA WD of the Year in 2012. The company got its start in the diesel performance market and hasn’t forgotten its roots. Its build this year is going to be a ’40s Dodge on the outside, with the running gear from a ’94 12-cylinder Cummins.
This rat rod will be one-of-a-kind and will produce an estimated 1,000 hp and will have direct-port nitrous. What makes this build especially unique is that it’s being put together by a wholesale distributor, not a custom shop.
Lukasz Granicy, ’55 Ford F-100
With more than 50 vehicles to his credit, Lukasz (Lu-Ka-Zie) Granicy has been doing custom suspension frames, air-ride suspension and sheetmetal work for more than 15 years. “I live, eat and breathe custom vehicles,” he said. “It’s what I think about every day, and it’s all I do in my shop, Needfulthingz.”
He’s exhibited vehicles at the SEMA Show in the past, and his creations have been featured in magazines, including covers. The Coyote, an F-100 build thought up by Granicy with help from Jeff “Torch,” a fabricator at Needfulthingz, is a restomod/Pro-Touring-style truck with extensive modifications to the frame and suspension, including an Accuair ride-control system and a custom sheetmetal bed with custom wood and brushed stainless inlaid inserts. Its ’11 Ford 5.0 Coyote engine will be boosted to around 700 hp and will link to a Currie 9-in. rearend turning 20x8 front and 20x15 rear aluminum rims.
Mark Cerquone, ’32 Ford Roadster
Mark Cerquone has been in the automotive business for more than 35 years, concentrating exclusively on hot rods for the past 17. He has helped build Ridler winners, Great 8 challengers and America’s Most Beautiful Roadster contenders, such as the ’32 Ford roadster he’s bringing to the Battle of the Builders. He completely designed and built this car in one year with the help of his friend, Jason Bryant. “It has many one-off parts, and almost everything I did on this car has never been done before,” he said. “I started with a Dearborn body and a die grinder.”
He hand-built the grille, modeled after a ’41 Packard, and cut up a real ’41 Packard hood to fit the ’32. He hand-built the bobbed fenders, modified a Roadster Shop chassis, added Kugel IRS with a quick change and installed custom gauges by Classic Instruments. The 1,500hp Nelson Racing engine is fitted with custom headers, and the Ron Mangus leather interior features facade luggage in the trunk to hide the twin fuel tanks.
Jose Martinez, ’96 Chevrolet S10
Jose Martinez was ranked 27th in the nation for collision repair technology in SkillsUSA 2012. While he has less than five years of professional experience, he is a serious artist and car customizer. He’s bringing a ’96 Chevrolet S10 2.2 standard cab to the 2015 Battle of the Builders, with a BorderBash theme. “The two previous owners literally chopped this truck up, and both are in the industry,” he said. “I will build it, as I have the talent and ability to express feelings through art.”
The engine has been bored .040 over, and the S10’s other modifications include SS front and rear roll pans, a shaved tailgate, rear air shocks and 3-in. lowering blocks, 20-in. Milanni wheels, a 2-in. cowl hood. a Phantom grille, an airbrushed Stadium-style bed, tinted taillights and an airbrushed headliner.
Lorenzo Dox Dossena, ’59 Cadillac
Booth: Sonax CarCare of Germany, 12161
Lorenzo Dox Dossena is part of the Celebrity Kustoms Italy team that has collaborated with John D’Agostino from Celebrity Kustoms California on Elvis III, a ’59 Cadillac kustom that was built in Milan. It debuted at the 2015 Grand National Roadster Show and has won many major awards, including a Custom D’elegance and Most Fashionable Car at Concours on Rodeo in Beverly Hills, and a top three at the Carmel Mission Classic at the Pebble Beach weekend.
Both Dox Dossena and D’Agostino have built vehicles for more than 20 years and have more projects in the works.
Jonathan Chu, ’14 Nissan GT-R
Jonathan Chu said that his Nissan GT-R is the first to be built in America with a full Varis Kamakazi wide-body kit, which was debuted at the Tokyo Auto Salon. The custom-painted car features a titanium Amuse Overtake exhaust, full engine bolt-ons and custom tune. It’s fitted with T37 Ultra Nismo Red wheels, a Voltex Type 7 race wing and Recaro Profi race seats with Willans five-point harnesses and a six-point roll cage as well as custom steering with paddle shifters.
Chu said that the car was purchased new specifically for this project and now includes a total investment of more than $110,000.
Michael Losh, ’65 Chevy C10
Booth: Precision Replacement Parts, 24575
While 2012 was the first year at the SEMA Show for Michael Losh, it was a very productive inaugural. He had Cloud 9, a ’67 Chevy truck, at the Car Crazy Corrall, and it was shot for the cover of Street Trucks magazine. It was subsequently named the magazine’s Street Truck of the Year and was also a finalist for Goodguys Truck of the Year Late. Losh’s follow-up Square Peg ’87 GMC Jimmy debuted in the Painless Wiring booth at the 2013 SEMA Show and also went on to be a cover truck for Street Trucks.
This year’s entry in the Battle of the Builders will be a ’65 Chevy C10 called Boosted Bertha and will be built in the same style as the last two. “I like the classic look and styling of the factory on the outside combined with wild interiors, engine compartments and bed treatments,” Losh said. “The ’65 is sure to be a crowd pleaser, with its unique look and its Mast Motorsports LS 408 and Magnuson TVS2300 supercharger to crank out the big horsepower.”
Michael Kirk, ’62 Ford F-100 Stepside
Michael Kirk owns Irish Mike’s Garage, an automotive and motorcycle customization business in Los Angeles. Over the course of the last three years, he’s completed more than $1.5 million in custom cars, motorcycles, roll cages, suspensions, engines and more, and he believes that he’s the best custom builder in the country. His 2015 Battle of the Builders entry is a ’62 Ford F-100 Stepside that will feature custom-built independent front suspension (non coil-over), power rack-and-pinion steering, a 32-valve Ford OHV engine, power brakes, an AOD transmission and custom independent rear suspension based on a Dana 44 center section with inboard-mounted, dual-piston Brembo disc brakes. The paint is a two-tone satin red with satin white top, and the interior is gloss red.
“The most unique aspect of this vehicle is that all of the parts were sourced from the local wrecking yards, and the cost of the build—including the purchase of the truck—is less than $3,500,” Kirk said. “This truck is about resourcefulness, builder skills and fun without breaking the bank. It is not a fashion-show truck. It represents hot rodding in its purist form.”
Rich and Kim Taylor, ’70 Chevy Nova
Booth: Vortech Superchargers, 22367
Rich Taylor is a small builder, but he’s had some good success. His last build, a ’72 Camaro SS with twin Vortech superchargers, won several International Show Car Association awards, honors at the Goodguys Nationals in Columbus, Ohio, and garnered several magazine shoots. It was featured on the cover of the Summit Racing catalog and at the 2013 SEMA Show. His wife Kim is very much involved with the ’70 Nova for this year’s Battle of the Builders.
The Nova build started with a full custom tube chassis that carries a 598ci Vortech V11 supercharged big-block engine mated to a Tremec T56 automatic. The many subtle custom touches include a fabricated fuel cell, a custom dash and many body mods.
Jeff Cleer, ’15 1500 Silverado Crew Cab
Booth: UnderCover Truck Bed Covers, 30115
Jeff Cleer is a new builder on the scene. Last year was his first trip to the SEMA Show and first time showing a truck, and he won third place in the Gibson Power Performer judging. Cleer doesn’t believe that a truck has to have 15 in. of lift and ride on 40-in. tires to be worthwhile. “Most of the market is 4- to 7-in. lifts,” he said. “I’m proving you can build a killer rig in that range.” His case in point is Solaris, a ’15 Silverado 1500 Crew Cab that he’s building on nights and weekends, just like regular car guys and gals do with their own vehicles.
Solaris has a Zone 1.5-in. body lift and a Zone 6.5-in. suspension lift with Fox coil-overs and shocks. The suspension has been color-match powdercoated, and the front bumper will be customized with a Super Rim Truck Accessories fascia to give it a prototype look. Also from Super Rim are a hood scoop, fender flares and a tailgate applique. The interior trim has been wrapped in 3M 1080-series vinyl and features Wet Okole seat covers and a Memphis Car Audio sound system. The bed houses a pair of lockable UnderCover SwingCases, and the bed and contents are protected by an UnderCover Elite LX tonneau and Bedrug.
Scotty Nadeau, ’67 Chevrolet C10
As designer and custom-car builder at ScottyVDesign, Scotty Nadeau completed a ’55 StarChief build for the Hot Rod Power Tour in only five and a half weeks. He has 35 years of experience in the automotive aftermarket and customization field. His entry for the 2015 Battle of the Builders is a ’67 C10 pickup called Project Fifty/50, in which he partnered with Fast Freddies Hot Rods out of Eau Claire, Wisconsin. It’s a retro design that’s balanced with modern technology and was the winner of the Charlie Huttons Builders Choice award this year at the Goodguys show in Del Mar.
Components for the build came from MOZ wheels, Edelbrock, Fast EZ EFI, Wilwood, Custom Auto Sound, JBL, Speedway Engineering, Ron Davis Radiators, Rock Valley, Flowmaster, ididit, Spal, Lokar, No Limit Engineering, Pinnacle Glass, Air Ride Technologies, Toyo Tire, American Auto Wire, The Truck Shop, PPG Paints, Kegler Kreations, ABS Power Brake, PIAA, Red Horse, Gaylord, Phoenix Custom and Machine, Tom Klein Racing Engines, Classic Auto Air, K&N, Speedway, Parker Hose, 3M, Madico Window Films, Auto Loc, KYB Shock and, of course, ScottyV.
Nicholas Ashby, ’73 Bronco
Nicholas Ashby’s automotive credits include GM design awards, a Gran Turismo best domestic award and a Restyling magazine award. The ’73 Bronco he’s bringing to the 2015 Battle of the Builders competition includes an extensive list of custom and premier manufacturer components.
A partial catalog includes Genright Offroad bumpers, a Warn winch, Kicker audio, Rockkrawler coil-over suspension, ATX beadlocks, Mickey Thompson tires, Wild Horses 4x4 hood, fenders, dash, floor, windshield frame, firewall, taillights, radiator core support and rollcage, Daystar body mounts, James Duff doors, a 363ci Ford Racing crate engine from Lucas Oil with a K&N carbon-fiber intake and a Spectre intake plenum, Mishimoto radiators and coolers, Mastercraft seats and restraints, Heatshield products, FAST fuel injection with an onboard computer, a MagnaFlow exhaust, a Tremco automatic transmission, an Advanced Adaptors Atlas II transfer case and more.
Rodger Lee, ’55 Chevrolet 150
Booth: Vortech Superchargers, 22367
Rodger Lee owns Ironworks Speed and Kustom. The shop won the 2012 Goodguys Truck of the Year award, a GM design award, a Mothers Polish Choice award, many Goodguys Builders Choice awards and other honors. The shop built a ’70 Chevelle that scored seven magazine features and three covers, including the cover of Hot Rod last year. It has also had a few other vehicles on the cover of other magazines in the past few years.
The ’55 Chevrolet 150 that Ironworks Speed and Kustom is entering in this year’s Battle of the Builders competition was on the cover of Street Rodder in September 2015 in bare metal. It features a custom chassis, a 1,000hp engine, bright orange paint and numerous custom parts, including the wheels, to give it a modern but old-school look from the ’60s.
Roger Tessman, ’16 Hyundai Tucson
Booth: Toyo Tires TreadPass
Roger Tessman has been a builder and designer of SEMA Show display vehicles since 2005. His creations have included a custom ’07 HHR sanctioned by George Barris, a ’08 Pontiac Solstice that was featured in Fast & Furious 4, and a ’12 Chevrolet Sonic that won a GM Best Small Car award. Tessman’s builds have been featured in numerous magazines, music videos and commercials, and he’s bringing a ’16 Hyundai Tucson to this year’s Battle of the Builders contest.
The custom two-tone Hyundai will be powered by a 650ci turbocharged engine. Tessman said that the on-/off-road Tucson will be a refined ride that’s ready for a night on the town yet rugged enough for a wilderness adventure.
Scott Laitinen, ’56 Mark II Continental
Booth: Kicker, 11861
Scott Laitinen owns Sicchops in Lake Havasu City, Arizona, and 2015 will mark his third year at the SEMA Show. He brought a VW 23 Micro Bus for Douglas Interior Supply to Las Vegas last year and won a Top 10 Mothers Shine Award. He’ll be back this year with a ’56 Mark II Continental called Mae that won the Goodguys 2015 Custom of the Year award. The Continental, owned by David Hoekstra, was chopped 2.5 in. and rolls on a one-off Roadster Shop air-ride chassis with Accuair management and Wilwood disc brakes.
The Colorado Custom wheels are wrapped in Michelin Sport Pilot white-wall tires, and the engine is an 859hp Jon Kaase 520ci eight-stack injected big-block Ford fitted with 3-in. stainless exhaust and Borla mufflers. The Ron Mangus interior features a state-of-the-art Kicker sound system, a custom Dakota Digital dash, Vintage Air A/C, a Ron Francis one-touch start, an ididit steering column and a Colorado Custom steering wheel.
Steve Cook, ’56 Ford Victoria
Booth: Hot Rod Industry Alliance, 23395
Talk about some credentials, Steve Cook is the builder of the 2011 Ridler Award winner from the Detroit Autorama, a 2015 Great 8 finalist, the builder of the 2011 Mothers Shine Award winner, a two-time winner of a Goodguys Terrific 12 award, a 10-time Goodguys Terrific 12 finalist, the 2014 Builder of the Year at the Grand National Car Show in Pomona, California, and the builder of many award-winning cars.
His ’56 Ford Victoria two-door hard top will be his entry in the 2015 Battle of the Builders. The body is wedge channeled and features custom bumpers, side trim and belly pans. The Ford Racing 427ci/535hp engine features eight-stack fuel injection, and the Art Morrison chassis rides on custom Schott wheels. Other details include custom ARP bolts, custom leather by Gabe Lopez and Jon Wright’s custom chrome.
Tim Palazzolo, ’69 Ford Mustang
Booth: Atech Motorsports, 24329
Winner of a Great 8 award at the 2015 Detroit Autorama and a Select 6 award at the Chicago Autorama, Tim Palazzolo is currently building multiple vehicles to compete for Goodguys Street Machine of the Year and Ridler honors. The vehicle he’s entering in the 2015 Battle of the Builders competition is a ’69 Ford Mustang on which he widened the quarter-panels 2.5 in. per side and the fenders 1.5 in. per side.
The hood, rockers and front and rear valance are custom pieces, and the entire front clip is made of carbon fiber. The car is powered by a Boss-headed, stack-injected 572ci big-block Ford with a center-exit exhaust that is tucked under belly pans. The interior has an integrated rollbar with no visible stitching, and the car is clad in PPG Super Blue paint.
Shaun Callaway, ’15 Toyota Tundra
Booth: AnzoUSA, 20313
This ’15 Tundra will feature all of Anzo USA’s new lighting offerings as well as a 7-in. lift from BDS, Nitto 35-in. tires, custom interior from Roadwire Interiors, a K&N Filters intake, Gibson exhaust, a Retrax bedcover, ICI Magnum-series bumpers and steps and a Wraps One custom wrap done in Huntington Beach, California. Thirty-two-year-old Shaun Callaway brings 12 years of industry experience in building vehicles.
“I have worked for various manufacturers over the years, and customizing our booth vehicles has always been the number-one priority,” he said. “In my six years with Anzo USA, I have built four company vehicles that not only get displayed at the SEMA Show but are also used for many events throughout the year and in our marketing ads. These vehicles are built with the everyday consumer in mind.”
Steve Keefer, ’67 Camaro
Steve Keefer’s East Bay Muscle Cars has been producing unique, high-quality projects for the past eight years from its shop in Brentwood, California. East Bay built the Lingenfelter Design winner at the 2012 Optima Invitational and also garnered honors with a top five Street Machine of the Year, a top five Muscle Machine of the Year and numerous magazine articles.
The ’67 Camaro that Keefer is entering in the Battle of the Builders competition is the result of thousands of hours of fabrication and extensive engineering. The body mods are countless yet still retain the classic Camaro look. The car features a twin-turbo LS3, a T56 six-speed, a full Art Morrison chassis and lots of carbon fiber. The full custom interior is just as detailed as the rest of the car, including custom seats, a three-piece headliner and custom hand-laid door panels with a high-tech Euro theme.
Travis Bishop, Nissan Silvia S15
Travis Bishop is a full-time student at the University of Oklahoma. Building cars is his passion and has been since he was 12. He grew up in the garage, helping his dad build old American musclecars. With his dad’s help and guidance, Bishop has built a handful of Japanese cars, although he, at first, built them almost as a way of rebelling against his father’s bias toward musclecars.
Bishop’s latest is a Nissan Silvia S15, which has won awards at every show he has attended. He’s hoping to maintain that string in the Battle of the Builders at the SEMA Show. And, by the way, his dad has changed his mind about different car cultures.
EJ and Amy Fitzgerald, ’37 Dodge
The owners Cool Hand Customs, a small shop in Middleton, Wisconsin, that is just starting to take off, EJ and Amy Fitzgerald are entering a ’37 Dodge that was an 18-week frame-off restoration/modification. It was built for the March 2015 Shop Show in Indianapolis, and Amy also recently finished an all-woman build of a ’69 AMC AMX.
“We love tight deadlines and build some amazing works of art in crazy time periods with minimal advanced tools,” she said. The unique Dodge was a four-door that the couple converted to a two-door. It includes a custom trunk and rear skirting modifications as well as a custom grille and shroud. The Dodge rides on the original ’37 chassis and is powered by a 318ci V8. The paint is a two-tone tan/cream with a gold stripe, and the custom interior includes a solid oak floor and brass trim.
Tommy DeFranzo, ’68 Twin Mill
Ira Gilford designed the original Hot Wheels version of the Twin Mill for Mattel, and now Tom DeFranzo is attempting a full-scale build with Gilford’s endorsement. (Ricky Fullana is the vice president of the project.) As the build progressed, it caught the attention of Mattel and Hot Wheels, which prompted DeFranzo’s team to create a non-profit company that will benefit the Make a Wish Foundation and Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation for childhood cancer. The totally custom three-seat Twin Mill will feature paint by PPG and a cheetah interior.
The car’s name was, of course, spawned by its twin supercharged engines. Each will produce 1,000 hp, and they are being built at Big Al’s Toybox in Gaylordsville, Connecticut. Uniquely, they will be able to run in opposite directions, allowing the vehicle to spin in a circle.
Wayne Halabura, ’33 Ford Drylakes Coupe
Booth: Taylor/Vertex, 23435
This all-steel custom ’33 Ford Drylakes coupe built by Halabura Hotrods and Creative Concepts includes more than 2,000 hours of metal fabrication, with nothing left untouched. The company has built many notable vehicles, including a ’32 roadster that was a 2010 America’s Most Beautiful Roadster runner-up and two Boyd’s Pros Picks.
The ’33 features a one-off chassis, a custom Flathead engine with hidden Hilborn injection, custom wheels and one-off interior components and metalwork throughout.
Joshua Brack, ’00 Dodge Dakota R/T
Booth: Odyssey Battery by EnerSys, 24875
Joshua Brack has been building and customizing vehicles since he was 15. From mechanicals and wiring to metal and fiberglass fabrication as well as suspension and interior work, he does it all out of his residential garage. He’s had vehicles featured in Truckin’, MOPAR Nation, Mini Truckin’, Truck Trend and CarAudio and Electronics, and he has won many awards. “One thing that always seems to grab people’s attention is themed builds,” he said. “The ’00 Dodge R/T Dakota build will be boasting a ‘Together We Serve, United We Conquer’ pro-military and U.S. Constitution theme.”
The unique paint will feature great military leaders, such as Chesty Puller, George Patton, George Washington, Chuck Yeager and Alexander Vandegrift. The truck will house 10 Odyssey Extreme series AGM batteries, adding almost 1,400 lbs. but with enough power to supply the massive audio and video system, featuring a 20-speaker Memphis Car Audio system, a custom fiberglass interior with 16 component speakers, four 12-in. Mojo subwoofers and four military-themed airbrushed amplifiers. There are also six video monitors and a 55-in. LG smart LED screen in the bed that lifts up by remote actuators as the tailgate is folded down. And this is only a small part of the Dakota’s list of components and top-drawer manufacturers.
Charles Grubb, ’12 Dodge Ram 3500 Megacab Dually
Booth: American Force Wheels, 62118
This will be Charles Grubb’s third year with a vehicle at the SEMA Show. He built Blackhawk, his ’12 Dodge Ram 3500 Megacab Dually, as a tribute to veterans and POW/MIA. The Dodge rides on an 8-in. BDS Suspension long-arm lift kit with Hellwig sway bars and air ride in the rear. The 24-in. American Force Twister wheels carry 37x13.50R24 Falken tires covered by Bushwacker fender flares.
Other body modifications include Fiberwerx front fenders, Ecotint custom headlights and taillights, a customized A.R.E camper shell, Bolt locks, American Force bumpers and a custom Blackhawk grille, all accented by a Hexix body wrap and numerous other custom touches.
Kelly Fromm, ’15 GMC 3500HD 4x4
This is Kelly Fromm’s fifth year as a SEMA Show vehicle builder. His 2014 project won second place out of 80 trucks judged for the Bushwacker Inc. Founders Award.
His entry for the 2015 Battle of the Builders is a ’15 GMC 3500HD 4x4 using products from top-name SEMA manufacturers such as Iron Cross Automotive front and rear armor bumpers, an A.R.E. custom truck cap, a BDS Suspension lift kit, one-off American Force 22-in. wheels wrapped in Toyo tires, a custom 3M graphics wrap with reflective vinyl, and more than $15,000 in audio/video electronics.
Rick Dore, Custom
Rick Dore was a top-10 competitor at last year’s Battle of the Builders, and the car he’s bringing to this year’s contest is the 50th custom he’s built. It’s a completely one-off, completely hand-built vehicle with a decidedly classic look.
The scratch-built body and custom chassis carrying an LS3 engine only scratch the surface of this one’s details.
Steve Hill/Five R Trucks, ’16 Ford F-350 Pickup
Booth: American Force Wheels, 62118
“Trucks are not just our business, they are our passion,” said Steve Hill, owner of 5R Trucks. “We have created some of the most recognized trucks in the nation, many of which have graced the covers of magazines such as Truckin’, Diesel World and 8-Lug. If you want to build a truck that makes a statement, contact 5R Trucks, your Custom Truck HQ.”
5R Trucks said that the Ford pickup it has entered in the Battle of the Builders will be the ultimate play vehicle. The truck will include three grilles, coolers, an outdoor sound system and even a kegerator. It will carry a four-wheeler with tracks and a motorcycle in the bed—both matched to the truck—and all of the products will come from the best in the industry.
Talbert Goldman, ’67 Corvette
Booth: Axalta, 22391
Talbert Goldman is the builder of the 2013 Goodguys Truck of the Year Early and the 2014 Goodguys Truck of the Year Late. This Corvette just won the Goodguys 2015 Street Machine of the Year, and Goldman has won numerous other honors and awards. The Corvette’s channeled body rides over a modified Roadster Shop chassis with 18- and 19-in. Forgeline wheels. The bumpers have been narrowed and sectioned and sucked to the body.
The Corvette features a cut, shaved and smoothed rear pan and a false firewall to conceal the engine harness and plumbing, and the custom hood hinges open the hood out over the nose. Numerous custom engine bay panels were fabricated, and all chrome inside and outside has been brushed-nickel plated by Advanced. A Mast Motorsports 700hp engine features Hilborn injection and 3-in. custom exhaust. Paul Atkins did the custom leather interior.
Goolsby Customs, ’69 Ford Mustang
Booth: Hot Rod Industry Alliance/Automotive Restoration Market Organization, 23395
The vehicles built by Goolsby Customs have become staples of the SEMA Show and Hot Rod Alley. The company has built cars for Lokar Performance and has won the GM Design Award as well as being featured during the HRIA banquet on
Goolsby’s highly modified ’69 Mustang features numerous machined parts and custom bumpers, side skirts, valances and inner fenders. It is powered by a Coyote 5.0 engine and rides on Detroit Speed suspension. It features brushed and satin chrome finishes, one-off wheels and taillights and a custom interior.
Jeremy Rice, ’49 Chevy Pickup
Booth: ChemSpec/Metalux, 10643
This ’49 Chevy pickup is the personal vehicle of Jeremy Rice, the owner of Tre 5 Customs, a two-person shop in Peoria, Arizona. The pickup body sits on a modified S10 chassis using an Advanced Design Engineering conversion kit. It was outfitted with Ridetech Strong Arms, a Tru Turn system and coil-overs up front. The rear features a parallel four-link with a Panhard bar to keep the axle centered. It also rides on Ridetech coil-overs, and a set of 13-in. rotors from Mcgaughys Suspension provide the braking.
The truck rolls on 20x8.5 and 20x10 Intro Designs wheels wrapped in Toyo Proxes STII tires. The LS1 engine uses Professional Products and Summit Racing components and is mated to a 4L60E transmission and a Chevy 12-bolt axle. The exterior features LMC Truck replacement panels and Metalux paint applied by I Kandy Paintworks. and the interior carries a Rockford Fosgate audio system, a Vintage Air A/C setup and upholstery by Ceballos Custom Upholstery.
Bruce Harvey, ’68 Camaro
Booth: Toyo Tires TreadPass
Bruce Harvey is the founder and owner of Pro Comp Custom Inc., an automotive restoration and customization shop that has been in business since 1988 and has won hundreds of awards. A couple of notable builds include Ratical Rod, which was at the SEMA Show, and a ’41 Willys Coupe that earned the Darryl Starbird Personal Pick Award, but Harvey said that the ’68 Camaro Pro Comp Customs is entering in the Battle of the Builders is going to rock the show.
The Camaro was chopped 6 in. by taking 3 in. from the roof and 3 more from the body while retaining the exact bodylines of the car. The hood, rollcage, trunk and floor are all fabricated out of steel, and the engine compartment is fabricated out of aluminum. The handmade aluminum air cleaner draws air from the hood, and the stainless-steel mid-length headers are oval-shaped for ground clearance. The paint is a custom BASF mix, and the Boze alloy wheels and Toyo Proxes tires are the icing on the cake.
Troy Spackman, ’92 Volkswagen Corrado
Booth: ESAB Welding and Cutting, 21615
At age 31, Troy Spackman is the owner of Legacy Innovations. He said that the ’92 Volkswagen Corrado he’s bringing to his year’s Battle of the Builders pushes the boundaries and quality of modern pro-touring standards in the shell of a ’90s German car. It includes an all-steel wide body that has been custom built to OE-looking proportions, allowing the car to fit nearly 50% wider tires than a stock-body car.
It features high-end suspension components, a rare Euro 3.2l Volkswagen engine and custom-built stainless exhaust, and the interior is fitted with two-tone leather and Euro right-hand-drive components. Undermount racing pedals and big brakes are a subtle hint at the capabilities of the car’s true potential.
Aaron Brown, ’39 Ford Truck
Booth: C&R Performance, 23319
Aaron Brown has more than 20 years of experience as a fabricator on NASCAR Sprint Cup teams. He started his own shop in 2007, specializing in one-off projects. In 2007, he built the world’s fastest NASCAR stock car, setting a record on the salt flats at 244 mph that still stands today. He has Sportscar Vintage Racing Association wins and restoration awards for work on vintage stock cars, Trans Am cars and a Lola T70 restoration, and he is the builder/driver of the world’s fastest rat rod.
His Battle of the Builders entry is a ’39 street-legal Ford truck. It has a full tube chassis that carries a dry-sump Roush/Yates NASCAR 358ci engine making close to 800 rear-wheel horsepower. The engine is mated to a C&R Racing four-speed transmission that turns a full-floating Ford 9-in. rearend, and it stops with Brembo four-wheel disc brakes. “The entire truck was built in our small shop,” Brown said. “It has broken six class records with speeds of 197 mph and is certified for speeds over
Gary Higginbotham, ’69 SS Camaro
Gary Higginbotham, the owner of American V8 Classics & Customs, started his hot-rod career as a “shadetree” mechanic. His second engine rebuild while a high-school junior was his buddy’s ’69 Hurst Olds 455 Rocket V8, which they removed and reinstalled utilizing a chainfall secured to the largest branch of a giant oak tree. Next was an AMX, a Z28, a Gold Duster, and then a degree in engineering, marriage and five kids. His nickname of “Hotrod Higgy” had to take a backseat to providing for the family, but he continued to enjoy cruising in American Classics. For the 2015 SEMA Battle of the Builders, he reclaims his nickname thanks to his ’69 Camaro SS 854.
The quad Flowmasters roar from twin LS7.0 engines neatly tucked under the AMD aluminum hood. The Z06 transaxle helps maintain 50/50 weight balance on an AME custom HD frame. Other suppliers include American Racing, AutoRad, B&M, Concept One, Wilwood and Vintage Air. The Camaro features PPG paint and accent striping.
John “Mik” Mikalik, ’15 GMC 2500HD Denali
Booth: Cognito Motorsports, 30193
John Mikalik partnered with Keg Media’s Robbie Bryant and Elite Customs to make his Battle of the Builders entry come to life. It’s a ’15 GMC 2500HD Denali with a mega-cab conversion. The truck rides high on a 10-12 Cognito front lift and a Kelderman rear lift with Viair air source and Fox shocks, and the 26x16 one-off Specialty Forged SF015 edition wheels with VVConcept spike lug nuts carry Fuel 40x15.50R26 tires.
The engine uses Flo~Pro exhaust, an Edge programmer and PPEI tuning. The custom bed was sectioned to fit with the mega-cab conversion, and other body mods include Fusion bumpers, Rigid lights, an RKSport hood, a Gravel Empire custom grille, Monster Hooks, Amp Research steps and custom matte and rustic paint. The interior is fitted with Alea seats, and a Hornblasters setup gets people’s attention.
Tim Strange, ’68 Chevy C10 Truck
Booth: Flowmaster Mufflers, 22351
A full-time hot-rod builder, Tim Strange has been producing award-winning projects for more than 23 years. His vehicles have appeared in more than 275 magazines around the world. He is a past host and lead builder for the Spike TV “Powerblock” show “Search & Restore” and has displayed hot-rod builds more than a dozen times at the SEMA Show.
He was recently inducted into the National Rod and Custom Hall of Fame—the third youngest ever. His Pro-Touring-style ’68 C10 Chevy truck for the Battle of the Builders competition features a full custom chassis, performance suspension, 19- and 20-in. rims, sticky rubber and Wilwood brakes, and the supercharged LS engine delivers 700 hp. The body mods include a lengthened hood, a molded and narrowed cowl and flush-fit glass. The interior features a rollcage and a ’55 Chevy truck dash.
Ryan Gruba’s G3 Rods had three builds at the 2014 SEMA Show and received a Customer Favorite award from Eastwood for its ’37 Packard. The shop was also named a top five at Goodguys Columbus for Street Machine of the Year with its T-Rex ’69 Camaro. “Our ’69 Camaro is a beast,” Gruba said.
It features a 750hp, 572ci Grumpy Jenkins big-block Chevy engine mated to a Lenco five-speed transmission. The subframe was channeled into the floor and belly panned. The engine compartment was hand fabricated from aluminum, as was the hood, and the front and rear of the body were widened 3 in.
Bradley Lewis, ’14 Jeep JKU
Booth: Toyo Tires, 40039
Bradley Lewis enlisted Cris Payne in the build of his ’14 Jeep JKU. This build is very special due to the time it took to get the project done, including a Cummins 5.9L engine swap, which required special measures, such as one-ton axles and engine and transmission upgrades in order to handle the diesel’s 750 hp.
Custom trusses and frame alterations were also made, and the body features a full 3M-wrap Captain America theme as well as a custom fiberglass missile replica enclosures and custom headlights. Off-road upgrades included winches, recovery items, on-board air and custom bead-lock wheels.
Boynton Clune III, ’06 Hummer H2
Booth: GoLight Inc., 33103
As one of the owners of Tactical Motorsports, Boynton Clune III does auto-body collision repair and paint, and he said that he has a great team, including co-owner Jared Cooper and Daniel Aros.
While the shop hasn’t won any awards—yet—he’s ready for Battle of the Builders with a ’06 Hummer H2 that features a 6-in. lift, Fox shocks, Interco tires, a Warn winch, Monster hooks and work by Wrap Works Inc., as well as lights from Spyder Auto and GoLights Inc., a military auto truck lighting company.
John Pangilinan, ’16 Hyundai Tucson
Booth: Hyundai, 24387
For more than 12 years, John Pangilinan has been deeply involved in the automotive industry. He has also regularly worked with fashion brands, sportswear giants, influential media and other creative clients and has developed and managed unique projects that blur the lines between automotive and lifestyle. He has worked with brands such as Toyo Tires, Flexfit, Scion, Hyundai, Microsoft and Nike, and his project cars have been featured in Motor Trend, DUB and Super Street magazines among others. His awards and honors include the President’s Choice Award by Hyundai Motor America, winning the Scion Tuner Challenge in 2008, winning a Ford design achievement award for his Ford Focus concept in 2011 and making the SEMA News “35 Under 35” list in 2013. His Battle of the Builders entry utilizes the all-new ’16 Hyundai Tucson crossover platform.
The Adventuremobile is a vehicle that can be used through the week for commuting to work and running errands, and then taken out on weekend excursions for camping, hiking, surfing and enjoying the great outdoors. The Adventuremobile will feature top automotive brands, including a Cosworth recalibration, exhaust and intercooler upgrade, Lucas oil, Rays wheels, Toyo Open Country tires, BASF paint, Aries bull bar and side steps, a Treeline tent with Goal Zero solar panels, LED light bars, Katzkin leather upholstery, Seatbeltplanet updated belts, and electronics from Clarion and Scosche.
Sam Lee, ’15 Hyundai Veloster Turbo R-Spec
Booth: Hyundai USA, 24387
Sam Lee, from Blood Type Racing Inc., built an 850-whp Genesis Coupe for Hyundai’s SEMA Show booth last year, and the car made many top-10 lists of the best cars at the 2014 event. That car used the OEM Hyundai ECU to handle all of the engine-management functions and was fully streetable.
“We are doing another crazy car for Hyundai this year that will be fully streetable and race-track ready, with many custom features inside and out,” Lee said. Some of the planned modifications include carbon-fiber custom wide-body fenders and a fully blueprinted and built 1.6L direct-injection Hyundai engine with a Sidewinder Turbo Manifold turbo kit re-fabricated to build around 500 whp. “From the interior and exterior to the suspension, it will all be changed to build one of our best Hyundais to date,” Lee said.
M2-Motoring, ’15 Hyundai Genesis Coupe
With the ever-growing popularity of Hyundais in the enthusiast community, M2-Motoring has collaborated with several companies to build a ’15 Hyundai Genesis Coupe. The vehicle will use a combination of newly developed parts and accessories from DC Sports, Seibon Carbon, Megan Racing and Alea Leather.
The coupe will also be outfitted with products from Toyo Tires, NS-Wheels and Whistler Group. While utilizing distinct styling cues that M2-Motoring is known for, the goal of the vehicle is to keep its complete function and to enhance the owner’s driving experience. Following its debut at the 2015 SEMA Show, the Genesis coupe will be the headlining vehicle in NS-Wheels 2016 show tour.
Zach Adams, ’14 Ford Raptor Monster Truck
Zach Adams has been a professional Monster Truck driver for eight years and is now a chassis builder, machinist and fabricator. He was the Monster Truck Racing Association rookie driver of the year and the 2013 Checkered Flag Promotions racing champion. “Our team built our latest monster from scratch in a record 76 days, loaded it in the hauler and went to the first event with no testing,” he said. “We won the first night out.”
Adams’s dad is known throughout the monster-truck industry as a builder of show-quality competitive monster trucks, and the team is continuing that tradition with the new Rislone Defender, a ’14 Ford Raptor Monster Truck that they’ve entered in Battle of the Builders. The Raptor rides on a custom-built chassis and features a Fiberwerks Raptor hood and bedsides, a GTS fiberglass F-150 super cab, a Lund bed cover and AVS visors. It’s powered by a blown 540ci, 1285hp SVO Ford with TrickFlow A 460 heads.
Chris Carlson, ’49 Buick
Booth: NAPA/Martin Senour Automotive Finishes, 10627
Chris Carlson has owned a hot-rod shop for 12 years, building high-end customs and restorations. His builds have won International Show Car Association awards for Best of Class, Best Paint, Magnificent 7 and numerous awards at Goodguys events. This ’49 Buick is his third SEMA Show vehicle. It has been chopped 3½ in. in front and 8 in. at the rear of the deck lid.
Among the many features are shaved door handles and custom items that include the inner fenders, core support, dash, floor and firewall, a TCI Mustang II front end and four-link rear with a Currie differential, a pancaked and pie-cut hood, rear fenders molded to the quarter-panels and sucked-in front and rear bumpers. The ’54 Mercury taillights are frenched, and the headlights are from a ’56 Oldsmobile. The interior features front and rear air conditioning and ’64 Thunderbird seats.
Mike Francis, Custom Vehicle
Mike Francis runs Rock Solid Off Road, a small family shop, with his son and a few other guys. “We try to stay out of the norm when it comes to building a car,” he said. “It’s about what looks good on that particular build and not so much what the trends are. We like to build and fab what we need. Aside from interior work, we do just about everything in-house.” The shop’s Battle of the Builders entry is called The Sniper. It is based on an FJ40-style Landcruiser but has been stretched into a four-door and widened to fit a late-model Landcruiser chassis.
Francis had Aqualu in Canada design and build an all-aluminum body that is a solid 5/32-in. thick. The body was completely polished to showcase the aluminum work, and then the Francis crew applied a partial wrap. The body was then fitted to a late-model frame, all of the original suspension was replaced with link setups, and a fuel-injected 383ci small-block was installed. The Sniper sits on 41-in. tires with 20-in. wheels.
Ryan Bollens, ’97 Lexus LX450
Booth: VPR4X4, 37067
As a member of the SEMA Young Executives Network and Emerging Trends & Technology Network, Ryan Bollens is an active participant in the growth and protection of the industry. His current projects are part of the newly emerging overland expedition segment. “Whether it be a weekend warrior looking to go camping in the mountains or a non-profit group looking to send doctors across the Sahara desert, we build the vehicle to order,” Bollens said. “We use a multitude of SEMA vendors, and if parts are not available, we make them ourselves. Our focus is always to build the vehicle to the extreme while keeping it compliant with the parameters set by the Department of Transportation.”
This ’97 Lexus LX450 sits on 43-in. tires with new mounts fabricated to drop all of the suspension components by 6 in. Bollens’s shop, Extreme Landcruiser, built custom trussed axles with new perches for the springs and shocks. A set of 7-in.-lift coils and Radflo 2.5-in. shocks helped nudge the suspension up to around 13 in. of lift. In order to keep the giant tires spinning, Bollens added an Eaton supercharger with a custom air-to-water intercooler setup, a set of performance headers and 3-in. exhaust. The outside armor is by VPR4X4 and features a high-clearance front bumper with an integrated winch mount and a center skid plate. The winch is a sealed Comeup synthetic-rope style, and a VPR4X4 dual-swing carrier bumper holds Tred recovery devices, water/gas storage, a compressed air system and a fullsize spare tire and wheel. The interior is stitched in blue to match the exterior and will feature a full host of camping gear, including a tent, a stove, a fridge and more. “We bill this Lexus as the ‘Ultimate Recovery Vehicle (URV),’” Bollens said.
Sal Danley, ’15 Dodge Charger R/T
Sal Danley has had a passion for cars and customizing since he was a kid. He has built and owned custom vehicles ranging from mini trucks to modern musclecars and has attended shows all over the West Coast, including the SEMA Show. He’s won awards, and has been featured in magazines and social media. He’s entering this year’s Battle of the Builders competition with a ’15 Dodge Charger R/T that he began customizing the day he brought it home. The car has a unique Katzkin leather interior, and the hood and rear bumper have been swapped out to match the new Hellcat Charger.
The stock 5.7L engine is being replaced with a custom-built 426 Hemi, and Danley said that it will be the first and only ’15 Charger with such a swap. “It will be naturally aspirated and should be pushing around 600 hp to the wheels when it’s tuned and dialed in,” he said. “There are still a lot of things being added, including a new big brake kit featuring eight-piston front calipers and six-piston rear calipers, 22-in. wheels, a dual sunroof and much more.” Danley’s current sponsors include Webasto, Plum Floored Creations, R1 Concepts, Windows and Wheels Auto Detailing, Katzkin Leather, Magnaflow, Odyssey Battery, DiabloSport, JBA Headers and Arrington Performance.
Chris Kleber, ’57 Porsche 356
Chris Kleber, the owner of KitMan Motors LLC, is intent on the preservation and promotion of the early racing ’57 Porsche 356 and 550 models for enthusiasts who cannot invest $150,000+ for an original model.
This one is powered by a supercharged 375hp Subaru 2.5L engine, nestled in a mid-engine setup. The car also features Flowmaster mufflers, Koni shocks, a custom tubular frame and Fuchs rims.
Mark Gearhart/Turnology.com, Factory Five MK4 Challenge
Booth: Toyo Tires, 40039
Mark Gearhart has been building cars for as long as he’s been able to drive, and he tries to do something different and set a trend with each one. This will be his and Turnology’s first SEMA Show vehicle, and he wanted to make sure that it wouldn’t be confused with any other car at the Show. The project is based on a Factory Five MK4 Challenge Series road-race car, though it’s optioned with a Street Completion package to make it roadworthy.
It was built in a normal two-car garage after hours and on the weekends in less than a year. The fully built 312ci Coyote engine from a ’11 Mustang makes more than 624.9 hp at 7,800 rpm on pump gas, utilizing billet individual throttle bodies. A racing heads-up display and a dash-mounted Windows-based tablet PC output live, digital gauge displays and also function as the car’s stereo. The MK4 will feature dual electronically controlled fluid pumps for the transmission, rear end and front-mount oil cooler. Gearhart is also developing a new lighting system with LED headlights, turn signals and taillights. “This will be a true drive-it-to-the-track, race and drive-it-home road-race build,” he said.
Mohammed Hosein, ’13 Subaru STi
Mohammed Hosein and his father own a bodyshop where they build regular cars into the most they can be.
Their Battle of the Builders entry is Hosein’s ’13 Subaru STi. They built a hand-made wide body out of sheetmetal, and it sits on $5,000 rims, sports a carbon-fiber wing and engine bay and a custom paint job by Vibrance PPG.
Dominic Le, ’74 Datsun 1200 Truck
Booth: Toyo Tires, 40039
Dominic Le has been building classic Japanese cars for the last 10 years, and they have won best-of-show awards around the world. His shop builds only one or two vehicles a year, giving rare and classic Japanese models power and a new look. For the 2015 Battle of the Builders, Le is giving a facelift to a right-hand-drive Datsun truck from Japan, using dry carbon to convert the front to a classic Hakosuka (Nissan Skyline).
The Datsun will also have a modern SR20DET engine from a Nissan Silvia, which will produce 400–500 hp, and the truck’s overall weight will be under 2,000 lbs. It will feature a custom suspension, Wilwood brakes, Rays Wheels and Autolook race seats.
Steven Martinson, ’68 Chevrolet C10
Booth: Thunder Custom Auto, 32319
Thunder Custom Auto is a young company that has built some of the most unique engines on the planet. This ’68 C10 is the shop’s first ground-up build, and the 2015 SEMA Show will also be its first. “Restoring a ’67–’72 Chevy truck was a dream of our son Robert,” said Steven Martinson. “Robert was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy as a child and is wheelchair-bound. About the time he was 21, we decided to make his dream a reality.”
The Thunder Custom crew wound up using a ’69 GMC ¾-ton 4x4 as a donor, and the project took six years to complete. The No Limit Engineering custom chassis features a four-link rear suspension with a narrowed Currie 9-in. rearend running hardened 3.73 gears. The front suspension is independent, with adjustable coil-overs and a Mustang II steering setup, and the brakes are Wilwood 13-in. slotted units. The engine, built by Thunder Custom Auto, is a 572ci Merlin III big-block with World Products Merlin CNC heads and an Edelbrock intake topped by a Holley Dominator throttle body. The engine is backed by a polished GM TH400 transmission, and the exhaust system uses Dr. Gas boom tubes. The Foose wheels are custom front 18x10s and rear 20x15s, and the tires are Mickey Thompson Sportsman S/Rs. The body received extensive modifications, including a ’67/’68 hood, and the interior is completely custom, with leather imported from Scotland, a 7-in. Pioneer touchscreen display with DVD and navigation and Auto Meter gauges.
Sean Tessman, ’16 Chevrolet Colorado
Booth: Covercraft 23243
After learning and building projects with his dad on SEMA Show vehicles since 2001, Sean Tessman is proud to enter the first build completely done by himself.
The Colorado is fitted with top-line products from Covercraft, Rhino Linings, T-Rex Grilles, MaxTrac, A.R.E., BedRug, Husky Liners, Alea Leather, Prescott Hydrographics, VM Audio, K&N, MHA Creations, Magnaflow, Odyssey, Prescott Autobody, Prescott Tire Pros, T.I.S, Nitto, Injen, AZ Customs, Hypertech, Premier Tint, Red Beard Graphics and Knoxys Upholstery.
Andy Leach, ’66 Ford Bronco
Booth: Royal Purple, 23257
Andy Leach’s Cal Auto Creations has won a fistful of prestigious awards, including the 2013 Ridler, a 2013 Street Rod D’Elegance, the 2013 Street Rod of the Year, the 2013 Ford Best of Show at the SEMA Show, a 2014 Trendsetter of The Year, the 2014 Legend Cup and the 2015 Barrett-Jackson Cup.
The shop’s ’66 half-cab Bronco features a 6-in. lift over 35-in. Toyo tires. The 302 Ford Racing engine is bolted to an AOD trans that turns an Atlas 2 transfer case. Body mods include hand-built steel fender flares, the hood bulge and the bumpers. The body and paint work were done by Adam Krause at The Refinery and Bob Thrash Design. “The same attention to detail was given to this build as our ’62 Bubbletop that won the Barrett-Jackson Cup and our ’40 Ford that won the Ridler,” Leach said.
Kyle Tucker, ’70 Chevrolet Chevelle
Booth: Chevrolet, 23743, 24269
Kyle and Stacy Tucker of Detroit Speed Inc. (DSE) have been building cars for more than 20 years. That side of DSE has created numerous award-winning vehicles, including the winner of the inaugural Battle of the Builders at SEMA Ignited last year. DSE has also built award-winning cars for stars such as Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Busch and others, and the company is a leading manufacturer of chassis and suspension products for the automotive aftermarket.
The ’70 Chevrolet Chevelle that DSE will be debuting at the 2015 SEMA Show will be powered by a Whipple-supercharged Mast Motorsports LSX 427 with a Holley Dominator ECU for control and a custom accessory drive and machined pulleys. It is mated to a GM Bowler 4L80E transmission shifted through the classic horseshoe Chevrolet shifter and redundant paddle shifters. The DSE custom frame utilizes DSE front and rear suspension geometry and coil-over shocks and springs with DSE Swivel Links connecting the smoothed Ford 9-in. to the chassis. The Forgeline ZX3 19x9.5 and 20x12.5 wheels are wrapped in Michelin Pilot Super Sport 275/35ZR19 and 345/30ZR20 tires, and the Brembo six-piston calipers and 15-in. Carbon Ceramic rotors are connected to GM C6 hubs front and rear. The exterior features many slight modifications and details that refine the iconic ’70 Chevelle body, and interior is also fitted with state-of-the-art products from some of the finest names in automotive specialty equipment.
Kyle Tucker, ’69 Dodge Charger
Booth: Hot Rod Industry Alliance, 23395
Not only do Detroit Speed Inc. (DSE) and Kyle Tucker build cars and design and manufacture products, but they also test and race their personal fleet of cars across the country and have won many prestigious street-car races and events. In addition to the ’70 Chevrolet Chevelle mentioned elsewhere in this story, DSE—the winner of last year’s inaugural Battle of the Builders competition—will also be bringing a ’69 Dodge Charger to the 2015 contest.
“This car is literally a super car in a pure American musclecar body,” Tucker said. The powertrain is an Arrington Performance 426ci third-generation Hemi with a 4.0L Whipple supercharger. It uses a Holley Dominator ECU and shifts through a Bowler Performance GM 4L80E transmission with redundant paddle shift controls. The chassis and suspension consists of a Detroit Speed hydroformed subframe and Quadra-Link rear suspension. The exterior body modifications are subtle but extensive, ranging from the grille and front valance to the taillights. The interior was completed by M&M Hot Rod Interiors and uses Recaro Ergomed ES climate-control six-way power seats. The upholstery consists of Cassini Leather along with Alcantara suede and Mercedes black carpet, and the one-off gauge cluster is from Classic Instruments. Vintage Air provides the climate control, and the interior is fitted with power windows, locks and an electric parking brake. As with the other DSE creations, the Charger’s list of modifications and enhancements is long and filled with top-quality products.
Randy Weaver, ’62 Ford Unibody
Booth: Axalta, 22391
Weaver Customs has been building classic and custom creations for 10 years in Colorado and moved to Sandy, Utah, just over five years ago. The shop specializes in custom bodywork, electrical engineering, metal fabrication and paint. In addition to its many projects, Weaver Customs builds one full custom each year to travel the country. For the past three years, these builds have been sponsored and invited guests to the Hot Rod Power Tour and the Syracuse Nationals, and they’ve made their debuts at the Detroit Autorama.
This ’62 Ford Unibody—Django—is entered in the Battle of the Builders competition and had the honor of being featured in Street Trucks, Classic Trucks and Hot Rod. Django originally was to be a shop truck, but it ended up being a one-off showstopper. It debuted in Detroit and came home with awards for Outstanding Engineering, Outstanding Interior Truck, and Outstanding Full Radical Hand Built Truck, and it also won the Radical Truck class. Django is a chopped Ford gone wild, with the windshield leaned back, the fenders widened and moved up, a custom hood, front and rear fender styling with a hand-fabricated grille and cowl and many other custom touches. This aggressive F-100 houses a twin-turbo, 12-valve Cummins diesel pushing 100 lbs. of boost to make 1,000+ hp to the rear wheels. Everything about the truck is custom, and it’s going to make a worthy competitor in Las Vegas.
Neil Tjin, ’16 Honda KR-V
Booth: American Honda Motor Co. Inc., 24887
Looking to pursue his automotive dreams, Neil Tjin and his family moved from South Florida to Southern California in July of 2002. By the fall of 2003, Tjin had turned a hobby into a full-time occupation. Besides designing and working on high-profile projects, he was also the executive editor of Hot Compacts and Imports and B-Scene magazines. His accolades included the 2004 NCCA Industry Leader of the Year and the 2005 SEMA Sport Compact Council Person of the Year. For the ’16 Tjin Edition/Signal Kustom Honda HR-V, the team at Tjin Edition partnered with world-renowned car designer Signal Kustoms from Indonesia.
Signal Kustoms was responsible for designing and building the fender flares and body kit on the Tjin Edition HR-V, and Tjin Edition will be producing and selling the kit after the SEMA Show. The HR-V will also feature custom three-piece Rotiform wheels and custom Collin Tjin Raspberry Axalta paint. Signal Kustoms worked closely with Tjin Edition to design the CT-inspired interior and also worked with LightWurkz on the custom LED headlights. Other well-known partners that are part of this build include Falken Tires, Baer Brakes, AirLift suspension, MagnaFlow Exhaust, Thule, Optima Batteries, Scosche, Downstar, Meguiar’s and Royal Purple.
Neil Tjin, ’15 Hyundai Genesis Coupe R-Spec
Booth: Hyundai, 24387
Neil Tjin is one of the automotive industry’s most influential designers and has been involved in the automotive aftermarket for more than 15 years. Tjin has partnered with automotive manufacturers that include General Motors, the Ford Motor Company, Honda North America and Scion Corporation, and he has also had his hand in designing and building more than 60 high-profile vehicles on platforms ranging from Hondas and Acuras to Nissans and Volvos and everything in between. The ’15 Tjin Edition Hyundai Genesis Coupe R-Spec is the first project between Tjin Edition and Hyundai. It will hit the road in 2016 as part of the Tjin Edition RoadShow. This completely customized Genesis Coupe will be built in Southern California by Unique Fabrication and L&R Autobody.
Some of the highlights on this build include the custom Kylie Tjin Green Axalta paint finish, a custom lip kit and a metal wing by the team at Unique. It will also feature three-piece Rotiform wheels, Falken tires, Baer brakes and a full KW suspension. Keep an eye out for the custom LightWurkz headlights and fog lights, Downstar bolts and lug nuts, Alea Leather interior, Optima battery and Scosche magic mount and battery terminals. But what will really set this Genesis Coupe apart is the world’s first supercharger system built, designed and tuned by the crew at Bisimoto. The Bisimoto supercharger will feature a Vortech V3 supercharger, intercooler and blow-off valve, and the Genesis will feature a Bisimoto tune.