More Than 250 Customizers Vie for Top Honors
The SEMA Battle of the Builders (BOTB) has become one of the top competitions in the custom-car builder community, with more high-quality entries than ever. Interest in this year’s edition was at an all-time high, with more than 250 vehicles entered from all market segments, including trucks, hot rods, street rods, off-road, motorsports, sport compacts, luxury exotics and more. New this year was the Young Guns distinction for builders who were 34 years old and under. The competition was open to any builder with a display, feature or booth vehicle at the SEMA Show.
During the week of the SEMA Show, The Enthusiast Network Executive Producer David Freiburger, Petersen’s 4-Wheel & Off Road Editor-at-Large Fred Williams, and Meguiar’s Customer Engagement Leader RJ de Vera narrowed down the field to the Top 10 vehicles, which are highlighted on the following pages. The 10 finalists then judged their fellow competitors in front of an audience at the SEMA Show. The winner was announced during SEMA Ignited, the SEMA Show’s official after-party.
The Velocity Network was at the Show to record this year’s participants and the judging, capturing an in-depth, behind-the-scenes look for an hour-long TV special highlighting the builders and their vehicles. The show premiered February 6, but don’t worry if you missed it; it will be re-aired on the Velocity Network during the coming months. Visit www.semaignited.com or check your local cable/satellite provider for exact dates and times.
Cam Miller’s ’69 Chevrolet Camaro in the Mothers Polishes Waxes Cleaners booth.
’69 Chevrolet Camaro
Lead Builder: Cam Miller; HS Customs, North Logan, Utah
The “Under Pressure” ’69 Chevy Camaro that Cam Miller entered into this year’s competition was his first BOTB car ever, and it netted him plenty of recognition with a spot in the Top 10. Miller has been doing custom paint and airbrushing for 19 years but building cars for just six.
Under the Camaro’s hood resides a Thompson Automotive/GM Performance twin-turbo LSX 427 that is fed by Nelson Racing turbos and an HS Customs turbo system that is said to be capable of generating 1,230hp on pump gas. Engine management is by Holley.
A Hughes-built 4L80E transmission delivers power to a Currie 9-in. rearend. The custom wheels are by EVOD and are wrapped with Pirelli tires. The chassis includes a TCI torque arm rear suspension and front clip, JRI shocks, and Wilwood 14-in. brakes with custom-painted four- and six-piston calipers. Extensive body and interior modifications too numerous to mention were judged to be commensurate with the highest levels of custom craftsmanship.
“The ’69 Camaro is a legend for so many reasons, and there are so many awesome examples of these cars in this world,” Miller said. “It’s probably one of the hardest cars to build and stand out. This is what we came up with trying to be different, innovative and creative yet maintaining what makes the Camaro so legendary.”
Mark Turner’s ’58 Jeep FC170 in the Daystar Products booth.
’58 Jeep FC170
Lead Builder: Mark Turner; Daystar Products, Phoenix, Arizona
Certainly the green paint on Daystar Products CEO Mark Turner’s ’58 Jeep FC170 helped it stand out among the Top 10, but so did the attention to detail given to the build. The Jeep was purchased at auction in rough shape and was stripped to the frame
“It was in such bad shape that I was going to part it out, but the employees at Daystar [an injection and cast polyurethane company] asked if they could build it with me after hours,” Turner said. “I said yes, and the five-month build was on.”
Over those five months, the FC170 received a 5.7L Hemi engine and a five-speed trans. The steering box is a Toyota item, and the front winch was made by Warn. The axle covers are by G2; the tires are TSL Super Swamper Radials; and the spotlessly restored Jeep features a host of custom touches such as pinstriping on the wheels.
Turner has been a garage builder his whole life. “I have built off-road race vehicles, crazy concept vehicles, and even motorcycles,” he said. “Everything that I have learned has been hands-on, with advice from industry experts.”
Jesse Greening’s ’61 Chevrolet Impala in the BASF/Glasurit booth.
’61 Chevrolet Impala
Lead Builder: Jesse Greening; Greening Auto Co., Cullman, Alabama
Given that Jesse Greening had to handcraft the entire top (among many other parts) of the ’61 Chevy that he entered into this year’s competition, it’s easy to understand why it took him almost five years to complete the two-door sedan. The end result was a car that has won many accolades and became one of three finalists in SEMA BOTB 2016.
The ’61 Chevy Impala is a two-door that was converted into a station wagon—thus the moniker “Double Bubble.” It was chopped 3 in., channeled 4 in., lengthened 4 in., and wedged down 3 in. Under the hood, the Chevy 409 engine has been bored out to 473ci and fitted with high-compression pistons and the necessary performance innards. Fuel delivery is via Inglese eight-stack fuel injection; the cylinder heads are Edelbrock items; the ignition is by PerTronix; and a Tremec five-speed transmission with a McLeod clutch delivers power to a 3.50-geared Ford 9-in. setup with a Detroit locker and Strange
The Art Morrison Enterprises frame supports a custom four-link rear locating a Ford 9-in. axle fitted with a Detroit locker. The shocks are by RideTech, and the Wilwood front and rear brakes feature six-piston calipers and 14-in. rotors.
All of the glass is flush-mounted and was custom made by AM Hot Rod Glass. Paul Atkins did the full custom leather interior, and CNC-machined details such as the mirrors, headlights and taillights were among the features that wowed the judges. The tires are custom Goodyear Eagles.
Jeremy and Phil Gerber’s ’67 Chevrolet Chevelle in the Atech Motorsports booth.
’67 Chevrolet Chevelle
Lead Builders: Jeremy and Phil Gerber; The Roadster Shop, Mundelein, Illinois
The ’67 Chevelle “Onyx” took the lines of what is considered by many to be the best-looking Chevelle ever produced and subtly enhanced them with a sharp eye for detail. A Roadster Shop chassis provides the low, aggressive stance and performance handling. An 860hp supercharged Wegner Motorsports LS3 sits under the hood, enabling the car to be raced at speeds exceeding 150 mph.
Advanced Plating handled the chrome and polish work on the custom-tucked bumpers and refined original factory trim. A set of RS-designed Forgeline RS6 period-inspired wheels and redline tires complete the exterior package. Jeremy Carlson of Extreme Performance handled the incredibly detailed interior that further blends today’s level of refinement and attention to detail with the iconic style of the ’67 Chevelle.
Jeremy and Phil Gerber are co-owners of the Roadster Shop—an award-winning custom-car shop and chassis and suspension manufacturer located in Mundelein, Illinois. Their core focus is on performance pro-touring musclecars, but they have a passion for everything automotive.
Mike and Jim Ring’s ’48 Cadillac Fastback in the Flowmaster booth.
’48 Cadillac Fastback
Lead Builders: Mike and Jim Ring; Ringbrothers, Spring Green, Wisconsin
The Ringbrothers “Madam V” ’48 Cadillac project is a custom car to drive and enjoy. Combining the classic look of a ’48 Cadillac fastback with the performance and technology of a ’16 ATS-V Cadillac, the result is exactly how GM would build that car today.
The Caddy is powered by an ATS-V twin-turbo V6 making 464 hp, coupled to an eight-speed automatic with a Hurst shifter. The wheels are HRE items. All engine controls, safety and convenience features were maintained with the conversion, including the factory Magnetic Ride Control suspension. The handcrafted interior includes Bose premium audio, Recaro seats, Upholstery Unlimited coachwork and gauge cluster components from the ATS-V.
The engine bay maintains the OEM look of the ATS-V, with factory air conditioning and a factory cooling system plus factory brakes, battery and fuel system. The exhaust system is by Flowmaster. Global Finishing Solutions combined with BASF and 3M to facilitate the exterior finish, and the mirrors were custom made by Gentex Corp.
Ringbrothers has moved into the top ranks of American car builders over the past decade, winning numerous design awards and making the top three in the initial Battle of the Builders in 2014 and the Top 10 in last year’s competition.
Mike and Jim Ring’s ’69 Chevrolet Camaro in the Royal Purple booth.
’69 Chevrolet Camaro
Lead Builders: Mike and Jim Ring; Ringbrothers, Spring Green, Wisconsin
Based in Spring Green, Wisconsin, the Ringbrothers made it to the top three in the initial BOTB in 2014 and the Top 10 in last year’s competition. This “G-Code” ’69 Camaro, which was displayed in the Royal Purple booth at the 2016 SEMA Show, took more than 6,000 hours
The Camaro project has an incredible level of detail and by far surpasses the custom machining detail of any previous Ringbrothers build. Some of the custom-machined pieces include the front and rear bumpers, the taillight panel, the taillight bezels, the gas door, the front grille, the air intake scoops, the headlight bezels and excessive interior machining.
The engine is a Wegner-prepared 413ci LS3 with a Whipple supercharger, Holley fuel injection, an Aeromotive fuel pump and Flowmaster exhaust. It delivers power to a Bowler Tremec six-speed transmission fitted with a Centerforce clutch. Power passes through a QA1 carbon-fiber driveshaft to a John’s Industries GM 12-bolt rear end and hits the ground through 19- and 20-in. HRE wheels shod with Michelin 335/30 tires.
The suspension is by Detroit Speed and uses AFCO coil-overs, with a Quadralink setup at the rear. Other build partners include ARP, Baer Brakes, Classic Instruments, Dynamat, Heat Shield Products, MSD, Optima, Painless Wiring, Upholstery Unlimited and Wegner Motorsports.
Big Mike’s ’92 Honda Prelude in the Torco Oils booth.
’92 Honda Prelude
Lead Builder: Big Mike; Garden Grove, California
Big Mike assembled and got his ’92 Honda Prelude running in two weeks and immediately drove it to Las Vegas for the SEMA Show from his Southern California base.
Working to achieve a streetable track car with show-quality detailing, Big Mike modified the powertrain, chassis, interior and exterior. The powertrain is based on a 2.0L F20B engine that uses a Garrett GT28 turbo and intercooler to achieve 380 hp. Underhood plumbing includes a Vibrant oil cooler core, Torco racing fluids, a Canton Racing Accusump, a Nuke Performance fuel system, AEM fuel pumps and Vibrant Performance lines and fittings. The coil-over suspension features Eibach springs, Wilwood six-piston brakes and Rays Volk Racing wheels with Falken tires. The car was displayed in the Torco Oils Booth at the 2016 SEMA Show.
“My Prelude build is a culmination of many years of studying and interpreting all forms of motorsports and automotive cultures,” Mike said. “Growing up as an avid automotive enthusiast, I became interested in the import tuner culture specifically, with a strong emphasis on Japanese street and Grand Touring vehicles. As I grew, so did my appreciation for all types of cars and the cultures surrounding their modification and restoration.”
Gordon Ting’s ’16 Toyota Prius in the Toyota booth.
’16 Toyota Prius
Lead Builder: Gordon Ting; Beyond Marketing, Irvine, California
Gordon Ting generated quite a buzz when the Evasive Motorsports ’16 Toyota Prius was named to the Top 10. He modified the race-inspired build with lighter parts, four-piston brakes and coil-over suspension, working with companies such as Evasive Motorsports, TRD, Kuhl Racing, Rays Engineering, Craft Square, Tein, Brembo, Sparco and GReddy. The car was made race-ready with a six-point harness, a Sparco Racing seat, a complete rollcage, and custom carbon-fiber flooring and center console with an IAM MXS Race dash. When finished, the agile car was able to pull 0.99G at the Willow Springs skid pad.
“This is the first time I’ve worked on a Toyota build, and there’s some fun adventure in this,” Ting noted. “There is something very unexpected about doing a performance-build Prius. The concept for this build is inspired by the Japanese Prius GT300 that is racing in the Okayama International Circuit. While Prius has a reputation for fuel efficiency and as a reliable mode of transportation, I wanted to challenge that perception and turn it on its head. So I designed a Prius that performs.”
Brad DeBerti’s ’17 Ford Raptor in the Ford Motor Co. booth.
’17 Ford Raptor
Lead Builder: Brad DeBerti; DeBerti Design, Pismo Beach, California
Brad DeBerti is only 22 years old and put together his ’17 Ford Raptor, for which few aftermarket accessories are currently available, in only six weeks with the help of his father.
This truck was completely stripped down to the cab. The entire factory frame was removed and a new suspension was designed with 19 in. of front travel and 25 in. of rear travel, making the rig 3 in. wider per side. DeBerti Design stretched the factory fenders 4 in. to cover the 39-in. BFGoodrich Baja T/A tires on Innov8 forged beadlock wheels. Alcon six-piston brakes and Fox 4.0 bypass shocks enhance control and stopping power. The interior features a complete Foutz Motorsports rollcage, Rugged Radio communications equipment, Kicker audio upgrades, Cool It sound deadener and KC Hilites LED lighting. The exterior wrap is 3M vinyl, and the fiberglass parts are by Fiberwerx.
“I am a young builder who has been influenced by my dad from a super-young age,” DeBerti said. “I am very mechanical, and I love to build and design.”
Kyle Tucker’s ’41 Willys Two-Door Coupe in the Baer Brakes booth.
’41 Willys Two-Door Coupe
Lead Builder: Kyle Tucker; Detroit Speed, Mooresville, North Carolina
Kyle Tucker is no stranger to BOTB, having won the inaugural competition in 2014 with a ’69 Chevy Camaro. This time, it was an all-steel ’41 Willys, which took a little over four years to build, that placed him among the top builders again.
Once set up as a drag-race vehicle, the Willys was converted into a streetable road car with show-car levels of attention to detail. Highlights include a GM LS7 dry sump crate engine with Holley valve covers. The engine makes more than 500 hp at the tires and is backed by a five-speed Legend gearbox that delivers power to a TruTrac-equipped Ford 9-in. rearend with 3.73 gears. Schott custom wheels cover six-piston Baer brakes.
Wiring was accomplished using American Autowire materials, and Vintage Air, ididit and Classic Instruments were among the key interior suppliers. Advanced Plating did extensive chrome restoration work.
“I have been building cars and designing parts for the automotive aftermarket industry for more than 15 years,” Tucker noted. “I expect our cars to not only sit right and look right but also drive and perform at a level that is uncompromised.”