Vehicle: 1978 Chevy Performance Classic Pickup Truck
Powertrain: 5.3-liter E-Rod V8, four-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
The Details: The collectability of a 1978 Chevy Silverado is still debatable, and seeing one at SEMA isn't a common occurrence. That could all change with the arrival of this perfect 1978 Chevy Performance Classic Pickup.
Built to show off Chevy's line of off-the-shelf performance solutions, this truck is outfitted with Chevy's 5.3-liter E-Rod LC9 crate motor ($7,750) and 4L70E four-speed automatic transmission ($2,862.38). In this application, the tried-and-true truck engine produces 336 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque.
Beyond the new thrust (and cleaner emissions), this Silverado also got a frame-off restoration that left it far nicer than when it left the factory, while still maintaining a classic look.
The Point: There are a thousand cars at SEMA that you either couldn't, or wouldn't drive. This Silverado is the exact opposite. Not only is it something you'd be proud to drive, but something you could conceivably build yourself and flog through the mud.
Vehicle: Chevy Performance 2014 Chevy Camaro SS
Powertrain: 6.2-liter OHV V8, six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
The Details: Yes, the 2014 Chevy Camaro has an all-new face and some new, very rectangular taillights, but that's not why we've put it on this list, and that's not why it's at SEMA. Trained Camaro spotters will see some subtle differences versus a normal SS model, and there are even more differences under the hood.
First, stopping power has been increased with ZL1-sourced front (14.6-inch calipers, six-piston Brembo calipers) and rear brakes as well as larger stabilizer bars and proprietary dampers from the 1LE package. A 3.91 rear end has been added, as has a short-throw shifter. But what makes this one really stand out is the 50-state-legal LS3 power upgrade kit.
The LS3 power kit pairs CNC-ported cylinder heads and the camshaft out of the mighty LS7 and is good for 40 extra hp. Beyond the simple numbers, this kit adds a nice little rumble to the LS3 at idle.
The Camaro has never been a slouch, but with these upgrades, its V8 races to redline with a fierce bellow, then shreds the rear tires (even with drag radials) as you ram the short shifter into 2nd. We know. We drove one at Las Vegas Motor Speedway's drag strip earlier this week. Want to convince friends that V8s are awesome? Take them for a ride in one of these.
The Point: Here's another vehicle we love not only because it walks the walk and talks the talk, but because if these parts are installed by a dealer it's a killer performance car that is still under warranty. Don't have the time or know-how to upgrade your own engine? Your local Chevy dealer soon will.
Vehicle: Greddy Racing Scion Racing FR-S
Builder: Greddy Racing, Scion
Powertrain: 3.0-liter turbocharged 2JZ-GTE straight-6, four-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
The Details: Thanks to its low weight, relative simplicity, rear-wheel-drive dynamics and low starting cost, the Scion FR-S became the darling of the tuner world upon its introduction. It's no surprise they're everywhere at SEMA. One, however, stands out.
In stock form, the FR-S, with its 200-hp 2.0-liter boxer engine, is a bit sluggish. That doesn't fly at SEMA, so Greddy and Scion paired up to boost the output by way of the 2JZ-GTE six-cylinder straight out of the legendary fourth-generation Toyota Supra. With the help of a Greddy T88H Turbo, the 3.0-liter straight-6 power plant puts out 750 hp and 730 lb-ft of torque.
Greddy's FR-S also introduces the second version of the already popular Rocket Bunny body kit, and while it looks the part of boy racer, the FR-S' Gram Light 57F wheels, Hankook RS-3 Tires and Wilwood brakes suggest that this car will do much more than show duty.
The Point: Scion won't say for sure exactly where this car will be used, but it was built for Formula Drift driver Ken Gushi. It should also be more than enough to get him sideways in any situation. Don't be surprised to see this soon in Formula D.
Vehicle: Icon Ultimate Thriftmaster
Chassis: Art Morrison Enterprises steel frame
Powertrain: 5.3-liter supercharged V8, four-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
The Details: Starting with the 1947-'55 Chevy Advanced Design pickup truck, it's hard to make something ugly. Considering that, it's unsurprising that Icon built yet another showstopper with this Ultimate Thriftmaster.
Unlike the original Thriftmaster, which utilized a 216-cubic-inch inline-6, Icon's version shreds the rear tires with a supercharged 5.3-liter E-Rod crate motor from GM. The mill is good for 435 hp and 458 lb-ft of torque, which isn't easy to manage in a 60-year-old truck. Icon turned to an Art Morrison chassis with a four-link rear suspension and an independent front suspension with a stabilizer bar to ensure control. Slowing things down are modern ventilated disc brakes with ABS at all four corners.
The interior features Rolls-Royce Wilton Wool carpeting, ash slats in the bed and power windows.
The Point: There are few carbuilders with a more apt name than Icon. Last year, Icon made our Top 10 list with the startlingly clean D200. We should be used to Icon's perfectionism, but we're still floored by the style and workmanship expressed in the Thriftmaster. We're off to sell a kidney or two to raise the quarter-million bucks this Ultimate edition requires.
Vehicle: Liberty Walk Ferrari 458
Builder: Liberty Walk Performance
Powertrain: 4.5-liter, direct-injected V8, seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. Midengine, rear-wheel drive
The Details: One of two prototypes currently in existence, this unique Ferrari was shipped to the United States just a few days ago. It is wild, over the top and it's exactly what you expect to see at SEMA. The 2012 Ferrari 458 Italia's lightweight aluminum chassis and carbon-fiber brakes are now matched with Nitto Invo tires, an Armytrix titanium exhaust, new front and rear diffusers, a rear wing and wide-body fenders at all four corners.
All of this additional bodywork allows clearance for fat 245/35ZR20 tires up front and 295/35/ZR20s out back. We're not sure the 458 needed this additional meat, but someone did.
The Point: Liberty Walk has brought several of its wide-body creations to SEMA in the past, and chances are you either love them or hate them. The 458 is one of the best-looking exotics ever made. Most purists consider it blasphemy to put a wide-body kit on their Ferrari, but this isn't for them. It isn't for us, either. But it is undeniably outrageous. And that's why it's on this list.
Vehicle: 2014 Ford Focus ST by Universal Technical Institute
Builder: Ford, UTI
Powertrain: 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, six-speed manual transmission, front-wheel drive
The Details: The classic orange-over-blue Gulf livery caught us before we even entered the show stand. What hooked us was the slick DTM Autobody body kit and 19-inch wheels wrapped in 265/30 Falken SK453 tires. Wide-body kits can go either way, and in this case, the cutouts down low that accentuate the fender flares make this thing look simply vicious. It rightly deserves its spot near the center of Ford's massive SEMA stand.
The Point: This Focus has amazing paint and bodywork, even by SEMA standards. But on its own, it's not really enough to move our needle.
It's this Focus' supporting cast that sets it apart. Yes, this stunner steals the show, but Ford's commitment to small cars is readily apparent with its SEMA offerings. The Drag Racing Against Gangs and Graffiti Focus is equipped with emergency lights, a boom-boom stereo, 18-inch Motegi racing wheels with 245/35 tires and a rifle rack. There's also an outdoor area featuring another racing throwback with the Team Lotus green-and-yellow livery Focus sitting on slick black wheels with a knockoff look.
Any one of these cars on its own wouldn't be enough to crack our list, but the entire collection is.
Vehicle: 2013 Toyota Dream Build Challenge CamRally
Builder: Detroit Speed, Inc.
Chassis: 2013 Toyota Camry
Powertrain: 3.5-liter V6, turbocharged, six-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
The Details: As much as enthusiasts want to slam the Camry, this car comes with a willing-and-able 3.5-liter V6 that churns out 268 hp. The CamRally, built by Detroit Speed, Inc, takes this a step further with a Turbonetics turbocharger, Spearco intercooler, full DSE exhaust, Vogtland suspension and AEM electronics. Toyota is mum on how much horsepower this actually puts out, but we're going to go out on a limb and say that it's sufficient to overwhelm the BFGoodrich tires. A bank of Lightforce foglights fills out the rally car look.
The Point: Unfortunately, this one is simply a showcar and there's no chance of Toyota selling us a modern, four-door version of the beloved Celica All-Trac.
Vehicle: Bisimoto 2013 Hyundai Genesis Coupe
Builder: Bisimoto Engineering
Powertrain: 3.8-liter V6, rear-wheel drive, six-speed manual
The Details: Bisi Ezerioha, founder of Bisimoto Engineering, is known in the tuner world for extracting extreme horsepower — think of his recent 724-hp SOHC 1988 Civic Wagon — and that is exactly what he has done with this 2013 Hyundai Genesis.
The standard Hyundai Lambda 3.8-liter V6 has been tweaked to within an inch of its life, twin-turbocharged and cranked to an astonishing 1,022 hp. This is all accomplished with two Turbonetics turbochargers, built internals and stand-alone engine management by AEM. Currently, this monster is running a stock Genesis transmission and a Bisimoto-spec Action Ironman Clutch. We know Hyundai is 100,000-mile confident in its transmissions, but we're pretty sure at least one of these modifications will void that warranty.
Interior modifications include Buddy Club racing seats and harnesses and a fully digital IQ3 dashboard. Outside there are 20-inch wheels wrapped in Toyo R888 tires. The exterior is equipped with custom electric blue paint, an ARK hood and a carbon-fiber trunk lid.
The Point: This car was designed to make a big-number splash to officially kick off Hyundai's crate-motor program. According to Bisimoto, this car is meant to show that the standard 3.8-liter power plant ($9,000 from Hyundai) can be built to "its full potential for the rigors of motorsport." Maybe it will enter Hyundai's lineup of Pikes Peak climbers, or just do burnouts until the tires melt off. Either way, we like anything where the horsepower climbs into four-digit territory.
Vehicle: 2013 Hyundai Veloster Turbo EGR "Yellowcake" Night Racer
Builder: EGR Group
Powertrain: 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, front-wheel drive
The Details: This 2013 Hyundai Veloster Turbo is cameras-can't-capture-it yellow. That paint, dubbed "Yellowcake" by EGR, PPG and Barry's Speed Shop is designed to help the car stand out on time-attack circuits at night. That bright yellow, along with roof-mounted LED light bars and custom ONEighty-branded headlights will definitely make the Veloster impossible to miss.
The modifications aren't just cosmetic, though. Bisimoto Engineering (a name you should be familiar with now) also helped to develop this car, pushing the 1.6-liter turbocharged Gamma-series four-cylinder's output to 250 hp. The addition of an ARK coil-over suspension, a custom roll cage (also painted "yellowcake"), Brembo brakes, DPE three-piece racing wheels, AEM intake and Magnaflow exhaust will make this Veloster right at home when the lights go out and the green flag drops on any time-attack, night racing circuits.
The Point: Like the Bisimoto Genesis, this Veloster kicks off Hyundai's crate-motor program. Tuners who want a complete engine for their project can get two versions of the Veloster mill now. The 2.0-liter four-cylinder will be available in two engine configurations: a turbo-ready version priced at $4,500 and a turbo-equipped version, which includes the turbocharger, intercooler and intake air ducting, priced at $6,000. That, and it's really, really yellow.
Vehicle: 2014 Jeep Cherokee Trail Carver
Chassis: 2014 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk
Powertrain: 3.2-liter V6, nine-speed automatic transmission, four-wheel drive
The Details: A lightly modified concept based off the Trailhawk version of the 2014 Jeep Cherokee, the Jeep Trail Carver doesn't even come with an outlandish paint job, though its Auburn Pearl (metallic brown) is quite nice. There are other minor modifications, too, including a roof basket, orange accent side panels, a wind deflector and beefier tires. On the performance side, there's a cat-back exhaust and Mopar cold-air intake. Pretty mild stuff for your local cruise night, let alone SEMA. Still, we're interested.
The Point: The Trail Carver is yet another vehicle that doesn't get included on the list because of what it is, but because of what it represents. While Chrysler could have shown Wrangler after Wrangler after Wrangler, the Cherokee Trail Carver is the lone new concept from Jeep here at SEMA. Jeep's got the market cornered on Wrangler and Wrangler accessories, so it's testing the waters to help re-create that magic on a more civilian-friendly off-roader. Will it work?