By Juan Torres
Zach Johanson won the Young Guns category with his ’70 Camaro at the Goodguys West Coast Nationals in late August, which also awarded him an all-expenses-paid trip to the SEMA Show to participate in the SEMA Battle of the Builders competition.
While growing up a car aficionado and builder in Hayward, California, Zach Johanson hoped to one day attend the SEMA Show in Las Vegas, and he will finally get the opportunity as a participant in one of the industry’s most prestigious vehicle-build competitions—SEMA Battle of the Builders—which will be held during the 2017 SEMA Show, October 31–November 3.
“I’ve only seen the SEMA Show through coverage in social media, TV and magazines, so I’m very excited to finally experience it,” said Johanson. “Everyone says it’s like being a kid in a candy store, except this is for car guys.”
To earn a spot in this year's SEMA Battle of the Builders competition, the 22-year-old won the Young Guns category with his ’70 Camaro at the Goodguys West Coast Nationals in late August, which also awarded him an all-expenses-paid trip to the SEMA Show to participate in the competition.
“It was surprising to win and amazing to realize that I’m now heading to the SEMA Show,” said Johanson. “I entered the Goodguys event just to see how it would go, to experience it, not necessarily thinking I could win the Young Guns category.”
His winning Camaro is a project car that had humble beginnings, but eventually turned into a standout build.
“I purchased the car from my dad’s boss. It was sitting in the backyard, and I paid $500 for the shell,” said Johanson. “I bought it to try new things out, and I figured if I did something I didn’t like, well at least I didn’t pay too much for it. I started off little by little by changing the suspension and other things, but it eventually turned into a pro-touring build.”
In an effort to support young builders and recognize them as the future of the industry, SEMA created the Young Guns regional program this year and partnered with car shows to highlight builders 27 years old or younger, six of whom will be sent to the 2017 SEMA Show.
“We partnered with Goodguys because of their dynamic events, including the West Coast Nationals, and to recognize and encourage participation of young builders throughout the country,” said SEMA Vice President of Marketing, PR and Communications Ira Gabriel. “The youth are essential to our industry, and there are many talented younger vehicle builders who can look to the SEMA Show and Battle of the Builders and get excited about our industry.”
Johanson is now anxiously waiting the day when he and his Camaro will take their place in the Las Vegas Convention Center premises as SEMA Show participants.
“Thanks to SEMA, I will not only have the opportunity to finally experience the SEMA Show first-hand and speak to the companies who make the parts I used in the car, but also get my name out there a bit,” said Johanson. “I’m just a younger builder going up against big names with more experience, and I appreciate the opportunity to be a part of the competition and talk to the other builders.”