2018 Battle of the Builders: The Top 12
|The final SEMA Battle of the Builders judging took place at SEMA Ignited, the official after-party of the SEMA Show. The Ignited event, held in a new location in 2018, was attended by thousands of enthusiasts.
The 2018 SEMA Battle of the Builders competition began with more than 300 vehicles entered by builders and customizers from all across the United States. The entries included vehicles crafted by both well-known, highly acclaimed builders and lesser-known younger customizers. The 2018 format was updated to provide a mechanism to recognize winners in four different categories: Hot Rod, Truck/Off-Road, Sport Compact and Young Guns (under 27).
The new Young Guns category provided up-and-coming builders with the opportunity to showcase their cars and talents at the 2018 SEMA Show. Winners from throughout the country were awarded all-expenses-paid trips to the SEMA Show, transportation of the winner’s vehicle, a designated feature spot, and entry into the Battle of the Builders competition.
After industry experts narrowed the field to the top 12 finalists, the builders themselves judged the entries. In the end, the builders awarded top category honors to Kyle Tucker (Hot Rod), Eddie Pettus (Truck/Off-Road), Rod Nielsen (Sport Compact) and Kyle Kuhnhausen (Young Guns).
Kyle Tucker’s ’69 Camaro was named the overall winner, which was a difficult decision, considering the world-class craftsmanship and innovation demonstrated by all 12 finalists. The following pages provide a look at the top 12 vehicles as well as some perspective on the effort and creativity that went into their creation.
Further details and insights are included in the all-new “SEMA: Battle of the Builders” TV show, which airs exclusively on the MotorTrend TV Network and the MotorTrend app. Hosted by Tanner Foust and Adrienne “AJ” Janic, the one-hour special takes audiences behind the scenes of the SEMA Show, providing an up-close look at some of the top vehicles on-site and delivering exclusive interviews with the automotive industry’s leading experts and builders as they share personal stories about their journeys to the 2018 SEMA Show.
Visit www.SEMAShow.com/botb for more information.
|The top 12 Battle of the Builders (BOTB) finalists with SEMA President and CEO Chris Kersting (center holding jacket).
Young Guns Category Promotes Next-Gen Talent
To ensure the specialty-equipment industry’s future, SEMA is committed to cultivating young talent in every industry segment, and vehicle customization is no exception.
In 2016, the SEMA Battle of the Builders (BOTB) program added special recognition to “young gun” builders who brought vehicles to the SEMA Show. In 2017, SEMA expanded on this Young Guns component, hosting regional qualifiers at more than 20 major automotive events across the United States, where builders 27 years and younger otherwise unable to enter the SEMA Show can now win a prize package to display their vehicles at the Show as BOTB Young Gun contestants. At the Show, the Young Guns field is narrowed to 10 semifinalists, with three ultimately advancing to the final BOTB judging.
“Young Guns is a strategic initiative to build excitement and involvement among younger builders in our industry,” said SEMA Chairman of the Board Wade Kawasaki. “We’ve been very pleased with the reception to the program so far, and we’re thrilled to build upon its success.”
According to Ira Gabriel, SEMA vice president of marketing, public relations and communications, the 2019 objectives for the program are four-fold. “Our goals are to get young people excited about customization, to develop a robust social media platform to further spread that enthusiasm, to bring younger people to the SEMA Show for networking with key builders, and to encourage the generation and sharing of exciting automotive content,” he said.
The following is the list of 10 Young Gun semifinalists from the 2018 SEMA Show:
- Brad DeBerti; Arroyo, California; ’18 Ford F-150; Ford Motor Company, sponsor.
- Jacob Griffin; Escondido, California; ’27 Ford Roadster; Meziere, sponsor.
- Dylan Goacher (Top 3); Wathena, Kansas; ’68 Chevrolet Nova; Gear Vendors, sponsor.
- Kyle Kuhnhausen (Top 3); Creswell, Oregon; ’72 Datsun 240Z; SEMA Young Guns, sponsor.
- Zach Lagarenne (Top 3); Louisville, Colorado; ’88 BMW M3; CSF, sponsor.
- Jesus Lopez; York, Pennsylvania; ’85 Mazda RX7; SEMA Young Guns, sponsor.
- Ryan Martin; Alamosa, Colorado; ’57 Chevy 150 Hardtop; PPG, sponsor.
- Luke Merrill; Isanti, Minnesota; ’31 Chevrolet Rat Rod Hauler; SEMA Young Guns, sponsor.
- Tanner Timblin; Cave Creek, Arizona; ’64 Chevrolet C10; Dakota Digital, sponsor.
- Corey Williams; Maryville, Tennessee; ’67 Pontiac GTO; HRIA/SEMA Young Guns, sponsor.
’69 Chevy Camaro “Tux”
Lead Builder: Kyle Tucker; Detroit Speed, Mooresville, North Carolina
This ’69 Camaro was acquired in 2005 and has been in progress ever since, a 13-year process. The car had already made a splash on the show circuit when it arrived at the 2018 SEMA Show, where it was sorted from a field of nearly 300 entries by a team of expert media judges and then inspected again by the top 12 builders themselves, who awarded it the overall SEMA Battle of the Builders title.
To permit a roofline less than 48 in. off the pavement, a hydroformed Detroit Speed frame and front subframe were crafted and combined with a QuadraLink rear suspension. Hand-fabricated body pieces include the front and rear fenders; floorpan; trans tunnel; trunk pan; and inner quarter and rocker panels. The bumpers were narrowed and shaped to fit the body lines and gaps, and jacking posts were built into the rocker panel supports. Other custom exterior pieces include the fuel filler cap, billet RS headlight doors and taillight bezels, and hood. The wheels are a unique design from Forgeline.
The Camaro is powered by a Kurt Urban LS3 that has been fitted with a Harrop Engineering supercharger and mated to a Bowler six-speed manual transmission. The engine’s supercharger and custom valve covers are accented in Chevrolet Orange, and Detroit Speed headers feed into a custom exhaust.
The interior features custom leather work by M&M Hot Rod, Recaro bucket seats, a Vintage Air HVAC system and Classic Industries gauges. The vehicle’s electronic systems are controlled via a center-mounted touchscreen.
Kyle Tucker has been a custom musclecar builder for 20-plus years and is the owner of two automotive aftermarket companies: Detroit Speed Inc. and GearFX Driveline.
|Kyle Tucker’s ’69 Camaro was awarded the 2018 SEMA Battle of the Builders title from of a field of nearly 300 entries.
|The Camaro is powered by a supercharged Kurt Urban LS3 V8.
|The vehicle’s systems are controlled by a center-mounted touch screen. The seats are by Recaro, and Classic Industries supplied the gauges.
|Kyle Tucker has been a custom musclecar builder for 20-plus years.
’36 Ford Roadster
Lead Builder: Dale Boesch, Boesch Auto Body, Humphrey, Nebraska
From start to finish, Dale Boesch and his crew at Boesch Auto Body worked on this ’36 Ford Roadster over an 11-year period. Much of the jet-black car was scratch-built and incorporates an eclectic mix of parts and pieces from a variety of manufacturers and eras.
The body rests on an adjustable chassis based on Firestone Intelliride and RideTech components, and the body was shortened 3 in. The roof was chopped, and the fenders were shaped to complement the new lines. The bumpers were eliminated, the door handles were shaved, and the exterior is complemented by the judicious use of nickel-plated accents. The taillights are from a ’39 Cadillac.
A Kugel Komponents independent front suspension and Wilwood disc brakes with an ABS power-brake booster enhance control and drivability. The powertrain incorporates a ’58 392ci Chrysler Hemi with Hilborn injection, delivering power to a Bowler transmission and a Ford 9-in. rearend. The four-link rear suspension was built in-house, and the Schott wheels are tucked away under the fenders. The interior is finished in black leather, with Classic Instruments gauges. Custom ducts direct airflow from a Vintage Air system.
Over the years, many shops and vendors contributed to the build, including Squeeg’s Hot Rod Connection, The Recovery Room, Atomic Machine and Design, and American Autowire. Moon Equipment supplied the tanks, and the roadster is fitted with Flowmaster mufflers, RideTech shocks, a Firestone Intelliride and Royal Purple lubricants.
|Dale Boesch has been customizing cars for customers around the world for nearly 50 years from his shop in Humphrey, Nebraska.
|Motive power comes from a ’58 392 Hemi V8 with Hilborn injection.
|The interior is finished in black leather, with Classic Instruments gauges and Vintage Air air conditioning.
’70 “Road Rage” Camaro
Lead Builder: Phil and Jeremy Gerber, Roadster Shop, Mundelein, Illinois
Phil and Jeremy Gerber’s Roadster Shop has consistently had cars in the SEMA Battle of the Builders competition since the program’s inception, with multiple Top 20, Top 10 and Top 5 finishes. “Road Rage” is the street version of the full-race Camaro dubbed “Rampage” that was a Battle of the Builders finalist a few years ago.
The car features a full carbon-fiber wide body with concourse-level fit and finish, a prototype DBW ITB intake derived from DP Racing, and a custom Fast Track chassis with cantilevered Penske coil-over independent front and rear suspension. Baer brakes are mounted behind the Forgeline center-lock wheels housed within extra-wide custom fender flares, emphasizing the stance and grip offered by this refined pro touring machine. The paint is BASF Glasurit Rage Blue, with gold striping that accents gold under-hood components and wheels.
Power comes from a 454ci Texas Speed LSX fed by Kinsler stack injection with protruding air inlets. The combination is good for 750 hp.
A custom black and butterscotch leather interior by Avant Garde Design is the most visible aspect of an elegantly simplified cockpit layout, which incorporates numerous custom touches and all of the amenities of a modern supercar, including a center-mounted touch-screen command center.
Aside from consistent recognition at the SEMA Show and in enthusiast media, the Gerbers’ Roadster Shop, located in Mundelein, Illinois, has regularly turned out award-winning vehicles over the past decade.
Phil and Jeremy Gerber’s Roadster Shop has consistently had cars in the SEMA Battle of the Builders competition since the program’s inception.
|An elegantly simplified cockpit layout offers all the amenities of a modern supercar.
|A Texas Speed LSX resides under the hood, with Kinsler stack injection.
’32 Willys “Low Standard”
’32 Willys “Low Standard”
This ’32 Willys started out as a four-door sedan and was turned into a just-plain-cool two-door miniature semi-truck dually. It tows an original ’00s Standard Oil tank customized into a fifth-wheel trailer. The conversion required custom body panels, floor pans, fenders, hood, roof, tail pan and bed. The engine is a Datsun 720 turbodiesel with a Garrett GT1549 turbo, and it’s backed by a Datsun five-speed transmission with a ’37 Bristol Blenheim bomber throttle control shifter and, in the cockpit, B25 Mitchell bomber seats. The historic aircraft analogy is continued with custom exhaust made to evoke the ’31 Stearman biplane.
The steering is chain-driven, and the wheels are from Vintage Wheels, with custom hub adapters. The rig was painted in Glasurit Silver Moon Metallic and Admiral Blue, with Reo Red pinstriping.
Eddie’s Rod and Custom is a two-generation, family-owned hot rod and custom shop offering quality work in automotive restoration and customization since 2002. The shop made it into the SEMA Battle of the Builders Top 12 in 2017 with a ’63 Corvette, and it took first place in the Truck/Off-Road category in this year’s competition.
|Builder Eddie Pettus converted this four-door Willys sedan into a miniature semi-truck dually, complete with a fifth-wheel trailer.
|The engine is a Datsun 720 turbodiesel with a Garrett GT1549 turbo.
|The interior is decked out with B25 Mitchell bomber seats.
’34 Ford Pickup
’34 Ford Pickup
This grey-blue ’34 Ford pickup has been treated to the kind of imaginative fabrication and elaborate visual trickery usually reserved for ultra-high-end hot rods. The Ford’s long, low proportions come from channeling the body to fit over a custom frame, chopping the roof 4.5 in., raking the A-pillar rearward, and extending the cab. The sleek stance is enhanced via a unique rear wishbone suspension that incorporates quarter-elliptic springs, allowing for suspension travel while maintaining the long, low look. A flowing waterfall billet grille is another impossible-to-ignore stylistic element.
Power is delivered from a stroked 347ci Ford small-block with Inglese injection, and it’s mated to a Tremec five-speed manual transmission that passes the power to a polished quick-change rearend, visible in the truck bed. Among other custom touches, the engine sports fabricated valve covers that allow the plug wires to run through them. The wheels—18- and 20-inchers—are custom one-off designs.
Graham’s handiwork has yielded many magazine covers and accolades over the years, including recognition in 2018 as one of the top three in the SEMA Battle of the Builders Truck category.
|The stroked 347ci Ford small-block with Inglese injection sports fabricated valve covers that allow the plug wires to run through them.
|This flowing billet grille is a key stylistic element and craftsmanship statement.
|Builder Jason Graham has created a high-end hot-rod truck with a unique wishbone suspension.
’93 Toyota Land Cruiser 79 Series Pickup
’93 Toyota Land Cruiser 79 Series Pickup
This high-utility adventure vehicle is basically a ’93 Land Cruiser FZJ80 topped with a never-sold-in-North-America body, the 79-Series Land Cruiser pickup. To make the unique body transplant work, the ’93 Land Cruiser chassis had to be lengthened 20 in.
It’s powered by a compact and efficient 2.8L Cummins turbodiesel rated at 161 hp and 267 lb.-ft. of torque. The transmission is an H55F five-speed manual that is backed by a part-time Land Cruiser transfer case. The hubs are manual, and the tires are 34-in. Maxxis Razr MTs. The suspension is a three-link front/five-link rear setup with electronic lockers and Bilstein shocks. Auxillary lighting comes from Rigid, and the front bumper with a Warn winch is an ARB design. The interior is all Land Cruiser, with no carpet, and the floorpan was treated with Vortex sprayliner for protection and easy cleanup.
In the bed is a Camp King expandable camper tent, along with emergency tools and gear plus a 60-gal. fuel tank, making this rig highly self-sufficient and hard to bog down no matter the terrain.
Proffitt’s Resurrection Land Cruisers is an all-under-one-roof restoration and custom shop in western Colorado. It specializes in Toyota Land Cruisers and offers professional custom and OEM restoration services.
|Builder Jeremiah Proffitt transplanted a 79-Series Land Cruiser pickup onto a ’93 Land Cruiser FZI80 to come up with this highly capable adventure vehicle.
|The rig is powered by a compact and efficient 2.8L Cummins turbodiesel rated at 161 hp and 267 lb.-ft. of torque.
|In the bed is a Camp King expandable camper tent along with emergency tools and gear.
’73 Mazda R100
’73 Mazda R100
This classic Mazda is built for all-around performance, including road courses, hill climbs (can you say “Pike’s Peak?”) and autocrosses. It’s engineered around a three-rotor, 2.0L 20B rotary engine that is capable of generating 1,000 hp. To get there, lightened rotors, a huge 72mm BorgWarner turbocharger and Rotary Works 90mm throttle bodies were employed.
Engine management comes courtesy of a Microtech ECU, and fuel is supplied by a set of Aeromotive 450 fuel pumps drawing from a trunk-mounted fuel cell. The exhaust system employs 4-in. tubing, and the powerplant is said to be able to deliver 700 hp at just 18 lbs. of boost, or about 1,000 at 35 psi.
With that kind of power at the rear wheels and few options on appropriate DOT rubber, Nielsen opted for dual rear 16-in. HRR Twin-Rim three-piece wheels housing four 205/40 Z-rated Falken Azenis tires at the rear, with Willwood six-piston brakes. Very wide custom fenders house the dually setup.
The suspension includes QA1 adjustable coil-overs, a hefty sway bar and custom control arms from Joe’s Racing. House of Kolor Cobalt Blue paint accents the Sherwin Williams Pearl White base coat.
Nielsen’s shop, Hot Rod’s Restos, has turned out a mix of high-performance vehicles over the years, including musclecars, trucks and restomod customs. This year it was judged to be the top entry in the sport compact category.
|This ’73 Mazda came out of Hot Rod’s Restos in Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada.
|The full-race interior set up for road courses, hill climbs and autocrosses.
|The 20B rotary engine is capable of up to 1,000 hp, thanks to a 72mm BorgWarner turbo, Aeromotive fuel pumps, 90mm throttle bodies, and Microtech engine management.
’87 BMW 325 “Grape”
’87 BMW 325 “Grape”
Known for German classics and a previous Battle of the Builders Top 12 finalist, Igor Polishchuk built this immaculate retro e30 coupe over a three-year period. The car was stripped and the body, with a Mtech body kit, was painted in BMW Daytona Violet by 916 Fresh Cars, then protected with a coat of CeramicPro 9H coating. New fenders and doors with custom door handles were added to replace the rough originals, and a Kamei spoiler was added at the rear.
The engine is a completely rebuilt S52 (M3) inline-six displacing 3.2 L, with an Active Autowerke Stage 2 supercharger, a ported and polished cylinder head with a port-matched intake manifold, JE pistons, coated bearings, and Supertech valves, springs and retainers. An all-new cooling system combines a CAtuned radiator and hoses with a Spal fan.
The suspension is based on a custom airbag system, controlled via an Airlift Performance 3P system with Bluetooth compatibility. The wheels are custom 16x8 front and 16x9.5 rear Rotiform forged units, and a custom BBK Big Brake upgrade incorporates 12-in. rotors with four-piston calipers. The interior has authentic Recaro seats fully recovered in Purple Mtech material matched with the rear seats and door panels. The team worked with Bavarian Restoration to create and install a custom gauge cluster and clock.
Ivan Polishchuk’s CAtuned Motorsports is well recognized in the German car community. The shop tunes and restores older-generation BMWs and other classic cars in a 10,000-sq.-ft. facility in Sacramento, California.
|Builder Igor Polishchuk created this classic restomod BMW over a three-year period.
|Under the hood is an upgraded, supercharged M3 inline six.
|The airbag suspension is controlled via Bluetooth, and the wheels are custom Rotiform forged items with BBK 12-in. rotors and four-piston calipers.
’04 Nissan 350Z
’04 Nissan 350Z
A finalist in the sport compact category, this 350Z was already widely acclaimed before arriving at the SEMA Show. Built at Crolls Customs of Slatington, Pennsylvania, the car was a winner of the 2018 Import Alliance “Road to SEMA” Competition, finishing first place in Alabama, Georgia and Indianapolis, and it won the 2018 Best of Show at Tuner Evolution Philly, the largest import car show on the East Coast.
The car has a molded Veilside V3 wide-body kit and an RHD-converted 350Z shaved bay. Other exterior touches include a custom shaved and hidden metal gas cap, a carbon-fiber hood, and molded eyelids. The suede-and-carbon interior sports a full cage and a custom harness bar.
Under the hood is a straight-six engine with custom ducting and a Vortech supercharger. The plug wires have been tucked away, and the cooling hardware comes from Mishimoto. The 350Z rides on air suspension, with Toyo tires on Jline wheels.
|This 350Z built by Muzzy Yousefi and Crolls Customs has a Veilside wide-body kit, air suspension, and a suede-and-carbon interior.
|Under the hood is a straight-six engine with custom ducting and a Vortech supercharger.
The Toyo tires are mounted on Jline wheels.
’72 Datsun 240Z “InZanity”
’72 Datsun 240Z “InZanity”
Twenty-seven-year-old Kyle Kuhnhausen’s vision for the 240Z “InZanity” was to create a machine capable of driving two hours to the local road course, competing at the track, and driving home. At the same time, he wanted to adhere to the highest mechanical and artistic standards and do it without outsourcing the skilled work or “losing the Z-car soul.”
Battle of the Builders judges agreed that the car Kyle built over a five-year period was a worthy Top 12 finalist in the Young Guns category, and it was the top vehicle built by an under-27 customizer.
The car is powered by a ’04 GM LS engine, which shares the LS6 cam and intake. With a lightened flywheel, the engine provides 347 hp and 383 lb.-ft. of torque at the rear wheels to motivate the 2,700-lb. car. The transmission is a T56 six-speed manual with a Hurst shifter and delivers power to a rear differential taken from an Infinity Q45, upgraded with an oil system using an electronic Tildon pump. The headers run under the car in an X pattern, leading to MagnaFlow mufflers.
The suspension is based on an Arizona Z Car track pack, modified to get the roll center up, with accessible coil-overs to facilitate easy track adjustments. The brakes are 12.2-in. Wilwoods, and the car is loaded with unique, mostly unseen custom touches such as a laser jammer built into the front radiator area to diffuse incoming signals. A backup camera is hidden in the rear to supply vision to the dash.
Kuhnhausen founded KMC in 2014 and makes it the shop’s stated mission to provide the highest quality and personal service to every customer.
|Builder Kyle Kuhnhausen’s vision was to create a machine that could drive to the track, compete, and drive home.
|One of the LS1-powered Z-car’s most interesting features is the functional air-management ducting that forces air through the radiator and brake ducts.
|The five-year build of the 240Z incorporated many custom touches, including these taillights.
’68 Chevy Nova “Kingpin”
’68 Chevy Nova “Kingpin”
Dylan Goacher grew up in a family that lived custom paint and drag racing, and he made his first trip to the SEMA Show at age 16. The skills he acquired over the years and his awareness of high-performance equipment led him to build this ’68 Nova, which can be operated as a street machine but may be readily adapted for competition at the track. The Battle of the Builders judges picked the car as a finalist in the Young Gun category.
The engine is a 632ci Chevy big-block with a polished Wilson manifold and Fueltech fuel injection. Precision Turbo supplied twin 88mm turbos, the wastegate and the blowoff valve equipment. The radiator, the 17-gal. fuel tank and the passenger seat can be removed at the track, where the twin DJ Safety parachutes can be mounted. The fire-suppression system also came from DJ Safety.
The custom chassis, powdercoated in blue with chrome elements, uses coil-over shocks with remote reservoirs. Lightweight 17-in. front and 15-in. rear Weld Racing V-series wheels (with M/T slicks) are matched with lightened Brakeman Brake discs.
The purposeful interior is equipped with custom seats and a full cage, with an M&M shifter in the center to operate the TH400 transmission that runs power through a Gear Vendors overdrive unit and on to the rear axle. The steering wheel was custom designed by Richardson Boyz to match the front wheels. The wiring was accomplished using Painless Performance Products. A custom exhaust exits spent gasses via custom exhaust tips frenched into the front fenders, and an aggressive rear wing is molded into the rear trunk lid.
Goacher’s Street Legends shop in Wathena, Kansas, offers services that include custom painting and complete custom builds.
|Dylan Goacher’s ’68 Nova was designed to dominate at the track but still be drivable on the street.
|Twin 88mm turbos and Fueltech injection feed a 632ci Chevy big-block.
|The custom chassis is damped by coil-over shocks, and Weld Racing supplied the wheels.
’88 BMW M3
’88 BMW M3
This car is a homebuilt, DTM-racing-inspired ’88 BMW M3 restomod, restored from bare metal. It is the first known swap of a late-model M3 S55 engine into an E30 chassis that retains factory F80/82 M3/M4 electronics. The high-revving turbocharged inline-six engine, offered by the factory in the M4 and M3 sedans, can turn more than 7,500 rpm and develop 430 hp and more than 500 Newton-meters of torque. It’s backed by a six-speed manual transmission.
The suspension is based on E36 M3 geometry and is equipped with MCS three-way dampers, with DTM-inspired wheels and brakes. The interior was redone using red Nappa leather upholstery, and a variety of restoration parts came from BimmerWorld.
“The lack of my team’s qualifications is what makes this project special,” said builder Zach Lagarenne. “Four other students and I teamed up to restore an E30 M3. The project was done in a home garage with basic tools and is the subject of a short video project for CRC Industries. After some twists and turns, we paired up with industry mentors, who taught us how to transform the build into a SEMA-worthy car and raise money for a local charity. We’ve come together to build a car that is truly greater than any of us could build alone.”
|This M3 BMW restomod was restored from bare metal by Zach Lagarenne and a team of four other students.
|The interior features bucket seats redone in red Nappa leather.
|The inline-six engine is capable of 430 hp and is backed by a six-speed transmission.