SEMA News—March 2020


By Fredy Ramirez and Douglas McColloch

The Top 12

2019 Battle of the Builders

Thousands came to witness the crowning of the 2019 Battle of the Builders champion at SEMA Ignited—the official after-party of the SEMA Show.

Custom-car builders from all walks of life entered the 2019 Battle of the Builders (BOTB) competition. While the bulk of the entries came from contestants scattered across the United States, our neighbors up north and down south also provided multiple entries, and some even traveled across the pond to enter the competition. Legends of the industry entered and competed with first-timers looking to make names for themselves. The format remained the same as last year, with winners recognized in four different categories: Hot Rod, Truck/Off-Road, Sport Compact and Young Guns (under 27).

Industry experts reduced the more than 300 entries to the Top 40 within the first couple of days. The task only became harder from there, as experts once again reduced the competition from those 40 to the Top 12. At that point, the Top 12 judged themselves to determine the winner of each category as well as the
overall winner.

The Top 12 determined the Final 4, with the winners being Jim and Mike Ring (Hot Rod), Randy Borcherding (Truck/Off-Road), Louie Shefchik (Sport Compact) and Brad Swaney (Young Guns). When the dust settled, industry legends Jim and Mike Ring ended with the best-overall trophy. For the second year in
a row, and for the fourth time in six years, a ’69 Camaro came out on top.

The four finalists of this year’s competition will be highlighted along with other featured builders in a new TV special, “SEMA: Battle of the Builders,” which debuted on A+E Networks’ FYI and History’s Drive block in January. Hosted by Tanner Foust and Adrienne “AJ” Janic, the one-hour special takes audiences behind the scenes of the 2019 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 Show journeys.

For more information about BOTB, visit

’69 Chevrolet Camaro, “Valkyrja”

Lead Builder(s): Jim and Mike Ring, Ringbrothers, Spring Green, Wisconsin
Displayed By: BASF Booth
Category: Hot Rod

According to Ringbrothers co-owner Mike Ring, “This build was unlike anything we had attempted before, both in design and execution.” The brothers’ latest build, a Gary Ragle-penned ’69 Chevrolet Camaro known as “Valkyrja,” debuted at the 2019 SEMA Show. Before the week was out, their creation had distinguished itself from 300 other aspirants to be named the winner of the SEMA Battle of the Builders for 2019.

The Rings’ 890hp musclecar was developed using the latest build technologies, including 3-D scanning and CAD design, and it was assembled using modern materials such as carbon fiber and high-density foam, while custom parts were created using a combination of 3-D printing and CNC machining. “The result is a car with a classic look but entirely modern underpinnings, materials and technology,” Ring said. “It’s the perfect mix of style and performance.”

Engine BayThe engine bay is clean and simple, with minimal clutter. A 416ci Wegner Motorsports LS3 is fed by a Whipple supercharger directed by a Holley Dominator fuel-management system. The setup is good for an estimated 890 hp.Ringbrothers TrophiesMike (right) and Jim Ring held their trophies aloft after capturing top honors at the 2019 SEMA Battle of the Builders. Their reimagined ’69 Camaro was judged best in show by their fellow finalists at the 2019 SEMA Show. 

The Camaro’s interior was Ring-designed and executed by Upholstery Unlimited. High-quality leather and brushed stainless trim enhance comfort and aesthetics, and Impact harnesses and a full rollcage (so well integrated into the bodywork that it’s easy to overlook) provide a measure of safety.

No detail was too small to escape the Rings’ attention, as this sculpted carbon-fiber bodywork attests. The side glass and VIN plate are the Camaro’s only remaining stock pieces.



A 416ci Wegner Motorsports LS3 topped with a 2.9L Whipple supercharger rests under the hood, and a Holley Dominator fuel-management system and a Flowmaster Super 44 stainless exhaust were among the items selected to optimize engine performance. The transmission is a Bowler six-speed Tremec that’s been reworked to support extreme horsepower.

The hydroformed chassis and suspension are by Detroit Speed Engineering, and a QA1 carbon-fiber driveshaft and John’s Industries 9-in. rearend put power to the HRE wheels—19x11 front and 20x12.5 rear—shod with Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires. Baer disc brakes with six-piston calipers bring the Chevy to a stop. Motul supplied the engine and gear oils, and Prestone supplied the coolant.

The Camaro’s paint is a custom BASF Glasurit 55 mix called TOTOPKG Green, and it was sprayed over a body prepped using 3M products and finished with a coat of Glasurit 923-210 clear. The Camaro’s body was widened 3 in. in front and 5 in. in the back. Its wheelbase was lengthened 1½ in., its roofline sunk and its rocker panels lowered, and all the bodywork was rendered in 100% carbon fiber. (The side glass and the VIN plate are the only remaining stock pieces.) The interior was designed by Ringbrothers and outfitted by Upholstery Unlimited.

The name “Valkyrja” is derived from the Old Norse spelling of Valkyrie, which refers to mythological female figures who select which soldiers live and die in battle. The soldiers chosen by the Valkyrie were said to have been taken to Valhalla in the afterlife. The name was chosen by the car’s owner, who was scheduled to take delivery after the Show.

’36 Ford Roadster, “Three Penny Roadster”

Lead Builder: Eric Peratt, Pinkee’s Rod Shop, Windsor, Colorado
Displayed By: Clean Tools/Absorber Booth
Category: Hot Rod

An eight-year labor of love, this ’36 Ford was honored with the 2019 America’s Most Beautiful Roadster award at last year’s Grand National Roadster Show, and Eric Perratt of Pinkee’s Rod Shop brought it to the 2019 Battle of the Builders in search of
further acclaim.

Between the rails of the Ford’s custom chassis, a 351ci Windsor V8 runs a Borla eight-stack intake along with Edelbrock alloy heads and a custom stainless exhaust that was built to flow along the contours of the framerails. A Tremec TKO five-speed manual sends power to Dutchman axleshafts.

In front, the Heidts coil-over IFS features Strange shocks and 2-in. drop spindles. The IRS rear utilizes a Winters housing equipped with a Truetrac differential turning 3.73 gears. The brakes are Wilwood discs at all four corners, and the rolling stock is comprised of custom one-off 17x4 front and 18x5.5 rear wheels and 400-17 front and 700-18 rear Coker Excelsior tires.

Eric PerattRoadster
Eric Peratt spent eight years building the “Three Penny Roadster” before bringing it to the 2019 SEMA Battle of the Builders. Prior to that, the Ford won the America’s Most Beautiful Roadster award at the 2019 Roadster Grand Nationals.Under the hood rests a 351ci Ford Windsor V8 sporting a Borla intake and Edelbrock alloy heads. Behind it, a custom stainless exhaust flows beneath the contours of the framerails.

The Chocolate Milk brown roadster boasts more than 300 custom-machined parts, ranging from the headlight bezels and the trunk lid to the side mirrors and the custom one-off wheels.

Besides being named a Top 12 finalist at Battle of the Builders, the roadster also took the SEMA 2019 Best in Show award from the team at Ford Design.

The Ford features more than 300 custom-machined parts, all intended to evoke the Art Deco car-design aesthetic of the ’30s. From the headlight bezels to the trunk lid and from the running boards to the gas cap, virtually every exterior component was either extensively modified or fabricated from scratch.

The interior was wrapped in Relicate walnut-shell leather, as was the four-spoke billet steering wheel. Classic Industries gauges were placed in a custom cluster accented with ebony veneer trim.

Finally, the Ford was painted in one-off PPG Chocolate Milk paint and rubbed out using custom-machined sanding blocks and 3,000-grit paper. Upon the car’s completion, its owner was reminded of the price he paid for the aforementioned drink as a schoolboy, and the “Three Penny Roadster” nickname was born.

’32 Ford Phantom, “All In”

Lead Builder: Gary Corkell, One Off Rod & Custom, Middletown, Delaware
Displayed By: Brookville Roadster
Category: Hot Rod

When a master builder tackles a master design, the result most likely resembles this ’32 Ford penned by Chip Foose and built by Gary Corkell of One Off Rod & Custom. A finalist at the 2019 America’s Most Beautiful Roadster competition, the custom-bodied Phantom was built in only 117 days.

Resting between the rails of an Affordable Street Rods spec frame, the Ford’s powerplant is a custom-cooled 291ci DeSoto Hemi engine sporting custom stainless headers and a quick-disconnect exhaust from Juliano’s. A Super Bell 5-in. drop tube rolls up front, and a custom driveshaft delivers power to a Winters quick-change rear axle. Suspension duties are handled by chromed Posies leaf springs and RideTech shocks, and the vehicle is stopped by Johnson’s Hot Rod Shop Kinmont-replica polished disc brakes running four-piston calipers.

The DeSoto 291ci engine utilizes a custom cooling system featuring a Walker radiator, and it breathes courtesy of stainless headers and a fully polished Juliano’s exhaust with quick-disconnect couplers.

Built in less than four months, Gary Corkell’s ’32 Ford is a three-time finalist at the Grand National Roadster Show. 


Inside the car, McMillan Rod & Custom applied the burl walnut inlays and custom stainless dash trim, while Classic Industries supplied the period-perfect gauges.Scarcely a body panel on the Ford was left unmodified. The extended cowl, re-arched rear fenders and tucked rear body panels give the car, in its builder’s words, a “moving while standing still” stance.

Custom bodywork abounds on the Brookville Roadster steel body, starting with the custom running boards, the custom front apron that accommodates an Alumicraft grille, and a custom front light bar to locate the ’37 Cadillac headlights. The cowl was extended and re-angled, the rear wheelwells were re-arched, and the body sides were restyled to give the car, in Corkell’s words, a “moving while standing still” appearance.

The roof was given a 3½- to 4-in. chop, and Jerry Campbell applied the custom pinstriping to the Pastel Pea Green BASF/Glasurit paintwork. The running boards sport custom mats that were dyed by The Dye Guy.

Inside, a full leather interior by Paul Atkins is accented with inlays of burl walnut, and a host of Classic Instruments gauges reside in the dash panel featuring custom stainless dash trim by McMillan Rod & Custom.

’55 Chevrolet Truck, “Persistance”

Lead Builder: Randy Borcherding, Painthouse, Cypress, Texas
Displayed By: Griot’s Garage
Category: Truck/Off-Road

Randy Borcherding began this build in 2005 as a project for his in-laws, but, he noted, “somewhere along the way it got out of control,” and the truck was 14 years in the making before it finally appeared at 2019 Battle of the Builders. By all appearances, it was worth the wait.

The truck rides on a TCI chassis and makes its power via a LSX 454 V8 sporting an eye-catching Performance Design carbon-fiber cross-ram intake, Trick Flow aluminum heads and a custom-ground cam. Power flows through a Legend five-speed transmission to a Ford 9-in. rearend running a Detroit Truetrac. Y-rated Continental ContiSport 245/45ZR18 tires in front and 315/35ZR20s in back mount to Billet Specialties 18x8 front and 20x11 rear wheels. A RideTech Level Pro air-suspension system provides the proper stance, and 13-in. Wilwood disc brakes with four-piston calipers and electric ABS power assist provide stoppage.

“It only took 14 years,” said Randy Borcherding of the time needed to build his Battle of the Builders entry ’55 Chevy truck, “Persistance.”


The ’55 Chevy was treated to an all-leather interior courtesy of Stitch Designs, and Classic Industries gauges reside in the dash. The truck is also Bluetooth-enabled with Ride Controller remote for iPhone, iPad or Apple watch. 
Within the engine bay rests a 454ci LSX engine topped by an eye-catching carbon-fiber Performance Design cross-ram intake.The truck’s exterior sports a custom PPG two-tone paint scheme. A Ride Tech Level Pro air suspension slams it, and Y-rated Continental tires keep it rolling. 

Outside, the truck was treated to custom paint courtesy of Painthouse using a combination of PPG Pearlot and Randy Apple Red II. The custom tilt-bed assembly is outfitted with 120-year-old Indonesian teak wood. Inside the Chevy, Stitch Designs provided a custom interior treatment, and Classic Industries gauges monitor underhood vitals. This old truck also sports a brand-new trick by being fully Bluetooth-interfaced using Ride Controller for iPad, iPhone or Apple watch to remotely control all 12-volt functions.

’72 Chevrolet C-10 Shortbed Fleetside

Lead Builder: Darin Smith, DWS Classics, Huntington Beach, California
Displayed By: Mothers Polishes Booth
Category: Truck/Off Road

Darin Smith is no stranger to Battle of the Builders, having entered a ’64 Chevy C-10 in 2018. For 2019, he returned with this ’72 featuring a 600hp 383 stroker running aluminum heads and topped with Hilborn injection that is visible through the clear acrylic hood scoop from Windshield Aircraft Co.

The engine is backed by a Tremec six-speed transmission that drives a narrowed Chevy 12-bolt rear. Dutchman axleshafts and a 4.10 Auburn ring-and-pinion set turn 295/30R19 front and 315/35R20 rear Falken Azenis tires mounted on 19x11 front and 20x12 rear Budnik Tungsten wheels. The truck rides on a TCI Engineering autocross suspension with three-way-adjustable RideTech coil-over shocks. Wilwood disc brakes—with six-piston calipers in front and four-piston calipers in the rear—bring the Chevy to a halt.

A Battle of the Builders finalist in 2018, Darin Smith returned in 2019 with a ’72 C-10 shortbed.


The eye-catching interior features race bucket seats wrapped in Garrett Leather, with diamond stitching by Westminster Upholstery. Check out the polished aluminum slats in lieu of a headliner.
Outside, the clear acrylic hood scoop offers a view of the stroker engine below. Falken Azenis tires and Budnik wheels comprise the rolling stock.

The C-10’s 383 stroker V8 runs aluminum cylinder heads and is topped with a Hilborn fuel-injection system. The combination is said to be good for some 600 hp.

The pickup includes custom-made inner fenderwells as well as a custom radiator core and a one-off exhaust from Ultimate Headers and Automotive Excellence that runs through aluminum bezels in the bedsides. Numerous other exterior customizations include a smoothed front bumper, ’69 Camaro turn-light assemblies, and a de-Bowtied grille that’s been blacked out along its edges so that it appears to be, in Smith’s
words, “floating.”

The custom interior features a set of ’69 Camaro gauges sourced from Dakota Digital that were molded into the stock ’72 dash. A Vintage Air HVAC system keeps the cockpit comfortable, and Westminster Upholstery wrapped the seats in Garrett Leather.

There’s no headliner, but polished-aluminum slats fit into the recesses of the roof—reminiscent, Smith noted, of a Chevy Nomad. Beach Autosound furnished the Pioneer head unit and amp, and PowerBass USA supplied the speakers and crossovers.

’68 Iso Rivolta

Lead Builder: Louie Shefchik; J&L Fabricating, Puyallup, Washington
Displayed By: Griot’s Garage
Category: Sport Compact

Louie Shefchik’s more than 30 years of experience obtained him a victory in the Sport Compact category and a second-place overall finish in Battle of the Builders. Richard Griot from Griot’s Garage commissioned Shefchik to restore the vehicle. They determined that the chassis could not be restored, however.

Shefchik contacted Art Morrison to build a custom chassis that would fit the Rivolta body and support a Chevy LS7, a six-speed Tremec Magnum gearbox and a modern Camaro differential and uprights with a 3.07 final drive. The LS7 maintained the Italian-American relationship of the car, which is projected to hit 175 mph because of its flat-bottom design. Wilwood disc brakes with 13-in. rotors found room to clear Lamborghini Miura wheels after a 2-in. increase in the wheel diameter.

Louie Shefchik has been in the industry for more than 30 years and is the owner and founder of J&L Fabricating.An LS7 keeps the Italian-American relationship of the car that made it so beloved in the '60s and '70s.
The vehicle’s profile is accentuated by subtle modifications that highlight the Italian design.The interior features modern amenities, such as navigation while maintaining its Italian heritage with embossed leather.

The profile of the vehicle went through various modifications to accentuate the Italian design. The glass sunroof required significant changes to support the glass as well as strengthen the remaining roof structure.

Jon Byers of Byers Custom Paint prepped the body and painted it using PPG black and five coats of PPG clear urethane. The lower apron flows into the rear valence. The taillights are recessed into the rear panel and are from a ’02 BMW.

The interior’s redesign provided comfort combined with modern amenities. The navigation screen is hidden behind a center wood dash with a customary cupholder mounted in the center console.

The gauges look like those from a Lamborghini 350GT, and the leather is embossed. The Iso Rivolta stands apart from many high-end resto-custom projects in that almost everything used in the build can be purchased from SEMA vendors.

Louie Shefchik has loved cars (racing in particular) his whole life. He is the owner and founder of J&L Fabricating, which has been in business since 1981.

’55 Porsche 550 Spyder

Lead Builder: Edison Sarkisyan, Corona, California
Displayed By: Toyo Treadpass
Category: Sport Compact

What started off as a wild idea came to fruition in the form of Edison Sarkisyan’s ’55 Porsche 550 Spyder. It went from idea to rendering in a matter of days, and the team didn’t look back from that point on.

The unique aspect of the build is the center steer. The concept came about because of Sarkisyan’s love for McLaren’s Formula 1 racing team. It required some modifications to the steering column and some movement under the bonnet. That became more challenging, as the Spyder now featured a 2.8L type four engine instead of its stock 1.5L flat four. The tube frame is a one-off to accommodate the steering.

From left, Allen Iwamoto, Edison Sarkisyan and John Sarkisyan came up with the design of the Spyder, with Edison’s love of F1 and single-seater racing driving the most unique aspect of the build.

Nine hides of Lamborghini-orange leather fill the interior from top to bottom.


The 2.8L type-four engine needed to be shifted in order for the single-seater to be plausible.

The exterior features some subtle modifications and some not so subtle, such as the carb stacks that pierce the rear deck.

The interior brought another set of challenges for Sarkisyan. Finding orange vinyl that would match the Lamborghini-orange upholstery became difficult. Sarkisyan decided to use nine hides of Lamborghini orange because the interior, including the floor, is leather. The steering wheel is a one-off piece by Budnik, and Dave Mason made the shifter.

The custom three-piece Fuchs-style wheels feature a slight concave and were built by Augment Wheels in Canada. The exterior features rich, dark-brown paint with fender flares, and carb stacks rise through the rear deck panel.

The biggest challenge came right before the SEMA Show (which some refer to as the “SEMA Crunch”). Sleepless nights filled the last four days.

The engine needed to be rewired, and little details needed to be cleaned up. The build was completed in time to make the Top 3 in the Sport Compact category and Top 12 overall. Sarkisyan told us he would like to thank all involved and congratulate the rest of the Top 12.

’71 Chevrolet C-10

Lead Builder: Brad Swaney; Uniontown, Pennsylvania
Displayed By: Atech
Category: Young Guns

For the past eight years, Brad Swaney has worked on his ’71 Chevrolet C-10 with some guidance from his dad, who gave him the truck when he was just 14. It may look like a stock C-10, but it’s the small changes to the body panels and attention to detail that set it apart from the rest.

The drip rails, rear roof seam and washer openings in the cowl have been removed. The roof is peaked to match the windshield, and the side marker lights are flush mounted.

The wheelwells have been widened 3 in., and ribs have been put in them to line up with the bed floor. Black-walnut wood makes up the floor of the bed, and it has been sanded, buffed and treated with eight coats of clear.

A 454 big-block rests beneath the hood.

Brad Swaney won the Young Guns category at his first-ever SEMA Show.
Relicate Leather provided a vintage look to the interior while giving it a luxurious feel.

An Axalta custom color mix with some subtle exterior modifications make the build’s exterior unique.

Swaney cut the front edge of the hood, leading him to develop filler panels between the grille and core support. He welded the doorjambs to remove the seams because it gave a cleaner look.

He also welded up and C-notched the chassis.

He cut and stepped the front frame, and the front crossmember has been narrowed 2 in. to accommodate 295/35R20 tires on 20x10 wheels. He also took apart the frame and worked and painted all the pieces individually before reassembling them with ARP hardware. There’s a big center frame stiffener that Swaney built out of rollbar tubing inside the frame. It wraps underneath the cab, around the driveshaft and the trailing arm crossmember. The suspension includes tubular arms and double adjustable coil-overs all the way around.

Under the hood lies a 454ci big-block controlled by a 700-R4 transmission, and Classic Performance brakes are tasked with bringing the vehicle to a halt.

The paint was provided by Axalta and features a custom color mix. The build also features a hand-built gauge cluster with Auto Meter custom shop gauges. The interior includes parts by Vintage Air and Relicate Leather.

Swaney is opening a shop with his dad and enjoyed his experience in Battle of the Builders and, of course, winning the Young Guns category.

’88 BMW E30

Lead Builder: Kyle Ray; Rebellion Forge Racing, Omaha, Nebraska
Displayed By: Yukon Gear
Category: Young Guns

Kyle Ray kicked off his SEMA career by placing in the Top 3 in the Young Guns category and the Top 12 overall with his ’88 BMW E390. His concept for the vehicle was simple: a track car with a show-level finish.

The body features chopped fenders and quarter-panels to raise the arches for the tires to fit. The hood vents the heat from the eight-into-one exhaust through two openings. Ray’s shop hand-built a custom rear diffuser and chopped off the roof to replace it with a carbon-fiber piece.

The eight-into-one exhaust is one unique feature of the build and also took the most work.The body includes many modifications to improve overall track performance and to give it a show look.
Kyle Ray’s first appearance at the SEMA Show resulted in a Top 3 finish in Young Guns and Top 12 overall.The seats needed to be pushed back, and a longer steering column was added because of the work to the engine.

Starting the BMW is something of an experience because of the USB key that turns the car on, thanks to a Haltech ECU. Haltech provided the engine-management system, which is mounted to the firewall instead of the dash to make it easier to service. When the ignition is cranked, the engine sounds different from an original four- or six-cylinder engine, because the BMW features an LS—but it still doesn’t sound like a typical V8.

Under the hood lies a 6.0L aluminum-block LS with LS6 headers and a stage-three Texas Speed Cam. The engine is controlled by a CD009 transmission that came from a Nissan 350Z. A rebuilt firewall and transmission tunnel made it possible for the engine to fit. The intake manifold is located through the firewall and under the dash, and it receives air through two cowl vents.

The interior took some careful planning because of the engine being moved. The seats needed to be pushed back, which called for a NASCAR steering column. Sabelt America provided some of the interior equipment. The car sits on Toyo tires and Rotiform Wheels, and Fortune Auto provided the suspension.

Kyle Ray has been with Rebellion Forge Racing for two and a half years and recently became a part owner.

’40 Chevrolet Two-Door Sedan, “Tinmama”

Lead Builder: Luke Merrill, Tinman 2 Kustoms, Isanti, Minnesota
Displayed By: Yukon Gear
Category: Young Guns

Luke Merrill landed back-to-back Top 12 appearances in the SEMA Battle of the Builders with a ’40 Chevrolet two-door sedan that he built for his mom. Merrill’s dad began the project in 1990 for the purpose of transporting the kids to car shows, and Merrill finished the job 30 years later, investing more than 5,000 hours of work in it.

He started by addressing the body. He widened the fenders 3 in. per side, chopped the top 3 in. from the rear and 4 in. from the top. He shaved the bumpers and created one-off tulip-windowed lights and exhaust tips.

Thousands of hours went into sheetmetal work to give the Chevy a classic look with an expensive feel.Under the bonnet lies a small-block Chevy with FiTech injection. It pushes out around 420 hp.
Luke Merrill built this car for his mom and named it “Tinmama.”

The interior needed to be reworked slightly because of the new transmission tunnel running through the center of the car.

He then focused on the way the vehicle sat. By including a subframe swap and lowering the car, he needed to cut the core support. The Chevy now sits on Air Lift Suspension and a ’17 Mustang independent rear suspension.

The engine and transmission became another challenge for him. The engine is a small-block Chevy with FiTech injection and is controlled by a 700-R4 overdrive transmission. An MSD ignition provides the fire, and the combination pushes out around 420 hp.

Merrill needed to move the engine in order to fit a radiator. That required him to make a new transmission crossmember and rework the tunnel. That proved to be especially challenging because of all the components he needed to fit in the tunnel and the cone shape it took.

The cabin features a one-off dash with Auto Meter instrumentation, and Cambridge Upholstery provided much of the interior. Summit Racing provided the paint that Merrill mixed to get the olive-green hue, and M&B Paint Correction helped with the wet sanding.

Merrill would like to thank the multiple companies that contributed to the build, including Auto Meter and Yukon Gear. He followed in his dad’s footsteps in starting Tinman 2 Kustoms at 21 years of age, and he continues to build vehicles.

’72 Ford Bronco, “The Clydesdale”

Lead Builder: Erik Barnlund, Maxlider Brothers Customs, Bloomington, Illinois
Displayed By: US Shift
Category: Truck/Off-Road

According to lead builder Erik Barnlund, some 5,000 man-hours went into the crafting of this stretched Bronco, which was lengthened 26 in. over the stock ’72 wheelbase and sports suicide doors.

Between the rails of the Black Beard Broncos-crafted chassis sits a Roush-supercharged Gen 2 Coyote 5.0L V8 utilizing PBH Performance Speed Drive bracketry and an American Autowire wiring harness. It’s backed by a Ford 6R80 automatic that’s tweaked even further by a US Shift Quick 6 controller and a PCS pushbutton shifter. Power is transferred from the Atlas II transfer case via Tom Wood’s heavy-duty driveshafts to a pair of 4.56-geared Currie Rockjock high-pinion axles matched to a Dana 44 in front and a Dana 60 in the rear, both equipped with Duragrip Positraction carriers.

The rear three-link coil-over suspension helps locate the high-pinion, 4.56-geared Currie Rockjock Dana 60 axle that optimizes ground clearance while reducing excessive driveline angles. A four-link coil-over and high-pinion Rockjock Dana 44 axle perform the same functions up front.

Under the hood, a Roush-supercharged 5.0 Coyote V8 is enhanced by a PBH Performance Speed Drive serpentine kit. It’s backed by a Ford 6R80 transmission and an Atlas II transfer case.


Pictured with brother and co-builder Kris Barnlund (right), Erik Barnlund and his stretched ’72 Bronco made the Top 12 finals at the 2019 SEMA Battle of the Builders.

The Bronco was stretched 26 in. from stock to accommodate four doors and three rows of seats. An eight-point rollcage adds protection for the occupants, and BFG KM3 tires on Vision 360 wheels keep the Bronco rolling.

The axles are located by an MJR Industries four-link coil-over front and three-link coil-over rear suspension, which clear space in the wheelwells for 37-in. BFGoodrich KM3 Mud-Terrains on 20x12 Vision 360 Sliver wheels, which are brought to a halt by a set of 14-in. Wilwood Superlite 4R Big Brakes that are fortified by a Wildhorse Hydroboost unit and a Wilwood master cylinder.

Outside, bumpers from Tom’s Bronco Parts provide protection with minimal overhangs, and Maxlider power running boards assist with ingress and egress. The stretched body work and an eight-point rollcage are the handiwork of Black Beard Broncos, and Limelite Graphics applied accents over the PPG paint. The front clip was re-engineered so that the entire assembly can be removed for easier access to the underhood components.

Inside, the all-custom three-row interior received a full leather treatment from Twin City Upholstery. A one-off gauge cluster from Classic Industries is adorned with a Maxlider logo, and a Vintage Air Gen II A/C unit keeps fresh air flowing throughout the cab.

’91 Porsche 911

Lead Builder: TJ Russell, Russell Built Fabrication, Sun Valley, California
Displayed By: Griot’s Garage
Category: Sport Compact

A Baja prerunner Porsche 911 is the build TJ Russell took into the Top 3 Sport Compact category and the Top 12 overall. The car started life as a 911 Carrera 4 cabriolet, and it became a prerunner some 4,000 hours later. Russell wanted it to look as if the car could have come out of a Porsche factory in the ’90s.

With that in mind, this isn’t necessarily a one-off vehicle. Russell could replicate the car for other clients if the demand arose. This is more of a prototype.

Triton Engineering helped with the R&D, as that company specializes in CAD service, which means the parts can be replicated. More than likely, it would need parts to be replaced because of the running it will do.

TJ Russell wanted to maintain the heritage of his Porsche to make it seem as if the vehicle could have been a factory-built car back in the ‘90s.The interior features Sparco racing seats, and the driver can control brake bias and the center locking differential.

The suspension is one of the few things included in the car that Russell completely hand-built himself. It’s designed for at least 12 in. of travel.Russell transformed what may have been the least desirable 911 into one that some can’t wait to get their hands on.

Most of the vehicle is custom, and few parts came from a manufacturer. Baja Designs XL Pore Series lights help the driver navigate off-road at night. The Porsche features a full race cage from bumper to bumper, with entirely custom suspension on Elka Springs. It rides on Toyo tires and FIA-approved Gravel wheels provided by Fifteen52. ProAm Racing brakes bring the car and its 3.8L air-cooled flat six to a stop. The formed rear window feeds air to the rear-mounted A/C condenser and CSF oil coolers.

The interior features Sparco racing seats and a Motech Performance dash. The driver can also control brake bias and the center locking differential.

The suspension includes 12 in. of travel in the front and 14 in. in the back. The car is 7 in. wider per side, with the wheels being widened to the length. The rear wheels have been moved 2 in. rearward, and the fronts have been moved up an inch to balance the weight distribution.

TJ Russell owns Russell Built Fabrications, a fabrication and engineering company.

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